For travelers, local etiquette is often a concern and researching tipping in Europe or other destinations around the world is a natural step in planning the perfect trip. The good news is that understanding the tipping culture in European nations is fairly straightforward and in general you'll be fine as long as you follow these handy suggestions for how to leave a tip in Europe.
Below we'll cover the most common scenarios in which you may feel inclined to leave a tip, and we offer suggestions for how much it's polite to tip in Europe during certain situations.
International travelers are always concerned with knowing when it is appropriate to offer a tip for excellent service and how to avoid insulting the locals (and also what size tip is considered appropriate in that culture). At Auto Europe we hear questions all the time like "How much is too much should I tip in European countries?" and "Will I insult those serving me if I leave a small tip or don't tip at all?"
The truth is that tipping etiquette varies from one country to the next in Europe, the same way an "appropriate" tip may differ from state to state within the United States. You may be expected to tip more in New York City than in rural Arkansas and the same is true if you're at a Michelin Star restaurant in Paris or at a pub in rural France. In general travelers in Europe are not obliged to leave a tip, though in many situations it is polite to do so.
Here are a few facts about paying for services in Europe which can guide you when it comes time to leave a tip:
Here are our best suggestions to adhere to when traveling in Europe, though it's important to remember that how much you choose to tip is really dependent upon your financial resources, personal philosophy on tipping and the circumstances of the service you've received.
When dining in a restaurant in Europe you should expect to tip a bit more modestly than you would in America. If a service charge is included in your bill then leaving a tip is optional. If it isn't you can often leave a 5-10 percent tip without insulting your waiter or waitress. In many restaurants in Europe a 10 percent tip is considered quite generous and leaving more (while appreciated) will often say more to locals about your cultural ignorance than it will about your generosity. European servers are quite well compensated so any tips are considered a small bonus. Often leaving a tip at a restaurant is a way to make setline the bill more convenient - it's common for diners to "round up" the bill to a whole number.
As an additional note - when ordering food in Europe you're really only expected to leave a gratuity when you are served by a waiter or waitress ... if you're ordering food or drink at a counter (at a pub for example) you shouldn't feel that it's necessary to leave a tip ... even if you would normally do so at home.
If you do choose to tip while dining in Europe a good rule of thumb is to add a Euro or two for each person in your party (this is an easy calculation for travelers to remember ... even if you've enjoyed a few drinks!). We recommend that if you do choose to tip the waitstaff that you hand them the tip rather than to leave it on the table ... especially if you've dined at a busy restaurant ... otherwise your money may find its way into the pocket of the diners at the next table.
London Tip Tip: In London you'll often see an optional 12.5% gratuity on your bill. You shouldn't feel tied to this number, but if you've received excellent service feel free to use this rate.
A good rule of thumb when tipping your driver in Europe is to simply round up to the next Euro. For example if you have a €15 fare, offer your driver €16. If you have a larger charge for a longer cab ride or airport transfer it's polite to round up to the nearest 10 (for example if you have a €84 charge you might pay €90).
Extras for Your Driver: We all know that there are times when your driver deserves a bit extra. If he or she has gone above and beyond and zipped through traffic to get you to the airport on time or helped you with some especially large luggage, an extra Euro or two will be appreciated. If, on the other hand, your driver takes a very circuitous route to your destination as a way to up your fare you can skip the tip altogether. If you've arranged for a chauffeured tour during your trip in Europe and will have the same driver each day, a good practice is to ask your driver on the first day what a polite amount to tip will be if he provides excellent service during your trip. This gives him incentive to go above and beyond during your tour (he knows he's working for a fair bonus) and it gives you an idea of what you should offer (though if his suggestion seems unusually high we recommend leaving less ... whatever you're comfortable with and whatever amount you feel your driver has earned).
If your European hotel has someone to help you with your bags a good rule of thumb is to offer him (or her) one Euro for each bag the porter assists you with. It's not required, but a few Euros left in your room at checkout is a nice touch and a polite way to thank the cleaning staff.
There may well be other instances beyond what we've mentioned here which offer you an opportunity to tip those who provide you with special services in Europe. Whether you choose to do so or not is entirely up to you. Tour guides at monuments or on buses and boats in Europe will often hold out their hands for a tip at the end of their tour, but you needn't feel obligated to offer them a gratuity unless you're inclined to do so (you won't be considered rude if you simply offer them a sincere "Thank you," and let them know that you had a wonderful time). In general if you've received excellent service, offering a tip of a few Euros will be appreciated by anyone, but you should never think of it as being a requirement while touring Europe.
A good way to ensure that you're adhering to local tipping etiquette in Europe would be to speak up and ask at the local tourist information office or speak with your hotel's concierge. These local travel and tourist professionals will be happy to fill you in on what's considered polite in the area you are visiting in Europe and it's a good way to make sure you're being polite without overpaying.
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