Home Travel tip – Gratuities for tour guides

Travel tip – Gratuities for tour guides

Recently one of my customers asked me about rules for tipping tour guides.  She was traveling in Europe and had pre-booked some tours through an online service. She believed she had paid “top dollar” for the tour, and felt that a tip for the tour guide should be included in the total price, but she was uncertain.

Most tour guides do not expect tips, but they do appreciate them. If a guide is working through a booking service you can be almost certain they are making minimum wage and rely on tips. Private tour guides are not dependent on tips, however, they also appreciate being tipped.

How much is appropriate? I think that is subjective. Let’s say you paid $50.00 for a three hour walking tour with a small group of eight or less. I’d say if you loved the tour 20% is appropriate. If you thought it was just ok, maybe five dollars seems reasonable (that would be per person in your group.) If you thought it was really awful – let your conscious be your guide. It’s all subjective.

The point I really want to make here is don’t assume because you paid what you believe to be a high price for a tour that you should not tip. You could always ask the tour company. But first and foremost, do what you believe to be right.

I am in a service business – sometimes I get tips and sometimes I don’t. I never expect anything, but it is very much appreciated. I believe I provide a quality service and I bring a lot to the experience. My goal is to provide the level of service I would expect. When someone tips me, I feel it means they recognize and appreciate me and my experience.

I believe service people make the world go ’round. At the very least be kind. Never assume anything.

Please feel free to comment or share your thoughts.


Chrissie May 26, 2014 at 4:11 pm

Thanks Penny, the weird typos etc were coz I’m on the iPad!
I made it clear that the cellars we went to were really doing me a favour & they tasted top grand crus! In addition they left me with their wine exports to sort out. As you say, it’s really rude to leave nothing for the guide. The problem with tacking the equivalent if the tip onto the fee they pay for the day is that it’s taxed

Penny Sadler May 26, 2014 at 5:02 pm

I got the impression that this happens often, was that a wrong impression? Or was it only this one time? Either way, it blows to have to pay taxes on the money, but it beats not getting it at all. And then if you do get a tip on top of that – bonus!

Chrissie May 26, 2014 at 3:05 pm

I am a tour guide in a famous french wine region. In comparison with other guides here my prices are very reasinable and I put my heart & soul into my tours and I am extremely knowledgeable. I have quite a lot of wealthy people on my tours who buy cases of wine to be sent back to he US and I get them into amazing wine estates, but more often than not they leave no tip whatsoever after having flashed their cash all day long buying wine etc. Today I came home very dispirited as I had worked extremely hard putting a tour together for an american family of four, & worked 90 minutes over my time so i was working 91/2 hours with them – not a penny! Surely they see how hard I worked & how much effort goes into the tour! It’s the height of stinginess… to get a wadge of cash out to pay for the tour & just take the exact amount. I have now decided to put my prices up to cover a 20% tip ( which I rarely get). My are american wel off people so mean?

Penny Sadler May 26, 2014 at 3:55 pm

That sounds rude! I can’t speak for wealthy Americans, but I think it’s a good idea to include your tip in the service fee, especially if you’re price is already a bit lower than your competitors. If I can make a recommendation or two, when you do an extra service for someone that you’d like to be compensated for, be sure to let them know that you’re doing them a favor, otherwise most people will not be appreciative. Or tell them up front I can do this for you and my fee is an additional – whatever you think it’s worth. That may not be the way you would do it with French customers, but believe me, Americans will understand this. I think many people are confused about tours and how to handle tipping which is why I wrote this. I hope this is helpful and would be interested to hear how you get on.


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