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Travel Unravelled: Tipping Around the World

Q. We’re going to Europe, but aren’t sure about tipping in restaurants. How much should you give?—Annie Sagan, Weyburn, Saskatchewan

A. Tipping customs vary between countries, and often depend on what kind of restaurant you are patronising. To make matters easy, follow these guidelines, which we’ve organized by region. We have purposely excluded Australia and New Zealand, where North American rules apply.

Tipping has never been a customary practice in Asia, but North American tourists are starting to change expectations. Restaurants often include a 10% – 15% service charge, and if the service was impressive you can also leave some change. If there is no service fee, leave 10% – 15%. In Japan, Singapore and Taiwan tipping is not expected, and in China is it illegal. For a breakdown by major city, click here.

It’s hard to nail down a general rule for all of Europe. First, look at your bill; often a service charge will be included, in which case just round up your total. For example, if your bill comes to €46.23, give the waiter €47. In a handful of countries, however, you are expected to tip: Austria (5% – 7%), The Czech Republic (10%), Germany (10%), Greece (8% – 10%), Hungary (10% – 15%), The Netherlands (10%), Portugal (5% – 10%), Slovakia (10% – 15%) Slovenia (10%) and The United Kingdom (10% – 15%). For a detailed breakdown, click here. Tell the waiter how much change you would like, factoring in the tip—leaving coins on a table is considered impolite. Note: in Europe it is customary for waiters to bring the bill only when asked.

The Middle East
In most countries, a 10% automatic gratuity is added to the bill, and you are also expected to contribute at least 8%. The exceptions are Dubai, Israel and Iran, where you should leave coins, and Saudi Arabia, where there is no automatic gratuity. It is also customary to leave small tips for street vendors. Note: asking for a doggy bag is considered rude; uneaten food is divided by the staff or given to the less fortunate. For a discussion of tipping customs in the Middle East, click here.

South America & the Caribbean
Tipping is standard practice in the Caribbean. In most countries, an automatic 10% gratuity will be added to your bill; if the service was impressive, add some change. If an automatic gratuity is not included, leave 10% – 15%. If you have been drinking, you will be expected to leave $1 – $2 per drink for the bartender, or 10% – 15% of the total bar tab. In Costa Rica, nothing is expected. For a discussion of tipping customs in the Caribbean, click here. In South America, expectations are divided by country: Argentina (10%), Brazil (none), Chile (5%), Colombia (15% – 18%), Ecuador (5% – 10%), Nicaragua (10% – 15%), Peru (10% – 15%).

At local haunts and small eateries, no tip is expected, though it is customary for North Americans to leave change. Nicer restaurants have built-in service charges, and an additional but 15% is expected. In Morocco, a 10% fee is usually included, and in South Africa you should always tip 10% – 15% directly to the waiter. For a discussion of African tipping practices, click here.

For a country-by-country breakdown of tipping practices, click here.