A Guide to Tipping for Travelers

Waitress pouring wine

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Tipping correctly can save you time, embarrassment, and money. While traveling, many people will offer their services to help make life easier, but it can sometimes be hard to tell who's just doing their job and who expects a tip? 

Tipping is payment for a service rendered, but tipping can also be an act of gratitude for someone who goes beyond the call of duty, like a concierge securing front-row seats to the hottest show in town. Choosing not to tip will send a clear message that you have been dissatisfied with the service you've received.

These tipping guidelines are for the United States only. Expectations (and tipping amounts) can vary quite a bit from country to country. Check the travel guide for the particular country you will be visiting for the proper tipping etiquette.

Hotels and Resorts

Occasionally, you might stay at a hotel or resort with a no-tipping policy. In this case, you might find that you are already paying for service by way of a resort fee or service charge added your final bill.

  • When valeting your car, tip $1-2 to the attendant when he retrieves your car. You can also tip when dropping your car off, but this is optional.
  • You don't need to tip the doorman when he opens the door for you, but if he hails you a cab, you should tip $1-2.
  • Tip bellhops and luggage porters $1-2 for every bag they bring up to your room. At a luxury hotel, you might tip more, as much as $5 per bag.
  • For housekeeping, leave a daily tip of $1-5 per day, depending on the type of hotel and the size of the mess you've made.
  • If you order room service, you'll find most hotels already include a service charge on the bill. If there's no service charge, tip 15 percent.
  • The hotel concierge exists to help guests, so it's not necessary to tip if they give you directions or make a restaurant recommendation. However, if the service has been especially valuable, such as getting reservations to a restaurant that claims to be totally booked, tipping $5-20 is reasonable.
  • Be sure to check out our guide for tipping in Las Vegas as well.

Cruises

In general, more and more cruise lines are moving away from traditional tipping and adding service charges, which will be split evenly among the crew. It varies from line to line, so make sure to ask about their tipping policy before you book your next cruise.

  • If the cruise line automatically adds the service charge to your account, you may be able to adjust it lower or higher as you deem necessary. The recommended amount is $10-20 per passenger for every day of your cruise.
  • Baggage handlers work for the port and not the cruise ship, so you should tip $1-2 per bag or $4-5 per party.
  • Like at a hotel, you can leave $1-5 per day for housekeeping in your cabin.
  • You will most likely have different servers every day, but if there is someone that stands out (like a bartender who remembers your drink order), feel free to hand them a small token of appreciation.
  • Upon any delivery to your cabin, like room service or a special request, you should tip $1-3 per visit depending on how much you order.
  • Tipping the head waiter isn't necessary, but you can give $5-10 if they accommodate a special request or go above and beyond.
  • On shore excursions, you should tip your guides based on the level of personalization from $2-10.
  • For children's club counselors, tipping is not necessary.
  • It's the ship captain's job to command the ship and, occasionally, socialize with guests. Tipping is not necessary and would most likely would be refused.

Restaurants and Bars

Whether you're enjoying a night out on the town or just popping down to the hotel lounge for a nightcap, standard tipping practices still apply when you're traveling.

  • Tip your server 15-20 percent of the bill based on the pre-tax total of the bill or more if you enjoyed the service. If a service charge has already been included, feel free to leave without tipping.
  • Bartenders should be tipped $1 per drink served, even if they're just pouring beer or wine.
  • Tip the sommelier 10 percent of your wine costs, even if it's a less expensive vintage.
  • If there is a bathroom attendant, who doesn't just hand out towels but also keeps the bathroom clean, drop a few coins in the tip jar or tip $1 per visit.
  • When collecting your things at the coat check, tip $1 per item checked.

Transportation

Depending on how you choose to get around when you travel, you might be expected to tip.

  • It's customary to tip cab drivers 15-20 percent of the fare.
  • If you use a rideshare app like Uber or Lyft, you're not obligated to tip the driver, but it's considerate to give $1-2 for a short trip or more for a long-haul ride.
  • If you arrange an airport shuttle transfer, tip $1 for every bag handled.
  • Tip limousine drivers 15-20 percent, unless service charge is included.

Tours

How much you tip a tour guide varies depending on the tour's length, size, and overall quality. In most countries, tipping your guide at the end of a tour is standard practice and will be rarely turned down.

  • For a tour that only lasts a few hours, tip your guide 10-20 percent the cost of the tour. How much you tip also depends on the size of your tour, so you should tip more for a more personalized experience.
  • For a multi-day tour, you should tip your guide $5-10 per day on the last day.
  • If there was a driver in addition to a guide, tip them $1-5 per day.
  • For a free tour, which are offered in many large cities, you should tip between $5-10, depending on the quality of the tour.

Spas and Salons

If you purchase an individualized service at a spa or salon, you'll be expected to leave a tip. Some spas might already include a service charge, so make sure to ask about this at the front desk when you go to pay.

  • For a spa treatment like a massage or a facial, tip 15-20 percent if no service fee has been included. If you're getting the treatment at a discount, your tip should be based on the original price.
  • There's no need to tip if you're visiting a spa with common facilities like saunas or hot springs without purchasing an extra treatment.
  • Medical spas might have more complicated treatments, like botox injections. Usually, tipping is not allowed for these kinds of services.
  • Hair stylists and manicurists should be tipped at 15-20 percent.
  • If someone else washes your hair, you can give them a $1-5.

Golf Courses

If you decide to go for a round of golf on vacation, you might run into these tipping scenarios.

  • On a golf course, the bag boy takes your clubs when you arrive and sets them up in a golf cart for you. He will also wipe them down before you leave, so tip $1-2 on arrival and $2-5 as you leave.
  • If you arrive without a tee time and the starter fits you in, you can tip them $1-5.
  • Caddies should be tipped 50 percent of the caddie fee, adjusted higher or lower for your satisfaction of their service.
  • A forecaddie works for a group of golfers and should be tipped $20-25 per player.
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