When you come to Chicago, get your small bills ready. Like any other large city in the United States, you'll be expected to tip throughout your visit.
Although you might have heard about cities across the U.S. raising their minimum wage, this does not apply to service industry workers, also known as tipped workers. In the U.S. the federal minimum for a "tipped wage" is $2.13 per hour, which means your server really does rely on your tip to make a living wage. The cost of living in Chicago is higher than in many American cities, so knowing whom and when to tip will make your trip to the Windy City smoother.
Tipping at hotels in Chicago follows similar rules to hospitality gratuity in other American cities. Most hotel workers will be expecting a tip at some point during your stay, and knowing when to tip will help avoid awkward pauses.
- There's no need to tip the doorman when he holds open the door, but if they help hail a cab, tip $1 to $2.
- If the doorman (or a hotel porter) helps unload your bags and carry them to your room, tip $1 to $2 per bag.
- Housekeepers should be tipped $1 to $5 per night, depending on the level of mess in your room.
- When you order room service, ask if a service charge will be automatically included. If not, tip 15 percent to 20 percent upon delivery.
- If you call down to the front desk to order a special item, like a bottle opener or extra pillows, you should tip $2 for one item or $1 per item for more than one item.
- At hotel restaurants and lounge bars, you should tip 15 percent to 20 percent, just like you would at any establishment not located inside a hotel.
- It's the concierge's job to help you have a great trip. There's no need to tip when you ask for directions, but if they go out of their way for you, like securing reservations for the best sushi restaurant in town, you should show your appreciation with a tip of $5 to $20.
Restaurants and Bars
At restaurants and bars in Chicago, you'll find the tipping practices in line with the rest of the United States
- For table service, waitstaff should be tipped 15 percent to 20 percent of the bill based on the cost before taxes.
- At a cafe with a tip jar, you should tip $1 for a complicated drink order. For a simple cup of coffee or tea, you can get away with not tipping.
- Bartenders should be tipped for every drink served, usually at 15 percent to 20 percent or a dollar per drink.
- If you order bottle service at a club, you should tip a minimum of 18 percent on the cost of the liquor.
- At nightclubs in Chicago, bouncers are not allowed to accept tips.
- Bathroom attendants keep the bathrooms clean, so drop some coins into the tip jar if you can.
You probably aren't used to tipping tour guides in your day-to-day life, but if you're playing the role of tourist in Chicago, you should tip your guide 15 percent to 20 percent the cost of the tour. If your tour group is small, consider tipping at the higher end of the spectrum. You can tip on the lower side if you're part of a larger group, say of about 15 or more people. If you're on a private tour, you should tip $15 to $25 per person.
Taxis and Ride Services
Downtown Chicago is extremely walkable, but at some point you'll probably need another way to get around or even just back to the airport.
- When using a valet service, a $1 tip when the attendant returns your car is sufficient.
- Taxi drivers should be tipped 10 percent to 20 percent of the fare, which you should be able to leave when you pay with a credit card. However, a cash tip is always preferred.
- If you use a ridesharing service like Uber or Lyft, you're not obligated to tip, but if the driver helps you with your bag at the airport, consider tipping $1 to $2 per bag.
- If you use a shuttle service to get from the airport to your hotel, tip the driver $5, especially if you have a lot of luggage.
Spas and Salons
Some salons might include a service charge when you book a treatment like a massage or facial, but hair and nail salons probably won't.
- At the spa, you should tip 15 percent to 20 percent the cost of your treatment.
- Hairstylists and manicurists should be tipped 15 percent on the total cost of the service.
- If another person washes your hair, tip them separately between $2 to $5.