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January 10, 2013


Guide to Tipping in the USA

by Jason Dutton-Smith

On any trip to the USA, tipping can be an unusual and confusing concept for any traveller and often daunting. Here is our quick guide to best tipping practises throughout America to get you through a stress free holiday.

Tipping is generally reserved for any type of service industry person such as waiters, taxi drivers, tour guides, hairdressers etc. This guide will let you know what is acceptable and polite. These types of service industries are generally paid a minimum wage and often depend on tips. For convenience always keep a handful of single dollar bills handy.

Airport curb side check-in porters

Curb side porters are not employed by the airlines direct, even though they can check you in, and offered as an extra service. While airline personnel on the ground or in the air are never tipped, if you use a curb side check-in at any US airport then it’s wise to tip at least $1 per bag to ensure your bags are going the same way you are.


Taxis are often referred to as cabs and at some stage of your adventure you will be sure to ‘hail a cab’. Tipping a cab driver is fairly standard across the board with $1 for each passenger and $1 for the ride. A standard cab ride would generally be a $2-$3 tip and considered good. If you have travelled a reasonable distance or the cab driver was particularly friendly or helpful then maybe $3-$4. It’s up to you really.

Best Travel Apps – Download these travel Apps before departure
LAX Airport – Arrival guide and tips for LAX Airport
Top Tips – 6 must read tips before travelling to America

Wait staff

This is the most common form of tipping you will have to do in the US. Working out what is required may seem daunting but it’s fairly straight forward with this easy to remember guide and generally 15% is the norm. Always check the bill first as 6 or more on a table will normally have gratuity added automatically.

10% tip or less – This would be on the lower end of the scale and reserved for average to bad service and/or food which is hopefully never the case. Leaving no tip at all; be warned this can be construed as rude and offensive.
15% tip – If you enjoyed the food, the wait staff were fine and everything was satisfactory, then 15% is deemed as acceptable and will be appreciated.
20% + tip – For exceptional service or for staff who have gone above and beyond, then 20% plus would be greatly appreciated.

Just remember 10%, 15% or 20% as a guide according to your experience.

Hotel porters, transfer drivers and valet parking

Depending on your length of stay at one property, as a rule $1 per piece of luggage is acceptable. If you have a hire car and using the valet parking, generally $1-$2 on collection of the car is fine. If you had an extended stay at the one location then maybe on the last pick up a $5 ‘thank-you’ tip would be welcomed but not expected.

Do you need further tipping advice? Leave a comment below and I will do my best 🙂

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