There are many cultural norms when you travel in South America. How you tip is just one of them. Whether you wish to tip at a restaurant, cafe, in a hotel or your driver, check out our top tips for tipping before you embark on customized South America tours.
First things first: You should never feel obliged to tip. Before you read our Top Tips for Tipping in South America, look at our Art of Tipping article for general information.
In South America, we recommend that you leave 10% of the total value bill and that you leave the tip in cash – even if you’ve paid with a credit card. The same goes for hotel restaurants even if you charge it to the room.
Waiters don’t rely so heavily on tips as they do in the America but it is still an important part of their income so we recommend you leave some spare coins.
In many restaurants there is a cubierto charge, which generally means a charge for the table. This is NOT a service charge that goes to the waiter.
Many tourists think that it is the same thing as a service charge, but actually nothing of this charge goes to the waiter himself.
It’s usually not possible to pay your bill separately in South America like you would in the US, UK or Europe. If a bill is given, it is the responsibility of the group to raise the amount and pay it all together.
The general suggestion is to tip the hotel bag bearer / bell boy (who brings your luggage up to the room) an amount equal to USD $1-2 per bag.
Often guests do not have small change in local currency, if that’s the case then it’s okay to tip in USD.
In large luxury hotels sometimes a USD $2-3 tip is left for housekeeping on the table for the maids.
Ensure you leave a note with your tip otherwise the hotel staff might just think you have forgotten your money.
In large hotels sometimes a tip is left to the receptionist or concierge who gave really special attention.
In smaller hotels you can sometimes leave a tip for the whole team at the end of your stay.
Drivers tend to receive a tip if they are friendly, pointed out information about the destination or assisted more than necessary with bags.
It is not required, expected or necessary to tip taxi drivers – in fact you don’t even need to round-off the meter!
Our suggestion is that guides in South America receive approximately $10 USD per person for a half-day activity and $15 USD per person for a full day activity.
Of course more generosity is welcomed if the guide was exceptional and went out of his or her way to make the activity super-special.
Many times the guests will invite the guide to lunch or dinner with them, which is a great joy for the guides.
However sometimes it can cause them complications because lunch or dinner is the only recreational time they have to organize the next day or what is still to be done in the activity.
Sometimes the guides feel uncomfortably pressured to dine with the guests or they feel quite bad having to turn them down.
Inspired? Get in touch with us to plan your customized South America tours.