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HOW TO TIP IN THE UNITED KINGDOM

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 wait staff at restaurants to our baristas, valets, cab drivers, porters, and many more trades. In Europe tipping is not as habitual, there is no obligation to do so, however leaving a little something extra is customary. Tipping is said to have originated in 16th-century England, and though it has since spread across the globe, the United Kingdom has by and large gone the way of most of Europe: Tips are included in many bills, especially in formal settings,and discretion is key in handing them over. Leaving a tip in the United Kingdom is an art mastered by few, and the remainder are left fumbling with questions like `when?` and `how much?` There are no hard and fast rules!

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.

Currency: Can I pay in U.S. dollars, or should I use pounds?

The currency of the UK (which consists of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) is the pound sterling. U.S. dollars are not accepted. Please be sure to have the correct currency on hand or be prepared to exchange your dollars for pounds upon arrival. In Scotland some banks print their own notes, which can be used in Scotland; it is a better idea to use pounds throughout the UK, you can not go wrong. In our culture we can put everything on credit and debit cards, however, in Europe you will find it useful to always keep a little cash on hand. Currency exchange desks can be found at the airport and many locations throughout the country.

Restaurants, Cafes, and Bars: When should I tip? How much is customary?

As in many other areas of Europe, the UK will often employ a `service` charge. This is not always easy to determine, some restaurants print their service charge policy on their menus (long gone by the time you pay your bill), while others make the service charge very clear on the bill. The charge is most commonly 12.5% but can reach 15%. If it is not noted then the restaurant is not complying with law. In such cases you can ask your server or a manager and they will usually be more than happy to answer. In any case where a service charge is added, or the menu notes `service included,` be aware that this may or may not be passed on to the waiting staff. Ask the manager how the service charge is applied, as often only a portion, if any at all, ends up going to the servers. An `optional` charge is occasionally added to the bill; make sure you`re not blindly paying it. This is another way restaurants collect money which may be distributed as tips. Adjust it to the level you feel comfortable with and feel free to round to the nearest pound- up or down - and always ask if you feel uncomfortable with the charges.

In larger and more frequently visited cities (London, Edinburgh, Cambridge, Glasgow, etc.) tipping is more and more common; Americans are accustomed to leaving 20% at minimum, however the most common practice in the UK is to leave between 10 and 12%. In nicer restaurants up to 15% (provided that the service charge is not included) is a good rule of thumb. It is worth note that in the UK servers must be paid the national minimum wage and restaurant owners are NOT ALLOWED to calculate tips into that figure to raise servers wages to the minimum. If there is no service charge, then likely the server is only earning that minimum wage and will be appreciative of any additional tip.

If you are truly disappointed by the service or the food, forgo a tip altogether. Don`t worry, here they won`t chase you into the street demanding a tip or bad mouth you to the other customers. It just doesn`t work that way.

In cafes or bistros there are usually change bins or donation bins close to the register, most with notes attached that make it clear tips are appreciated. Here it is easiest to simply round up slightly to the next whole pound, no more. Nobody is expected to tip for self-service food (for example: if you order at a counter, pay at a register, and then pick your food up at a window or if you pick up a `grab and go` sandwich from a deli case). If the food is brought to your table then leaving small change, up to £1, is perfectly adequate. Tip £1 or £2 to delivery people who bring food from a restaurant to you at another location.

Pubs are a different beast entirely.The UK is famous for it`s pubs but tipping is not customary. Play it cool. Say `and one for yourself` when leaving the change behind. This offer of a drink is not usually permitted while barkeeps are working, so they will pocket the change as a tip! Additionally, some pubs have table service which is equivalent to bus staff. It is ok to leave some change for them, considering that they often end up running your drinks to your table and taking additional orders. If your change is brought on a silver tray (yes, it really happens!) they are quietly requesting a tip. Oblige if the service was good.

Hotel Staff: Who should I tip?

Tipping in hotels, guesthouses, and B&Bs in the UK is a kind gesture. Tips are not expected but are greatly appreciated. The most commonly tipped employees are the porters and chambermaids, although in anything less than a 4-star hotel it is rarely common. If a porter helps to carry your bag(s) to your room the customary tip is £1 or £2 per bag, usually no more than £5 total. For chambermaids a £1 or £2 tip, daily, is more than adequate. Leave these tips on the bed or the bedside table. Hotel Concierge staff can be very helpful for first time travelers; they are a wealth of information from directions to restaurant suggestions and reservations. Tip them a few pounds for their helpful service, if so desired. Some hotels (and upscale restaurants) will have restroom attendants, tip them with small change and bless them, since without them, there would be no toilet paper or soap there. Tip hotel staff who bring room service to your room at your discretion.

Watch out for this: Many hotels now have begun adding an included service charge of around 10% - 12% on your total bill so make sure to keep an eye out for this when you are checking out. If you do not understand your bill, ask to have it explained.

In smaller hotels and guesthouses tipping is not expected as they tend to be family run establishments. Such places appreciate repeat business, referrals, or positive feedback on recommendation sites. B&B owners would probably not know what to do when confronted with a five-pound note. In this case, a gesture such as a nice bunch of flowers would convey your gratitude.

Taxi Drivers: Should I tip?

The first thing you will notice (particularly in London) about taxi service is that there is a big difference between a taxi (usually a black-colored cab) and a mini-cab. Literally anyone who can drive can become a mini-cab driver whereas taxi drivers have received lengthy training, tend to know their way around much more efficiently and are required by law to take the shortest route between points. The price of a black cab is usually markedly steeper than that of other services, but is worth the extra charge.

Tipping drivers is unusual, but appreciated, especially if they help you with your luggage or provide you with useful info about getting around. Most commonly rounding the fare to the nearest pound is customary, which is also a convenience for both the passenger and driver. While some may find this surprising, remember that multiple surcharges for a fare are already built into the metered price in taxis. If by chance your ride was very long or you asked the taxi driver to wait for you while running an errand and he obliged you can tip up to 10% or £5, whichever is the lesser. Needless to say, if your driver was rude or took you on an out of the way route to hike up the fare (which is illegal in black cabs, unless inevitable due to construction), do not leave a tip. If you`ve hired a private driver leave around £20 per day. If they went above and beyond you can always tip more. Always remember when travelling abroad that it is good practice to agree to a 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 per person for half a day, or £10 per person for a full day. Although most tour operators include a `tip` in quoted prices bear in mind that the guides are often paid a low wage, so if one is particularly enthusiastic or informative do not hesitate to slip them a little extra if you wish! The guide may refuse at first but politely insist if you have really enjoyed your experience. Alternately, offer to buy their lunch if you are on a full day trip and it is not included!

Miscellaneous: Is there anyone I should tip that I would not normally?

Other Services: In the event that you are in the UK 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 (which are usually all-inclusive and do not require additional gratuity) andthe 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.

Final Thoughts:

Remember that it is perfectly okay to abstain, especially if you are not happy with the service provided. This is also true for hotel staff, however if you should 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.

 

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