Americans traveling overseas are the world’s most generous tippers—far more generous than, say, Brits, French, or Italians. That’s according to our recent Tipping Survey, which also found tipping to be a source of great confusion. Expectations and guidelines vary drastically from country to country—in parts of Asia, for instance, it’s considered impolite to tip—and more than one quarter (26%) of U.S. respondents said they rarely know what to do where. You can get guidelines for the country you’re headed to by doing a search for “TripAdvisor Tipping Etiquette [Country Name],” but I thought I’d help further by sharing a few across-the-board strategies that apply nearly everywhere:
1. Tip in the country’s currency.
Some people travel with a fistful of U.S. $1 bills to hand out, but these can be difficult for locals to trade. It’s an important sign of respect to give in the local monetary unit; it sends the message, “I value your currency.”
2. But carry a few U.S. dollars or euros as well.
Sometimes certain locals, especially in emerging destinations, indicate that they would prefer to be tipped in dollars or, increasingly, euros. It’s useful to have some in your pocket for such situations.
3. Give the same amount the locals are giving.
The equivalent of one dollar is sometimes far too much—and reinforces the belief that Americans throw money around. Ask a local—say, your hotel concierge—what is the norm.
4. Check whether a service charge or cover charge is included in your bill.
If so, there’s usually no need to tip. French and Italians are accustomed to high built-in service charges, which is probably why they don’t tip much. In places where restaurants impose a cover charge and a service charge—in Italy, for instance—tipping usually isn’t necessary.
5. Tip in cash rather than with a credit card.
If the tip is paid by card, you don’t know whether the server is actually going to get it.
6. If you’re using a hotel’s concierge, tip him upon the first request of your stay. Money up front sends the signal that you’re serious about what you want and you’re willing to pay for it. Tip half at the start, half later.
7. Make sure tips are earned; avoid handouts.
Sometimes travelers feel pressured to give money, especially in destinations where there is poverty. Indeed, 19% of U.S. respondents to our survey report being asked outright for tips. If you feel unfairly pressured, don’t hand out bills just to make an awkward situation go away. Turning into a human ATM only perpetuates badgering of tourists. Instead, give in exchange for a service provided—say, for a performance by street musicians, or for a quickie guided tour—so that it’s a transaction, as opposed to a handout.
What tipping guidelines do you like to follow?