Are you traveling to Europe?
Your bags are packed, you’re off to the airport, and you’re ready to embark on the ultimate European getaway that you’ve been dreaming of for months. Before you depart, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the tipping in Europe etiquette in your destination to avoid looking like a total tourist. You’ve planned a flight, booked a hotel, and created a jam-packed itinerary, but have you thought about tipping internationally? When should you do it? When shouldn’t you? Who should you tip? And of course, how much?
Tipping etiquette varies by country, culture, and situation. A little research is essential for travelers to know who to tip, how to tip, and most importantly, how much to tip. Generous travelers should take caution before handing a waiter a wad of cash if that culture does not consider tipping necessary.
On the other hand, budget–friendly travelers shouldn’t stiff a tour guide just to save a pretty penny. Depending on your destination, showing gratitude for your service can be a tricky business and may be categorized as customary, appreciated, or even a little rare. To avoid looking like the ultimate tourist, we’ve put together some foolproof tips to master the tricky practice of tipping and travel Europe like a local. Here’s a tip: read the guide and tip wisely.
#1 Tipping in Europe: Restaurants
If you are from the States, chances are that you have nagged your whole life to tip no less than 15- 20 percent at restaurants and now the golden rule is engraved in your brain. However, when eating at restaurants in Europe, nothing screams “American” more than a 20 percent tip. And, no, that’s not a good thing. In Europe, there’s no obligation to leave a tip although they are appreciated if you know the correct tipping etiquette of the country. As a general rule of thumb, try not to exceed 10 percent of the final bill, as anything more than that is considered excessive. Although you may think you’re being a generous tourist, tipping 15 to 20 percent in Europe is unnecessary, if not culturally ignorant.
Important Service Charge Information:
So now that you know the correct amount to tip, don’t make the common tourist mistake of forgetting to check if the bill already included the service charge! There’s nothing like avoiding the infamous “American over-tipping” only to tip twice as much because you neglected to notice the service charge. In most European restaurants, the service (servizio in Italian, service in French, servicio in Spanish) will be included in the bill, so you’ll want to factor that before leaving anything extra.
If this is the case, there are a couple of ways to check if the restaurant already includes the service charge. In some countries, the menu will note that the prices listed on the menu include the service charge (“servizio incluso”). If the menu does not include the service (“servizio non incluso”), it may appear at the end of your bill on a separate line. If the service was extraordinary and the “American over-tipping” label goes out the window, do as the Europeans do and leave an extra euro or two to show your appreciation.
Tipping Only in Cash:
You’ve spent so much time researching where to eat on your European getaway that tipping etiquette hasn’t even crossed your mind. That is until you’re handed the bill and realize you can’t tip on a card, and panic because you spent all your cash on gelato. You’re probably thinking, who carries cash these days? Before you empty your wallet gallivanting the streets of Europe, be prepared to save some euros to tip in cash.
Most Americans are not accustomed to tipping solely in cash due to the convenience of swiping a card and rounding to 20 percent. It might come as a bit of culture shock to find that most European restaurants do not even have the option to tip on a card and all gratuity should be left in euros. Try your best to exchange your dollars before handing cash over to your waiter, as in most countries it is considered rude to tip in a foreign currency. It may seem like a lot to take in, but once you get the hang of it you’ll be tipping like a local in no time.
So you’ve probably heard the horror stories of pickpocketing in Europe and you’re ready to take on the streets. You keep your watch, bag, sunglasses, and passport on your person, but what about your tip? Yes, it may seem a bit strange, but the same pickpocketing rules apply to tipping in restaurants.
Typically, it’s better to hand the tip to the waiter rather than leaving it on the table, especially in busy places where it might get into the wrong hands. Another reason to hand the tip over yourself is to ensure that the waiter receives their hard-earned cash in full. In some restaurants that accept credit card tips, servers may not receive the full amount, if any at all. The bottom line; try to tip in cash whenever possible and remember the happier the server, the happier the happy hour, right?
Tipping at Bars:
We’ve all had that one bartender that we painstakingly handed over a tip despite waiting a half hour for a drink. Despite our American habits, bartenders do not expect tips in Europe. Although tipping is customary in table-serving restaurants, it is not common when ordering food or drinks over the counter at bars and pubs. I know this may seem very out of the ordinary and maybe even a little guilt worthy, but European servers actually earn a high paying salary, and any tips act as a bonus.
If walking away from an empty-handed bartender seems a little too uncomfortable for your liking, leaving 1 or 2 euros for exceptional service is always welcome. Who knows, you may have just found your “go to” pub in Europe and might be back tomorrow.
Sure, the tipping etiquette has general rules to keep you in the clear when traveling across Europe, but you should always do a little research specific to your destination just in case. For example, in Germany, it’s considered classy to say the number of euros you’d like the waiter to keep when paying your bill and German cuckoo clocks are very famous in the world which is made in the Black Forest, Germany.
On the other hand, most places in the Czech Republic will state whether or not your bill includes the service charge, in English! If it doesn’t include the service, it’s customary to round up the bill by adding 5-10 percent while speaking a few Czech words. Rumor has it, saying hello, thank you, and goodbye in Czech will get you better service and speaking in full English will imply a bigger tip. No matter your destination, you should familiarize yourself with the culture and tipping etiquette of the country to avoid any tourist mishaps and tip like a true European.
Traveling to Paris? If Paris is at the top of your bucket list, it’s important to know a bit about their tipping etiquette to avoid confusion. In France by law, the price always includes the service charge no matter the establishment. It’s no surprise that Paris is an expensive city to live in, so waiters are paid accordingly!
Although your waiter will be taken care of, it’s still customary to throw a few euros their way after a meal or drink. Nothing crazy. A euro or two will do the trick but when in doubt, tipping around 5% in cash will keep you in the clear. After all, they deserve a few extra bucks after all the gelato they brought you!
#2 Tipping in Europe: Transportation
So you’ve made it to your destination and you’re ready to grab a taxi and hit the town. But is your wallet ready? If you’re planning on taking a taxi or shuttle from the airport to your hotel, you’re going to have to tip. This means that you’ll need some local currency almost as soon as you step off the plane and grab your bags. If you haven’t already exchanged your dollars for euros before you departed, don’t fret!
All international airports offer currency exchange counters as well as kiosks, though they may be a little pricey. Now that you have your euros in line, a general rule of thumb for tipping taxis and shuttles is to round up your total and tell your driver to keep the extra cash. If you’re traveling a short distance, just round up to the next euro when tipping your driver, but anything long distance should be rounded to the nearest 10. If your cabbie hauls your over-packed bags so that you can spare your freshly painted nails, you might want to toss in a little more. On the other hand, if you feel the driver ripped you off or overcharged you, skip the tip and get on your way. Either way, tipping in Europe is considered optional and anything extra will be much appreciated.
If you find yourself struggling to decide on a culture appropriate tip amount while on a European retreat, you could always stick to the Scottish 10 percent rule. In Scotland, 10 percent is a universal tipping amount that goes for just about anything. Whatever you do, don’t stress! Do as the Scottish do and keep it simple.
#3 Tipping in Europe: Hotels
If your European retreat consists of fresh linen sheets, towels folded as swans, and 24-hour room service, it’s time to show some appreciation. Hotel employees who go above and beyond to make your stay enjoyable will appreciate a token of recognition for their hard work. For the house cleaners cleaning up after your suitcase explodes daily, it’s considerate to leave two euros for a well-maintained room.
If you sat back, relaxed, and watched a bellhop break his back carrying a months worth of clothing stuffed into one bag, it’s acceptable to tip one to two euros per bag. When it comes to the concierge, it’s not common to tip but one to two euros is appreciated if the service exceeds your expectations. If you find yourself tossing euros around like its candy, then take a trip to the concierge to break some larger bills. The concierge at your hotel will be able to break larger bills so that you can keep your wallet full, and service happy while in Europe.
Before emptying all the singles in your wallet, be sure to research the tipping etiquette in your specific destination. Although tipping hotel staff may be customary in most parts of Europe, certain countries like Iceland think otherwise. In Iceland, it’s not encouraged to tip hotel staff, whether it be the housecleaners or the bellhop. If you’re wondering why your hotel bill seems a bit larger than average, it’s because the bill actually includes their services in the full price of your stay.
If the American side of you just can’t resist leaving a small token of appreciation, the staff will certainly appreciate a small tip, though they do not expect it.
#3 Tipping in Europe: Salons and Spas
What better way to live like a local than to get a fresh European hairstyle on your trip? Unlike the typical 20 percent given to hairdressers in the US, it’s thoughtful to tip only 10 percent of the final bill if you’re happy with your new European do. Much like restaurants, it’s common for hair and beauty salons to include a service charge in the bill, so look out for that before handing over extra euros.
If the bill includes the service but your new locks leave you overjoyed, don’t be afraid to tip a couple of extra euros as your generosity won’t go unnoticed. Massage on your mind? The same rules apply to spas in Europe where 10 percent of the final bill is customary. Before you reach into your wallet, do a little research on your destination as it is not common to tip beauty services in all countries.
When in doubt, ask! As a general rule of thumb, the French and British generally tip hairdressers and spas, while the Dutch and Swedish typically don’t. If you’re traveling to Italy, don’t expect to tip at all, however it is polite to round up and tell your beauty guru to keep the change. Whether you want to channel you inner European or just want a pampering along with your retreat, you will definitely leave stress free, especially about tipping.
#4 Tipping in Europe: Tour Guides for groups
Whether you just embarked on the most fascinating or boring tour of a lifetime, tipping your tour guide is completely optional. Guides who give their spiel at tourist attractions or bus and boat tours often hold out their hands at the end for a tip, which may make you feel obligated to throw a euro their way.
If you’ve already paid for the tour, the guide does not require a tip. Although, exceptional service may deserve a euro or two. If you get on good terms with your tour guide, they can be a great source of information to learn about the tipping culture in your destination. You never know, that euro may be the difference between a relaxing afternoon lunch or a not so great international experience.
For any private experiences, tip as you would in the US.
#5 Tips for Tipping in Europe
You’ve planned a whole trip, so it’s understandable if you forgot to research the tipping etiquette of your destination. If you sit down for a much-anticipated, authentic meal and realize you don’t know what to do, don’t panic! Simply look around and see what other visitors are doing and repeat after them. One word of advice, never ask the service provider IF you should tip them. Not only will this create an uncomfortable situation, but more times than not they will encourage you to tip even if service providers do not require tips.
No matter the service provided, always tip in cash. Make sure you have plenty of small bills on hand throughout your trip for that unexpected taxi ride or spur of the moment tour. Use larger bills to pay for material items such as shopping and souvenirs, and accumulate the change to use as tips. Oh, and make sure the cash is in the local currency of your destination because there’s nothing like taking a long taxi ride only to find that he won’t accept US dollars.
If all else fails, follow the general rule of 10 percent and you should be fine. For smaller services, opt for a euro or two but if you feel uncomfortable leaving the provider empty handed, then simply don’t. Better to spare a euro for someone not usually tipped than to stiff a person who expects a tip. Whether you’ve done your research or not, don’t stress about tipping! Follow your instincts.
No matter your European destination, learning the tipping etiquette is your first step in navigating Europe like a pro. While everyone appreciates tips no matter where you travel, tipping in Europe is not as abundant as in the United States, and in many countries, not expected at all. The proper amount depends on the country, culture, and circumstances, so use your best judgment!
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