I have a couple specific questions about tipping in the UK.
April 9, 2015 9:32 AM   Subscribe

I'm from the US, so I'm accustomed to the tipping customs here. I understand they are different in the UK and want to know what is customary.

I will soon be visiting the UK. I am taking a car service from the airport to my hotel because I will have multiple bags and can't imagine trying to juggle them all on the train.

So I assume the driver will be handling/dealing with my bags. What is an appropriate tip?

Next, I am staying at a fancy hotel with a doorman. Do I need to tip the doorman if the person just opens the door for me? What if I get help with bags or need a taxi? What should I tip in that situation?

I am also taking a car service from my hotel to Southampton. This is the same car service, but unlikely to be the same driver. The driver and porters will be helping with my bunch of suitcases. What is an appropriate tip for the driver? For the porter?

Thanks in advance for any advice!
posted by Sheppagus to Travel & Transportation around Manchester, England (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
For the airport driver, £5. If he helps you with your bags and/or if it's a long journey, £10.

No need to tip the doorman for opening the door. But if he helps you with your bags slip him a £2 coin. If he gets you a taxi, give him £1.

For the Southampton trip - if this is London-Southampton, £20 for the driver - it's a long drive. I'm not sure from your question what the 'porters' will be doing. Just putting your bags in the car? £1 each. Anything more, £2 to £5, depending on what they're actually doing and how far they carry your stuff.
posted by essexjan at 9:54 AM on April 9, 2015

I'm British but I live in the US. Here's my hot take: anyone telling you there are hard and fast rules for tipping in the UK is imagining things. What you'd tip in the US is toward the upper end, not tipping at all is toward the lower end, but both are in the range of "normal".

It's not a faux pas to overtip, it's not going to break the bank, but it's not needed to ensure people make minimum wage. So tip whatever you feel is appropriate.

That's it.

Having said that, personally it would never even cross my mind to tip a doorman in the UK, especially if I were staying at a fancy hotel.
posted by caek at 10:08 AM on April 9, 2015 [9 favorites]

Ok, from the other end of the spectrum - no tips for any of that. Maybe round up the taxi to the nearest fiver if they helped with your bags, but not £20. I don't generally tip taxis or doormen in the UK. I've worked in plenty of hotels, it's not the norm (I mean, people do tip obviously, but substantially less than half of them and it's mostly foreigners).

I'd tip a bellboy who'd struggled up to my room with loads of bags though, or anyone else who's carried my heavy bags. About £2 sounds right. I'd also tip in restaurants (10-15% if there's no service charge), but not coffee shops or cafes without table service.

I don't think I'm particularly far from the median - I tried to tip my hairdresser last month after hearing all of you lot on here saying it's mandatory, and she gave me a really weird look and gave it me back, so obviously not quite so mandatory where I live.
posted by tinkletown at 10:13 AM on April 9, 2015 [9 favorites]

Also, if you are in a restaurant or pub and there's no obvious way of giving somebody a tip, there's a fair chance they aren't actually allowed to keep tips. Well over half the bar and waitressing jobs I had, some of which were in quite nice places you would have heard of, had explicit no tips allowed rules. If somebody overpaid their bill it went in the till, on pain of being sacked.

I remember getting a £20 tip one NYE, at a time when £20 was a huge amount to me - straight in the till :(
posted by tinkletown at 10:19 AM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Having said that, personally it would never even cross my mind to tip a doorman in the UK, especially if I were staying at a fancy hotel.

The most ambiguous thing here is that there's a slight expectation -- or at least a hope -- that American visitors will tip like, um, Americans for 'foreign visitor situations' in hotels and cabs. A British person in the same situation might slap on a few quid for long cab rides and not consider it necessary to tip door staff unless they did something well beyond their job description, and that'd be considered fine as well.

For those situations, where you're 'American visitor' as opposed to 'generic customer', tip whatever you feel's appropriate.
posted by holgate at 10:25 AM on April 9, 2015

I'm an American living in the UK for 7 years now.

I wouldn't tip for any of those situations.

I might round up the fare for the driver by no more than a few pounds or so. Like if it was 56, give him 60.

Doorman, definitely no.
posted by vacapinta at 10:29 AM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm an American working for a company with a London presence, so I've been over a fair bit, used car services, stayed in nicer hotels, and spent a good bit of time with locals. My "American abroad" take from what I've picked up is:

Taxi: Round up to the nearest pound, maybe throw in one or two more if it was a long trip, but it's not mandatory.

Doorman, porter, bellhop, etc: No tip if they're just doing their job. If you have a lot of heavy bags or they go way out of their way for you, maybe hand over a pound or two. But again, not mandatory.

Car service: Same as doorman. Unlike cabbies, these guys already have the known cost of a trip and any other loss of business they may get factored in to their prices.

You didn't ask, but since it's probably the most frequent point of confusion...

Restaurant: TIp about half what you would in the US, if you're in a place that doesn't add gratuity to the check. If service was good, I usally add 10%, and I suspect even that is on the high end of what wait staff may get.

Bar: No tips, especially if it's a traditional place with no/minimal table service. If you're there for an extended period maybe make a round every now and then include "one for you" (the bartender) -- they may drink it, or may just ring up the cost as a tip for themselves, but either way you don't need to hand over extra cash.

UK folks may now chime in and tell me I'm totally wrong, but following these rules has generally gotten me by without looks of either "you skinflint" or "dumb over-tipping American" in my various journeys. YMMV.
posted by jammer at 10:43 AM on April 9, 2015 [4 favorites]

Another US to UK transplant, and I'll go with what Vacapinta and Winterhill said.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 10:43 AM on April 9, 2015

Englisher here. I round up taxi fares and add a pound or two if I've had a good conversation with the driver. Out in restaurants, yes it would be about 10% of the bill. Apart from that, the only other time MIGHT occasionally be in a pub if the barman / maid has been friendly or helpful or otherwise given good service; you might say "Have one yourself" as you pay and they might (but not always) deduct the cost of a half from your change. I would only really do this, though, if they'd been super cheerful or nice and / or if I was a regular, so probably not an issue here.

Hope you enjoy your visit!
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 11:07 AM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yank here. I ran a summer school in the UK from 2010 to 2012. I would round up the cab fare to the nearest pound (or if it was close, two), and tip 10% in restaurants (in London, and occasionally outside of London, some restaurants put this on your bill, which I found a bit cheeky). Otherwise I wouldn't tip.

But when I brought 35 jet-lagged American undergraduates to dinner at a pub their first night (having reserved tables in advance), I definitely bought a round for the staff!
posted by brianogilvie at 12:03 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

and tip 10% in restaurants (in London, and occasionally outside of London, some restaurants put this on your bill, which I found a bit cheeky).

Check the menu in restaurants, I'd say over half (and more likely in the more expensive places) will have something at the bottom of the menu that says "An optional 10% service charge will be added to your bill". Sometimes it's 12.5%.

In pubs/bars/cafes and restaurants where you order at the counter, there might be a tip jar on the counter.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 12:18 PM on April 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

I would tip the doorman if he alerted me discreetly that I had toilet paper stuck on my skirt, just before I went in to have tea with the queen; or if he saved my bacon in some other dramatic fashion, or I threw up on him.

Otherwise nope.
posted by emilyw at 2:19 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

All the mainstream takes on this issue have already been covered. Everyone that you meet (without exception) is earning the equivalent of $10 an hour or above.

I've spent my life in the two biggest cities in the UK, and I cannot recall a single incidence where over- or under-tipping made things awkward. I'm considered both foolish and imprudent by my friends for regularly tipping 10% as a baseline.

That said, (with no judgement intended), since you're definitely more affluent than the average person, if you're actively willing to tip at your usual US rates, you can do so, or anywhere in between. Unless you're not tipping at all, (and even then it's a long-shot), no-one here is likely to think twice.
posted by The Zeroth Law at 5:09 PM on April 9, 2015

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