Is Travel Tipping Required? Why You Absolutely Shouldn’t Forget Gratuity!

A contentious issue for some travelers is tipping and I really don’t understand why it’s such a big issue for people. To tip or not to tip? It’s not a question if you do your research before you leave home and head out on your adventure. In some countries, such as Japan, South Korea, and China, tipping is offensive and should not occur. In other countries, such as Brazil, Belgium, and Switzerland, tipping is not required but leaving a small gratuity is appreciated. Still, in other countries, such as the United States, most Latin American nations, and Canada, tipping is the norm and sort of required. To me, as a fairly conscientious traveler, travel tipping is vital to my experience and makes a big difference in people’s lives.

Is Travel Tipping Required? Why You Absolutely Shouldn't Forget Gratuity! - Read More- My Normal Gay Life Blog
Guided Galapagos Tour
Tipping: Why People Think They Shouldn’t Tip

One of the main reasons people who are against tipping give for not travel tipping is they already paid for something (be it a tour, dinner, a hotel room, or whatever) so it should already be included in what they’ve paid. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people state they don’t want to hand over more of their “hard-earned money.” The issue here is confusion with what is and ought to be the case. In this situation, I typically agree with the non-tipper in that it should be included and guides, maids, servers, drivers (and the list goes on) deserve a fair wage and should not need tips for their livelihood. The operative word here is should. In reality, what is the case, does not correlate with what non-tippers think. When you pay for a tour or anything else, most of that money is paying for the actual tour and your guide isn’t benefiting from it. Typically, the way your guide or any other employee makes up their full income is through tips. Of course, this isn’t always the case but it’s important to understand and realize this before you travel to a new destination. TIPS ARE NOT ALWAYS INCLUDED. So you haven’t already paid for it.

Another reason I’ve heard people give for not tipping is they don’t want to further enable a system that shouldn’t exist. By not tipping, the non-tipper believes (in some way) they are encouraging employees to unite and take a stand against the “man” to demand better wages. It’s as if they believe depriving someone of income will be enough to inspire a rebellion. This high and mighty reasoning truly wreaks of privilege. Let’s face it, if you are traveling (and especially if you are a travel blogger), you’re pretty privileged. I know I am, in this regard. It’s easy to state employees such as tour guides, servers, and maids should take a stand and demand better pay especially when we come from such privilege. However, it’s not that simple for most people you’ll interact with as you travel. They’re just trying to make a living and support their families and they certainly don’t have the time or the privilege to take a stand.

Travel Tipping: Why you should Tip
Is Travel Tipping Required? Why You Absolutely Shouldn't Forget Gratuity! - Read More- My Normal Gay Life Blog
peter-facebook / Pixabay

There are instances when what you paid, in fact, includes gratuity. All that means is you’ve paid more so that you don’t have think about tipping but you’re still tipping. In some countries, employees are all paid a fair wage so you don’t have to worry about adding it in and that’s always great. However, in many parts of the world gratuity is left up to the customer. That means your guide or server are completely at your mercy when it comes to part of their income and depend on travel tipping. If you’re reasoning has anything to do with fair wages then you should tip. When you don’t tip, you’re preventing the employee who has worked diligently for you to earn a fair income.

If you don’t tip and it is expected, you are contributing to a bad situation. These people who take you out on tours, bring you your food, and clean your rooms are already dealing with unfair wages due to labor laws. By not tipping, you are simply making their situation worse. They depend on their income to feed their families and pay for other expenses. When you tip, you’re helping them have a better life but if you don’t, you’re just making the immediate problem worse. Many of these employees have to deal with nasty tourists with bad attitudes and sometimes quite a lot of grief from customers and their employers. While a few dollars might not make a big difference in your life, it can make a huge difference in their lives.

Is Travel Tipping Required? Why You Absolutely Shouldn't Forget Gratuity! - Read More- My Normal Gay Life Blog
TBIT / Pixabay
Travel Tipping: But we don’t tip in my home country…

I find it frustrating when people say something like: “Well, in my country we don’t tip because people are actually paid a wage so why should I tip while I’m on holiday?” Let me explain something to you in the simplest of terms. When you travel to another country, you are no longer in your own country. That means the way things are at home is irrelevant in most instances. If you plan to travel to another country, it’s important that you understand the rules and norms of the country you visit before you arrive. If tipping is expected and is the norm then you should tip.

One time, someone actually defended their non-tipping habits by explaining to me that it would be like if I visited Australia and didn’t like cricket and BBQs. They explained there is no difference. Unfortunately for them, that perspective is utterly wrong. You see, my presumed dislike of BBQs and cricket ( I love BBQs by the way) has no effect on anyone. However, if I don’t tip, I have a direct and immediate effect on someone else’s livelihood.

You don’t have to enjoy tipping. I mean, I don’t exactly enjoy it but I recognize it is part of the culture in many places. Just like any other cultural aspect, I will always try my best to respect and abide by those norms when I visit someone else’s home. For instance, I am a gay man and I’m married. Sadly, my relationship and my marriage is seen as something negative in many parts of the world and as a result, there are times when we have to adjust our behavior to abide by the norms of the society we find ourselves immersed in. An even simpler example is driving on the left side of the road. When we visit most island nations, they drive on the left side of the road. Back home we drive on the right side of the road. If I drove on the wrong side of the road while visiting another country, it would cause problems. The same goes for tipping. If you do not wish to tip and it’s a major issue for you, then don’t travel to places where tipping is the norm.

*Speaking of home, make sure you do these things before you hit the road! 

Is Travel Tipping Required? Why You Absolutely Shouldn't Forget Gratuity! - Read More- My Normal Gay Life Blog
Supporting Local Artists in Otavalo
Travel Tipping: What you should know.

Now, when it comes to travel tipping, expectations differ everywhere you go. In some places you shouldn’t do it, in others small tips are appreciated, and in other places a certain percentage is expected. It’s quite confusing to keep all these tipping protocols in your mind. My suggestion is to research the place you plan to visit ahead of time so you are not caught unawares or left trying to figure out how much to tip. Ultimately, ensuring you know the travel tipping culture of the place you visit makes you a better, more responsible traveler and you might find service industry people treat you a lot better because you treat them well.

Now, if you’re looking for other preparation advice, check out my packing list for long-term travel! 


How do you feel about travel tipping?

Do you understand why it matters even if it’s not fun?


J Harvey

Pin Me, Please! 

Is Travel Tipping Required? Why You Absolutely Shouldn't Forget Gratuity! - Read More- My Normal Gay Life Blog

J. Harvey

J Harvey is a travel writer based in North Carolina. With two masters degrees, he decided to forget working a normal 9-5 job and instead create a travel blog focusing on travel for a more inclusive community. He hopes to increase LGBT representation within the travel industry while inspiring others to travel in whatever capacity.

mynormalgaylifegmail-com has 105 posts and counting.See all posts by mynormalgaylifegmail-com

24 thoughts on “Is Travel Tipping Required? Why You Absolutely Shouldn’t Forget Gratuity!

  • October 11, 2017 at 4:21 am
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    Travel tipping is something that needs to be done but with proper judgement. There are so many situations that require one to tip. Recently had been on a gruelling trek in Africa and had hired porters to carry our baggage, it was hard work for them and though there was a fee that we paid, we thought it fit to ensure we tipped them generously too.

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    • October 11, 2017 at 3:05 pm
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      Oh for sure! Travel tipping certainly requires good judgement. I’m glad you seem to have that! 🙂

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  • October 11, 2017 at 2:08 am
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    I tend to follow local customs in places (not above slipping someone some cash to get better service), but I do hate how in places where tipping isn’t normal how the waiter or waitress will get mad when I as an American don’t tip.

    I wish the US would move away from tipping but waiters and waitress are divided on that issue. I have friends who make 3x as much in tips as they would if they were paid a living wage. They had bad days and good days but they are working at high end places in a city with tourism and business so they always have steady traffic.

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    • October 11, 2017 at 3:08 pm
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      That’s an entirely other issue altogether. I can’t stand when that happens either and feel it’s abuse on the person providing service side. I totally wish every country where tipping is the norm would move away from that and provide a fair and reasonable wage to employees. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case. I’m glad to see you are a responsible traveler!

      Reply
  • October 10, 2017 at 4:08 pm
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    I think tipping is like many other aspects of travel – You should adopt the rules and cultural norms of the country you are visiting, rather than trying to impose your own customs and values on them. This includes over-tipping as well as under-tipping of course!

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    • October 11, 2017 at 3:14 pm
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      I could not agree with you any more than I do right now. Succinct and well-put!

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  • October 8, 2017 at 5:38 pm
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    Around Asia, tipping is not a part of the culture. Here in Manila, service charge is in the bill so need to leave tips. Whenever I do travel, I leave my coins and small changes for the cleaning lady.

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    • October 10, 2017 at 3:07 pm
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      Exactly! It’s all a matter of knowing the norms of the place your visiting.

      Reply
  • October 8, 2017 at 5:38 pm
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    A very thoughtful article. I think it is just about the respective cultures. People think it is good or bad based on the culture they are brought up in. One should do proper research before visiting a country and act accordingly.

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    • October 10, 2017 at 3:08 pm
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      Precisely! Our own cultural norms are one thing but traveling means you’re going to immerse yourself in a new set of cultural norms.

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  • October 8, 2017 at 12:31 pm
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    I agree that it’s country-dependent, but even in the U.S. (where I’m from) I don’t give a tip if the service is horrible.I know that some people think they can do a horrible job and still get a tip (this is the minority of people in the service industry, I’m just pointing out another side to it). I’m all for doing what’s right, even when traveling, just as long as I get the same respect when it comes to the service.

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    • October 10, 2017 at 3:10 pm
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      I totally agree. Payment is rendered for a job well done no matter what. I usually leave a tip no matter what because (good or bad service) they still worked for me. However, the quantity I leave definitely depends on the quality of the service.

      Reply
  • October 8, 2017 at 6:59 am
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    We do not tip in Asian countries. In India service charge is included in the bill. So no need to tip.

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    • October 10, 2017 at 3:11 pm
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      Yep! I cover that in the article which I hope you read. Some countries have a no-tipping culture. I’m clearly discussing the countries that do not fit into that parameter.

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  • October 8, 2017 at 4:55 am
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    Thats true! Tipping is country dependent. When I tried to tip in Japan or Korea, the waiter actually came running behind me to return the ‘forgotten change’.

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    • October 10, 2017 at 3:12 pm
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      Right! So it’s just important to know what you’re walking into ahead of time and be prepared. 🙂

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  • October 7, 2017 at 11:10 pm
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    I was born in Asia but grew up in North America and I always alwayssss get so confused when to tip and how much to tip when I’m traveling. My friend actually worked as a waitress too and told me they get paid less because the boss knows they’ll be getting tips. Definitely agree that sometimes tipping helps although I have to admit, I absolutely hate it when the service is crap and the worker still expects and actually asks for a fat tip… :/

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    • October 10, 2017 at 3:14 pm
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      Yeah, I use to work as a server at a restaurant and,in the United States, servers are paid less than minimum wage because their tips should make up the difference. When it comes to quality of service, I base the amount I tip on my experience. If someone is demanding, I disappoint in my the quantity I tip. Disrespect is unacceptable.

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  • October 7, 2017 at 10:06 pm
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    Great post Jose! And you did good by comparing the rules of tipping or not with the law of driving left or right: travelers have to adapt to the countries’ laws and rules when it comes to tipping waiters or guides. However (and although it is actually another topic…), we’d like to add that we don’t want to accept homophobia, and since we choose to not adapt ourselves to certain countries’ laws that ban homosexuals, we simply avoid traveling to these countries. Because as much as we love traveling, our rights to be the persons we truly are are still more important than anything else. 😉 So we could say that (like you suggested): if people don’t want to follow other countries’ rules and laws (may it be that of tipping or same-sex marriage), then just don’t go there.

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    • October 10, 2017 at 3:17 pm
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      It really is just about understanding the tipping culture of a place. When it comes to traveling and being LGBT, there are some countries I will definitely avoid. However, there are many countries where homosexuality is not against the law and it can still be a risk. I won’t limit my travel based on that, as unfortunate as it is. I’ve even been in some parts of certain cities where it didn’t feel safe to be gay. That’s all a matter of safety and I have an article covering that! 🙂

      Reply
  • September 30, 2017 at 7:09 pm
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    Hi Jose,

    I like your take bro.

    We tip everywhere. Gotta do it, from an abundance perspective.

    I recall tipping in places like Bali and Thailand at the beginning of my trip, nearly 7 years ago. People handed the money back. As it it were a mistake. They didn’t get tips much, so were not used to receiving extra money for their service.

    Now tipping is more popular. Waiters and cab drivers accept our tips and smile versus handing the money back these days, opposed to those old school days.

    Thanks for sharing Jose.

    Ryan

    Reply
    • October 4, 2017 at 7:01 pm
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      Absolutely! It’s just the right thing to do when you go to another country if it’s the norm there. I’m happy you enjoyed the article! 🙂

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    • October 22, 2017 at 7:08 pm
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      Great post, J.

      I’m from the UK, and we’re not used to tipping after a meal. So when I travel, there’s always an awkwardness – should I tip, how much seems fair, what is deserved? It’s a fine line depending on where you visit – indeed, in some places, it’s rude to tip!

      Reply
      • October 24, 2017 at 10:21 pm
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        Very true! That’s why I suggest learning these customs before you head out the door.

        Reply

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