Is there anything more cringe-worthy than witnessing a clueless tourist make a major cultural faux pas?
Whether it's wearing inappropriate clothing or not tipping enough, ignorance is not bliss on holidays. To help prevent your own foot-in-mouth moment, we decided to ask travel gurus Lonely Planet for their best advice on exactly how much to tip, and generally, how to keep things on an even keel when you're abroad. Here's what they had to say.
WHAT TO TIP WHERE
Need to know: Tipping is not optional. Only withhold tips in cases of outrageously bad service.
Bars: $1 per drink, minimum.
Taxi drivers: 10-15%
Need to know: The note 'service compris' on your bill means service has been included in the price.
Bars: Table service add a tip of 10-15%
Taxi drivers: 10-15%
Restaurants: Rounding up.
Taxi drivers: 50-100B.
Need to know: Your tour group leader will happily accept tips.
Taxi drivers: Round up to the nearest dollar
Bars: Not expected unless food is ordered.
Taxi drivers: 10% or round up to the nearest pound.
Restaurants: Service is charged by law, but you can offer an optional 5-10% on top.
Bars: No established rule, small change.
Taxi drivers: Round up to nearest euro.
Need to know: "Baksheesh" can loosely be defined as a tip; it covers everything from alms for beggars to bribes.
Restaurants: 10-15% optional.
Bars: Unusual to tip.
Taxi drivers: Can tip honest drivers.
Restaurants: 10% optional.
Bars: Small change.
Taxi drivers: Round to nearest euro.
Need to know: Tipping a small amount is customary for many tourist services.
Taxi drivers: Roundup.
Bars: 5-10% for table service.
Taxi drivers: Not expected, but rounding up is common.
Taxi drivers: 5-10%
Taxi drivers: Round up to the nearest lira.
Bars: CUC$1 per visit, not per drink.
Taxi drivers: 10%
Restaurants: Up to 10%
Bars: Up to 10%
Taxi drivers: Round up by 5%
Bars: Not expected.
Taxi drivers: Not expected by appreciated.
Restaurants: 15-20% Bars: $1 per drink.
Restaurants: Not customary.
Bars: Not customary.
Taxi drivers: Not customary.
Bars: Uncommon unless table service is provided.
Taxi drivers: 10%
A few more words of wisdom on avoiding a cultural faux pas while you're travelling
Generally, people you meet will be tolerant and understanding. It’s fairly difficult to cause so much offence as to get you into trouble. The exceptions are if you offend local religious sensibilities, especially in stricter Islamic countries, or voice unpopular views about the government or royal family of the country you’re in.
Do make sure to...
Learn some local phrases, including "excuse me", "thank you" and "I’m sorry" and air them when you need to.
— Follow the lead of those around you: if others are removing shoes or donning headscarves, do the same. Be especially watchful in religious buildings and sacred places.
— Smile! You’ll find far more people ready to forgive the foibles of a visitor than those who take permanent offence.
— Be mindful of local greetings. In many Mediterranean destinations, you’ll be kissed several times on the cheek, whereas puckering up with someone you’ve just met in the USA should be replaced with a handshake.
— Be wary of using hand gestures – they can mean very different things depending on where you are. Even the seemingly innocuous thumbs-up sign is considered rude in Egypt and Iran.
— If you're worried about making a cultural faux-pas, connect with a local for guidance. But what if you don’t know any locals or can’t crack the language barrier? Many cities offer tours and experiences with locals who can show you how the place ticks.
Make sure you don't...
— Emulate your fellow tourists’ bad habits – scribbling your name on ancient monuments is not cool. Likewise, leave the padlocks off that bridge. It looks better without them.
— Take what might appear to be a local litter problem as an excuse to drop your own rubbish.
— Take pictures at sensitive military, religious or political spots and gatherings, including demonstrations.
— Assume that space you’re taking a photo or selfie in is yours and yours alone, and watch where you’re putting that selfie stick.
— Get into the water (like pools, thermal springs and spas) when you haven't showered in the facilities provided immediately beforehand. In many destinations, including Iceland and Japan, washing thoroughly before entering public bathing and swimming areas is compulsory.
This is an edited extract from Lonely Planet's Best Ever Travel Tips, $14.99.