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Tipping Guide

Who do you tip and how much is a perennial question. Tipping is a custom that's been around for at least 100 years. Meaning "to insure promptness," it started as a way to get better, faster service.

Whether the service you receive merits a tip remains a personal issue and choice. Tipping is voluntary, but often expected, regardless of the quality of service. As a gesture of protest, some people will not leave a tip when they receive poor service. This handy chart can serve as a tip guideline.

In many countries, certain service providers (waiters, doormen, bellhops, and room service staff) assume they'll be receiving tips. Tips to them are as serious as your paycheck is to you. In some countries, a service charge is automatically added to hotel and restaurant bills. Check your bill carefully. Ask if you are not sure. The key is fairness, both to you and the person serving you.

Lastly, tip women the same way you would men -- with cash. Flowers or perfume are no longer appropriate.

Most Customers Tip:

Restaurants and coffee shop servers 15 percent

Baggage handlers at airport curbside check-ins $1 per bag

Taxi drivers ten to 15 percent

Parking valets from $1 to $2. Where hotel valet parking is the rule, leave a single tip in an envelope at the end of each day for all to share. Include your business card and room number. Figure on a few dollars a day.

Hotel doormen $1 to $2 per visit and porters $1 per bag. Tip the doorman if your luggage is brought to the reception desk.

Room Service -- check your bill to see if a service fee is included. Some hotels are generous with your money and automatically add as much as 17 percent. If no service fee is on the bill, tip 10 to 15 percent of the bill.

Sommelier 10 to 15 percent of the bottle price.

Restaurant Captains five percent of the total bill.

Maitre d' -- tip on special occasions when you want a special service like a table when you have no reservation and the restaurant is crowded. $5 or $10 for a table for two. For extraordinary help, like a table for six at an expensive restaurant, consider $50 or more.

Most Cruise Passengers Tip:

Cabin stewards and waiters $3 to $4 per day, depending on cruise line suggestions

Bus boys or assistant waiters $2 per day, depending on cruise line suggestions.

Most Travelers Tip:

Private-car drivers $5 to $6 per day

Tour guides $1 to $2 per day

Tour bus drivers $1 to $2 per day

Some Travelers Tip:

  • Hotel housekeepers $1 to $2 per day
  • Airport limos and van drivers $1 per trip

    In Europe, most hotels and restaurants automatically add a "service" charge to the bill. Even so, many Americans still leave a ten to 15 percent tip.

    Europeans generally tip less, leaving the small change from their bill or no more than five percent.

    Throughout Western Europe, tips are expected in theaters, opera houses, first-run cinemas in some countries, when an usher escorts you to your seat. The equivalent of a dollar is in order. Often a small black purse opened in front of you makes that quite clear.

    In European washrooms, leave the equivalent of 50 cents to $1 for the attendant.

    Though many taxicabs in Europe are operated by owner-drivers, add 10 percent to the metered fare.

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