Figuring out how much to tip when traveling abroad can be stressful. Tipping too much is a common mistake many travelers from the United States make when visiting foreign countries. Tipping etiquette varies from country to country, but here are some general guidelines:
Being a table server is considered a career in most European countries. Unlike the United States, European servers are paid fair wages and consider tips a bonus for good service.
When the bill arrives there may be a “service charge” of 15% included in the bill, especially in Mediterranean countries. Don’t assume this service fee is your waiter’s tip; the charge goes directly to management to help pay salaries, restaurant upkeep, etc.
In Italy, there may be a “pane e coperto” charge on your bill. This charge means “bread and cover.” It is a per person charge for the bread- whether or not it is consumed.
A good reference for tipping is: for good service leave an additional 10 %, if the service has been exceptional, leave 15%, and if the service has been unsatisfactory, don’t leave anything.
If a service charge is not included in the bill, a 10-15% tip is appropriate.
Hand the tip directly to the waiter in cash. If the gratuity is added to the credit card bill, your server may not get it. If paying in cash and the bill is 35 euros, hand the waiter a 50 euros and say, “40 euros” and you will be handed back 10 euros.
Rounding up the fare is considered the norm in most European countries. For example if the fare is 18 euros, give the cabbie 20 euros. If he does some extra service like carrying your bags or gives you an interesting narrative on the way to the hotel, you may want to tip a little more.
One euro per bag is a sufficient gratuity for hotel porters.
If the tour guide was engaging and pleasant, a tip of two euros is sufficient.
It’s hard for Americans to get out of the 20% tip mindset. Remember that European waiters don’t expect to receive a gratuity of that magnitude. When in doubt ask a local.