When you travel, it can be difficult to know how much to tip, or if you should tip at all. In the US, there’s a fairly clear expectation that you should tip at least 18%, however ordinary the service you receive, and if you can’t afford that add-on, you really shouldn’t be eating out in the first place. In France and Germany, you generally just round the bill up – so if your meal costs €8.70, you just give the server €10. Meanwhile, visitors to Australia and New Zealand will often leave a tip, and the server will politely accept the few extra dollars, and yet a local wouldn’t bother to leave a tip at all! So what are the rules on tipping in Cuba? Should you tip? And how much?

Should you tip in Cuba?

If you’re lucky enough to go to Cuba, you’ll (hopefully) find that service levels are high and the people offering a service are warm and friendly. You’ll find you’ll want to reward their efforts and hard work with a tip, but how much? Too little and you risk looking like a scrooge. Too much and you’ll feel like a clueless tourist, throwing away money without needing to, and creating an unfair inflationary tipping system other tourists will end up having to match. Thankfully there is a generally accepted level of tipping in Cuba. Unfortunately, you’ll find that the level of tipping in Cuba varies depending on what precisely what you’re actually being helped with. We provide you with more help below!

Cuba’s Two Currencies

You might already be aware that Cuba uses two different currencies. Most services aimed towards the tourist industry, including hotels, restaurants, tours, and attractions will operate using the Cuban Convertible Peso (three letter code CUC). The CUC is pegged to the US dollar, making it simple enough to work out how much you’ll be paying – and tipping – for something. Places off the beaten track and away from the main tourist destinations will also be happy to accept the local peso (moneda nacional or CUP), which is of a lower value compared to the US dollar. When it comes to tipping in Cuba, it’s best to offer tips in CUC, since you will at least know that you’re paying an appropriate amount, without needing to work out the exchange rate for the local peso you’re probably not widely using.

Tipping in Cuba: It Really Helps

People working in service industries are usually paid an hourly rate, and yet this is still a fairly low income on a global level. Most Cubans will make around $12 to $25 per month. This sounds amazingly low, but remember that the cost of living in Cuba is also amazingly low. Having said that, your tip will be very welcome, and has become an expected addition to the bill, rather like in the US. Your server is not being nice simply to receive a tip from you at the end of the evening, but that extra cash can go a long way to supporting the lives of the average Cuban.

The Magic Number

Let’s start with the easy stuff. When enjoying a meal, a day out at a spa, or when receiving a haircut, the magic number for tipping in Cuba is 10%. Its basically expected that you leave a tip of at least 10% for such services, with this rate bumped up further, to 15%, if you have received truly excellent service that has gone above and beyond what you were expecting. It’s worth checking your bill carefully, since many places on the tourist circuit might have already added this 10% to their pricing as a service fee. This means you obviously don’t need to add a further 10% on top! If the service was acceptable and as expected, then feel free to not pay anything else. But if the service was truly excellent, add another 5%, as we’ve suggested already. Double check your bill twice – leaving without tipping in Cuba can be a major social faux pas.

The Power of One

It’s always a good idea to have a few 1 CUC notes on hand when staying in a hotel for tipping individual staff members for small acts of help. For instance, when your bags are carried to your room, a 1 CUC tip is not only acceptable, but should be offered. It’s also worth noting that while you might be in the habit of leaving a tip for your maid on the day you check out of a hotel, but when tipping in Cuba, it’s more appropriate to leave 1 CUC for the maid, each day of your stay. Simply leave any tips in the room, and the maid will know it’s for them. Most larger hotels and resorts have an abundance of staff on hand, all there to offer you the highest level of service possible, and for extra helpful service, 1 CUC will be much appreciated.

When You Really Need to Go

Many public toilets, and toilets in stores and restaurants will have an attendant on hand at all times, diligently keeping things clean after each and every usage. This is a crappy job, both figuratively and literally, so you should expect to offer a small tip when using the facilities. Aim for around 50 cents (half of 1 CUC) ordinarily, though you might want to double this when using more luxury establishments.

Art is Not Free

Cuba is a musical wonderland, and if you’re ever imagined walking around and discovering spontaneous salsa music and dancing on a street corner, this is a reality in Cuba – particularly in parks and squares of Old Havana. Artists need to eat too, so after you’ve enjoyed the music they’ve played with passion, give the band around 2 CUC. This is equally appropriate to musicians working in bars and restaurants you’re in. You don’t need to tip each individual member of the band, but it’s considered somewhat rude to listen and then not give at least something.

Seeing the Sights

Tipping in Cuba is also applicable when it comes to a tour guide. Depending on the type and length of the tour, you should tip your guide anywhere between 2 and 5 CUC per day, at the end of each day. Just thank them and hand them the money – this is the done thing, and there’s certainly no reason to be embarrassed or coy about the transaction – you’re tipping someone for good work done, not donating to a charity. Likewise, you should remember to add 1 or 2 CUC to your taxi bills for the driver. You might want to increase this amount little more if your driver has been helpful with directions, shown you points of interest, or has helped you with your bags.

Tipping in Cuba: All you need to know

Forget any worries you might have had about tipping in Cuba. Here we’ve outlined everything you need to know to visit Cuba without fear of making a faux pas or appearing rude when connecting with the locals!

4 Comments

  1. Carl Weathers

    The avg. income in Cuba makes no sense. Everywhere says they make about $25/month. If you tip 10% in a restaurant and a meal cost $10 per person then a table of 4 would leave a $4 tip. Seems easy to make $20 in tips as a waiter, bar tender, bag carrier, etc. Are these people who work in the tourist service industry really making 30-50x what a doctor makes? I’m confused

    • Maia Mikitiouk

      Good point))

    • Jonathan Hidber

      sadly the answer is yes hurrah for communism

    • Justin

      Absolutely. It is known that in Cuba, people in the tourism industry make a lot more than doctors and lawyers. For example, it’s not uncommon to hear about Cubans with graduate degrees working as cab drivers in Varadero because they’ll make more.

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