HOW TO TIP IN COLOMBIA
In the U.S. tipping is customary and expected for everything from lackluster to outstanding service. It is an etiquette which is ingrained in all trades, from the wait staff at restaurants to our baristas, valets, cab drivers, porters, and many more trades. In South America tipping is not as habitual and the same goes for Columbia. There is no obligation to do so, however, leaving something extra is customary. The Colombians pride themselves on their manners, and tipping is simply polite. The questions `when?` and `how much?` can leave some travelers confused, as the practice varies. Sometimes restaurants will even display signs which read `Tips Not Accepted` or display it in their menus, and if this is the case, respect the establishment`s wishes and do not tip.
This guide attempts to cover most situations that you, as a tourist, will encounter. Hopefully using these `tips` will provide a smooth experience when interacting with locals in restaurants, bars, hotels, tour operators, and taxis.
The currency of Colombia is the Colombian Peso and US dollars are not accepted. Please be sure to have the correct currency on hand or be prepared to exchange your dollars for Pesos upon arrival. In our culture we can put everything on credit and debit cards, however, in rural areas of Colombia you will find it useful to always keep cash on hand. Currency exchange desks can be found at the airport and many locations throughout the city.Restaurants, Cafes, and Bars: When should I tip? How much is customary?
In most restaurants in Colombia there is a 10 percent voluntary (Propina Voluntaria). Most people pay it, but it is not required. In some of the finer restaurants, a 15 percent propina voluntaria is added. Always check your bill before tipping and if your service is excellent, feel free to add an additional tip. If you aren`t satisfied with the service, you can forgo a tip altogether. Bartenders customarily receive a tip equivalent to about 50 cents to $1 per drink.
Tipping in hotels in Colombia is rarely expected except in cases of exemplary service or if you solicit special services. The most commonly tipped employees are the Porters and Housekeeping. If a Porter helps to carry your bag(s) to your room the customary tip is the equivalent of 1 or 2 dollars per bag, usually no more than 3 Dollars total. It is customary to leave the equivalent of 1 or 2 dollars per day for housekeeping. Other hotel services are tipped depending on the service provided.Taxi Drivers: Should I tip?
Tipping cab drivers is unusual, but appreciated, especially if they help you with your luggage or provide you with useful info about getting around. A taxi driver is only tipped for exemplary service or if you hire them for multiple days (the equivalent of about 5 dollars per day). If it is around Christmas or New Year`s Day, a tip is very much appreciated. Needless to say, if your driver was rude or took you on an out of the way route to hike up the fare, do not leave a tip. Always remember when traveling abroad that it is good practice to agree on a final fare before the cab driver begins driving.Tour Guides: Is a tip required?
Tipping tour guides is very much appreciated but not expected. Common practice is in the range of 5-10 percent per person, per day depending on the quality of service. If a tour guide is particularly enthusiastic or informative do not hesitate to slip them a little extra if you wish!Miscellaneous: Is there anyone I should tip that I would not normally?
Street Performers: Here is one place to splurge a bit. Though you may not actively solicit entertainment from musicians, mimes, artists, and the like, it is polite to tip them if you have enjoyed their trade. These people live off the money they make bringing their talent to the streets of Bogota, Santiago de Cali, Medellin or Barranquilla. Take some of what you would have left your waitress in the restaurant and give it to one of these artists!
Other Services: In the event that you are in Colombia for a special occasion (wedding, honeymoon, graduation gift, birthday, etc..) and employ the services of a hairdresser, make-up artist, party planner, personal shopper, tailor or spa services and the like, use your best judgment in tipping. Factor in the cost and quality of service and, as a general rule, stay in the 10% range.
Remember that it is perfectly okay to abstain, especially if you are not happy with the service provided. Unlike in the U.S. the expectations for tipping are lower in Colombia than in America. This is also true for hotel staff, though if you encounter a problem with the service within the hotel, we highly recommend speaking with the manager.
When paying for services in cash (which we generally recommend for services other than your hotel) remember to take your receipt. This is important for two reasons; If you leave a tip on a credit card, the person providing the service may not always get it, and if there is a discrepancy it is important to have your receipt to settle it with the manager of the establishment and to prove that you paid for the service.