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Tips for Tipping

Tipping can be a puzzling experience for overseas travelers. It’s commonplace in some countries, in others it’s expected only in major cities, and in some it simply isn’t done. The rules are also in a constant state of change, so what was appropriate the last time you visited your favorite foreign destination may be completely inappropriate the next time you go.

General Tipping Guidelines: (when not sure, take your lead from the locals)

Asia and the Pacific: Special care must be taken to insure that your well-meaning gesture is not taken as insulting. If you are unsure, it is best not to tip.

Europe: Many hotels and restaurants add a service charge to the bill. In most cases, an additional tip is unnecessary. If no service charge is added to your bill 10% is the general rule for restaurant service; and a dollar per bag will be appreciated.

Middle East/Africa: While your tip will not be seen as insulting, it may be unnecessary.

Central/South America: Many hotels and restaurants add a service charge to the bill, and an additional tip is unnecessary. If not, 10% is the general rule for restaurant service; and a dollar per bag will be appreciated.

More Tipping Tips

– Tip your housekeeper for each night instead of giving one large tip at the end of your stay. You may not have the same housekeeper each evening.

– Do not ask to borrow the bellman’s cart in order to bring your suitcases up to your room on your own and avoid shelling out a tip. The bellman and his cart are a package deal — if you want to carry your own bag, use your arms.

– Keep in mind that when you’re tipping a service person at your hotel, you’re essentially paying a part of that person’s salary.

– If your room is not ready and you request that the bellman store your bags … tip! Tip the bellman for each major task that he performs for you.

– Out of cash? Need change? If you are out of small bills, ask the staff member to get change at the front desk; in most cases, he or she will be happy to oblige.

– If the staff member who is assisting you seems rude at first, do not withhold a tip. In a foreign country, what you interpret as rudeness may simply be a difference in culture. However, if you are deeply affected by the unhelpful behavior of a staff member who has been consistently rude throughout your stay, tip the minimum and notify the hotel manager of the offense.

Know Before You Go

 Destination-specific tipping information is vital if you want to avoid an awkward or offensive encounter with a service person during your trip. Magellan’s offers a useful World Wide Tipping Guide that summarizes acceptable tips in other countries in a convenient chart.

Carry Cash

 If you’re taking a cab or shuttle from the airport to your hotel, in most countries you’ll have to tip. This means that you will need some local currency almost as soon as you get off your plane. Start your trip with a dozen or so dollar bills.

Make sure you have plenty of small bills on hand throughout your trip, too. Use larger bills to pay for souvenirs, meals and other expenses, and keep the change to use as tips. If you run out of small bills, your hotel’s front desk should be able to make change for you.

Don’t Ask

 A common mistake made by travelers is asking their service person if he or she requires a tip. This could present a conflict of interest to a cash-strapped service person who doesn’t normally take tips.

Beware of Service Charges

 You may think that a “service charge” on your restaurant bill indicates that the tip is included. This is true for most countries; for others, not so much. In destinations such as Greece, Guatemala, Italy and Hong Kong, you should leave a tip in addition to a service charge. This is because the service charge may not necessarily go to the waiter — and your tips make up a significant percentage of your server’s salary.

Follow the Leader

 If you forget to research the acceptable tipping practices of your locale, or simply don’t know what to do, look around and see what other visitors are doing. If that doesn’t work, here’s a basic, common-sense rule of thumb: tip 5 to 10 percent, or a few dollars (in the local currency), to anyone who is providing you with a service.

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