Tipping - Europe

Last Updated: 26th Jan 2014

More Tour and Travel Advice for Europe

Tipping in the USA, Canada and to a lesser extent Europe, is very much part of the culture and you can easily offend people and make life more difficult for yourself by not observing this custom. Knowing when and how to tip can often cause some discomfort and uncertainty though.

As a general rule, anywhere you receive service you should tip.

by – Matt Vernick, Tour Manager, Europe

Where to Tip

As with the USA and Canada, tipping in Europe is a normal part of life, however, unlike the USA, tipping rates vary from country to country so knowing what to tip and where is a little trickier and it can be a little uncomfortable not to know when, where or how much to tip.

In countries like Hungary and Egypt it is normal to tip almost anyone and everyone who provides service for you (even including professional jobs like doctors) while in places like France and Germany, a relatively small tip is considered polite for people in the service industry only. In Switzerland tipping is not necessary and not a common practice (although it’s not rude to do so and it’s very much appreciated).

The service industry and culture of service in Europe is no where near as large or important as it is in the US and Canada.

Restaurants and Cafes

As a general rule 12.5% of the total bill is considered a good tip in the service industry. This rate is much lower than the 18-20% considered to be industry standard in the US and Canada, however, as anyone who has lived or traveled in both regions of the world will tell you, generally the level of service in Europe is noticeably lower than that in North America.

Many restaurants in Europe (particularly in Italy and Finland add roughly a 12.5% ‘service charge’ to their bills and this is their way of making it easier for you to tip. Some restaurants may also charge a ‘cover charge’ for you to sit down and eat at their establishment (Venice and Italy in general is notorious for doing this) and you should most certainly check your bill to avoid ‘double tipping’ servers.

If you are unsure, 10% is considered a polite tip and is much easier to calculate than 12.5%. In countries like France and Germany and almost all of Europe this will be very well received indeed.

Bars and Clubs

Unlike bars and clubs in the USA and Canada, tipping your bar staff well generally won’t increase your chances of being served faster in a bar of a club. Likewise, some European countries have legal restrictions on the size of their pours so tipping more generally won’t get you stronger drinks either. Leaving any change less than a Euro or tipping 1 or 2€ per round would be considered a good tip for bar staff in Europe.

Taxis

A few Euros is considered a good tip for taxi drivers throughout Europe. Rounding up the fare, letting the driver keep the change or 2-5€ for longer journeys is sufficient.

Restrooms

This is the one place where people really feel uncomfortable about tipping and are usually very unsure about the correct etiquette.

Most people are used to free public restrooms in most parts of the world, however in Europe this may sometimes not be the case. Many public restrooms actually charge a set rate for you to use their facilities while others often leave a plate or baskets on a table near the entry for you to tip the staff.

The logic behind this is that the money goes to pay for the upkeep, maintenance and for someone to clean the restrooms. As anyone who has traveled and used unkempt restrooms will attest – it’s worth a few cents for clean restrooms.

Again, this varies greatly from country to country and rest room to rest room. Some restrooms are totally free, some charge you 50 cents and then give you a ticket for 50 cents off if you but something in their store, others simply charge a set rate while others operate on a tip system for restroom attendants.

If there is a set rate, there will be a sign or a turnstile and you pay the set rate and then use the bathroom. However if there is a tips system in place, it’s usually more comfortable to use the restroom first and tip on the way out – if the rest rooms are not clean they why tip someone for not doing their job. Usually rest room cleaners work for tips only (ie they are not otherwise paid) so how much you tip is up to you. Usually 20-50 cents is more than enough though. As with all tipping though, it is not compulsory.

This is also sometimes the case in clubs and high end bars (as is often the case some Friday and Saturday nights even in London pubs). There may be a bathroom attendant not only cleaning the restrooms but also providing perfumes, colognes, mints, deodorants, hair and various other products and it is only rude not to tip them if you use their services.

It always helps to have a few spare coins in your pocket in case you come across a rest room where you have to pay.

Tipping Contiki Staff

Like all tipping, it is in no way compulsory and you should in no way feel pressured (by anyone) to tip your Tour Manager, Driver or Cook. Like all other sectors of the service industry however, if you feel they did a great job for you then it’s totally up to you if you decide to tip them.

Even though many of Contiki’s European staff are not European by birth (there is however a considerable number who are Europeans) they now live and work (and spend) their time and earnings in Europe paying taxes and tipping others in the European service industry themselves, even when they are not on tour.

Tipping your road crew 10% of your tour cost would be ridiculous and as such Contiki recommends 2€ per person per day as a guideline only. This however is only a recommendation and if and how much you choose to tip, again, is entirely up to you.

As with any service industry, you should wait until the end of your tour if you wish to tip your road crew (you wouldn’t tip a waiter after every course of a meal or every time they refill your drink).

“Tipping is an important part of the culture in Europe – excellent service should be rewarded.”

- Michael Thomas, Tour Manager, Europe

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