Features
May 07, 2018

By: SA Explorer

The ins and outs of tipping in South America

Secondary Categories: Machu Picchu, Galapagos Islands, Brazil, Buenos Aires, Chile, Ecuador

We know first-hand how tricky it can be to judge what, when and whether to tip…So, we’ve put together some basic guidelines to help you avoid those awkward moments. Remember that our entire team is fairly compensated and tipping is a personal decision based on your comfort level and satisfaction. While you may decide to show your appreciation with gratuities, how much you decide to give is entirely up to you. Read on for a few rules of thumb.

General norms that apply to the entire continent

The norm at restaurants in South America is 10%. Do note, however, that tipping is an opportunity to leave feedback on the service you’ve received and you can use your discretion to tip more or less than the standard 10%. You can show your appreciation for your bartender by leaving them a small tip when you order a drink at the bar.

When you catch a taxi in South America, you’re not expected to tip the driver. However, you can choose to round up the fare so that the driver doesn’t have to struggle to find change. The tipping norm for bell boys and hotel staff is a couple of bucks’ worth in the local currency.

Photo credit: Katie Bordner

Gratuities for tour guides are voluntary but the industry standard is between $10 and $20 per day per person and between $5 a 10 per day per person for the driver. While this is a handy guideline, tipping varies widely and if you’re traveling in private gratuities will depend on factors such as group size and number of children, among others. Once again, tipping is voluntary and all members of our team are fairly compensated.

Peru

Tipping has become increasingly common throughout the main tourist destinations of Peru, such as Cuzco. Salaries in much of the service industry (i.e. restaurants and hotel staff) remain low, so a tip for good service while you’re exploring Peru will be highly appreciated. Also note that while dollars are widely accepted in Peru (as long as they’re in good condition!), all other countries prefer gratuities in their local currency - with the obvious exception of Ecuador which has made USD its official currency.

 

Trekking in Peru

Although tipping is voluntary, many hikers give gratuities on the last day of their Peru trekking adventure. If you’re happy with the service and you wish to contribute, a common suggestion is US$20-25 per person for your guide and US$45-70 per person for the rest of the trekking team. US Dollars and Peruvian soles are both well received and appreciated, preferably in small bills which can be divided easily among the group.

Photo credit: Jenny Salita

Ecuador

While there are no rules for giving gratuities during your tour in Ecuador, waiters and waitresses are usually tipped in accordance with the quality of their service. In Ecuador, many upmarket restaurants automatically add a 10% service fee to the bill, but you can tip extra for outstanding service. In more modest places, a tip of around 10% will be greatly appreciated.

Galapagos Cruises

While not compulsory, it’s common to leave a separate tip for the guide and crew on a Galapagos cruise in accordance with the level of service that was provided. Gratuities are provided in US dollars, so it’s best to have cash prepared prior to boarding the ship. Suggested gratuities vary from boat to boat but $15-20 for crew and $10 for a naturalist guide (per day per person) are pretty good rules of thumb.

Photo credit: Al H

Argentina

While tipping during your tour in Argentina isn’t mandatory, it is normal – for example – to leave a few pesos for the doormen and housekeepers at your hotel. If you notice a charge for cubierto on your restaurant bill, it refers to a charge for the amenities and not a gratuity for the waiter, so feel free to tip in the region of 10% (in cash if you want to be sure he/she receives it).

Chile

In Chile, you’ll also need to check your bill first as many restaurants and bars include a 10% service fee. Additional gratuities are not mandatory when you’re exploring Chile but if you’re impressed with the service, you can add an extra tip of your choice. It’s even common to give a few pesos to the person who packs your groceries into a bag at the supermarket in Chile.

Photo credit: Arian Zwegers

Brazil

Gratuities are not expected in on your Brazilian adventure but you can give a tip to show your appreciation for good service – ideally in local currency. Check your bill before you add a tip at Brazilian restaurants. The customary 10% tip is often added to the bill as serviço. The normal tip at a bar in Brazil is 10%.

Bolivia

Bolivia is not a tipping culture so it’s up to you whether you want to add extra to your restaurant bill (5% to 10%) to show your appreciation. While it’s uncommon for taxi drivers to receive tips in Bolivia, you can give your driver a 10% gratuity if you use their services for a few hours or more a day. Shoeshine boys, airport porters and car guards all expect a few Bolivianos.

Photo credit: Dan

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Aching to explore South America’s fascinating cultures, landscapes and cuisines? Contact one of our Destination Experts to learn more about our popular itineraries – or to build a bespoke adventure from scratch.

Credit to Flickr user Hernán Piñera for the cover image of this blog, which was taken on a Buenos Aires street corner.

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