The ultimate guide to tipping in Europe – The Points Guy UK

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Tipping in Europe isn’t what it used to be. Where rounding up a restaurant bill by a few pounds or euros might have been the done thing in the past, in many destinations, it’s now much more important to understand the percentages of your tip.
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Should you be paying housekeepers daily? And what about taxi drivers? You may have heard that French waiters are paid a solid professional wage and don’t work for tips. But how true is that in 2022? Are you undertipping or overtipping during ski season in the Alps?
It’s a veritable gratuity minefield out there. Simply knowing how much to tip can often be as awkward as knowing exactly how to tip (more on that later).
So come with us as we guide you through the choppy waters of leaving a gratuity tip in Europe.
A good rule of thumb when dining out in Europe — depending of course on the quality of the setting or the level of service provided — is to tip between 10-15% of the bill before tax.
However, in countries where hospitality workers typically enjoy higher wages than the norm, you may reasonably consider dialling your generosity down. Jannie Jørgensen, Professional Secretary at 3F, The United Federation of Workers in Denmark, the country’s largest trade union with approximately 272,000 members, told TPG: “In Scandinavia, staff do not expect tips in the way they do in other countries. Because of the Danish [labour market] model, staff here get a salary they can live off and aren’t dependent on tips.”
There is “no culture of tipping” among the Danish, she adds, instead, it is largely down to “the individual”. A former waitress herself, Jørgensen says that a regular diner in Copenhagen would generally tip 10% of the bill if they receive good service.
Of course, if the service is exemplary or somebody went out of their way to assist you — perhaps the chatty sommelier who found the finest bottle of plonk for your perfectly-cooked steak — then feel free to drop a 15% or even 20% tip in Nordic regions.
In mainland Europe, you can’t really go wrong with anywhere between 10% and 15% as a standard tip, with anything more considered a bonus.
A blight on the continent’s best restaurants or a handy way of eliminating awkwardness around tipping? For better or worse, automated service charges divide opinion as much as they do receipts.
The good news: if you’ve scanned the bill and spotted a service charge — typically between the 12.5% and 15% mark — then there’s usually no need to leave an additional tip, though leaving some change can still go a long way.
In France, a 15% service charge (“service compris”) is automatically added to bills in restaurants by law, but it’s also still common for customers to leave a small gesture of a couple of euros for solid service. Being a waiter in France is widely seen as a more professional occupation than it is many other countries, and, as such, staff are paid a higher base wage so you’ll rarely find them hovering over your table refilling drinks with the same frenzied verve as in the U.S, but tips can still make a real difference.
In 2017, France’s Union des Métiers et des Industries de l’Hôtellerie (UMIH) even called for mandatory cash tips after the number of customers paying in cold hard currency dropped off. When considering your tip it’s worth bearing in mind the current cost of living crisis and skyrocketing inflation biting into workers’ payslips across Europe — particularly in eye-wateringly expensive cities such as Paris.
Related: 7 spectacular European train trips you need to take this autumn
While tipping may not be an expectation when service charges are included in your bill it’s worth noting that not all restaurants are up front about where their ‘service charge’ goes. In Denmark for example, Jørgensen says the service charges on bills “usually goes to the restaurant and not the staff”. Additionally, if you choose to add a gratuity by credit or debit card, ask your server if they receive all the tips directly, they may well prefer being tipped in cash instead.
Back in August, Unite The Union took aim at the plush 5-star Cameron House Hotel in Loch Lomond after it was revealed 60 workers had been blindsided by a blanket 10% service charge which didn’t go to the staff and left them between £200 and £300 pounds a month worse off. Which raises the question…
Liz Wyse — Etiquette Advisor at Debrett’s, a British company which has been coaching private clients and luxury brands as on authority on behaviour since 1769 — says that when it comes to tipping, cash is still king:
“It is always preferable to tip in cash. It ensures that the recipient is actually in receipt of the gratuity, and avoids making the whole tipping process cumbersome.

“If you are paying for a service by card and there is a facility to add a tip, then you should certainly do so in preference to leaving no tip at all. Better still, ensure that you have plenty of cash available for tipping purposes at the end of your stay.”

While tipping a cabbie is not always the done thing up in Denmark, it is nonetheless “good karma to tip drivers,” according to Jørgensen. In fact, this is true of most European nations, where a gratuity isn’t a necessity when catching a taxi but is often gratefully appreciated.
If you encounter exceptional service (left-field tips for sightseeing, help to hoist large bags or suitcases into the boot) then by all means go the extra mile in return. Just remember that taxi services in particularly touristic areas will often have steady work and slightly higher fares than elsewhere, so a huge tip won’t be expected.
Tipping in cash? The best way is to round up to the nearest euro or equivalent, which also removes the need for mental arithmetic when trying to convert currency and percentages. Again, you should weigh up the local cost of living standards as you may find a big disparity in average tips between wealthier nations and poorer ones.
In a study which surveyed thousands of cab rides between 2018 and 2019 in 35 European countries, Taxi2Airport found that British passengers tipped the most per journey, paying the equivalent of (€7.95/£6.91), followed by the Finns (€7.36/£6.40), Swiss (€7.10/£6.17) and Swedes (€7/£6.09). Though this could change consider the U.K.’s own cost of living crisis.
At the other end of the scale, the lowest tips on average were found by taxi drivers in Georgia (€1.10/0.95p), Bosnia and Herzegovina (€1.25/£1.08) and Serbia (€1.47/£1.27). Needless to say, this is largely down to the economic playing field in said countries as opposed to the generosity of passengers.
In fact, pound-for-pound, Spanish drivers received the highest tip where the percentage of tip-to-fare was concerned, earning 11.44% of the final journey price, with passengers in The Netherlands just behind with an average tip of 10.17% on the total fare.
According to Debrett’s Wyse: you should always tip housekeepers.
These unsung heroes are also some of the most underpaid hotel staff around, says the etiquette expert. Alongside general pay differences they’re also often at the bottom of the tipping pyramid so tend not to get the same cash rewards from guests that are enjoyed by their front-of-house colleagues.
“In most countries €10 (£9) a week is perfectly acceptable – or €15-20 (£13-17) if you think the service was exceptional,” says Wyse. “Generally, in good hotels, you will receive excellent service whether you leave a gratuity daily or not. It is therefore easier to leave a lump sum at the end of your stay. It is a nice gesture to add a note saying thanks for the service — and this will eliminate any uncertainty about the tip. Some hotels provide envelopes for gratuities; if not, just leave it on the nightstand.”
Indeed, if you’re unsure on the day you check-out that the housekeeper looking after you is on shift you can also hand an envelope with money and a thank you note at reception when you check-out.
Listen, we’ve all seen Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. Nobody wants to tip hotel porters with chewing gum if they can avoid it.
Should you find yourself standing next to a hotel employee who’s just hauled your bags and suitcases up two flights of stairs, a tip of between €1 (0.90p) to €2 (£1.70) per bag will suffice. However, if you’ve got more baggage than Jay Gatsby then maybe round it up to a crisp €5 note (£4.30).
The fixers. The taxi flaggers. The behatted wonders who keep those revolving doors revolving. If there was a beating heart of a hotel, the door staff and concierge would be it.
With no bills in sight and much of the tipping with these heavyweights ‘off the books’, we asked Wyse to break down how much you should be looking to slide them:
Unlike in the U.S., where it’s common to tip a bartender a dollar or the equivalent of a drink, it’s practically unheard of in Europe. By all means, offer a few extra euros to a bartender who’s gone the extra mile, or drop a few euros in the tips jar before you stagger out into the night, but tipping is always the exception when you go to fetch your own drink, not the rule.
Some of these exceptions can often be found in Germany, where the locals will normally round a bar bill up to the nearest euro if expectations were met, and it’s a good rule to follow if you’ve just enjoyed a few frosty steins. Likewise, there may be more of an expectancy for tips among bar staff working in buzzier nightlife destinations, such as Ibiza or Amsterdam, but they won’t begrudge you for not leaving any change.
For table service, you should look to tip as you would in a restaurant – between 10% and 15%, for that.
Always ensure you know how the ‘local’ price of a pint converts to your own currency. After all, if you do want to tip on a round, there’s no point gifting the equivalent of a British pound per drink in a city like Budapest, where the average pint of local beer works out to only £1.45 (700 HUF), as you’d end up almost paying double.
“While it may seem penny-pinching to factor in the average cost of living when calculating a gratuity, it is sensible to do so, otherwise you might find that your tips are absurdly extravagant,” says Wyse. “It is not an exact science, and you should certainly err on the side of generosity in countries where the wages are lower.”
When sizing up other tables on your travels you may well find that the natives aren’t all that big into tipping. So, when in Rome, should you do as the locals do?
Emanuele Barrasso, who is an ambassador for Italian wine specialists Antinori with a long background in hospitality, believes so. “There’s not really a strict rule on tipping in Italy, it’s more of a courtesy gesture,” he says, “leaving a tip is entirely up to the guest; it’s not a given, although it will be appreciated.”
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Much like in France, one of the reasons why tipping culture isn’t all that prevalent in Italy is that restaurants and cafes are likely to include a service charge (“servizie”) or even cover charge, (“coperto”) from the off. Often, Barrasso adds, it depends on the sort of establishment you frequent:
“If it’s a high-end restaurant, tips are very common, although, again, they are not expected. If you don’t tip in places like this — up to 10% of the bill — it might be perceived as rude. Again, it all boils down to courtesy. I was in the hospitality service for many years, therefore I am the first to recognise all the effort and length servers go to provide guests with an enjoyable experience.”
In short, just because you might look and sound like a foreigner doesn’t mean hospitality staff will be expecting you to line their palm with silver. Take it on a case-by-case basis depending on the level of service and where you find yourself.
Want to avoid any clunky moments when handing a cash tip to a member of staff? Remember these four pointers, says Wyse, and you can’t go wrong:
And whatever you do, adds Wyse, don’t pile a bunch of random coins into someone’s grasp, nor make a show of not having any change. It’s a straight-up no-no:
“Always make sure you have small denomination notes, or large denomination coins, ready when you are going to tip. Emptying out your pockets and filling someone’s hands with a random assortment of loose change is rude. It’s also rude to look in your wallet, fish out a 50-euro note, and then say ‘I’m so sorry, I don’t seem to have any small change’. This will come across as patronising.”
Tip well for excellent service. Tip fairly for good-to-average service. Don’t tip at all for terrible service.
U.S. visitors used to supplementing the low wages of stateside hospitality staff may baulk at dropping as little as 10%, but it’s absolutely fine. Trust us.
Look to see if a service charge has already been added to a bill, and if not, base your tip on the amount before tax is added. If you’re looking to tip on card then always be sure to ask if the staff will actually receive it. Try to leave cash wherever possible.
Above all, be courteous and patient. This is a two-way street; you may find being a nice human being scores you better service than any wad of cash might do.
Featured photo by Photo by Kathleen Finlay/Getty.
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