Guide to tipping while abroad

I am often confused by local tipping customs, so asked foreign currency provider, Travel Money Club to share its insight on this custom across some of the most popular tourist destinations for Brits.

Firstly, it is often unclear whether you should tip or not whilst abroad, it is an unspoken rule and part of local customs and etiquette so no one actually tells you what is acceptable in each country. Tipping too much or in a situation where it is not expected or necessary can also mean you end up spending more than anticipated on holiday.

It is always best to tip in cash rather than add to a card payment as that way you know the member of staff that served you will most likely receive it, and if paying by card, always opt to pay in the local currency rather than Pounds Sterling as the bank rate that is applied can vary and in most cases is poor.

Different rules apply in different countries, and it’s not just the amount but the manner in which you give the reward. Here is a guide to what you should tip and where so you have one less thing to think about when travelling aboard.


USA – 20% tip


Famous for its tipping culture, when travelling to the United States a substantial tip is expected and there will be trouble if you don’t. Restaurant waiting staff, housekeepers, taxis and tour guides will expect a 10%-20% tip in addition to the normal price. Make sure you account for this when accepting a taxi journey, drink or meal out.


Spain – 5% tip


As one of the most popular travel destinations for Brits this summer you’ll be pleased to know that Spain doesn’t have a strong tipping culture, however tips are accepted and it is becoming more commonplace. A small gesture of  €1 to €5 would be kindly received by waiting staff and tour guides.


France – 10-15% tip


Service compris or service charge is included by law in France so tipping is not always expected. Where it isn’t included, a tip of 10-15% is adequate for restaurant staff and a smaller tip of €1 to €5 is ok when taking a taxi or paying for drinks. As a general rule taxi drivers would expect in the region of 10% of the fare.


Japan  – 0% tip


Tipping in Japan is frowned upon, in fact it can be insulting, even if you feel that the level of service deserves a bonus the staff will rarely accept it. Good service is considered part of the job so rewarding it can cause offence. However, there is an exception, tour guides often rely on tips to contribute to their wage. It is often best to discuss this discretely with the tour guide to establish a preference. Sometimes a tour guide will accept tips as ‘flower money’ so they can choose their own flowers for their home. This may sound unlikely to the western traveller but actually it is completely genuine.


China – 20% tip


In China, tipping is very much expected. The rise of domestic tourism and the affluent middle class means that tour guides and drivers and other tourist staff have come to expect to be generously tipped.


Germany – 10% tip


Customs differ in Germany, the tip should be given directly to the member of staff not left behind. A service charge is not included in the final restaurant bill so it is up to you to reward good service, typically 10% of the final bill.


India – 10-15% tip


Tipping in India is very much part of the culture and everyone expects to be tipped. For the western traveller there is a dizzying number of people needing to be tipped, and a set hierarchy of tipping amounts which can be overwhelming, even though the actual amounts are very small. If you’re travelling with a local guide it may be helpful to discuss it with them and agree how to approach rewarding each person.


Australia/ New Zealand – 5% tip


Tipping down under is discretionary, there are no rules and it is not expected as waiting staff get paid a relatively higher wage than those in other countries. Rounding up the bill at the bar or in a taxi is common and will be a popular and polite gesture.


If you are planning your next trip, Travel Money Club guarantees members the best exchange rates on foreign currency or their money back.

Leave a Reply