International Tipping Etiquette: Are You Doing It Right?

Americans happily tip between 15 and 20 percent when they eat at a restaurant, take a taxi, or receive other services. However, when you travel outside the United States, you'll soon see tipping is done a little differently in other parts of the world. Read on to discover the international tipping etiquette for some of the world's most popular tourist hotspots.

Australia: Tipping Appreciated but Not Expected

Unlike their underpaid peers in the United States, Australian waiters earn at least the national minimum award wage of $15.96 an hour. Most are paid much more than this, so they don't need tips to subsidise their income as American wait staff do.

However, tipping is starting to creep into more Australian establishments, especially high-end restaurants in capital cities. People tend to leave between 7 to 10 percent gratuity for outstanding service, although diners are under no obligation to do this. Keep this in mind as you travel from places like Sydney to more rural areas in your rental.

Australians never tip hairdressers, hotel workers, taxi drivers, or other professionals.

Europe: Look Out for In-Built Service Charges

In many restaurants across Europe, service charges are included, so additional tipping is not required. However, it's not uncommon to leave a tip of roughly 10 to 15 percent in the fine dining establishments of France, Germany, and Switzerland, and across Eastern Europe where wages are low. Check your bill in the United Kingdom and Ireland, as a 10 to 15 percent tip is expected at restaurants without service charges.

European taxi drivers don't expect tips, but you can round any charges up to the nearest Euro. Hotel porters will accept a Euro or two for their trouble, but no more.

Middle East: Various Rules About Tipping

Etiquette surrounding tipping, or "baksheesh" as the locals call it, varies greatly among Middle East nations. Some customs in the major tourist hotspots include:

  • Turkey: no tipping, but expect to pay a 10 percent service charge in restaurants
  • Israel: leave a 10 percent tip
  • Egypt: leave five to 10 percent tip in addition to any service charges, preferably in Dollars rather than local currency

Wages are low in many Middle Eastern countries, so local servicemen and women may ask for tips for doing small things like opening doors. Don't feel pressured to pay for a service that doesn't warrant a tip, and stash coins in a separate part of your wallet to keep notes out of sight.

Asia: Tipping is Frowned Upon

Tipping is actively discouraged in many parts of Asia, so, when in doubt, it's best to pay only the bill's total. The Communist government of Hong Kong believes tipping is equivalent to capitalist bribery, so offering extra could lead to a serious misunderstanding. Some Japanese people are offended by tipping, and in Singapore and China the practice is also frowned upon. Some establishments in Singapore, Thailand, and Japan will add a 10 percent service charge to hotel and restaurant bills, which serves a similar purpose but doesn't carry any of the negative connotations.

India is an exception to the rule. There, you should tip 15 percent to your wait staff, and 250 rupees to your hotel's housekeepers.

When visiting a country that's not discussed here, do your research before departure to avoid an embarrassing tipping blunder.