How much to tip in the USA

By 11 June 2017 Video lessons 10 Comments
how much to tip in the usa

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Hey there, and welcome to Speak English with Christina, where you’ll have fun becoming fluent in American English. If you’re traveling to the US, or if you live in the US, there are a few “rules” you need to survive. Speaking English is one, and the other? Knowing how to tip. Tipping is a big part of American service culture, and not just at restaurants. So, it can save you a lot of trouble if you know the rules of tipping.

Let’s go!

Before we get into tips, let me just remind you that you can get a free English lesson every week if you’re a member of my Speak English Ambassadors Email list. You can join at, and I’ll send you some special welcome gifts too!


Now, about tips. Do you know how much a server in a restaurant is paid per hour?

Probably around $2.00. Yep. $2 per hour. This is why tipping is important. The server’s salary comes from your tips.

Today, we’ll imagine a trip to the US and all the tips that go with it., so you know how much to tip in each situation. Let’s go!


This is where the tipping adventure begins! Although it’s not the most frequent situation, sometimes airport porters will help you with your bags.

It’s customary to tip $1-$2 per bag that they help you with. Maybe they put it on a trolley, take it to your taxi. So they deserve a tip. And if porter meets you at the gate with a wheelchair, $3-$5 tip is normal for this service.


Dream of taking a yellow cab like Carrie in Sex in the City?

Just remember that taxi drivers generally expect 10-20% tip on top of the fare, the price for the taxi. A lower tip if the driver doesn’t help you with your bags, is not very nice, the taxi smells bad, etc.

Higher if the driver is polite, helps you with your bags, is wearing deodorant, etc. And in some big cities like New York, the expected tip is around 20-25%.


I hope you have a lot of bills for the hotel because there are lots of situations where you’re expected to tip. Let’s start with the trip from the airport to the hotel. If the hotel sends someone to meet you at the airport, they get $10-$15 in tip for their time and effort.

If someone comes to carry your bags from the taxi or shuttle to the front desk, of from the front desk up to your room, you should tip $2-$3 per bag.

As for the cleaning service, it’s nice to leave them $2-$5 for each day of your stay. It’s even better if you leave the tip for them each morning, instead of all at the end. It’s not always the same person who picks up your dirty towels, so this way, the cleaning person of the day is sure to get their tip.

And it’s also nice to leave a little thank you note, but this isn’t expected. It’s just nice. And maybe they’ll give you a few extra little bottles of shampoo if you’re lucky.

If the hotel has a concierge and they did something for you during your stay–booked a visit for you, arranged a car rental, called taxis for you, for example–it’s customary to give them $10-$20 at the end of your stay, as you shake their hand to say “Thanks for all your help during our stay.”

With all these tips, it’s easy to see why Air BnB is so popular…


After you check in to your hotel, you want to have a drink to celebrate. At a bar, it’s normal to tip $1 per drink if you have just 1 or 2 drinks.

If you have 3 or 4 drinks, it’s ok to tip $2 total. But if you’re paying a round of drinks, it’s easiest to just add 10% to the bill. And yes, you tip even if you go to the bar to get your drinks yourself.


Then, it’s dinner time! At restaurants, 15% to 20% of your total bill is the standard tip rate. And it’s more like 20% in big cities. So if your bill totals $100, leave $15 to $20 as tip. 15% if the service was good, 20% if service was really good.

If you weren’t happy with service, it’s still customary to leave at least 10%. If you were really, really unhappy, you can leave no tip, but you should explain why to the manager. Or the server may run after you to ask why you left nothing!


Buffets are a little different from sit-down restaurants. At a buffet, no one brings your food to you, but someone does bring your drinks, and cleans the dishes from the table, so you can return and continue pigging out. Because, that’s why buffets exist, right?

At a buffet, it’s normal to leave 10% of the total bill as tip.


You want to get your hair styled, you’re expected to tip. 15%-20% is the standard, plus $3-$5 for the person who shampoos your hair.

Sometimes the staff can’t add the tip on to your official bill, so if you go to the hair salon, be sure to have a lot of small bills on you.


To basically, 15-20% is more or less standard in most situations. But if you’re not sure, there’s a handy app called Global Tipping that you can put on your smartphone. It’ll tell you how much to tip depending on the situation and where you are. Makes tipping easy, but not any cheaper.

What about you?

Have you ever gone to a hotel, restaurant, bar, or hair salon in the US? How did you decide how much to tip? Or did you know that you should tip? Tell us about your tipping adventures in the comments!

Don’t forget to join my Speak English Ambassadors email list at, so you can get a new English lesson every Tuesday. 

Thanks so much for being part of the Speak English Community. I’m Christina, and I’ll see you next week!

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