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Tipping in Italy ports of call

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We are on a 10-night cruise from Venice to Rome this November 2019.  I understand tipping practices in Europe are very different than in the US.  What advice can anyone provide for tipping our private tour guides (we've booked mostly private), restaurants/bar staff, etc?  In the US, we tend to be generous tippers, but we do not want to offend in Europe.  Our cruise will be in ports in Italy, Croatia, Montenegro, and Malta.  Do tipping practices vary between these countries?

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Tipping is almost never 'required' in Italy. Workers make a fair wage (i.e., they are not counting on tips to make up the difference like in the US).

 

Get the idea of a fixed percentage out of your mind. If a guide, waiter, driver, etc. does what they should do -- no tip needed. If you really want to express your appreciation for someone who's done more than the ordinary, give a modest tip. A few extra euros left on top of a dinner bill. Rounding up to the next euro or two for a taxi driver, etc.  

 

Most private guides I've had in Italy are real professionals. I pay a fair amount for their services, and have rarely tipped. 

 

There are some small differences in tipping among European countries. There are also sites that give that info online if you search. In general, countries where guides are true professionals (e.g., have done a course, been qualified, are registered), tours are more expensive but tipping is minimal (e.g., France, Italy). In some countries (e.g., Turkey), where guides are less regulated, tours are often less expensive but if I get a good guide -- IF being the operative word -- I may offer something in the way of a tip.

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A "guide" in Italy is a specific and defined role, with education and testing requirements and government licensing.  If you have arranged private tours (car services) you have hired a driver, not a guide.  They will do many of the things generally associated with guides in other places but they cannot, for example, get out of the car and accompany you into a site (historical or cultural, they can accompany you into stores or restaurants, if you want).  If you want a guide at a site like Pompei, for example, you must hire them in addition to the car service driver, the reputable tour operators often discussed here will arrange that for you if asked.

 

Judging by the feedback here, the drivers hired do a great job and are often highly entertaining.  They may even be educational and although you have no guarantee that what they're telling you is accurate, you're not going to be taking an exam based on what they tell you.

 

The bottom line is as Cruisemom said above, these drivers are well paid with full benefits, there is no need to tip them.  It has been pointed out on this forum that the web sites of some of the car service tour operators mention tips (or more covertly they mention it in your confirmation e-mail).  I guarantee you that this happens only on their English language pages and no hint of a tip appears on their Italian language site, if they have one.  The operators of the business understand that Americans and Canadians (and possibly Brits, but absolutely not Australians) expect to tip so they are not offended by any message about it.  To the contrary, to those of us conditioned to tipping it seems perfectly normal and we go along with the suggestion without even thinking about it.

 

The downside of this perfectly understandable behavior ("doin' what comes natur'lly", according to Irving Berlin) is the slow, steady imposition of one culture onto another.    Of course the individual actions of any one of us on one trip to Italy isn't going to shift the moral and legal tides of the nation, but there is something distasteful in the notion that "our" way is of course better and should be imposed everywhere we go, regardless of the short or long term impacts.

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Cruisemom is on the button here no need to tip. It only comes about owing to American accents which give the impression that tips will be forthcoming, in Europe tipping is so last century and not expected. With cashless payments the hand out culture is going.... GREAT..... Europeans do not rely on top up wages as in the US,  tipping is not needed you pay the price expected up front. So in restaurants taxes , service charge etc are all in the price you see; so that's what you pay. Only exception might be if something is $19-70 don't worry about the change give 20.

This will become more the case as debit cards replace cash and in many countries now small coins are being phased out ( in UK there is a review of future of 1p and 2p coins with maybe rounding to 0 and 5p amounts as the coins are costing more to mint & circulate than they are worth now )

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Thank you all! 

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Europeans (and even Italians) are not stupid :).  They understand that Americans have a tipping culture and many European folks are very good at playing the "guilt tipping" game for all it is worth.  In simple terms they expect a nice tip from Americans and do not expect it from anyone else.  And many Americans are happy to oblige (and are viewed as suckers/idiots by the very people they tip).  We have actually seen some Europeans put out their palm (for a tip) in places where such tipping would not be the norm.   So I would say to the OP that if you want to give away your money (tip) in Italy, you will not offend anyone...but might be quietly viewed as an idiot!    So what to do?

 

Learn about the proper tipping culture in the countries you visit and go along with the local/regional mores.  While tipping in Italy is certainly acceptable in many places, the tipping levels are far below US norms.  And be careful in restaurants/cafes where servizio (service charges) , coperta ("cover charge" which is a strange kind of management fee) and sometimes even an entertainment charge may be added to your bill.  In such cases leaving an extra tip is not the norm although many will round-up their payment to the next Euro (or perhaps 2).   Also beware that in Italy you might be charged an additional fee for eating the bread (or bread sticks) that are put on your table.   And if you use a taxi, most Italians will simply round up to the next Euro.  But taxi drivers know that Americans tend to tip 10 -20% and might "encourage" the practice by withholding your change until you make it clear you want your change.  We have had this happen in both taxis and restaurants....and it is not a norm in Italy!  But it has become more of a norm if they think you are a naïve American :).

 

There are those here on CC that argue that they think that tipping is very much appreciated and they like to give big tips.  Those folks are simply making a mockery of themselves.  Perhaps some will actually appreciate the tipping gesture, and others will be thinking "what an idiot to be giving me extra money."    In many cultures Americans are resented because of their tendency to "throw around their money" and think they can buy anything.  For some weird reason many American travelers refuse to accept local customs/mores and want to impose American culture on the entire planet.  The smart traveler learns something of the culture of places they are going to visit and tries to accede to that culture.  Trying to impose our culture upon others is part of what has bred the "Ugly American" syndrome.

 

Hank

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Hank....thanks so much for your advice!  Great info to know.  Yes, it certainly seems to be a different culture.

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"Stupid question" from a "stupid American:" we have booked private tours in London, Paris, Mykonos, Santorini, Athens, Malta, Venice, Rome, Pompeii, Orvieto, and Pisa (the Italy tours except Venice are all with the same company).  None of these tours were inexpensive.  Am I to presume that there is no need to tip?  My mother-in-law prides herself on tipping well.  Conde Nast (online) suggests 10-20 pounds/day in England, up to 50 Euros/day in France, 20-50 Euros/day in Italy, and 50 Euros/day in Greece for tour tips.  What say you?  I don't want to offend, but I don't want to be a sucker, either.

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I can't answer for anywhere but Italy but there is no need to tip additionally in Italy.  Most guides are independent contractors so what you pay them they keep, minus any fee to whatever booking agency put you together.

 

If you feel someone did an outstanding job or went over and above for you, you might add a little but a professional guide in Italy has the equivalent of a Masters degree and many have PhDs, it would be a bit like tipping your dentist for doing a really, really good filling.

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The  Conde Nest advice was geared to the US market.

In Europe tipping is not the culture. In the past year I have not tipped at all, rounded up yes, but not extra for the service I have paid well for. European wages do not rely on the hand out culture, not ever at the disgraceful slave levels some US wait staff are paid .

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On 5/7/2019 at 1:55 PM, mdsgu said:

50 Euros/day in Greece for tour tips. 

If that were the case, then most of the population of Greece would be tour guides. Totally erroneous information.

Keep your tipping culture in that piece of land between the Atlantic and the Pacific and do not try to export it to Europe, thank you!

 

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I am going to be a dissenting voice - tipping practices do vary in European countries.  It is  just not true to say that tips are never given.  

 

In southern Spain/Gibraltar tips generally are given in restaurants, hairdressers/nail technicians, delivery drivers and taxis.    We are just much more moderate than in US.  

  

In restaurants:    We round up to the nearest £5 or £10 depending on the size of the bill and the quality of the service.    It is usually between 5 and 10 %.  Last night for example we ate out.  The bill came to £141 - I rounded it up to £150.    When you have a big party a 10% service charge may automatically be added to your bill  (this is clearly stated on the menu beforehand).  

 

If you are getting a takeaway coffee or sandwich, you might put the loose change in a tip jar.  If you pay by card, you would not add a tip.  

 

The hairdresser/delivery driver often get one or two pounds.

 

Taxi fares get rounded up by a couple of pounds depending on how far you have travelled.  

 

As to tour guides, I would give a private guide paper money for the day if they were good.  If you are in a large coach party then you can moderate your tip.  If there are 50 passengers then you would expect to tip them in coins.  

 

My family in UK always tip in restaurants unless the service has been poor.    Again it is a moderate tip of between 5 and 10 % .  

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Wow! I am so glad I clicked on this feed. We have never been to Europe and going on our first trip in August. We will travel a couple places in Northern Italy and then our cruise on the Edge. So with private tours you don't tip but at restaurants you do tip? Sorry. Please clarify.

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3 hours ago, LouieT said:

Wow! I am so glad I clicked on this feed. We have never been to Europe and going on our first trip in August. We will travel a couple places in Northern Italy and then our cruise on the Edge. So with private tours you don't tip but at restaurants you do tip? Sorry. Please clarify.

 

Tipping is not required, nor necessary.

If you feel that you must 'tip' in a restaurant or taxi then just round the bill up.  Make sure that a 'service charge' has not already been applied to the bill.

Ignore 'Tip Jars' on coffee bar counters etc. 

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And when they mention that “ service not included” on your bill, they are LYING. Service is ALWAYS included in Europe, every employee gets a  liveable wage and has social security as we are a developed part of the World...

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At restaurants, we just rounded up and left the difference. For a private water taxi, we tipped the guide. For the excursions, generally around 10-15 Euros depending on how awesome it was. No one yelled at us for doing it and always seemed appreciative. I never tip on a cruise ship but I know many people do so I think it's ultimately up to you to decide when/if and how much to tip.

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On 5/23/2019 at 3:38 PM, snirpville said:

At restaurants, we just rounded up and left the difference. For a private water taxi, we tipped the guide. For the excursions, generally around 10-15 Euros depending on how awesome it was. No one yelled at us for doing it and always seemed appreciative. I never tip on a cruise ship but I know many people do so I think it's ultimately up to you to decide when/if and how much to tip.

 

Of course it is ultimately up to you. No one is ever holding a gun to your head to make you leave a tip...

 

That said, I think it is important for travelers to observe the cultural norms wherever they travel -- it is good travel etiquette and it minimizes the huge impact that tourism is having all over the globe where tourists trot in obliviously and change things for locals in sometimes unanticipated (and unwanted) ways...

 

If it is the custom not to tip where I am headed, I don't tip. If it is the custom to tip, I do so.

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I often wonder when I see this subject crop up yet again, how our North American cousins would react if I said the following about tipping when I visit the US.

 

"I come from a country where tipping is not the norm. That's what I am comfortable with, so I am not going to tip in the US because I would not feel comfortable doing it."

Can you imagine the replies I'd get???

 

But of course, I would tip in the US because that is their cultural norm.

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On 5/27/2019 at 4:00 AM, Korimako said:

I often wonder when I see this subject crop up yet again, how our North American cousins would react if I said the following about tipping when I visit the US.

 

"I come from a country where tipping is not the norm. That's what I am comfortable with, so I am not going to tip in the US because I would not feel comfortable doing it."

Can you imagine the replies I'd get???

 

But of course, I would tip in the US because that is their cultural norm.

 

Thanks for taking time to share your point of view from a country that, like many others, does not have a tipping culture. You made your point clearly, kindly and concisely and perhaps if more of our international members share their thoughts in a similar manner, we can move this conversation in the right direction. 

 

Change only comes when we keep talking but we have to be having the right type of communication, constructive and informative, never critical. Hopefully we can help each other understand how, why the tip divide is real and how to go about understanding it better so we all travel well. 

 

Cheers 🙂

 

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Well we just returned from a Med/Greece cruise. We had just amazing private group tours booked with our roll call....and it seemed that everyone (most tours had 6-12 people) including us tipped approx 5 Euros pp. Did any of us feel wrong to do this....No.

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19 minutes ago, Ashland said:

Well we just returned from a Med/Greece cruise. We had just amazing private group tours booked with our roll call....and it seemed that everyone (most tours had 6-12 people) including us tipped approx 5 Euros pp. Did any of us feel wrong to do this....No.

And therein lays the problem, you felt you were in the right to tip no matter what you had been told to the contrary.

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This is exactly what I meant when I posted my comment above. Although I am VERY uncomfortable with tipping in any way shape or form because it is neither the norm or acceptable where I live, I would tip in the US as I understand - even though I think it's totally wrong and that everyone should earn a decent living wage as happens here  - that that is the norm. For someone to say, 'Well I don't accept this cultural norm and will impose my way of thinking and behaving regarding tipping' leaves me speechless at the arrogance! You should have felt you were doing wrong.

As an example - I'd been overseas for several months, partly in the US - and attempted to leave my hairdresser a tip, to which she grinned and said 'You've been away too long!'

Don't try to impose your cultural norms on the rest of the world please, we don't like it.

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