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.
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
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.
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!
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?
Pin Me, Please!