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Tipping is a highly personal decision, and is often a sure-fire topic to start a heated debate. When you consider that tipping practices at home can get confusing – with many differences of opinion to muddy the waters – what happens when you travel?

As different countries and cultures have varying tipping customs, here’s a breakdown to give you a quick overview of what’s acceptable, what’s expected, and what’s considered just plain rude – depending on where your travels take you.

North America

Across Canada, the tipping custom is fairly standard. You’re looking at 15 – 20% of the bill (before tax) for a sit-down meal at a restaurant, approximately 10 – 15% for services such as a haircut or a taxi ride, and a few extra dollars for a porter or bell-hop who helps with your bags at the airport or hotel. For service that is outstanding or particularly high-end, a higher tip is warranted. At the same time, a lower tip for poor service is perfectly reasonable.

In the U.S., tipping practices are generally similar to those in Canada, with the norm being 15 – 20% tip on a meal out. A key difference, however, is that serving staff in the U.S. typically make significantly less than minimum wage, and have to rely on tips to boost their income. While your tipping practices might not change when travelling south of the border, this is something to keep in mind.

And if you’re heading to Las Vegas, there are a few extra points to consider. For instance, if you get a free meal from your hotel, you should still tip on the value of the meal – a comped dinner shouldn’t come out of the server’s pocket. Also, those free cocktails you get for playing slots, dice or cards at the casino? Giving your server a $1 chip for every drink is standard (and appreciated).

Europe

Tipping in Europe is generally more laid back than in North America, and many locals don’t tip at all.

Having said that, there is some expectation that foreigners will leave a tip, with 5 – 10% of the bill being a good guideline. Rounding up the bill is also a customary practice, depending on the level of service you receive.

Because there is a range in how restaurants operate, here are a few other things to keep in mind:

  • Some restaurants in Europe will round up the bill before presenting it to you. If that’s the case, you may not need to leave anything additional
  • In Italy in particular, you might see a cover charge (called a “coperto”), which is generally 2-3 euros per person. The coperto is often charged at sit down restaurants to cover water and bread for the table
  • If you ever see a service charge of about 10% on your bill, that’s the tip, so you don’t need to leave anything else. You’ll typically see the service charge (called “servizio” in Italy, “servicio” in Spain and “service” in France) on bills for 6 guests or more, or at restaurants in more touristy areas
  • Tips are generally appreciated in cash, even if you pay for your meal on a credit card

Tipping is a bit different in the U.K. versus the rest of Europe, with 10 – 15% being customary. Before you tip, though, check that the service charge hasn’t already been added.

When it comes to tipping tour guides, you can leave about 10% if you’re happy with the service, but it’s generally not expected. As far as tipping taxis, just round up the fare and you’re good to go.

Asia

In China and Southeast Asia (countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia), tipping is not customary, but it is appreciated at restaurants, hotels, and on tours.

In Japan, however, there is no tipping in any case – not in cabs, restaurants or hotels. Because of the country’s very high service standards, tipping would be considered rude, and your tip may even be refused.

Head southwest to India and the tipping landscape changes a bit. How much you tip will vary based on how much the bill is, but a 7% tip at restaurants is a good rule of thumb. Restaurants in bigger cities such as New Delhi and Mumbai tend to add a service charge (of 5 – 10%), which covers your tip.

South America

Tipping in South America is also fairly laid back, although it remains an important part of a server’s income. 10% of the value of the bill is standard, and tips in cash are appreciated, regardless of how you paid for your meal or service. Since U.S. dollars are widely accepted and interchangeable across South American countries, if you’re visiting a few spots, it’s smart to pack U.S. currency so you’re not forever changing your cash.

Similar to restaurants in Europe, some establishments in South America will charge a “cubierto”, which is a charge for the table. The cubierto goes to the restaurant and not your server, so if you’re happy with the service you received, by all means leave something extra behind.

When it comes to tipping tour guides, a good guideline is $10 – $15 USD for a half-day tour, and $15 – $20 USD for a full day’s excursion.

Africa

For the most part, porters, safari guides and drivers in Africa rely on tips, and they make up a significant part of their salary. It’s a good idea to plan for tipping in advance and keep a supply of small bills (either U.S. dollars, which again are widely used, or the local currency) for tips. As a general rule of thumb, $10 USD per day is a standard gratuity for drivers and/or guides.

If you’re planning to climb Kilimanjaro or go on other mountain treks in Africa, you should expect to spend about 10% of the cost of your trek on tips. This usually translates to about $15 – $20 per day for a guide, $8 – $10 USD for a cook and about the same for a porter. Check with your travel company before you leave, just to be sure.

For service at a restaurant or bar, 10 – 15% is normal, as servers earn a very basic living wage and tips are an important supplement to their overall income. A few dollars for porters and parking lot attendants are appreciated as well.

Australia

There is essentially no tipping in Australian restaurants. A higher minimum wage for servers relieves pressure on customers to supplement their income. At the same time, small tips for great service are appreciated but not expected.

Wherever your travels take you, it’s a good idea to do some quick research to see what is expected of you when it comes to tipping service staff. While you want to reward great service, you also want to take care to meet the customs of that country and keep cultural offenses to a minimum. Figure out the right range before you go, and be sure to have some cash on hand for those who make your travels a little bit more special.

Planning a trip? Learn how the RBC Avion card can help you get there.

Whether you’re heading down south, overseas or across the country, your RBC Avion card can get you there – on any airline, whenever you want to go. While you’ll need to take some cash for tips, pay for your travels with your card and earn points faster, enjoy built-in travel insurance, and other great travel services just for Avioners.