Guide to Tipping in Europe

Guide to Tipping in Europe

Not sure how to go about tipping in Europe? This guide will help you out.

There are no hard and fast rules that would cover all eventualities in all countries in Europe. But tipping need not be a stressful topic. In most cases, any tip will be gratefully received even if you get the amount slightly wrong and you may even find people in some places running after you to return your money if you accidentally tip far too much. There are cultural differences across Europe that can sometimes make things a little more complicated to understand – what is the done thing in one country might be utterly foreign in another.

Relax. If you are a visitor, most people will be tolerant and will expect you to make the odd mistake – the key thing is that they want you to have a go, to try. Learn a few words of the language of the country you are visiting, be polite, smile and you will find that nine times out of ten you are treated with the same respect, courtesy and friendliness. You get what you give – and no, I am not talking about money.

Tipping is less about the money and more about respecting a service and rewarding a pleasant attitude or hard work. Unlike in other parts of the world, it is rare for service providers to rely exclusively on tips they make, so tipping tends to be a courtesy and an extra reward for a job well done, at least in Western Europe. Don’t splash the cash, tip thoughtfully and you will usually find that the money amount is not very important at all.

Also Read: 10 Travel Tips and Precautions for Every Smart Traveller

In restaurants, pubs and cafes

Image Credit: Dorli Photography

First of all it is important to note that you would only tip in a restaurant, cafe or bar that had table service provided by waiters and waitresses. If you have ordered at the counter and taken your own drink to your table, as you would in many pubs, for example, you are not expected to tip. At a bar where someone comes to your table and brings your drink to you, you would usually give a small tip in most circumstances.

There is no hard and fast rule about what percentage you should tip. In general a rule of thumb for most restaurants is about 10% of your bill, more if the service has been exceptionally good and you really want to thank the wait staff. Around 5% is more normal if you have just had a cup of coffee or a snack. While in the United States, 15% is more the going rate, this is rare in Europe except at very swanky establishments in the major cities where people are more likely to splash the cash.

In table service restaurants the tipping custom does vary quite considerably from country to country. You will find that some countries are are transparent than others when it comes to tipping. In France and Mediterranean countries you will often find that bills will say on them service included or service not included. Sometimes the service charge will be added and discretionary and sometimes you will be expected to work out the appropriate amount on your own. Always look at the bill carefully and do not allow yourself to be pressured into giving a hefty tip if the service has been poor. Remember, tipping in Europe is generally discretionary so  you are under no obligation at all to pay for shoddy or unfriendly service, wherever you are.

Where to leave your tip?

So how should you pay your tip, should you choose to give one? While in some places if you are paying in cash it is the norm to discreetly place the tip for your waiter or waitress on the table and leave, this is not a good idea in busy tourist areas where your tip might easily make it into someone else’s pocket rather than going to the person you intended to receive it.

If paying by card, it is increasingly common, especially in Germanic countries, for people to give the card over while telling the server how much they should take, so if the bill came to 41 Euros you might tell them to take 45 Euros from your card. This is fine if you do not have the cash, but you will find that the people who have waited on you will usually prefer cash as otherwise they may not get the money themselves.

It is always better, whether you are paying in cash or by card, to hand the tip to your server in cash, so you can be sure they did receive it and it will not make its way instead into the hands of the company for which they work or someone unscrupulous.

In taxis and other forms of transport

Image Credit: Moyan Brenn

In a taxi it is usually the done thing in most places to round up the fare slightly, so if the taxi cost 8 or 9 Euros you might give them 10 and for a longer journey you might round up to the nearest ten, especially if they have been especially friendly and helpful or gone out of their way to get you to your destination on time. Again, all tips are completely discretionary. If you feel that you are being taken round the houses then of course you should forgo the tip and just be civil and pay what they ask but no more.

You would not tip on any forms of public transport unless you feel particularly kindly disposed towards a member of staff that helped you to carry your bags or something. If you are on a coach or boat tour then guides on these forms of transport will not usually expect a tip but would probably appreciate a carefully timed one. In cases such as these it is often a good idea to simply wait and see what other people on the tour do, then use your own judgement and decide whether or not you will do the same.

In hotels

Image Credit: NH Hotels

In hotels with porters who carry your bags it is normal to tip a Euro or equivalent in local currencies for each bag he carries to your room. It is a friendly gesture, though by no means required, to leave a small tip for housekeeping staff in your room after you leave, especially if you have had a slightly more prolonged stay.

Other service providers

Any other tour guides or service providers you meet will not usually expect tips but would usually welcome a small gesture of gratitude from you. Look and see what other people do and if you are still in doubt and want to tip then by all means, ask. People are usually friendly and helpful if you give them a chance.

Also Read: Ways To Travel the World Even When You’re  Absolutely Broke

About Author

Elizabeth Waddington
Elizabeth Waddington

Elizabeth Waddington lives in rural Scotland with her husband and her dog. She is part of a small community who are trying to live as sustainably as possible. A professional freelance writer who works from home full time, she has over ten years of writing experience and an MA in English and Philosophy. She mostly writes about travel, sustainability and permaculture and has a particular interest in adventure holidays, camping, walking and sustainable travel. She travels whenever she can.


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