tippy toes on tipping

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Coming from a country where tipping isn’t really a way of life, we always struggle when we travel. From tipping the cab driver, hotel staff, wait staff, tour guides and so on and so on. What is the etiquette?


We’ve seen how they do it on tv but somehow when we are in the moment, it doesn’t quite feel as smooth (or look as smooth no doubt). The first opportunity to tip is usually after the cab driver unloads our luggage from the boot of his cab and we pay him the cab fare plus a bit more via the “secret” handshake. And before we can turn around, the hotel’s bellboy has snatched up our bag and is welcoming us to the hotel as we secretly hope that we have some small notes to tip him (because can you really ask for change? That would be awkward, right?) At the front desk, the staff are super friendly, and extra helpful to secure us the room with a view and a king size bed. So does that person get a tip? And how do we do it tactfully? Slide the bill across the counter? It’s all too confusing! And we’ve only been in the country for less than a day!

It’s time for food, so when do you tip? At what level of service? We have begun noticing that maybe overseas restaurants are catering for us Aussies who don’t quite know how much to tip, so a service charge seems to be appearing more often on the bill these days. This is absolutely fine by us because it helps us but somehow it seems odd when there is no service.

The next dilemma we then face with tipping is house-keeping! Is it better to tip daily or at the end of our stay? We choose to tip daily as its only fair for the housekeeper who does clean the room to receive the tip. But then where do you leave the money? We entertain putting it by the bedside but what if the housekeeper thinks its our money so doesn’t take it or thinks we are testing their honesty or takes a larger note on another day because we have accidentally left it lying around? Our solution has been to write a thank you note with a smiley face 🙂 and place it with the money (on the pillow – too tacky?) and that seems to have worked so far.

Tipping is such a delicate yet critical part of travelling. It’s about getting the act right as to not offend or belittle anyone. It’s about balancing the amount to show gratitude but to also make sure you have the right combination of denominations in your wallet to tip suitably. It is an art and maybe one day we won’t be tippy toeing about how to tip gracefully!


10 thoughts on “tippy toes on tipping

    simonpetersen826 said:
    September 4, 2013 at 8:12 am

    We don’t do it in New Zealand, either, so it’s always a bit foreign to me. I don’t think it makes sense – the price should just be the price. Still, I’d hate to not tip in a country where it’s expected, especially if the staff are underpaid as it is.

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      September 4, 2013 at 8:48 am

      That’s how we feel too. We don’t want to be “ripping” these people off if tipping is their livelihood. If only, the price was the price! Thanks for your comments 🙂

    yeatesgr said:
    August 19, 2013 at 6:44 am

    Nice piece and as an Oz brethren the tipping culture from country to country is a minefield. You don’t wish to offend but at the same time neither do I wish to be viewed as a walking ATM ripe for the fleecing. Keep the blogs coming.
    Gary Yeates http://www.thegreyglobe.com

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 19, 2013 at 9:06 am

      Thanks Gary for dropping by and commenting! We are in complete agreement about being a walking ATM. Sometimes being a traveller is like walking around with dollar signs on our forehead for locals…oh well, it’s all about the experience 🙂

    The GypsyNesters said:
    August 11, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    This really struck a note with us — hopefully a small one so we can use it for a tip 😉 — I find myself constantly trying to plan the change in my wallet so I’ll have something to give whoever is next in the tip line. We usually wait till we are checking out to tip hotel maids, but hadn’t thought about different ones each day, so we may need to rethink that. Like the idea of a note, thanks.

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 11, 2013 at 8:14 pm

      Thanks for dropping by our blog. We too keep trying to make sure we have smaller notes. In some countries, it’s not too hard but in others, the smaller notes are almost worthless – so it does get tricky! Glad you liked the note idea 🙂

    Wanderlust Marriage said:
    August 1, 2013 at 11:06 am

    I feel the same, but luckily I have my American to help navigate it! On tipping for room cleaning, Alex always leaves it in the bathroom 🙂 but I like the idea of a thank you note with a smiley face!

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 1, 2013 at 11:55 am

      Thanks for dropping by and thanks for sharing your tip method! Maybe the more we do it, the more natural it will become 🙂

    Freya said:
    July 27, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    I find tipping always quite challenging as well, always worried am I tipping to much or to little.

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      July 27, 2013 at 10:29 pm

      Thank you for dropping by and for commenting! If you manage to perfect the art of it, please do share any tips about tipping 🙂

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