Tipping - North America

Last Updated: 21st Aug 2014

More Tour and Travel Advice for the USA and Canada

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 as you travel through the USA and Canada can often cause some discomfort and uncertainty though.

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

Advice from a Tour Manager

by – Angie, Tour Manager, USA

Tipping is an American custom, and ingrained in our culture. It got our nation through the Depression, when it started, as a means of keeping businesses open despite employers inability to pay their employees.- The most important thing to remember about tipping is that it is a way of saying ‘Thank You’, and you should remember that throughout your stay in the United States.

There are plenty of jobs that are tipped in the United States – waiters/waitresses, bartenders, delivery people, taxi cab drivers, bathroom attendants, and hairstylists/manicurists. These positions, unlike in other countries, receive hourly rates as little as $2.83 an hour

An average tip that Americans leave for waiters/waitresses is 18%, but they will usually go even higher for excellent service. ‘Excellent Service’ in the United States has several meanings – ‘Service with a smile’ is a common phrase, but also think of requests you are making.

Waitstaff will frequently check up on you to see if you want drink refills (often free on soft drinks!), need any extras, and to ensure you are having a pleasant dining experience.

It is not uncommon for Americans to tip 20-25% when they feel they received good services.

Tipping bartenders is a bit easier. $1 per 1 drink. Buying a round for 5 people? $5. Occasionally, you may want to up it to $2 if you are ordering fancy cocktails at a posh place, or even throw out a few dollars on your first drink just so the bartender remembers you. Bartenders don’t have to serve you!

Don’t forget to tip your driver and tour manager. Contiki recommends
$2 per person per day of the tour. The same theory applies to your Tour Staff that applies to waiters: if you feel you were provided with an amazing time, this is your opportunity to say thank you to your crew.

Not tipping in the United States is considered very poor form. It is rude and offensive, and will not only offend the people who should be receiving your tips, but also your fellow tourmates who are playing by the American system.

Restaurants and Cafes

If you sit down to a meal with a waitress the tip should be at least 10% of the total bill and up to about 20% if you have had exceptional service. Places like Starbucks, take away food places, small souvenir shops, etc don’t require you to leave a tip.

It’s always best to check your bill before you leave a tip though as some bills will actually include the tip as a ‘gratuity’ or a ‘service charge’ to the cost of the bill. If this is the case then there is no need to tip but you are always more than welcome to leave extra if you think you received exceptional service.

If you are in a party of 8 or more they usually add the gratuity in. If you aren’t sure if the gratuity is included just ask the waiter, they will let you know.

Contiki’s Optional Excursions prices cover all tips, service and cover charges in the cost of the excursion.

Bars, Clubs and Pubs

If you’re in a bar you should generally leave a dollar (US or Canada) for every drink you get on your first round. If not, you will be waiting a very, very long time for your next drink. After your first drink it’s up to you how much you tip, maybe a dollar a drink or maybe a dollar a round. The more you take care of many bar staff in the US and Canada the more you will find that they take care of you. Usually you just leave the tip on the bar.

Taxis

Taxi drivers again, yes. I generally just rounded up so if the fare on the meter is $7 you can just give them $10 and tell them to ‘keep the change’ but $2 should be the bare minimum for a taxi fare going up from there depending on the length of the journey. You can always take all the change from the driver and then hand them whatever you think you should tip out of the change she/he has just given you.

Hotel Staff

If a hotel porter has helped you with your suitcases or something then I would leave a dollar or two to him. This is just to say ‘thanks’. There is no need to tip reception staff for advice or giving you your room key.

Tour Managers and Drivers

- Modified from post made by PinaI , Posted 08 Mar 2007

TM/Driver again, yes. Generally Contiki says that you should tip about $2 per day for your TM and the same again for your driver. This however, like all tipping, is entirely up to your discretion.

There is no written rule for how much or when you should tip. You will find that if you are unsure it’s never rude to ask (although you are likely to receive and answer like ‘if you like’ – this is a polite way of saying ‘yes, please tip’) your waitress, waiter or whoever else is around or providing you with service. It’s a normal part of the culture that shouldn’t make you feel uncomfortable.