In the U.S. tipping is customary and expected for everything from lackluster to outstanding service. It is an etiquette that is ingrained in all trades, from wait staff at restaurants to our baristas, valets, cab drivers, porters, and many more trades. The question `when?` or `how much?` can leave some travelers confused, as the practice varies.

This guide attempts to cover most situations that you, as a tourist, will encounter. Hopefully using these `tips` will provide a smooth experience when interacting with locals in restaurants, bars, hotels, tour operators, and taxis.

Tips in Bulgaria are expected in the service industry especially in hotels, and restaurants with average tipping percentages between 10-15%. Tipping is a normal practice throughout the country and is welcomed in the travel industry. The tipping culture in Bulgaria has become more popular with the growing tourism industry, especially in the larger cities and resort areas.

Currency: Can I pay in U.S. dollars, or should I use the Bulgarian Lev?

The currency of Bulgaria is the Bulgarian Lev (BGN), or Leva (plural), one lev is made up of 100 ‘stotinki’. Some prices are published in Euro, however, although Bulgaria is part of the EU, it is not part of the Eurozone (the group of countries that use the euro as currency). You will need to exchange your currency for the Lev, which can be done upon arrival at the airport currency exchange desks of banks and specialized stores called Foreign Exchange Bureaus. ATMs can be easily found in big cities and larger towns.

A VAT percentage is a service fee for the state used in Western Europe and American countries, you are obliged to pay the service fee. The fee will be automatically included in your bill and can range from 12-15%.

Restaurants, Cafes, and Bars: When should I tip? How much is customary?

Tipping in restaurants in Bulgaria is a common practice, the wait staff gets paid minimum wage, so tips make up the bulk of their salary. Not leaving a tip is considered rude in restaurants, as the wait staff lives for their tips. That is unless of course, the service was terrible, but you should never leave anything less than 5% when dining out. If you enjoyed a good meal in a restaurant then leaving a tip between 10-15% is a good amount depending on the quality of food and service.

Hotel Staff: Who should I tip?

Tipping in Bulgarian hotels is expected, tipping is highly encouraged as the service staff earn a very low wage. Tipping porters around 1-2 leva per bag, housekeepers about 2 leva per night in a budget hotel, but around 5 leva for more luxurious hotels. You can tip daily or in a lump sum at the end of your stay.

Taxi Drivers: Should I tip?

Tipping your taxi driver in Bulgaria is a common practice and considered generous, leaving a 10% tip is normally a good amount depending on the total bill. Leaving 1-2 leva for a short ride is reasonable, or more if the taxi driver helped carry bags, etc. Always remember when travelling abroad that it is good practice to agree on a final fare before the cab driver begins driving.

Tour Guides: Is a tip required?

Tipping your tour guide in Bulgaria is customary, the guides and drivers should be given a tip of approximately 10% of the cost of the tour, the driver and guide will likely share the tip. Tipping small coins is considered to be an insult.

Miscellaneous: other services

Other services in Bulgaria that might require tipping include spas, leaving a tip for massage therapists of between 5-10% of the total treatment price. Tipping is considered good etiquette, in larger resorts, a service charge may be included, check the bill. However, you may wish to tip additionally if you received exceptional service. Hairdressers in Bulgaria normally don’t expect many tips, however, tipping 10% of your total bill would be a reasonable amount.

Final Thoughts:

Remember that it is perfectly okay to abstain, especially if you are not happy with the service provided. Unlike in the U.S., waiters are paid a living wage, and the expectations for tipping are lower in Bulgaria than in America. This is also true for hotel staff, though if you encounter a problem with the service within the hotel, we highly recommend speaking with the manager.

When paying for services in cash (which we generally recommend for services other than your hotel) remember to take your receipt. This is important for two reasons; If you leave a tip on a credit card, the person providing the service may not always get it, and if there is a discrepancy it is important to have your receipt to settle it with the manager of the establishment and to prove that you paid for the service.