Tipping in Europe is, of course, a whole different ballgame than in the United States. Here’s what you need to know about showing your appreciation for good service in restaurants and hotels.
In Europe, a tip is still considered a bonus for excellent service, as opposed to an integral part of someone’s livelihood, as it is in the United States. For the most part, people working in Europe’s hospitality industry are either salaried or paid minimum wage (or more) and don’t depend directly on customers’ tips for a large part of their income. That said, tips are certainly widespread and widely appreciated by staff.
While best practices in tipping in restaurants and hotels vary somewhat by country, here are a few simple rules that will serve you well almost anywhere in Europe.
Make sure the tip isn’t already included.
In countries around Europe, a 10 to 15 percent service charge is generally included in your bill. If this is the case, you don’t need to tip another 10 percent on top of it and can probably get away without tipping at all, although you should leave at least a euro or two on top of the bill.
Always tip in cash.
Even if you pay your bill with a credit card, you should always have some smaller bills or coins for a cash tip. There’s often not even a tip line on credit card receipts, and when there is, there’s no guarantee the person who helped you will get the cash. And keep that currency local—but if you’re out of euros and dollars are your only option, at least leave bills, not coins.
Hand the tip to the right person at the right time.
In restaurants, this means giving your tip directly to the server, not leaving it on the table. In hotels, this means handing cash to porters, concierges, and housekeeping when they help you, not at the end of your stay.
Skip the tip if service is bad.
Unlike in the United States, where giving a bad tip for bad service can feel mean, in Europe skipping the tip when you’re unhappy is perfectly acceptable. This is because, again, hotel and restaurant employees make at least minimum wage and are often salaried, so you aren’t causing them undue financial hardship by shorting them a tip.
When in doubt, tip 10 percent.
If you’re not sure how much or how little to tip, go with the 10 percent rule. In most places, 10 percent is considered fair or even generous and won’t offend.
Round up for drinks.
If you’re not eating, and just buying a beverage, a formal 10 percent tip isn’t generally necessary. If the service is good and you’re pleased with what you ordered, rounding up to the nearest euro, or adding a euro on top of the bill is pretty standard.
Don’t tip for self-service.
Anywhere you go to the counter, the buffet, or serve yourself, no tip is expected.
Leave a couple of euros for casual fare.
In informal restaurants where your food or drink is brought to the table, tip a few euros per person on top of the bill.
Add 5 to 10 percent for formal dining.
This applies if a service charge is already included. If there’s no service charge and you’re pleased with the service, go ahead and add 15 percent to your total for a tip.
Tipping in hotels
Follow the one-euro rule.
A good rule of thumb is one euro minimum per service (or the equivalent in local currency). For example, one euro per bag carried up to your room by a bellhop or porter up to five euros, one euro per day for housekeeping, and one euro per day for breakfast staff. If you’re staying in a five-star hotel, you may want to bump your base rate up to at least two euros, but it’s up to you.
Reward your concierge accordingly.
Sometimes these folks are lifesavers, particularly when it comes to wrangling hard to get reservations and tickets. So if a concierge helps you a lot, tip the equivalent of $5, $10, and up—depending on what you feel the service was worth.
Cab drivers in Europe don’t expect much in the way of a tip, although many will take their time handing back change to encourage one. Perhaps in part because of this (and the hassle of carting around so many coins), most locals will round up to the nearest euro on top of the metered fare for short jaunts. For longer hauls and airport runs, we’d advise rounding up to the nearest five to 10 euros. Feel free to add a few extra euros for any exceptional service or heavy bag handling.
Just remember: If the service is poor or the driver took the long way round on purpose, you’re well within your rights to skip the tip.
Country-specific rules to consider
Beyond the general rules about tipping in Europe, there are also a few destination-specific rules travelers should watch out for.
No tips, please: Scandinavia and Iceland
In these countries, any service charges are already built into the price and employees’ salary and wages. Round up to the nearest euro when you pay for services if you’d like, but beyond that, don’t tip anything in restaurants or hotels. It’s not customary or necessary. In fact, in Iceland, no professions are tipped as a matter of course (or at least not in the sense of a separate quantity on top of the agreed-upon price for a service).
Spend more, tip less: Greece
In Greece, it’s typical to leave a larger tip (percentage wise) on a smaller bill, and a smaller tip on a more expensive meal.
Name your total: Germany, Austria, and Switzerland
In these countries, locals don’t wait for change from the bill to leave a tip. Instead, they tell the server the total they’d like to be charged, including the tip, when handing them the money, for example, if the bill is 22 and some change, handing a server 30 euros, and telling them 25 euros, please, will mean your server brings you back five euros in change and pockets the difference. Travelers should also note that in Switzerland, all service charges are already included in the listed price by law, so anything more than rounding up a little is unnecessary.
Pay for your bags with a smile: Ireland and Scotland
At most hotels in these countries, the porter will cart your bag up to your room for you, but won’t take cash or coins. So just accept the free luggage transfer with thanks and a smile.
No cash for housekeeping: England
English friends have told us repeatedly not to tip cleaning staff at hotels—it’s not expected and they’d like to keep it that way. Brits would also like us to stop tipping in pubs, too.