Everyone that is employed in the hospitality industry in North America will appreciate customers who tip. In Canada and the U.S. the act of giving ten to fifteen percent just before leaving a restaurant is so commonplace that nobody really thinks twice about it, unless the service has been unusually poor. However, when travelling abroad, tipping the local staff in a hotel or restaurant can be awkward because not all travellers know what’s expected. Here are some basic guidelines.
Some countries in this region like Italy and France will automatically add a service charge to restaurant bills, and they would also expect a 10% tip. If the service was exceptional then you could round up your payment to the nearest euro. As a rule, you should give change directly to the server and not include any tips on a credit card. Don’t leave any money on the table, because this is considered impolite. If you are totally unsatisfied with the service then it would be fine to leave no tip at all. When you’ve checked into your hotel porters usually expect about 1 euro per bag. Public restrooms usually have a small dish where you can leave some change. 50 euro cents would be enough.
In Brazil it is up to visitors to decide how much to give. Wages for staff in hotels are paltry by U.S. and European standards, and any tips you give to porters or valets would be greatly appreciated. Between 2 and 5 reals would be sufficient, ($1 U.S. is equal to 2 Brazilian reals). Restaurants typically add a 10% service charge. In smaller cafes, if there is no service charge then 10% would be expected. Taxi drivers don’t expect tips but try not to hand over the fare with large denominations because there is a chronic shortage of small change in Brazil, and your driver might have a problem breaking large notes. Tipping is very common in Colombia, and taxi drivers in larger urban centres would appreciate a 10% gratuity. If you intend to drive a car while in Colombia it’s recommended that you get somebody to watch it for you when you are not using it. Between 400 and 1,000 Colombian pesos would be enough ($1 U.S. would get you 1,980 pesos).
Tipping used to be unheard of in many Asian societies, but the practice is slowly beginning to take hold. In China government tourist guides are not allowed to accept tips but will happily take gifts like t-shirts or candy. In Vietnam, some of the swanky hotels and restaurants will add a 10-15% service charge but otherwise tips will not be expected. In northern Vietnam tips will be met with a perplexed grin in restaurants and hotels. If you really want to leave something then do so discreetly, like putting some money in an envelope and then sealing it. In Japan tipping is not a regular practice, unless you have asked for extra and/or special services.
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