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Don’t Make This Tipping Faux Pas

One of the most enduring travel conundrums is figuring out whom to tip and how much. Should you tell your Moroccan cabbie to keep the change, or tack an extra 10 percent onto your New Zealand restaurant bill? (The answers, in case you’re keeping score at home: yes and no.)

If you’re feeling clueless in a new country, it may seem only logical to ask whether a tip is appropriate. Resist the urge, writes Caroline Costello in Tips for Tipping Abroad:

“A common mistake made by travelers is asking their service person if he or she requires a tip. Not only does this present a conflict of interest to a cash-strapped service person who doesn’t normally take tips, but in countries where saying what you mean is not the social norm, a clueless traveler may end up stiffing a polite waiter or bellhop. For example, in India, a service person whose income is mostly generated by tips may say that he or she requires no gratuity out of modesty and good manners. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tip if it’s the acceptable practice in your destination!”

A good guidebook will always offer advice on how much to tip and under which circumstances; you can also find this sort of information on sites like the Magellan’s Worldwide Tipping Guide. But if you’ve arrived in your destination unprepared, you can ask about tipping norms, as long as you don’t ask your waiter. The staff at the local visitor center or your hotel front desk should be able to assist you.

For more help, see our guides to Hotel Tipping and Tipping Etiquette.

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