Tipping is a fraught issue for every traveller. A tip considered essential in the US, will get you dirty looks if offered in Japan, where tips are insulting. Some places are happy with 10% of the bill, others expect 15-20% for even average service. And what do you do when there is no bill – for concierges, valets, housekeepers and bellhops? Happily, London does not have much of a tipping culture; tipping in London does exist, but it is largely very simple to navigate. Here’s an easy primer on when and how much to tip during your stay.
Most restaurants nowadays will include a “service charge” on the bill, usually 12.5% of the total – this is generally the only tip that is expected. You can feel free to leave it off or pay extra depending on the service you received; the staff do earn wages. Some establishments will share tips equally amongst the staff or tips paid by credit card may go straight to the house, so if you think your waiter deserves extra, you can give him or her a cash tip. Where no service charge is specified, you are generally not expected to tip – but it will of course be appreciated if you do. The 12.5% rule also applies to bars and hotel room service, but if they don’t do the calculating for you, it’s fine to round down to 10%.
In luxury Belgravia and Paddington hotels London tipping etiquette is much the same as it might be in the States. Tip bellhops £1-5 per bag, leaning more towards £5 for heavier bags or showing you round your room; tip again if you ask for help with your bags as you check out. Housekeeping will not always expect a tip, but some hotels will leave an envelope in the room should you wish to tip your housekeeper. No need to do this every day – £5-10 at the end of a week’s stay is the rule of thumb.
For a concierge, tip based on the service they provide. Booking a table at a popular restaurant is worth a few pounds; obtaining hard-to-find tickets to a sports event or show should attract a tip of around £10. You can also tip your concierge in a lump sum when you check out, if you know you will be using their services regularly.
Hotel door staff will be happy with £1-2 for hailing you a cab. If driving, tip your valet £1-5 when your car is brought around, and if you are being shuttled to and from the hotel, a tip of £1-2 – or £4-5 per party – is usual.
For taxi drivers, tip expectations vary depending on the kind of cab you take. London cabs come in three types: black cabs, minicabs and Uber cars. A black cab can be hailed on the street and comes with a highly knowledgeable driver, and a fare to match. Fares are usually paid in cash with a tip of 10%. Minicabs must be booked over the phone or through a minicab office on the street; they are less exclusive and generally cheaper, with tipping not mandatory but appreciated. Uber or Hailo cars are booked via an app; they are fast, cheap and cheerful, navigating by GPS. The fare is automatically deducted from your nominated credit card at the end of your ride and drivers don’t take payment themselves. A tip is not expected, but if you choose to give one in cash it will be well-received; the amount is up to you.
Don’t stress too much over tipping etiquette; as the culture is not so firmly engrained here as elsewhere, you’re unlikely to give mortal offence if you do slip up. However, if your home country has a bigger tipping culture, you may find that UK standards of service are somewhat different to those you are used to! Embrace the cultural difference – it’s one of the many delights of travel.