What to tip, how much and where -- Tipping guide for travelers

What to tip, how much and where -- Tipping guide for travelers

Skip the awkward exit, follow our comprehensive gratuity guide for big cities like Rio, Cape Town, Hong Kong and more

Tip too little and you’re blacklisted, tip too much and you’re a chump.

Different cultures call for different gratuity customs, so here's a comprehensive guide to the etiquette in seven different big cities. But when in doubt, remember the golden rule -- always leave 10 percent and you won't get chased down the street. Probably.

Got your tipping tips for lesser known destinations? Let us hear them in the comments

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Toronto, Canada

Canada is known as a friendly place, but skip the tip and you may set off a riot. Giving gratuities is heavily emphasized in the service culture and servers rely on their tips as a big part of their income.

Torotnot tipping"That smile isn't free, is it?"Restaurants: The bill will come with a 13 percent government Harmonized Sales Tax, but a 10-15 percent tip is still expected for standard service. If the service was above average, 20 percent is expected.

If the meal was not satisfactory, alert a manager instead of foregoing the tip. He or she may be able to offer a complimentary dish or discount.

A CA$1-2 (US$1-2) tip is expected at the bar, and 10-20 percent is still expected for table service.

Taxi: Cabbing is not common outside downtown Toronto. A small tip of C$1-2 is expected.

Hotel: Tipping is at the discretion of the guest but a CA$5 tip is sufficient for porters who carry your bags.

Other: Tipping in cafés is not expected, but give your pizza delivery guy a CA$2-5 tip.


London, England 

Brits are not as keen on tipping as their transatlantic cousins, but in certain situations it is expected, especially for good service.

London Black cabExpect to get more and pay more on these iconic rides. Restaurants: Diners are not expected to add an additional tip if there is already a 10-12 percent service charge in the bill. If the bill says “service charge not included!!!” leave a 10 percent tip.

Taxi: If a cab is any kind other than a black cab, passengers usually round to the nearest pound or just tell the driver to “keep the change.”

Black cabs are more worthy of tips because they have better knowledge of London's maze-like roads. Tip at least 10 percent. 

Hotel: Tipping is at the discretion of the guest, but we suggest £2-5 (US$3-8) for the porter if he helps with bags.

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Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Brazilians have a friendly reputation, but tipping is not a part of the culture. Brazilians are often direct and clear on money they want or do not expect.

Rio restaurantThe "servico" charge, kind of like a voluntary obligation.Restaurants: A 10 percent “servico” charge is often added to the bill. While there is no legal obligation to pay it, it is customary to do so.

Taxi: Tipping is not expected, but cabbies will often round to the nearest real.

No one likes to deal with change in Brazil, even in supermarkets cashiers will round to the nearest five cents.

Hotel: Tip at least R$5 (US$3) per person in hotels for the room service, maids and bellboys.

Other: In nightclubs, people are given a paper ticket that tracks each individual’s drinks, and it is paid at the end of the night so bartenders never deal with cash. Most of the time, a 10 percent service charge will be added, so you do not have to tip.

Food delivery does not require a tip because there is often already a delivery fee. Tipping for beauty and hair is not standard.


Hong Kong

Tipping is not a Chinese custom. Most low to mid-end restaurants prioritize speed and efficiency over friendliness and customer service.

Dai Pai DongAt Hong Kong stalls, service consists of giving you food. That's it.Restaurants: A 10 percent charge is added to most restaurant bills. But a Hong Kong restaurant insider tells us that less than one percent of places which charge service tax will give it to their staff. It is just a means of making prices appear lower.

So, if there is a service charge, leave anything from a HK$5-10 (US$0.65-1.3) dollars on top, just in case.

Hotels: Locals don’t often tip in hotels, but if the porter carries your bag in a high end hotel, HK$10 is sufficient.

Taxi: Tipping is not expected in taxis, but don’t be surprised if the driver doesn’t return small change like HK$1 or HK$2 coins. 

Note: Hong Kong coins are thick and heavy, so people often leave small tips -- not for the service -- but to relieve their bursting pocket seams.

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Singapore

According to the Singapore government website, tipping is “not a way of life” in Singapore and the government does not encourage a tip beyond the service charge and tax.

singapore tipping guideHotel staff -- among the few who rely on your tips.Restaurants: Despite the no-tipping rule, locals tell us that a small tip is greatly appreciated when someone has gone out of their way to help you, even if it's just the change.

Taxi: Tipping in cabs is not expected, but it is a nice courtesy to round up or tell the driver to keep the change.

Hotel: An exception to the rule is hotel staff. Tip porters around SG$2-5 (US$1.6-4)  if they help you with your bags or flag you a cab.

Other: Do not tip at Changi Airport.

Changi Airport corporate communications representative, Kwan Shu Qin tells us, “Service staff are not allowed to accept tips from passengers and customers they serve.

"This is to ensure that all airport visitors enjoy a consistent high standard of service, regardless of whether they tip.”


Sydney, Australia

Some tourists believe laid-back Aussie culture doesn’t practice tipping, but just like the Brits, local Aussies tip for table service -- unless the service is bad.

Bad serviceUnlike Canadians, Australians don't reward mediocre service.

Restaurants: Starting wage for wait staff is around AU$15 (US$16) per hour and can go up to AU$25, so waiters do not rely on tips for their wages.

Most diners do tip about 10 percent for good table service, but on the flip side, cheapskates don’t have to feel particularly bad for giving exactly AU$150.50 if that was the billed amount.

Hotels: Tip the porter AU$1-2 per piece of luggage.

Taxi: Tipping isn’t common but taxi drivers will usually round to the next AU$2-5.

Other: Tipping at pubs is not expected either unless your bartender makes you a special fancy drink -- then, give him a dollar or two.

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Cape Town, South Africa

Tipping is common practice in South Africa for a range of services, such as given by taxi drivers, tour guides and gas station attendants.

south africa minivan cabA mini vuvuzela tune? Worth 20 percent surely. Restaurants: It is expected for diners to tip a standard 10-15 percent of the bill in both bars and restaurants. Similar to Canada, low-paid wait staff rely on gratuities as part of their income.

Taxi: Taxi drivers expect to be tipped around 10 percent.

Hotel: Hotel porters who carry bags should be tipped R5-10 (US$0.65-1.3).

Other: You’re likely to run into “car guards” when traveling, these orange-vested, often self-employed helpers direct you to a parking spot and stand around to protect your car. If you use their services, they expect to be tipped R1-5.

If you do not want to use a car guard, wave them away and ignore them.

Got your tipping tips for lesser known destinations? Let us hear them in the comments

Jane Leung is a Hong Kong-born Canadian who has dabbled in the mixed media bag of film and television production, the professional sports industry and magazine publishing. 

Read more about Jane Leung
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