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When to tip and when not to tip? Our city-by-city guide

The ultimate guide to tipping around the world

Knowing when and how much to tip is one of the trickiest things to get right as a traveller. Tipping too little can be offensive, and tipping too much can leave you heavily out of pocket. But knowing the right amount to leave is no mean feat between speedy exchanges in busy restaurants, language barriers, and the pressure of doing mental maths when a waiter is watching. Below, we’ve curated the ultimate guide to tipping around the globe: the general rules, etiquette and insider pointers for each city, from London to Sydney via Tokyo.

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How much to tip in London, UK

Recommended tip: 10-15%

Unlike most cities worldwide, tipping in London is not expected or essential. However, the general advice is to leave between 10–15 per cent of the bill, particularly when dining at a full-service restaurant. The key is to always check the receipt properly – some venues will automatically add a standard service charge of 12.5 per cent to the bill, while others will add a note letting you know that “service is not included”. At pubsbars or less formal dining venues, tipping is not expected in the same way but is recommended. If there is no option to add gratuity to a card payment, there’s usually a tip jar you can pop any spare change into.

How much to tip in Madrid, Spain

Recommended tip: 5-10%

Tipping is not expected in Madrid. Typically, hospitality staff wouldn’t have anticipated getting anything extra. However, that culture seems to be changing. “Tipping is gradually becoming more common in Spanish culture, without a doubt,” says David Moralejo, head of content at Condé Nast Traveler Spain. “It’s becoming more usual to tip if the service is excellent or the team is especially nice to the customer. The Spanish customer can be very exacting regarding food, so making sure you reward waiters offering friendly service will be appreciated.” Service charge will rarely be included on the bill, so for most sit-down restaurants, it’s good practice to give between five and 10 per cent of the overall bill – but check it hasn’t already been added. Tipping isn't necessary for bars and casual tapas places, but it’s always nice to round up.

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How much to tip in New York, USA

Recommended tip: 20-25%

New Yorkers are big on tipping. It’s an important part of life here – most hospitality staff are overworked and underpaid, and companies often use tips as a guaranteed way of subsidising staff salaries, meaning that many rely on decent tips to pay their way. A rule of thumb is to provide between 20 and 25 per cent. In most restaurants, anything below 20 per cent can be seen as stingy, with around 22 per cent being the standard. In bars, the guidance is to leave one to two dollars per drink, depending on price. For valets, porters, concierge or housekeeping services in hotels, it depends on the service. Generally, a few dollars will never go amiss (or more if they go above and beyond). The use of cash may be rapidly fading in major cities. Still, it’s always helpful to carry small note denominations around so you’re not left unnecessarily leaving giant tips via card. If you’re struggling to figure out the cost, look at the sales tax on your bill – in New York, local tax is 8.8 per cent and is typically featured on the check, so double that and round up for a fair tip.

How much to tip in Beijing, China

Recommended tip: check the bill and learn about the culture

Tipping is not a big part of the culture in China. Throughout most of the country, it has historically been seen as rude – service is expected to be worthy of a price determined by the employer, not the customer. But as China is such a vast country, rules can vary – particularly in the larger cities more accustomed to tourists. As a large metropolitan city, the customs differ across Beijing, so tips would have to be decided more on a case-by-case basis. Generally, if you think it is acceptable practice to tip, advice is to do it subtly and out of sight. At high-end restaurants and hotels, check the bill as a service charge of 10-15 per cent may have already been added.

Shinjuku, TokyoGetty Images

How much to tip in Tokyo, Japan

Recommended tip: check the bill and learn about the culture

Tokyo has an entirely different tipping culture from most other capital cities. “Voluntary tipping is not customary in Japanese culture; what is more important is that you show respect to the restaurant, chefs and staff,” says Tokyo Halfie, a travel and food writer living in the city. “Ordering from a drinks menu is the equivalent of tipping here – avoid asking for tap water. The standard approach is to order at least one drink per guest; at higher-end restaurants, you may ask for a pairing course or order by the bottle for the equivalent of a higher tip.” Other things to avoid include showing up late to your reservation. “By Japanese standards, ‘on time’ means arriving 5 to 10 minutes early; this prevents disrupting the flow of the omakase tasting course,” Tokyo Halfie advises. “Also, don’t place your phone directly on the counter or the table, and don’t take photos or videos without the restaurant’s permission or spend too long taking photos or videos – each dish is at its best condition the moment it is served and deteriorates with time so some chefs may take offence to this.”

How much to tip in Paris, France

Recommended tip: 5-10%

Unlike New York, in Paris, most hospitality staff get paid a living wage with benefits and holiday pay, and a 15 per cent service charge is often baked into the price of a restaurant, bar or hotel experience. Nevertheless, it’s still good etiquette to let a waiter know if you’ve appreciated their service with a courteous tip. It would be rare to leave more than 10 per cent unless you were seriously impressed with the service – the standard is between 5 to 10 per cent of the final bill. In smaller venues like bars or brasseries, there is typically a tip jar on the counter for any spare change. Reminder: servers rarely see or notice tips via card machines, so having a few Euros spare will always be preferable.

Rome's district of TrastevereGetty Images

How much to tip in Rome, Italy

Recommended tip: 5-10 per cent

In Rome, tipping is generally not expected. Tips act as bonuses on top of salaries. That isn’t to say it isn’t appreciated – part of the job is providing excellent service, so tips go a long way in letting staff know that their efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. Giving between five and 10 per cent of your final bill is a nice gesture. However, check the bill – restaurants may have already added a small service fee.

How much to tip in Sydney, Australia

Recommended tip: 10%

How much to tip in Australia is a tricky question. Typically, most locals wouldn’t necessarily consider tipping a mainstay of hospitality culture as the salaries are designed to cover living costs. But, if service is good and the food or drinks are excellent, in Sydney, the standard would be around 10 per cent of the overall bill – somewhat similar to the tipping culture in London.