The rules of etiquette for gratuity in India are a little muddled as a colonial past, tourism, and cultural influences clash. It's no surprise that many travelers in India aren't sure whether they should tip or not. A majority of countries in Asia don't even have a tipping culture; tipping in China can cause confusion and tipping in Japan can even be considered rude. In India, however, tips, typically referred to as baksheesh, are mostly optional.
What is Baksheesh?
Baksheesh sometimes refers to simple gratuity, but connotations differ based on context. You can think of giving baksheesh in India as a small act of appreciation for good service. While traveling through India you will be asked for baksheesh often, but can refuse at anytime. Someone asking you on the street for baksheesh without providing a service is simply begging. Child begging gangs and hierarchies are a serious problem in India, so don't perpetuate this nefarious industry by making it profitable.
How to Tip in India
Tipping in India is more about your gut feeling and doesn't follow rigid guidelines; you'll catch on quickly enough as you travel through the country. Get some small change as soon as you arrive and separate your money with a few small bills in an accessible pocket so that you can tip quickly without flashing your cash. When tipping in India, don't make a big production of it. Be discreet or you may attract additional begging. It's also possible an employer may demand that their employees turn over their tip after you have left.
Generally speaking, the average tip in India is about 10 percent. As always, exact numbers are debatable and depend on the quality of service. Remember, you'll be tipping in the local currency, the Indian rupee, so familiarize yourself with the going conversion rate before your trip.
At any hotel in India, you will only be expected to tip those who provide you a specific service. A few large hotel chains may have no-tipping policies in place, so make sure to ask the front desk what their tipping policy is when you check in.
- If a hotel porter carries your bag to your room, tip 20 rupees per bag. If you don't want to tip, say no to the baggage service.
- Tipping housekeeping is optional, but if you'd like you can leave a small tip of 10-50 rupees per day.
- Some hotels might have a centralized tipping box, in which you can contribute one large tip for the whole staff. A standard contribution to the tip box is 100 rupees for every night you stayed at the hotel.
- Room service bills might already have service charges added, but you can tip 10 percent if you are not sure.
- Valet drivers should be tipped 10-50 rupees upon returning your car.
Restaurants and Bars
Before deciding how much to tip in a restaurant in India, you should check the bill for a service charge. If the restaurant has already added 5-10 percent, you can adjust your gratuity accordingly. Sometimes this charge may simply be used to cover the employee's base salaries, so if service was exemplary, consider leaving a cash tip of 5-10 percent.
- At restaurants, you should tip 10 percent for standard service. If someone really went out of their way and the service was exceptional, you can tip up to 15 percent. If the bill is quite high, like over 1,000 rupees, you can tip a little less.
- Bartenders should be tipped at 10 percent, depending on how complex your order is.
- Tipping the sommelier is optional, but if you'd like to tip you should tip 5 percent on the cost of the wine.
If your driver got you where you wanted to go safely and quickly, you should tip them by rounding up the fare. When at an airport or train station, porters might offer to help you with your bags. Politely refuse if you do not wish to tip them.
- For single rides, you can tip a taxi driver by rounding up the fare to the nearest multiple of ten. If you book a taxi for the day, you should tip 50-100 rupees per day.
- Rickshaw drivers should be tipped by rounding up to the nearest amount.
- Airport shuttle drivers should be tipped 50 rupees for timely service.
Spas and Salons
If you choose to visit a spa or get your hair styled in India, it's not necessary or expected to leave a tip. If you're really happy with the service, you can leave a small token of appreciation.
Tipping guides and drivers after tours in India is customary, especially if they do a good job. Guides and personal drivers should tipped between 100-300 rupees per day, depending on the quality of service.