Tipping etiquette in Cancun?
April 13, 2009 7:12 AM   Subscribe

I'm headed to an all-inclusive resort in Cancun this weekend, and I was wondering about the tipping etiquette. Though officially, tips are included in the overall cost, I've read online that it's wise to tip anyway. Does anyone have any experience with this?

What sort of tip would be appropriate to a bartender (per drink), for example? Should I also be tipping the housekeeper? Should I be tipping in dollars or pesos? If pesos, will I be able to get them out of a bank machine (my regular method for exchanging cash) or should I exchange at the airport?

(Bonus question -- should I be worried about drinking water/ice while I'm there? I'm staying at Catalonia Riviera Maya, if that makes a difference.)

Thanks a lot for all your help! I'm looking forward to a relaxing vacation, and your answers will help me to relax even more!
posted by cider to Travel & Transportation around Cancun, Mexico (10 answers total)
In my experience down there, tipping tends to get me better/quicker service, particularly in places like down at the pool/beach, where you tend to have one person working your area (assuming you stay in one place). We typically gave a dollar or two per trip, for 2 to 4 drinks.
posted by inigo2 at 7:28 AM on April 13, 2009

Best answer: Tips given over and above the included tips are always appreciated. In some resorts the tips are pooled together and doled out according to your job title rather than the level of service, so you can get varying experiences from different waiters, maids etc. The tip you hand them yourself is theirs to keep. I usually tip in dollars and at the beginning of the interaction ie I tip my maid a few bucks the first time I see her leave a few bucks every day on the nightstand with a note-I find a bartender I like and tip them the first day and make sure I go back to that one for the rest of the stay. I've always gotten really far above average service this way.
posted by hollygoheavy at 7:38 AM on April 13, 2009

Tap water in some areas of Mexico is not safe. People usually drink bottled water. It's fine to shower/swim in, but avoid ice and drinks made with tap water. Although, if you are staying in a fancy resort, this might not be necessary. When I was in Cancun, I drank bottled water, but was not as careful with whether food was made with tap water (especially when we went out drinking). We definitely did not go to fancy places, and we were fine. In other parts of Mexico, you have to be a lot more careful; we were on a 2 week bus trip, and by the end everyone had had the runs at least once -- but, boy the food was good -- it was worth it.
posted by bluefly at 7:41 AM on April 13, 2009

look on tripadvisor for your resort -- there usually are examples of people who tipped and how much they tipped and what kind of service they got in return

TripAdvisor - Cancun Hotels
posted by knockoutking at 8:11 AM on April 13, 2009

Best answer: Absolutely you should tip. I was just in Cuba for the first time at an all inclusive resort. I tipped the maid, the bartenders, the pool people, the boat people, you name it. I generally tipped 1 peso for anything. So, bartender makes me a drink, I give him a peso. I left my maid 2 pesos each day. Over the course of 7 days, I spent $170 on tips.

The staff there loved me. My drinks were made first and were better made (fresher sprigs of mint, etc.), the staff went out of their way for me all the time (at buffet meals, I even had waiters tell me "no, just sit" and they went in the kitchen and made me fresh omlettes instead of having to eat out of the hot plate thing). Staff would call my name across the yard or park or pool when they saw me, "Hey YSSTOG!". My 20 minute catamaran ride lasted an hour and was given to me spur of the moment even though they have a strict "book 24 hours in advance" policy. The benefits of tipping went on and on.

In contrast, while there, I met 2 girls who didn't tip. They just couldn't afford to. Their service was substandard, to say the least. Once the girls started hanging around with me, their service increased drastically. The staff wanted to please me so they treated my friends well.

Of course, Cuba is not Cancun, but, really, if you can afford it, what's the big deal? $170 over the course of the week really helped these people lead a better life and it's a day's work for me. I found out that the $17 (6 nights x 2 pesos and a 5 peso bonus at the end) I left my maid over the course of the week basically doubled this woman's monthly income.

I found out how much they love tippers when, on my last day, I literally ran into a staff member while rounding a corner. It was a woman I'd never seen before and she saw me with my bags. She said, "Are you leaving?" and I said I was and she looked very disappointed and when I asked why she said, "In the kitchen there is a note that you are a good person." They literally posted descriptions of the customers who treated them well so that new staff coming in would know who respected their hard work.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 8:29 AM on April 13, 2009 [10 favorites]

I would tip the maid and whoever brings drinks by the pool. Tip in American dollars because today the US/peso exchange rate is 1 U.S. dollar = 13.1235318 Mexican pesos and you don't want to be multiplying or dividing by 13.1235318 while you're on vacation.
posted by cranberrymonger at 8:33 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Upon review... YSSTOG's post is excellent. A weekly tipping "budget" is a good idea.
posted by cranberrymonger at 8:35 AM on April 13, 2009

Agua: Ice and ice-based drinks are safe to drink at the all inclusive resorts like the one you're staying at. The places I've stayed at make a point of saying they treat the tap water in the rooms and will often have bottled water to drink anyway. A 1.5l bottle of water will set you back less than 10 pesos/$1 and that's usually what I carry around with me. If you want icy drinks like margaritas or pina coladas, go crazy, the ice will be as clean as your favorite bar in the US. In your all inclusive resort food will be prepared with clean water/ice, when venturing outside the resort, you may run into food prepared with tap water (but if is boiled first the nasties are killed).

Pesos/Dollars: The dollar is pretty widely accepted everywhere. However, with the exchange rate at its current levels, you can save a few bucks on things if you pay in pesos (although many savvier places will have adjusted their exchange rate so you're not going to save much). Tipping in pesos could be nice for the person working since they don't have to go to a currency exchange to get pesos, but like I said in the tourist zones the dollar is accepted everywhere.

Note that your bank will charge you upward of $5.00 each time you use an ATM outside your home country which could add up. Your bank may also add a fee of up to 3% currency exchange to the withdrawal (and any charges you make with your card while in a foreign currency). Although the exchange rate you get from the ATM is great, these fees will eat into any savings you'd get. My bank, BofA doesn't charge the ATM fee when I use Santender bank ATM machines in Mexico. Check with your bank to see if they have similar agreements. Even with the agreements, the ATMs in Cancun that are convenient to may not be eligible, so don't the ATM for just a few bucks.

The worst place to buy pesos is your bank at home, followed by the exchange place at the airport in the US, followed by the exchange place at the airport in Mexico.

Propinas: I have a bowl of Mexican coins I'll put into baggies and take on trips for tipping (I accumulated them over many tips and am not used to paying for things with coins and most exchange places won't buy coins). I'd tip 10 pesos a drink, or a 20 peso note for larger/orders/great service. If I don't have pesos, I'll tip a buck. Many people will tip less or nothing at all. Even though the tips are included in your rate, the server won't see much of that and many of them make very little so the tips help them make ends meet.
posted by birdherder at 8:44 AM on April 13, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! This is all very helpful.
posted by cider at 12:04 PM on April 13, 2009

Of course, Cuba is not Cancun

Having been to both places, this is very true. In Cuba, tips are welcome and well rewarded; however, many people don't tip and get decent service. In Cancun, tips are expected. No tipping means you'll get awful service; small tips (ie: $1-2/drink) will get you decent service; generous tips (ie: over $2/drink) will get you good service. At a club in Cancun, you won't get noticed (even if you get an all-you-can-drink bracelet) unless you pony up at least $20 to your bartender with your first drink and keep going back to him for drinks -- and $2 tips.
posted by Simon Barclay at 5:25 PM on April 13, 2009

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