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Hint on Tipping in Europe

Updated: September 30, 2022

In the United States, we’ve been raised on a tradition of tipping cabbies, hotel staff, bartenders, waiters, and a variety of other service-oriented personnel.  Consequently, for Americans, it seems normal to provide a tip or gratuity for good service.   When traveling in Europe, tipping is not near as common as you might think, and it certainly is not as lavish. While nothing about tipping is concrete, I hope these guidelines will relieve some stress and help you fit in like a local when traveling through Europe.

 
The information provided here is based on my extensive travels in Europe and my conversations with restaurant and hotel employees as well as local patrons. I’ve found a few generalities, which I’ll discuss first, and then I’ll dive into a country-by-country account.
 

Generalities

Europeans tend not to be as generous with their tips as we Americans.  Most European restaurant servers are paid a salary, and tips are considered a bonus on top of their wages. When pondering your tip, keep in mind a 5-10 percent tip is normal.  Only well-meaning or lavish-spending Americans leave a tip of 15-20 percent.  This is unnecessary and may be considered culturally inconsiderate.  Anywhere in Europe, you’ll be safe by following the lead of Europeans and leaving a euro or two per person in your party.
 
In most cases, the tip should be given directly to your server, not left on the table.  Cash payments are fine, but since COVID-19, paying with a credit card is becoming the norm.  There is seldom an opportunity to add the tip to the final total, though.  If you are dining with a group, remember splitting the bill may be possible at the end of the service, not before. 
CONTACTLESS IS THE WAY TO GO!
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, paying contactless with a credit card, phone, watch, ApplePay, or GooglePay is very common. 
If you are out dining with a group and want to split the bill, try this:
  1. Don’t worry about telling the waiter beforehand.  Everyone should order their meal “on one tab.”
  2. Enjoy your meal.
  3. Ask for the check when you are ready for it.  Don’t ask for it to be split!
  4. Look at the check, take out your calculator, and add up the total for what each person (or couple) is paying.  Add 5%-10% tip if you want.
  5. Ask the waiter to bring the “machine.”  He will show up with a portable credit card device.
  6. Tell the waiter how much you want to pay.  Swipe, insert, or tap the machine and that about will go on your card.
  7. Repeat the process with the others at the table.
 
 
If you take a taxi, it is appropriate to round up the fare a euro or two as the cabbie’s tip.  Be prepared to pay the fare and tip in cash, although many taxi companies and cabbies now take credit cards and contactless. 
 
In hotels, it is appropriate to leave a hotel housekeeper one or two euros a day for their service and provide a euro or two for portage to your room.  It is not necessary to tip a doorman or anyone who hails a taxi.
 

Austria

It is customary to give a 10%-15% tip at restaurants. Pay the tip in cash and hand it directly to the waiter when paying your bill.  There is a little trick to doing this in “Germanic” countries.  Let’s say the bill is €25 and you want to give a €5 tip.  Hand the waiter a €50 note and say, “30”.  The waiter will give you back 20 euros and keep 5 for himself.  You can walk away feeling like a local!
 

Croatia

Tipping is becoming popular in Croatia with the influx of mass tourism.  In a bar or sandwich shop, round up.  In restaurants with great service, leave 10%-15%.  Always give your tip to the waiter or waitress in the local currency.
 
If cruising on a private charter along the Croatia coast, plan to tip the captain and crew (collectively) about $50-$60 per person in your party.  If there is a cruise tour director, you should tip them about $12 a day per person.  This should be done in kunu (the local currency) or euros.
 

Czech Republic

Often a service charge is included in your bill.  If so, it will be clearly stated, usually in English.  Whether it is included or not you might consider giving an extra 5%-10% tip for good service.  Give your tip, in cash, directly to the waiter or waitress. 
 

France

Tipping in France is not common, nor is it expected.  Those in the service industry are paid a salary and therefore do not count on tips as part of their income.  If service is exceptional, rounding up a euro or two is plenty. Restaurants and cafés typically include a service charge in the price of your meal. It usually is noted on the menu as service compris and will not be a line item on your bill.  Some tourist restaurants do not include this (in hopes of getting a bigger tip from Americans).  This is noted on the menu as service non compris and in this case, a 15% tip is ok.
 

Germany

It is customary to give a 10%-15% tip at restaurants. Pay the tip in cash and hand it directly to the waiter when paying your bill.  There is a little trick to doing this in “Germanic” countries.  Let’s say the bill is €25 and you want to give a €5 tip.  Hand the waiter a €50 note and say, “30”.  The waiter will give you back 20 euros and keep 5 for himself.  You can walk away feeling like a local!
 

Greece

The general rule of thumb here is the more expensive the restaurant, the lower the tip.  If you dine in an inexpensive taverna and spend €20 or less per person, then tip 10%.  Anything over €20 per person, tip 5%.  
 

Ireland

The “old Irish people” never tip.  Tipping was never their custom, and theirs was a hard life growing up in the mid-20th century.  You’ll find them counting their pennies to the tee. The younger Irish, those under 40 years old, usually tip when ordering food but seldom when just having a drink.
 
Pubs – If you are simply served a drink by the guy/gal behind the bar, then no tip is expected.  In the countryside, if it is not busy and the bartender “chats you up,” then leave a 15% tip with each drink or at the end of your drinking session. If the bartender is the proprietor, then no gratuity is expected, however, it does not hurt to offer to buy him/her a drink.
 
Restaurants and Pubs that serve food – A 15% tip is standard for good table service. Up to 20% if exceptional service and extra “chatting up.”
 

Italy

Often you will find a cover charge and service charge included in the price on the menu.  This will be noted, usually at the bottom of the menu, by il coperto and servizio incluso. The cover charge usually includes tap water and bread on the table.  The two usually add up to 15%-20%, but you’ll never see that published anywhere.  It is considered a generous gesture to round up your bill by a euro or two for exceptional service. Occasionally, you may find servizio non incluso (service not included) at tourist restaurants. In this case, a 10% tip, handed to your waiter or left on the table, is fine.
 

The Netherlands

Value Added Tax (VAT) is included in every bill in the Netherlands.  It is not necessary to tip a taxi driver, hotel, restaurant, or anyone in the service industry.
 

Spain

Service is always included at every bar or restaurant in Spain.  A tip is not necessary.  However, it is acceptable to leave 5%-8% for exceptional service.  Give your tip directly to the waiter or waitress in euro cash.  Do not leave it on the table.
 

Switzerland

A service charge is automatically calculated into your bill at restaurants.  For great service, you can round up or tip 5%, but it is not expected.  Always give your tip directly to the waiter in Swiss Franc cash.
 

United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland)

You do not need to tip in pubs when ordering drinks or food at the bar. In restaurants, often a service charge of 12.5% is added, so be sure to check your bill before paying. If no service charge is added, then a 10-15% tip will be appreciated, but it is not expected.  
 

Summary

When tipping in Europe, it is important to keep in mind that the tip may already be included in the bill. You can always round up or leave a euro or two for each member of your party as the Europeans do. A 5-10 percent tip is normal, but anything more is excessive since most servers receive a salary. Be sure to give the tip directly to the server in cash. It is also customary to tip cabbies and hotel staff a euro or two for their service.

About the Author
If you found this article informative, please share it with your friends, family, coworkers, and associates. If you have something to add, just leave a comment in the box below. ------David McGuffin is Founder and CEO of David McGuffin’s Exploring Europe, Inc., based in Middleburg, Florida. You can connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube. David spends his time in Europe organizing and leading small-group and independent tours to European destinations. In business since 2001, David has provided exceptional travel opportunities to several thousand satisfied customers. You can find out more about David and his European tours at his website, http://davidmcguffin.com.

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