If you live in the U.S., you're probably used to scribbling an extra few dollars on your receipt, or popping a handful of bills into a jar at the barista's cashier. Tipping is ingrained in our society, but the tipping culture in the U.S. is very different than that in most other countries. While tipping is common in Europe, it’s usually a minimal amount, an extra for good service. In some places, like Japan, tipping can even be considered an insult.
The practice of tipping was formalized across the U.S. in the 1960s when Congress enacted regulations around the federal minimum wage. While it can vary by state, most employees who work for tips earn much of their wages directly from their customers.
Even for Americans vacationing in their own country, tipping can be confusing, but this guide will help you understand who you should and shouldn’t tip while enjoying your getaway.
Tip: Shuttle and Taxi Drivers
Many hotels offer complimentary shuttle service, with the recommended amount to tip depending on how much the driver helps you with your bags. The general rule is $1 per bag but if you have one that’s extra heavy, tip $2 for it. If the driver doesn’t help with your bags, tipping is optional.
For taxi drivers or ridesharing services like Uber, tip at least 10 to 15 percent. It should be 20 or more if the driver goes above and beyond, such as helping with your bags or making a detour so you can grab coffee at a drive-thru Starbucks.
Tip: The Valet
If you bring a car to your hotel and use a valet, it’s customary to tip from $1 to $5 when you get your car back, but it’s a good idea to tip when dropping off your car too as you’ll want it handled carefully. Tip even more if the valet helps unload your luggage.
Tip: The Bellhop and Doorman
Your hotel may have a doorman and bellhop, but who you tip depends on how your luggage is handled. If either unloads your bags, tip $1 per bag. If they bring them to your room, tip a minimum of $5 even if it’s just one bag. Some doormen help in other ways too such as hailing a tax, which should be tipped anywhere from $2 to $5.
Many hotel guests forget about leaving a tip for housekeeping as it’s typically done out of sight. But housekeeping handles some of the most difficult work in a hotel. Leave a tip daily, of $1 to $5 per night in a properly labeled envelope so they know it’s theirs. Avoid leaving a single tip at the end of your stay, as there is a good chance there were different housekeepers doing the job.
Tip: Tour Guide
Tipping a tour guide can be confusing. While many travel experts recommend tipping between 10 and 20 percent of the total cost of the tour, what do you do if it’s a free walking tour? In that case, tip anywhere between $5 and $20 per person. If you take a tour with a guide and a driver, you might want to tip the driver $1 per person too. For a multiday tour, 5 to 10 percent of the tour price is a good rule to follow. But be sure to check if service charges are already included in the price of the tour.
Tip: Bartender and Server
Tip your bartender at least $1 to $2 per drink. It’s not only the customary thing to do but it will help ensure the bartender gets to you quicker next time.
Most people realize they should tip their server at a restaurant. The general rule is 15 to 20 percent of the total tab. If there is no table service, you may see a tip jar, but tipping isn’t necessary, although it’s always appreciated. For baristas or cashiers who are extra accommodating or always remember what you order, you should leave a small tip, such as $1 for a fancy cup of coffee.
Tip: Food Delivery People
If everything goes well with your delivery, the standard cost of having your meal brought to your doorstep is 20 percent of the order. Regardless of the total, it should never be less than $5.
Tip: Salon Attendants
You should tip your hairstylist 20 percent of the total cost of the service. But if one person gave you a haircut and another colored your hair, the total is still the same, it’s just divided between those who provided the services. For example, if your haircut and blow-dry were $60 and your color was $80, the total cost comes to $140, so you should tip $28 between the stylist and the colorist.
If you get your nails done at a hotel salon, a 20 percent tip is also the norm. For a massage at the hotel spa, the masseuse should also get 20 percent.
Don’t Tip: Flight Attendants and Gate Agents
You might start to wonder if you should be tipping your flight attendant when they serve you a drink on the plane, or maybe the gate agent who upgrades you to a first-class seat. This one is easy – airline employees usually can’t accept tips and they never expect them. They make a good wage and benefits and are considered to be safety professionals rather than servers.
Don’t Tip: Public Transport Drivers
Public transport drivers like bus drivers aren’t like taxi drivers who can help you with your luggage. They aren’t allowed to carry passengers’ bags or even help if someone falls getting into or out of the bus. Taxi drivers are tipped as they provide a much more personal service and they also have a high amount of expenses.
Don’t Tip: Fast Food Workers
Many fast-food restaurants have a policy of no tipping, including McDonald’s and Taco Bell. Generally, fast-food workers take your order, but they don’t deliver food to your table or do the other things traditional restaurant servers do to provide a more personalized service experience.