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Top Tips for Tipping in North America

Tipping can be a source of confusion for travellers, especially when visiting a new country with different customs and expectations. In North America, tipping is a significant aspect of the service industry, and understanding the nuances can help ensure you show appreciation appropriately while avoiding any awkward moments. Here’s a comprehensive guide to tipping in North America, including the United States and Canada.

  1. Restaurants and Cafes Sit-Down Restaurants

In the United States and Canada, tipping at sit-down restaurants is customary and expected. The standard tip ranges from 15% to 20% of the pre-tax bill. Exceptional service might warrant a tip of 25% or more, while subpar service might see a slightly reduced tip, but it’s generally considered polite to leave something unless the service was truly unacceptable.

Counter Service and Cafes

Female cashier giving receipt colleagues working in cafe

For counter service, such as coffee shops or fast-casual eateries, tipping is less obligatory. However, leaving some change or rounding up the bill is appreciated. Many places have tip jars at the counter where you can drop a dollar or two.

Key Tips:

  • Check Your Bill: Some restaurants automatically include a gratuity for large parties, usually 18% to 20%. Ensure you don’t double-tip unless you want to add extra.
    • Credit Card Tips: If paying by credit card, you’ll typically have the option to add a tip on the receipt.
  • Bars and Nightclubs Bartenders

When ordering drinks at a bar, a standard tip is $1 to $2 per drink or 15% to 20% of the total bill if you’re running a tab. If the bartender provides exceptional service or makes a complex cocktail, consider tipping more

Cocktail Servers

In nightclubs or lounges, where servers bring drinks to your table, tipping

$1 to $2 per drink or 20% of the total bill is appropriate.

Key Tips:

  • Cash Tips: Bartenders often prefer cash tips, as they may not be pooled like credit card tips.
    • Round for Speed: Rounding up to the nearest dollar can speed up transactions and is appreciated.
  • Hotels Housekeeping
Chamber maid working in hotel bedroom.

Tipping housekeeping staff is often overlooked but highly appreciated. A standard tip is $2 to $5 per night, left daily in an envelope marked “Housekeeping” to ensure it reaches the correct person.

Bellhops and Porters

For bellhops and porters who assist with your luggage, a tip of $1 to $2 per bag is customary. If they provide additional services, such as delivering items to your room, consider tipping $5.


If a concierge provides a special service, such as securing hard-to-get reservations or tickets, a tip of $5 to $20 is appropriate, depending on the complexity of the request.

Key Tips:

  • Tip Daily: Leave tips for housekeeping daily rather than at the end of your stay, as the staff may rotate.
  • Express Gratitude: A small note of thanks along with the tip can brighten someone’s day.
  • Transportation Taxi Drivers

For taxi rides, a tip of 15% to 20% of the fare is standard. If the driver assists with luggage or provides excellent service, consider tipping more

Rideshare Services (Uber/Lyft)

While tipping wasn’t initially expected for rideshare services, it has become customary. A tip of 10% to 15% of the fare is appreciated, or a flat amount of $1 to $5 depending on the length and quality of the ride.

Valet Parking

For valet parking services, a tip of $2 to $5 when your car is returned is customary. You may also tip when dropping off your car, especially if the valet will be parking in a busy or difficult area.

Key Tips:

  • Cash is King: Many transportation service providers prefer cash tips, though most rideshare apps now allow for tipping within the app.
  • Consider the Service: Tip based on the quality of service, cleanliness of the vehicle, and the driver’s professionalism.
  • Personal Services Hairdressers and Barbers

For haircuts, coloring, or other salon services, a tip of 15% to 20% of the total bill is typical. If you receive services from multiple people (e.g., a stylist and a colorist), it’s customary to tip each person individually.

Spa Services

For massages, facials, and other spa treatments, a tip of 15% to 20% is standard. Some spas include a gratuity in the bill, so check beforehand.

Key Tips:

  • Cash Tips: Cash tips are often preferred in personal service industries.
    • Group Services: If multiple people provide services, tip each person according to their contribution.
  • Tour Guides and Activity Instructors Tour Guides

For guided tours, a tip of $5 to $10 per person for half-day tours and $10 to $20 per person for full-day tours is standard. If the guide provides exceptional service, consider tipping more.

Activity Instructors

For instructors of activities such as fishing, diving, or skiing, a tip of 15% to 20% of the cost of the activity is appropriate.

Key Tips:

  • Group Tips: If you’re part of a larger group, pooling tips can ensure everyone contributes fairly.
    • Express Appreciation: A tip along with verbal appreciation can go a long way.


Understanding the tipping culture in North America can enhance your travel experience by ensuring you show appreciation for the services provided. While tipping amounts can vary based on service quality and local customs, the guidelines above offer a solid foundation for navigating tipping etiquette. Remember, tipping is a way to acknowledge good service and support those who work hard to make your experience enjoyable.

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