Knowing how much to tip in Nepal, particularly for adventure guides and porters, can be a tricky matter. The total cost of the tour, how tips will be shared, and whether you are solo or in a group excursion are all factors to consider.
Although most of Asia doesn’t have much of a tipping culture, many of the guides and porters in Nepal depend on tips from trekking tourists to help make ends meet. Tipping is ultimately a personal decision. Regardless, you should only add a tip when you feel the staff did an excellent job.
Although you can use U.S. dollars or another currency to roughly calculate how much to give, you should tip in the local currency, Nepali rupees.
Trek Guides and Porters
Your trekking team will expect some form of gratuity for a physically demanding job that completed to satisfaction. A good guide and team can make or break your trekking experience—perhaps one of the primary reasons you came to Nepal. They don’t earn much for their difficult, sometimes dangerous work, and many rely on tips to supplement their income.
Ideally, you’ll give a tip to the group leader and another envelope meant for the team. He will (hopefully fairly) distribute it as seen fit among the other members. Recipients may include assistant guides, porters, and cooks. For saving-face purposes, head guides should receive a slightly bigger tip than porters and others lower in rank.
If you’ll be doing the trek to Everest Base Camp in Nepal, the general rule is to tip the cost of one day per week spent trekking, or 15 percent of the total cost.
Assuming the experience was excellent, a good rule of thumb when solo trekking is to tip the equivalent of $5 per day for your guides and $2 to $4 per day for porters. You can also use the weight carried and difficulty of the hike as factors for determining the final amount. Double these numbers when trekking on a group tour: $10 per day for guides and $5 per day for porters.
When tipping trekking staff, show your gratitude on the last evening of your hike rather than as everyone is saying goodbye. Some staff members may not be available the next morning and may miss out on the tip.
If tipping as a group, organize together and then discreetly give the staff their tips in envelopes.
A 10 percent service charge is often already added to bills in many tourist-oriented hotels and restaurants. In theory, this 10 percent is meant to be shared among the staff. Cheap, local eateries may not add a service charge. If you don't see it on your bill, consider leaving some small change on the table.
As is sometimes the case in Asia, the service charge may just go toward paying the service staff's base salaries. The only way to ensure a server receives your appreciation for a job well done is to give a small amount directly to them. Avoid contributing to cultural mutation by tipping anyway when service was poor or the staff was rude.
A 5 to 10 percent tip above the service charge is enough to express appreciation.
There is really no requirement to tip the housekeeping staff or hotel porters who carry your bags, although the gesture will certainly be appreciated. You can give the equivalent of about US 20 cents per bag carried. Actively work to horde your small change for such occasions.
As with restaurants, 10 percent will be added onto your bill at the end of your stay as a service charge. If service isn't added, look around the reception area for a gratuity box where you can leave a tip to be shared among the staff.
The average service worker in Nepal (excluding the staff in big hotels) probably won't expect a tip. That said, wages can be comparatively low, and many employees are forced to work seven days a week. If the service was excellent, you can tip 10 percent on the total amount just to show gratitude.
When using taxis in Asia, the custom is to simply round up your fare to the nearest whole amount. An even amount prevents the driver from having to dig for change, and it's the best way to leave a little extra for someone who was courteous.
Realistically, you won't encounter many working taxi meters in Kathmandu and should agree on a price before getting into the taxi.
Offer Tips and Gifts Thoughtfully
Tipping in Nepal is still not entirely customary and may even cause embarrassment in some instances. Tips should be given in a discreet manner, as this helps eliminate any potential "loss of face" for the recipient. Don’t showboat your generosity; instead, put your gift into an envelope or discreetly take the recipient aside to give it to them. You may find that they thank you then simply stuff the envelope or gratuity into a pocket without opening it in front of you.
If you happen to be fortunate enough to dine with a local family or are invited to visit the home of your guide, you should bring a small token of appreciation. Some gifts may be considered bad form or even unlucky; ask another Nepali person for some acceptable gift ideas.
The Gift of Gear
Many travelers who visit Nepal with adventure in mind end up purchasing clothing and gear they don't want to carry home. If you find yourself with extra equipment such as hiking poles or gloves, offer it to your guide or porters at the end of your trek.
Again, in the spirit of not causing anyone embarrassment over "charity" received, ask the recipient if they know someone who can make use of the gear rather than offering it directly to them. If they accept, hand it over without making a big deal about the condition of the items.