It seems to be a question that my clients are asking a lot recently, and although I think I have already covered tipping in a previous post, I guess it is about time to write a more up-to-date article on the topic. If you are travelling to Peru in the next few months whether on package tour or independently this article will help you understand what is customary to tip in Peru.
Do Peruvians Tip?
In general Peruvians don’t have much of a tipping culture. In the capital Lima where people are a little more affluent and perhaps it might be said more cosmopolitan, tipping is much more commonplace. In the provinces, away from the big city tipping is less common. In a bar in Cusco a local might tip just a few Soles for an evening of drinking (or nothing). For a 7 – 10 Soles lunch menu they might just leave a customary tip of 1 Sole per person. Unlike the US where it is almost mandatory to leave a 15% tip, in Peru there is no rule of thumb for tipping and Peruvians tend to leave whatever change they might find in their pocket at that moment in time.
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Putting Tipping into Perspective
Currently (2018) the minimum monthly wage in Peru is just 850 Soles (US$ 261). This wage or perhaps a little more will apply to many people that you will encounter whilst in Peru. Bar tenders, hotel reception staff, bellhops, shop attendants, drivers and airport transfer representatives etc. Guides are an exception with most earning a much higher basic wage of perhaps 3,000 – 4,000 Soles (US$ 1,000 – 1,333) per month. Having an idea of the wage of the person you are tipping will help put tipping into perspective and help you tip accordingly. Here is an easy rule of thumb that you can apply to most tipping situations. Tip an amount that would allow that person to double their basic wage in 1 month. So for a guide that would work out around S/. 100 per day, and a bellhop perhaps 30 Soles per day (10 people tipping 3 Soles per day).
Tip for Good Service Only
Even after 8 years of living in Peru, I am still astounded at just how bad Peruvians can be at offering good service. For high-end hotels, restaurants and services good service is very much the norm, but for many other things, bad service can really be quite common. Only tip if you thought that you received good service, and don’ be afraid to tip nothing if you received the contrary.
Tipping Tour Guides
Tour guides generally work hard day in day out, and I think that a tour guide at minimum should be able to double his/her monthly income through tips. The amount of tip you offer depends on how much time you have spent with the guide and whether you had a private of group tour. Here is my suggestion of what is customary to tip in Peru for guides:
Private Tour, Full Day: S/. 50 – 60 (US$ 17 – 20) per person.
Private Tour, Half Day: S/ 30 – 35 (US$ 10 – 12) per person.
Shared Tour, Full Day: S/. 20 – 25 (US$ 7 – 8) per person.
Shared Tour, Half Day: S/. 15 -17 (US$ 5 – 6) per person.
Drivers play an important part in getting you from place to place whilst in Peru, so it is also customary to tip drivers as well (this doesn’t apply to taxi drivers). Drivers in Peru are notorious for bad driving, and although this rarely applies to drivers used tourism, from time to time their driving standards can slip. Therefore, if you had a comfortable experience getting from A to B tip accordingly, however, if on the contrary you have had a hair-raising experience don’t feel obliged to leave anything! Here is what I think is customary to tip in Peru for drivers:
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Private Tour, Full Day: S/. 10 – 15 (US$ 3.50 – 5) per person.
Private Tour, Half Day: S/ 8 – 10 (US$ 2.50 – 3) per person.
Shared Tour, Full Day: S/. 5 – 8 (US$ 1.50 – 2.50) per person.
Shared Tour, Half Day: S/. 5 – 6 (US$ 1.50 – 2) per person.
Tipping in Restaurants
The amount you tip in a restaurant really depends where you are eating. Obviously if you are dining at the acclaimed Astrid & Gaston in Lima, you would tip differently than if you were having a sandwich in Jack’s Café in Cusco. Here’s what I think works for me and what is generally accepted as customary to tip in Peru:
Acclaimed high-end restaurants: 15% of the total bill.
Mid to high-end restaurants: 10 – 15 % of the total bill.
Mid-range restaurants: 8 – 10 %
Low end restaurants: 3 – 5 Soles, or whatever coins you have handy.
Tipping Hotel Staff
As with all hotels around the world, it is customary to tip bellhops or staff that assist you with your luggage. Quite how much you tip depends on what level of hotel you are staying at, and ultimately what you feel comfortable tipping. In high-end hotels 10 – 15 Soles (US$ 3 – 5) is probably enough, whilst in a 2 -3 star hotel just a few Soles will suffice. It isn’t really necessary to tip any other member of staff at a hotel other than perhaps a waiter in a restaurant or a barman.
Inca Trail Tipping
If you hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu then it is customary to tip your guides and team of supporting porters. Tips for the porters are usually put into a hat and then presented to the head porter who will share out the tips accordingly. The chef may take a separate tip. Porters work incredibly hard on the Inca Trail. They leave the campsite after you, and arrive before you, usually waiting with your campsite and food already prepared. Don’t hold back on tipping your team of porters. These folk are usually pheasant farmers from local mountain communities trying to earn a little extra cash.
It is normal for the trekking group to collectively offer a tip to the guide or guides. The lead guide normally receives a larger tip than the support guide. Don’t forget to go prepared with some money for the tip, as there are very few ATM machines on the Inca Trail. Here is a rough idea of what you might tip:
Porters (shared out collectively): S/. 50 – 60 (US$ 17 – 20) per trekking person
Chef: S/. 20 (US$ 7) per person
Lead guide: S/. 100 (US$ 33) per person
Assistant guide: S/. 50 – 60 (US$17 – 20) per person