HOW TO TIP IN HUNGARY

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. In Hungary, the giving of gratuities is always appreciated but never mandatory, although in several circumstances tips are more commonly expected, including some that are quite unique here! The questions `when?` and `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.

Currency: Can I pay in U.S. dollars, or Euros, or Forints?

You`ll often find that Hungary seems like a bargain compared to other European countries, because although Hungary is part of the European Union, it does not use the Euro as its currency. The Hungarian currency is the Forint (Ft, HUF). US dollars are not accepted. If you find prices quoted in Euros, which may be accepted in some larger locations, always ask their exchange rates. Most often the rates are unfavorable and you might be better off exchanging your currency first and paying in Forints. 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. In Hungary you will find that credit cards, such as Visa, Master Card and American Express, are widely accepted but there will likely be a premium for using them! 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?

To put this as politely as possible: when it comes to great service, Hungary just isn`t quite there yet. Do not let this dissuade you from leaving a tip. Try not to measure service in terms of friendliness, but by whether your order was taken promptly, your server was efficient, and whether or not you enjoyed you meal.

Nowadays many restaurants include a 12.5% `service charge` (szervízdíj in Hungarian) in the total, so make sure to check for this either on the bill itself or on the menu. Hungarians normally give an extra 10% of the price. It is considered rude if you don`t give a tip. It means that you were absolutely dissatisfied with the service. At more casual eateries, a tip jar will often be next to the cash register, or guests can round up to the next highest forint-bill denomination when paying the server. Bartenders in Budapest do not expect to always receive tips, but they are always appreciated. Typically, customers leave about 30-50 forints for each drink ordered, usually rounding up to the next 100-forint denomination above the total charge. In more upsale clubs or cocktail lounges, a 200-Forint bill is more in line with the norm.

Be aware that in many Budapest bars and ruin-pubs a restroom attendant is stationed outside the bathroom doors to provide everything from toilet paper to perfume to McDonald`s cheeseburgers (yes, for real). Oftentimes these attendants have a contract with the club to clean and service the bathrooms in exchange for the tips that they receive. Even if you do not take any of the toiletries or other offerings, it`s nice (but not required) to leave 20-50 forints per trip to the restroom, and more if you take advantage of the extra provisions - about roughly 500 forint if you have a fast-food burger, even though it won`t be fresh (but what do you expect?).

DO NOT: No matter what type of restaurant it is, leave your tip on the table when you leave. All tips should be given directly to the server or into the tip jar. When the waiter brings you the bill, he will stand around until you let him know how much you are going to pay in total. This is not meant to be rude, it`s just the way it`s done in Hungary. When paying by credit card, you may also find that the waiter will bring the card reader to the table to complete the transaction.

One local caveat: Some traditional Hungarian restaurants hire a house band to play live Gypsy music and other evergreen tunes, and the musicians may begin traveling from table to table to entertain individual dining parties. When the band is at your table, if you request a particular song and they can play it, you will be expected to provide a tip for the musicians; a 500-forint bill should suffice. However, if you do not request a song, there is no need to tip the musicians, even though you may experience mild pressure to do so.

Hotel Staff: Who should I tip?

Tipping in Hungarian hotels is not terribly complicated because you have to tip virtually anyone you come into contact with. 200-forint coins are excellent tender in hotels as you can use them to cover the tips for porters, room service attendants as well as hotel bar staff. To begin with the valet, a small tip is much appreciated. A 200-forint coin will suffice per occasion. Porters should receive a 200-forint coin per bag which they carry for you, or up to a 1,000-forint bill in total. Tip concierges with a 5,000 Forint bill if they do something extra­ordinary for you, or 500-1,000 forint for directions or making you reservations. Housekeepers do not expect tips, but when checking out it is greatly appreciated if you leave them approximately 200-300 forints for each day of your total stay.

Taxi Drivers: Should I tip?

First and foremost: It is important to always order cabs by phone in Hungary, or to board them at official taxi stands or in front of the airport or major hotels; we always discourage hailing taxis on the street, as overcharging cab drivers are unfortunately still quite common here. Once you have arrived at your destination, it is ordinary to tip approximately 5-10% of the total fare, or to round up the charge by about 100-200 forints for a typical ride of ten minutes or less. Airport-shuttle drivers will gladly accept a tip of 200-500 forints, especially if they assist with loading and unloading your luggage. If hiring a limousine or other specialty vehicle, drivers will expect a tip of about 5-10% of the total charge.

Needless to say, if your driver was rude or took you on an out of the way route to hike up the fare, do not leave a tip. 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. Tip guides between 4,000 - 5,000 forint per person for small-group or full day tours and 2,000 forint per person per day for larger groups of half day tours. Although most tour operators include a `tip` in quoted prices 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?

Spa/ Thermal Bath attendents: Hungary is known for it`s fantastic thermal baths. Take advantage while you are here and check them out. Many major spas hire locker-room attendants to help every guest secure their valuables before submerging into the hot-spring waters. It is typical to tip these attendants 100 forints, usually at the conclusion of each spa visit (try to find the same attendant who helped you at the beginning of your visit). This gratuity is often not expected among foreign spa visitors, but it will certainly be appreciated!

Other Services: In the event that you are in Hungary 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 in the 10% range.

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 here 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.