A tip (called a propina in Mexico) is the best way to show appreciation for good service. Tipping is customary in Mexico, and is expected in many situations, though you generally won't get any flak if you neglect to give a tip (although your server may call you codo behind your back, which literally means elbow but is slang for cheap). Do keep in mind that most of the people working in Mexico's service industries earn very modest salaries and rely on tips to earn a living wage. So if you receive good service, it is a good idea to show your appreciation accordingly.
Not only does tipping reward good service you've already received, it may also help to ensure special treatment throughout your stay at a hotel or resort, or a restaurant to which you intend to return.
In Mexico, tipping in either dollars (bills only, no coins) or pesos is acceptable, though pesos are usually more practical for the recipient (and will save them a trip to the casa de cambio), they'll generally be happy to receive a tip in either currency.
The amount you tip is at your discretion and should be based on the quality of service you received. That said, there are some standards for tipping. To give you an idea of how much is usually tipped, and which service providers will expect a tip from you, here is a rundown of who and how much to tip in Mexico.
Waiters and Waitresses
When dining out in Mexico, you must ask for the bill ("la cuenta") or make a hand signal like you're writing in the air. It would be considered very rude in Mexico for a waiter to bring the bill before it was requested by the customer, so you will have to ask for it. If you're in a hurry, you may want to ask for the bill before you're finished your meal so that you won't have to wait around for it afterward.
In restaurants in Mexico it is customary to leave a tip equal to 10 to 20% of the total cost of the bill. In some restaurants service is included, particularly if you're part of a large group, but this is not usually the case. Always check the bill to see if service is included or if there are errors in the calculation. If a service charge is included, you may choose to tip extra for superior service. In food stalls and low-cost eateries (fondas and cocinas economicas) most patrons do not leave a tip, but if you do give one, it is greatly appreciated.
In bars and at all-inclusive resorts it is appropriate to tip the equivalent of one dollar per drink, or 10 to 15% of the total.
A bellhop who assists you with your luggage and shows you to your room should be tipped between 25 and 50 pesos. Depending on the hotel class and quality of service received, you should tip the housekeeping staff from 20 to 50 pesos per night. If your room is particularly messy, tip more. It's best to tip on a daily basis and not on the last day of your stay as it may not be the same person who cleans your room every day.
Many resorts officially have no-tipping policies but these are rarely enforced, and wages are still very low, so most staff will be happy to receive tips.
Guides and Drivers
If you are pleased with your tour guide, it is appropriate to tip 10 to 20% of the cost of a day tour. For multi-day group tours, tip the tour leader a minimum of three to five dollars per day for group tours, and ten dollars for private tours, and bus drivers two dollars per day. It is not customary to tip taxi drivers, unless they assist you with your luggage, in which case ten pesos per suitcase is a good rule of thumb.
Spa Service Providers
It is customary to tip spa service providers 15-20% of the cost of the spa treatment. Usually you can leave it at the desk in an envelope with your attendant's name on it.
Gas Station Attendants
Pemex stations in Mexico are full service. Gas station attendants are not usually tipped unless they provide some extra service such as cleaning your windshield, in which case 5 to 10 pesos is sufficient. If they also check the air in your tires or check the oil, you should tip more.
In grocery stores there are usually teens or seniors who will bag your purchases. These people do not receive any payment other than the tips they are given. Tip them a few pesos (1 or 2 pesos per shopping bag is a good rule of thumb), add on 10 to 20 pesos more if they help you take the bags out to your car.
Tips for Tipping in Mexico
- Plan ahead for tipping: include tips in your vacation budget.
- Change can be hard to come by in Mexico. Use larger bills when making purchases and hang on to your change so that you'll have it on-hand for tips.
- Leaving a tip is important, but a smile and a "gracias" can be just as important in showing your appreciation to someone who has provided you with a service. Learn some other essential Spanish phrases for travelers to Mexico.