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A Globetrotter's Guide to Tipping Etiquette

Updated: Dec 27, 2023

Whether you're embarking on a luxury cruise, checking into a posh hotel, or enjoying an all-inclusive resort getaway, tipping can be a perplexing aspect of international travel. For those who don't jet-set often, navigating the complex web of tipping customs can be a daunting task. Fear not, intrepid traveler! This guide will not only help you avoid those awkward tipping blunders but also add an extra layer of finesse to your globetrotting adventures.

1. Cruise Ship Tipping

Cruising the high seas is a fantastic way to explore multiple destinations in one go. But when it comes to tipping onboard, policies can vary widely. The general rule is to review your cruise line's guidelines before departure, as some include gratuities in your fare price. For instance, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line typically add an automatic daily service charge to your account. Disney Cruise Line gives you the option to pre-pay them ahead of time.

If tips are not included it's customary to tip your cabin steward, waitstaff, housekeeping, laundry and other service personnel. Depending on your cabin it usually starts at $15 per person per day and can go up to $20 for concierge level. Your tip will be split between all the staff who helped make your trip a memorable one. Many of these staff members rely on these tips as the majority of their wages so it's important to reward anyone who does a little extra for you with a little extra- whatever you feel is appropriate. And even if the tip is included, it's always a good idea to tip a little extra.

Certain staff positions such as concierge, butler, youth program and beverage staff are not apart of this service charge split so if you utlize any of these services be sure to tip those individuals. This is why it's important to know the cruiselines policies.

2. Hotel Stays

Hotels are a home away from home, and showing your appreciation for the staff's hard work is essential. In the United States, a common practice is to tip hotel staff $2-5 per night, including housekeeping, bellhops, and valet. I also recommend tipping anyone who handles your bags at least $1-2 per bag. In Europe, it's not as common to tip housekeepers, but a small gratuity for other services is appreciated. When in doubt, refer to local customs or ask the hotel's front desk for guidance.

3. All-Inclusive Resorts

All-inclusive resorts are all about relaxation and indulgence, and while many services are included in your package, you'll still encounter opportunities to tip. Staff at these resorts work hard to make your stay memorable, so tipping is a great way to show your gratitude. A few dollars for excellent service is usually sufficient, and feel free to leave a larger tip for exceptional service.

The most popular exceptions are Sandals and Beaches Resorts which DO NOT allow tipping to the staff. The only services where you can tip are the spa, butlers and any outside vendors such as excursions. Butlers go above and beyond, there can be up to 3 butlers assisting you during your vacation and they are available 24 hours a day. The average amount to tip your Sandals butler is $25 per day paid at the end of your trip but like everything else, if they are exceptiontional you really should reward them with an even greater tip and always tip in cash.

You can also tip the drivers that take you to and from your resort. The amount depends on how much luggage you have and how far the drive is. I like to assume $1-2 per bag or another $10-20. Golf caddies and employees of the private excursion companies can also receive tips. Along with the staff at Red Lane Spa. The service fee added to your spa bill is not the tip so you should tip at least 10-20%.

4. River Cruises

River cruises offer a more intimate exploration of your chosen destination. Tipping policies for river cruises are similar to ocean cruises, but there can be variations. It's generally recommended to tip your crew at the end of the cruise. You can use the recommended amounts provided by the cruise line as a starting point, but you can adjust based on your experience. If tipping is not included in your voyage fare then $10-20 per person per night is customary.

Sometimes tips to the local guides and drivers are not included. It is recommend that you tip in local currency and provide the tip at the end of the tour or excursion. 10-15% of the tour price is the average.

5. General Tips for Tipping

  • Research Ahead: Before your trip, look up the tipping customs in your destination. Many travel websites and forums provide insights into local expectations.

  • Currency Matters: Always tip in the local currency. Converting it for the recipient can be challenging and might lead to misunderstandings.

  • Be Discreet: Tipping should be done discreetly and politely. Hand the tip directly to the person providing the service or leave it in an envelope.

  • Tipping Apps: Some countries have mobile apps for tipping; use them to ensure your tips reach the intended recipient.

  • Gratitude Matters More Than Amount: Remember that tipping is not just about the amount but also a way to show appreciation for excellent service.

  • Exceptional Service: For exceptional service, don't hesitate to leave a larger tip. It's a great way to express your gratitude.

  • Always carry cash. While it’s super easy to pay by card everywhere you go in Europe, in some countries, cash is king. Even if it’s not, you can’t tip hotel porters and maids without it.

Tipping can indeed be a perplexing aspect of international travel, but with a bit of research and an understanding of local customs, you can navigate this minefield with grace. The key is to remember that tipping is not just a transaction but a gesture of appreciation for the hard work and hospitality provided during your journey. So go ahead, explore the world, and tip your way to a world-class travel experience!

Safe travels and happy tipping! See below for a breakdown by region on what to expect but you should ALWAYS do your reseach for your destination and what is customary or expected.


European countries:

Restaurants average 10 percent

Housekeeping per night is €1-2.00

Hotel porter or bell services €0.50-1.00 per bag

Taxi is less common. Varies from rounding up to 10 percent

United States:

Restaurant 10-25%

Housekeeping $2-3 per night

Hotel porter or bell services, anyone who helps you with your bag $1-2 per bag

Taxi 10-15 percent

Bartenders $1-2 per drink or 15-20%. I like to tip a lot up front, then you'll always get the bartenders attention!

Spa services 15-20%

Tour guides for smaller personalized tours $10-20%

Exceptions that are important to remember:

Asian counties: It is not customary to tip. In some countries it can be taken as an insult.

China and Japan: Tips are not expected

Italy, Malaysia and Portugal: No tipping at restaurants

Mexico, Malaysia, Portugal and Thailand: No tipping taxis


Melissa Lenox specializes in personalized vacations. You should be able to relax on vacation and planning shouldn’t be stressful. Let me do the hard work so you can enjoy yourself! My specialties are Disney destinations, Universal theme parks, Sandals and Beaches all-inclusive resorts, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines. I am a Gold Travel Advisor with Coasters & Castles Travel, Blog Editor of Main Street to the World.

Follow me on my pages below or contact me at mlenox@travelcnc.com to plan your next adventure!


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