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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, but in Spain it is fairly commonplace. There is no obligation to do so, however leaving something extra is customary. The Spanish 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.

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

The currency of Spain is the Euro (€). U.S. dollars are not accepted. Please be sure to have the correct currency on hand or be prepared to exchange your dollars for Euros upon arrival. 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 city.

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

First thing is first: Tipping varies throughout different parts of Spain. Currently in Spain there are much fewer instances of service charges or `cover charges` when compared to other European countries. At pricier restaurants you may encounter an IVA (value added tax, currently 10% on food and bar service) to the final bill. This should be clearly indicated on the menu. Also, some larger parties may see the words servicio or servicio incluido on the final bill, which is an indication that a gratuity has been included. Leaving more is welcomed but do not feel obligated to leave more. Lastly, most Americans are used to quick service. In Spain things frequently move at a slower pace; do not use the server`s swiftness (or lack thereof) as a gauge for the quality of service.

Now, as far as the actual tip, it is not required, but even locals frequently leave a little something, so in many cases it has come to be somewhat expected. Little is the key word for the amount of the tip though; do not overdo it! In Spain servers are paid a decent wage, unheard of in the U.S. Tipping is most common in the largest tourist areas, as a direct result of American tourists carrying their own customs abroad. Spaniards themselves tend to leave only their change behind in the bill pocket (anywhere from €0.50 to €1 or €2 for great service), and you should follow suit. It is rare to see anyone digging in their pockets for additional money for a tip! In mid-price or expensive restaurants the same rule of thumb applies, rounding up the bill to the next €5 or €10 increment. If you are truly disappointed by the service or the food, forgo a tip altogether. Don`t worry, 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 here!

For exceptional service 10% is more than admirable (or even expected) as a thank you for wonderful service.

In cafes or bars usually only tourists tip with any frequency, assuming the server or bartender is even allowed tips. In many places, it is kept by the owner unless discretely and directly handed to the server. Again, simply round up slightly to the next half or whole Euro. Nobody is expected to tip for self-service food (for example: readily prepared sandwiches from a café, a croissant, or pastry).

Hotel Staff: Who should I tip?

Tipping in hotels in Spain is rarely expected except in cases of exemplary service or if you solicit special services. The most commonly tipped employees are the porters and chambermaids. 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 Euros total. For chambermaids in moderate hotels a €1 tip, daily, is adequate; while in deluxe hotels €2-€5 daily is more suitable (tip them up front if you want them to treat you extra nice). 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 €5-€10 for their helpful service, depending on the length of your stay. Some hotels (and upscale restaurants) will have restroom attendants, tip them with small change and thank them, since without them, there would be no toilet paper or soap there.

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. Leaving a tip for a taxi driver is completely a personal choice. Most drivers will charge a minor fee for handling luggage; this is not a tip, but an official charge. Generally tourists are expected to cover toll road fees, so ask if your route will include any tolls. For the tip itself, round up the fare, or leave about 10%. 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. 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 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 €20 per person for a full day on private tours. 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!

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 La Rambla in Barcelona or the plazas of Madrid. 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 Spain 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.

Final Thoughts:

Remember that it is perfectly okay to abstain, especially if you are not happy with the service provided. Unlike in the U.S., waiters are paid a living wage, and the expectations for tipping are lower here 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.