It's always wise to have some petty cash handy when you're on a trip: You never know if you'll come a cross a cash-only establishment, and there's always the dilemma of tipping when someone in the service industry offers you assistance.
"Tipping standards vary widely from one country to the next," says Sarah Schlichter, senior editor of SmarterTravel.com. "The U.S. generally has some of the world's highest expectations. In other countries, such as New Zealand and Japan, tipping isn't customary and may sometimes even be considered insulting."
It helps to do a quick Google search or pick up a guidebook to learn the local attitude towards gratuities, but having a general rule of thumb also make things a bit easier. With Schlichter's advice as a seasoned traveler, we've put together a cheat sheet on the most common service scenarios you encounter on a vacation — and whether a tip is expected.
Hotel Shuttle Driver
If the hotel is picking you up from an airport or train station via shuttle, it's a nice gesture to tip driver at least a dollar or two — especially if he or she loads your suitcases. "The more suitcases you have or the heavier they are, the more you might want to tip," says Schlichter.
If a bellhop carries your bags to your room or calls you a cab, give him or her a dollar or two per bag, or a couple of dollars if he also helps you hailing a cab. "Again, consider giving a little more if you have a lot of luggage or very heavy ones," she says.
Waiters & Bartenders
In the U.S., the minimum expected tip for your server is 15 percent. These days, many people give 18 to 20 percent — or as much as 25 percent, if the service is extraordinary. Be prepared to tip the bartender at least a dollar or two per drink, or 20 percent if you're at an upscale establishment.
Front Desk Or Concierge
Schlichter believes that tipping isn't necessary for simple requests, such as directions or a recommended restaurant. "However, if the concierge makes you a dinner reservation, lands you tickets for a sold-out show, or offers other more involved services, I'd recommend tipping anywhere from $5 to $10 or more," she says. Ultimately, this depends on the quality of the service, as well as the urgency and complexity of your demand.
"The messier you are, the more you should tip," says Schlichter. "Tipping the housekeeping staff anywhere from $2 to $5 per night is a good amount." Try leaving each day rather than in one lump sum at the end of your stay, as you may be served by different housekeepers each day.
Room Service Staff
In terms of tipping, you should treat room service as you would eating in the hotel restaurant: Leaving a tip of 15 to 20 percent is customary, unless a service charge was already added to your bill. According to Schlichter, you should still consider adding an extra dollar or two on top of gratuities if the service is particularly friendly.
Whether you should tip a tour guide depends on the length and the cost of the excursion. For a multi-day group tour, the tour operator will usually recommend an amount — such as $5 to $10 per day — for your guide and driver. For a half- or full-day tour, Schlichter recommends tipping 15 to 20 percent of the cost of the tour.
All-Inclusive Resorts: Tip Or No Tip?
Some all-inclusive resorts discourage their staff from accepting tips, since it's supposed to be already included in the package rates. However, in other all-inclusive resortss, tipping is appreciated. Schlichter says the best course of action is to call up your resort, read up on TripAdvisor reviews, or scan the fine print on the hotel's website to figure out how to handle tipping during your stay.