This year I have traveled to 5 different countries and tipping always comes up in a discussion. What is customary, should we, shouldn't we, how much, cash, credit cards and the list goes on. Do we tip drivers, servers, bar tenders, tour guides and it seems there are lots of opinions online about it.
I wanted to share what I personally have heard or read or experienced and kind of my perspective on this after visiting some of these countries.
As you can guess, Canada does not not seem very different from the US. It is pretty standard to tip 15-20% based on level of service. Less for poor service and more for exceptional service.
Thailand was interesting for me and I think that had to with the fact that their smallest paper bill is 20 baht which is around $.59 (cents in case you missed that little decimal) It is a strange feeling to hand over a bill that shows 20 on it and be spending so little or what really was strange was 100 baht which is almost and only $3. When a conversation came up regarding tipping, the standard answer was "they don't expect it". To me, that is the polite answer rather than the standard answer. And let me qualify this by saying there are many online opinions that have guidelines and this one was one of my favorites and offers other advice we found to be true, specifically, negotiating your cab fee ahead of time.
The average monthly wage is around $800, of course there are higher and lower wages. I know cost of living is relative but at the end of the day this driver just delivered us safely to our next destination and stopped when we wanted something to drink or needed to use the bathroom or the tour guide just showed us some fun spots that we might not have found on our own or spent an extra 30 minutes with us when we pleaded to stop and shop or the server came back to our table 25 times for every little add on we had so why the heck wouldn't you tell them you appreciate them by throwing them 50 baht?
Ireland was a bit different too. Again, the answer I most heard was 'they don't expect it', however we also read an online opinion that bar tenders are offended if you tip them. I find it strange someone would be offended by a tip (unless it is an American and the tip was bad hahah and I feel ok saying this because I am an American who moonlighted as a bartender this summer).
A couple observations:
When each of us were paying our bills at restaurants we had one traveler who continuously paid their bill last and made up for others who didn't tip, those servers and bartenders were completely grateful. So yes, they didn't expect it, nor were they going to chase us down after we left and ask why we didn't tip, but they worked for it with our group and they deserved it and they definitely appreciated it.
We learned if you are using a credit card to pay your restaurant bill you MUST tell the server ahead of time so they can add it in. If you don't they cannot change it and add it after the fact. And there was a situation where even after adding it in, the establishment couldn't actually total it out properly. I am not really sure of the reason, but my suggestion would be to always keep a pocket full of euros to throw down.
My sister shared a conversation she and her husband had one time about negotiating with street vendors in Mexico and for me this rings true for tipping as well. I don't remember if it was my sister negotiating or her husband and don't get me wrong, it is strangely a great feeling to know you just cut a deal over that bracelet or t-shirt, but one of them said to the other "is that $3 going to impact our lives or their lives more" And for me this is the answer to "they don't expect it".
On a side note, are there any bartenders from Ireland that would like to share their perspective on tipping with me?