To Tip or Not to Tip: that is the question
Tipping varies wildly by country, and by service. In the U.S., we tip for almost anything and everything, while in other countries—like Japan or South Korea—tips are not expected (and may even be frowned upon if offered).
Because there are so many different practices, it can be tough to stay abreast of local customs and practices, but here are some good tips (no pun intended):
While traveling on your own
• Do some research on the countries you plan to visit and learn how their culture handles tipping. In most countries where tipping occurs, 10% is usually the norm, not the U.S. standard of between 15-20%.
• Be aware of local customs for service and how shopkeepers interact with customers. Not all countries stress speed and friendliness of service as in the U.S., so know what to expect when visiting a new culture.
• When checking into a hotel, the front desk clerk or concierge can assist with local practices and whether tips should be made in local currency or if American dollars are accepted.
• When dining out, check your bill carefully, many countries show a tip as an included item. If not sure, ask your server.
• If tipping a service provider, use discretion when handing over cash—as many countries are not as overt about tipping as in the U.S.
• A kind word, a smile, and sincere thanks, especially in the native language, is often all that is required—and goes a long way.
The easiest way to deal with tipping is to travel on a group tour where it is all included. Many tour operators include tips in the cost of the program, so tips for hotel porters, bus drivers, meals, and guides are included, and the tour operator takes care of dispensing them. Check the included features of a program to see what is included.
As a general rule, most tips for included activities are covered, while special optional excursions are not. If you have questions, the Tour Director can assist and let you know how and when you can provide extra if you wish to do so.