Tipping in London and the rest of the U.K., like tipping in most other places, can be awkward and embarrassing if you get it wrong. And, in the U.K., tipping when you don't have to can add unnecessary costs to your travel spending.
In the interest of saving you money (especially if you are a traveler who is accustomed to tipping at 20 percent) and making sure everyone gets treated fairly, make sure you know when and who to tip on your trip to England. Also, be sure you have the correct currency: England uses the British pound rather than the euro.
In the United Kingdom, most hotel workers don't expect to be tipped unless they do something special for you or if you're staying at a high-end hotel. However, some hotels have started instituting an optional service charge that will be added to your bill. You'll notice this mostly at hotels with spa and gym facilities, where many staff members are required to keep things in tip-top shape. If you'd rather have more say in how much you tip, you can opt to have the charge removed from your bill.
- You can tip a bellhop 1 to 2 pounds for helping with your bags.
- If the doorman hails you a cab, a tip of 1 to 5 pounds is appropriate, depending on how luxurious the hotel is.
- Housekeepers are not usually tipped, but you can leave some pounds in the room before you check out.
- Valet parking services are uncommon in the U.K. and since there's usually a charge, tipping is unnecessary.
Restaurants and Bars
When dining out, a service charge of 12-15 percent may be added to your bill, but the practice is not universal in U.K. restaurants. If you see the service charge on your bill, there's no need to tip.
- If there's no service charge, tipping at 10 percent is the standard.
- At pubs, you're not expected to tip. If the barman gives you especially good service, you can offer a small sum (like the price of half a pint of beer), with the words, "and have one for yourself" or something similar. The bartender may pour themselves a drink on the spot or may put the money aside to have a drink later.
- You're not expected to tip for food in pubs either but, with the growth of gastropubs, this has become something of a gray area. If you feel the pub is more of a restaurant with a bar than a pub that serves food, you may want to leave a tip similar to what you would leave in a restaurant.
- You might see a tip jar on the counter when getting takeaway. There's no pressure to top it up but people often leave the small change after they've paid.
In the U.K., it's typical to tip your cab driver. Usually, it's customary to round up to the nearest pound, but for a metered taxi ride, tipping 10 percent of the total fare would be acceptable. If you take a rural taxi or minicab, you might be charged a pre-agreed flat fare, which most people do not tip on.
At the end of a guided tour, it's customary to give your guide a small tip for a job well done.
- If you've had a good time and you've been well looked after and well entertained, you can tip 10 to 15 percent of the cost of the tour. Consider a minimum of 2 to 4 pounds for a single traveler, 1 to 2 pounds per person for a family.
- On a bus or coach trip, the driver will often have a receptacle near the exit where you can leave your tip. If you've been on a tour of a few days, and especially if the coach driver has also acted as a tour guide, tip the coach driver 2 to 4 pounds per person for every day of the trip.
Spas and Salons
Tipping at spas is not common practice in the United Kingdom, but if you get your hair cut or your nails done, you should tip the stylist.
- At a hair salon, tip your stylist at 10 percent of the total bill.
- Manicurists should be tipped at 10 percent of the total bill.