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Travel Tips

Jetsetter’s Guide to Tipping

To tip or not to tip? We’re still trying to figure that one out. And no matter how many Emily Post books we read or what our waiter friends tell us is the right amount, we can’t seem to remember the rules...

So let’s simplify the sometimes overwhelming act. Those who travel often, especially abroad, would be wise to study up—there’s even an app for that — since many countries have their own customs and etiquette (especially China and the Middle East). But this general overview provides you with the basic tipping tenets for hotels, restaurants, spas and more around the globe.

Hotels: Doorman, bellman, room service, housekeeping

Hotels are staffed with people ready to wait on you hand and foot. That’s part of the fun — and the expense — of your trip, so budget ahead of time. Better yet, make sure to have some money ready to go when you arrive. (How many times have you had that awkward “Um, I have no cash on me” moment after a bellhop has delivered your bags?) Every time you receive an act of service, tip at least a dollar. And maybe more if, say, the bellhop delivers your bags and also shows you how to work the lights, turn on the coffee machine and order a movie. Opening a door earns $1. Carrying two items of luggage warrants $2. Cleaning two beds for two nights? You can spare $4. Of course, if you feel the staff has gone above and beyond, tip extra, and that’s whether you’re staying a budget, midlevel or luxury property.

Bottom Line: $1 for every task.

Concierge

The dollar rule applies to everyone but the concierge. Ask him as many questions as you like: Those are tip-free! But once he schedules an activity — be it a simple dinner reservation or a daylong excursion — a tip is appreciated. Ten to 20 percent of the activity price is standard. Thank-yous go a long way too. “A tip is of course a direct positive feedback for good service, but I personally much more appreciate a sincere thank-you and/or handshake or a written comment,” says Sylvie Gonin, concierge extraordinaire at Beau-Rivage Palace in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Bottom Line: 10 to 20 percent is standard.

JS Tip: Regardless of where you stay, consider tipping early rather than late. You want to incentivize as well as say thank you. Also, remember that hotel staff changes often. For example, you may have a different person cleaning your room every day, so make sure to leave some cash on the bedside daily instead of one big tip at the end.

RELATED: Jetsetter’s Guide to Getting a Free Hotel Upgrade

Tour Guides

They won’t extend their palm at the end of the excursion, but don’t let that mislead you into thinking tour guides don’t expect a thank you. While tipping each day is popular, 15 percent of the total cost of the tour is equally good. This goes for ski instructors, backcountry experts, museum guides and other tour leaders. And if you have more than one guide — say, a driver and an English-speaking guide — be sure to tip each separately.

Bottom Line: If they show you around, show them 15 percent.

JS Tip: The last thing a tour guide wants after days or weeks of being your travel companion is to look greedy. So put your tip in a discreet envelope. It’ll make goodbyes much less awkward.

Taxis

Sure, cabbies, more than most service providers, can prey on naive tourists. But taxi drivers remain your lifeline for getting where you need to go. So be sure to reward them with at least 15 to 20 percent if they get you there especially quick. For many, the tip is their main source of income. Caveat: Don’t count on the convenience of a credit card machine abroad. Foreign taxis rarely accept anything but cash.

Bottom Line: 15 percent is the going rate.

JS Tip: Throw in an extra dollar per bag if the driver helps with luggage. Same bag rule applies to shuttle drivers and skycaps at the airport.

Restaurants

Tipping guides rarely agree on restaurant tipping etiquette. Do you start at 15 percent? Are you allowed to tip less for bad service? Should you tip pre- or post-tax? That’s why it’s best to stick to the 20 percent rule in the U.S. And if the service is superb, tip more. While 5 to 10 percent is more common aboard, many tourist markets are adding the gratuity to the bill.

Bottom Line: 20 percent in the U.S; 10 to 15 percent (or more) abroad.

JS Tip: Feel free to ask the maître d’ before sitting down whether or not tipping is included in the final bill. It may influence what you spend on your meal.

RELATED: Jetsetter’s Guide to Getting a Free Airline Upgrade

Bars and Nightclubs

The question should never be if you should tip your bartender, but how much. Like hotels, the $1 rule is in full effect here, from the coat check to the bathroom attendant. Cocktails that require more than just a quick pour, however, deserve a little extra dinero for the effort they require; 20 percent of the bill will keep you in good standing with the barkeep. And if you have the valet park your car, be sure to tip $5 upon pickup. It’ll keep valets happy and your car safe from Ferris Bueller–style antics.

Bottom Line: $2 to $3 dollars for cocktails; $5 for valet; $1 for everything else.

JS Tip: While tipping at bars isn’t nearly as customary abroad, generally a bill or two per round will go a long way.

Cafes

That hipster barista delicately crafting your Americano every morning? She expects a tip for her foam artistry (this goes for places abroad, too, even if you’re downing an espresso at the bar, Italian-style). A good trick is to keep an eye out for that tip jar: If you see one, odds are a little extra is expected.

Bottom Line: $1 per coffee.

JS Tip: Should you linger at a picturesque Paris sidewalk café, especially over breakfast — which tends to cost less than lunch or dinner — leave a little extra. An additional 10 percent (on top of your 20 percent) should do the trick.

Spas and Hair Salons

Look, if someone is going to massage your achy back or feet, they deserve 20 percent, especially at a high-end hotel or luxury spa. Across the beauty category, manicurists, hairdressers and hair colorists should get 20 percent (this goes for barbers, too), while hair washers should get at least $3 (throw in a little more for a head massage).

Bottom Line: 20 percent per treatment.

JS Tip: Be sure to tip your spa technician directly when you can, especially if you plan to come back. It helps to make a personal connection.

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