HOW TO TIP IN PORTUGAL
In the U.S. tipping is customary and expected for everything from lackluster to outstanding service. It is an etiquette which is ingrained in all trades, from wait staff at restaurants to our baristas, valets, cab drivers, porters, and many more trades. In Europe tipping is not as habitual, but in Portugal it is fairly commonplace, especially in the tourist areas such as Lisbon or the Algarve. This is mainly due to tourists, as locals are less likely to tip, or at least do so in excess! There is no obligation to do so, however leaving something extra is customary. The Portuguese (like their neighbors in Spain) pride themselves on their manners, and tipping is simply polite. Remember though, do not try to speak Spanish here! You will not be met with any friendliness if you do so!
The questions `when?` and `how much?` that surround tipping 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.
The currency of Portugal is the Euro. US dollars are not accepted. Please be sure to have the correct currency on hand or be prepared to exchange your dollars for Euros upon arrival. In our culture we can put everything on credit and debit cards, however, in Europe you will find it useful to always keep a little cash on hand. Currency exchange desks can be found at the airport and many locations throughout the city.Restaurants, Cafes, and Bars: When should I tip? How much is customary?
First thing is first: Tipping varies throughout different parts of Portugal. Currently in Portugal there are very few establishments which include a service charges or `servicio,` as seen in other European countries. This should be clearly indicated on the menu if it is included, and if it is, do not feel obligated to tip excessively! Lastly, most Americans are used to quick service. In Portugal things frequently move at a slower pace; do not use the server`s swiftness (or lack thereof) as a gauge for the quality of service.
Now, as far as the actual tip, it is not required, but even locals frequently leave a little something. Little is the key word, do not overdo it! In Portugal servers do not earn as much as servers elsewhere in Europe, and especially in the off-season depend heavily on tips. This is still not license to shell out a ton, as in America. Tipping is most common in the largest tourist areas, as a direct result of American tourists carrying their own customs abroad. The Portuguese themselves tend to leave only their change behind in the bill pocket (rounded to the next whole Euro, with an extra Euro thrown in for good service), and you should follow suit. The practice also eliminates the need for your server to run back and forth to get change. In mid-price or expensive restaurants the same rule of thumb applies, rounding up the bill to the next 5 or 10 Euro increment. If you are truly disappointed by the service or the food, forgo a tip altogether. Don`t worry, they won`t chase you into the street demanding a tip or bad mouth you to the other customers. It just doesn`t work that way here!
For exceptional service 10% is more than admirable (or even expected) as a thank you for wonderful service.
In cafes or bars usually only tourists tip with any frequency, assuming the server or bartender is even allowed tips. In many places, it is kept by the owner unless discretely and directly handed to the server. Again, simply round up slightly to the next half or whole Euro, absolutely no more. Nobody is expected to tip for self-service food (for example: readily prepared sandwiches from a café, a croissant, or pastry).
Here is something paramount to remember: Couvert. This is an essential commandment regarding Portuguese dining etiquette; whatever you eat you must pay for, whether or not you ordered it. Waiters bring bread, olives and other goodies to your table the moment you sit down. This unordered appetizer is called couvert and can cost anywhere from 1 Euro per person up to to over 10 Euro. If you don`t want it, you can send it away, no offense taken. There`s also no shame in asking the price - `quanto e isso?`
Tipping in hotels in Portugal is rarely expected except in cases of exemplary service or if you solicit special services. The most commonly tipped employees are the Porters and Chambermaids. If a Porter helps to carry your bag(s) to your room the customary tip is 1 or 2 Euros per bag, usually no more than 5 Euros total. For Chambermaids in moderate hotels a 1 Euro tip, daily, is adequate; while in deluxe hotels 2-3 Euros daily is more suitable (tip them up front if you want them to treat you extra nice). Leave these tips on the bed or the bedside table. Hotel Concierge staff can be very helpful for first time travelers; they are a wealth of information from directions to restaurant suggestions and reservations. Tip them 1 or 2 Euros for their helpful service, if so desired. Some hotels (and upscale restaurants) will have Restroom Attendants, tip them with small change (around 0.50 Euro) and thank them, since without them, there would be no toilet paper or soap there.Taxi Drivers: Should I tip?
Tipping taxi drivers is unusual, but appreciated, especially if they help you with your luggage or provide you with useful info about getting around. Leaving a tip for a taxi driver is completely a personal choice. Most drivers will charge a minor fee for handling luggage; this is not a tip, but an official charge. Generally tourists are expected to cover toll road fees, so ask if your route will include any tolls. For the tip itself, round up the fare to the next 5 or 10 Euro mark, or leave about 10% of the total for long drives. 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 tour guides is very much appreciated but not expected. Depending on the length of the tour (half or full day) and whether or not it is a private tour, the common practice is in the range of 5 Euros per person for half a day, or 10 Euros per person for a full day. Bear in mind that the guides are often paid a low wage, so if one is particularly enthusiastic or informative do not hesitate to slip them a little extra if you wish!Miscellaneous: Is there anyone I should tip that I would not normally?
Other Services: In the event that you are in Portugal for a special occasion (wedding, honeymoon, graduation gift, birthday, etc..) and employ the services of a hairdresser, make-up artist, party planner, personal shopper, tailor or spa services and the like, use your best judgment in tipping. Factor in the cost and quality of service and, as a general rule, stay between 5% and 10%.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., the expectations for tipping are lower here. 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.