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Navigating tipping when you travel

Tipping when you travel can be confusing. 

It’s not customary to tip in Japan, but it is in Argentina, where 10 per cent on a restaurant cheque is the norm. 

In France, it’s common to see service compris before the final total on the bill, which means a 10 to 15 per cent tip is already added. The same goes in Iceland, Brazil and Finland, among other countries.  

How much and who to tip has been a talking point for Canadians since the pandemic, when giving extra to service workers was commonplace and welcomed. Now that international travel is back in play, figuring out another country’s gratuity game can be challenging. 

When I was in the Netherlands in April, there wasn’t a tipping option on the credit card terminal when I paid my bill. Gratuities are always left in cash, my dining companion explained. I realized I’d need to have a few euros handy for the usual 10 per cent gratuity there, something to consider in our increasingly cashless society. 

Tip on a restaurant table
anytka | iStock

But what if you haven’t got any local currency or small denominations in countries that prefer cash tips?  

Known as Canada’s etiquette expert, Louise Fox of has the answer. 

“It’s always helpful to have U.S. cash, no matter where you go. People will take it,” she says. 

If you feel confused about tipping when you travel, you’re not alone. Even Fox, a seasoned international traveller who attended the Washington School of Protocol, says she’s often unsure how to tip when she’s planning her trips. 

“The best advice is to educate yourself before you travel,” Fox says.  

Ask your CAA Travel Consultant for advice. Or do an internet search. There’s also a popular online map tool that shows customary restaurant tips in many countries.  

Once you arrive at your destination, ask about local tipping customs at reception or the tour desk. If your CAA Travel Consultant has arranged a local guide, they’ll know. 

“That’s their job to assist you in any way. Never be afraid to ask,” Fox says. 

If you’re staying for several days at a resort or hotel, a tip can also be an incentive for good service, says Fox. 

“Also, don’t underestimate the value of a good review online or letter to management with special mention of who served you,” says Fox. I addition to a gratuity, that can also benefit the people who gave you great service. 

Housekeeping staff are the easiest to overlook when it comes to tipping. Between $2 and $5 a day is customary in North America. It’s not necessary to tip for days you choose not to have your room serviced, says Fox. 

“I am a generous tipper, especially in disadvantaged countries, because I was previously in hospitality and recognize how difficult and challenging it can be,” adds Fox. 

As for concerns about doing the wrong thing when it comes to tipping, relax. You’re on vacation. 

“I never worry about feeling stupid anymore,” Fox says. “That’s why you’re travelling, to learn more.” 

CAA Travel Consultants are able to answer many questions about your next vacation destination. Book an appointment to speak with a CAA Travel Consultant or call 1-800-267-8713. 

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