We all can relate to that moment when you arrive somewhere new for that long-awaited holiday and, tired after your journey, go out to find somewhere to eat. You start to chill, smile shyly at the waiting staff and then at the end of your meal, realise that, in a mild panic, you don’t know what the tipping culture is. You had every intention to check before you left, but life got busy, as it always seems to do just before you go on holiday. The thing is, the etiquette of tipping around the world really does vary, as it does from person to person.
However, a little knowledge in advance can go a long way, as can a few euros, dirhams or levs in your host’s pocket. If you are working to a tight budget while away, it also helps to add daily tips into your spending budget, and even bring cash for that purpose in advance, so that you have a ‘kindness kitty’ stashed away. If you want to know more, here are our tipping points for some of our top destinations.
Tipping in Morocco
It’s worth remembering that you can’t buy Moroccan dirhams (Dh) outside the country so when you do your first currency exchange, ask for small amounts so that you can tip easily. It’s more common, particularly on our hiking and cycling tours, all of which are privately-guided, to tip your guide, muleteer and cooks at the end of the week in a lump sum. This ranges from 50-300 Dh per day.
In restaurants, tipping is not part of the local culture, but in more touristy areas, they sometimes add 10% to the bill, which is a good amount. Even if it’s not done locally all the time, rounding up to the nearest zero is always a cool thing to do. With regards to taxis, we often have organised transfers from the airports that are included in the price of your holiday. But if you are taking a taxi independently, the norm is to round up to the nearest dirham. So if your fare is 17Dh, round it up to 20Dh.
Haggling is a whole different ball game to tipping of course. It’s also very much part of the culture here and generally you should never accept the seller’s first offer. But remember also that tourism income sustains many families in Morocco, so a good recommendation from local experts is to half the price they are offering and then chill out. It may be fun to haggle over a quid or a dollar, but these coins might be fundamental to someone else.
Tipping in the Balkans
Many Balkan countries, such as Albania and Bulgaria, still operate predominantly with cash and you have to buy, for example, Albanian lek and Bulgarian lev within the country on arrival. So make sure you have cash to hand. ATMs and card machines in shops may be rare, especially in some of our rural hiking and cycling areas. If you’re on one of our guided holidays, such as our Best of the Bulgarian Alps or Walking the High Scardus Trail, tipping your guide 10% of the tour price at the end of the trip will bring out a Balkan beam. Our guides often create a shared fund, or kitty, which group members can contribute to in advance, to cover small purchases such as coffees and also tips throughout the trip. For the most part, a tip of around 10% is welcome in restaurants in Balkan countries and, in more casual bars and cafes, leaving a few coins for your waiter is the kind thing to do. However, in most Balkan countries, tipping is never expected, but it’s always appreciated. And remember, it’s a relatively short tourism season in many parts of the Balkans, so don’t skimp on the coins. They’ll only gather dust at home.
Tipping in India and Nepal
Our trips in India and Nepal are all privately-guided and it’s very much the done thing to tip your guide and trekking team at the end of the tour. These folk will be your Himalayan heroes, trust us. A decent but not extravagant tip for a team of six people supporting you on, for example, one of our trekking holidays in Ladakh, or the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal is around $5-8 per day, per person, which can be given at the end of the tour. If you want to look at it as an overall group tip, our local partner on the ground recommends: $15-20 per day for your guide, $8-10 for your porter and $5-6 for cooks and other staff. These apply to the whole party, not per person. If you are travelling in a group of two, you can lower this, compared with larger groups, but rounding it all up for a ramble of these proportions is always the decent thing to do.
All meals are provided on these tours too, so you aren’t fumbling for change at the end of those. However, at the start and end of your trip, in Ladakh’s capital of Leh, for example, it is customary to tip 10% in restaurants. In hotels, we recommend putting Rs 400 in the tip box per night, per room. The Indian rupee is a restricted currency which means that visitors are not allowed to bring it into the country, so you need to change currency and get some small change when you are there, with ATMs omnipresent in small towns and cities.
Tipping in Pakistan
Similar to India, don’t be tight on tipping on our Pakistan trekking tours, all of which are privately-guided too. As with all our tours, we work with a reputable operator who ensures that ground team members such as mountain guides, assistant guides and porters, are fully insured and paid a fair wage. Tips are in no way a substitute for wages. Our local Pakistani provider recommends a tip at the end of the tour of between $40-60 per person for your support team. However, as our Hunza Valley trek is nine days long and our K2 Basecamp trek takes an incredible 19 days, you can do the maths and aim a bit higher – not just with your walking. The recommended currency for exchange is actually US$ as they get favourable exchange rates when you arrive.
Tipping in Bhutan
There’s no need to add service onto bills in hotels and restaurants in Bhutan, as they include service charges of 20%. The tipping of your guide, driver and trekking team is purely a personal matter. However, on our Bhutan holidays, all of which are fully guided, our tipping guidance depends on your group size. Your guide tip ranges from $20-50 per day for the whole group, depending on your group size. The more people, the more coins in the kitty. In addition, we recommend a group daily contribution of $20-35 for the chef, $15-40 for your driver, $15-25 for the trek assistant and $10-20 for the horsemen. You present it as a lump sum from the group to your main guide on the last day of your trip, not daily. The currency in Bhutan is the Ngultrum and you can only get it when you enter the country, so bring some cash, be it dollars, sterling or rupees, so that you can exchange it at the airport.
Tipping in Japan
When it comes to tipping, it’s not, as the iconic song goes, big in Japan. In fact, it’s downright awkward. What is big, however, is the ingrained pride in providing infallible hospitality. Consequently, tips are never expected and can actually cause serious offence. Taking pride in your job, craft or contribution to society runs deep in Japan. There’s even a word for it: shokunin kishitsu, which means ‘craftsman’s spirit’ and saying thank you, arigato gozaimasu, is the biggest tip you can give, especially when you then bow. However, times are changing and one development is when you stay at a ryokan, or traditional Japanese inn, on one of our walking holidays in Japan. It’s now acceptable to leave money at the end of your stay for a member of staff who has prepared your food and bed. Never give them the money in person, however. Sometimes an envelope is left for this purpose and, if not, it’s a good idea to bring some pretty envelopes with you for that purpose. Pretty goes down well, and a pretty sum of around ¥1,000 per person does too.
Tipping on Mount Kilimanjaro and in Tanzania
Trekking Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, is the ultimate way to see Tanzania for walkers, and it is a walk, albeit a slow, strenuous one, not a technical climb. We offer privately-guided treks on all four routes to Kilimanjaro’s summit, or Uhuru as it’s known locally, at 5,895m. Uhuru actually translates as ‘freedom’ and so we invite you to reward your committed guides, porter and cooks at the end of your trip, as these folk not only lead you safely through their sacred grounds, but they are also its stewards. Many also rely on it now for their livelihoods. A general rule of thumb, when it comes to tipping your team on Kili, is to put aside 10% of the total cost of your trek towards tips.
[It’s worth noting that our partners on the ground follow the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP), which lays down strict guidelines on guide and porter payments and welfare. This includes their members being transparent about tipping, and it also encourages trekkers to have a ‘tipping ceremony’ on the last morning of your trek.
We have plenty more tips on cultural aspects of the various countries where we offer natural adventures in our blogs. For example, you may enjoy one on Finnish sauna etiquette, Christmas traditions from our team members, Easter traditions on our natural adventures and our Insider guide to Lithuania. For any other questions about where, when and how to travel to some of the world’s most extraordinary hiking and cycling destinations, please don’t hesitate to contact one of our Adventure Specialists.