A Traveler’s Guide to Tipping in a Changed World


“You have to look at two things: Is it expected and mandatory as it is here in the U.S. for many service jobs? And what is the social safety net like in that place?” said Pauline Frommer, the editorial director of Frommer’s, which publishes travel guidebooks covering 48 countries, including advice on how to tip.

In countries like Mexico, where wages are low, she advised tipping in restaurants as you might at home. In Europe, where waiters are paid better, tipping is less important. On trips to London and Paris last summer, she found bills with service fees included, often listed as “S.C.” for “service charge.”

“If you didn’t know, you might tip on top of that,” she said, recommending that travelers scrutinize their bills and ask if something is unfamiliar.

In Italy, travelers might find a nominal charge called a “coperto” on their bill covering bread and water.

“It comes from the days when you would go to an inn and if you wanted to have a tablecloth and plates, they charged you for it,” said Pam Mercer, the owner of California-based Tuscany Tours, which specializes in small-group travel in Italy and France.

When it comes to restaurant meals in those countries, “There’s not a hard and fast rule,” Ms. Mercer said. Her company advises guests to tip 5 to 10 percent at restaurants and give the tip directly to the waiter.

In cafes and cabs, she rounds up and leaves the change.

“France pays its employees a living wage, unlike the U.S.,” wrote Janice Wang, an American living in France who runs a Facebook group for expatriates there, in an email. “Hence, servers, hairdressers and cabdrivers don’t need tips to live. They appreciate them, but don’t need them. And they never expect a tip.”



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