So what are the rules on tipping in Cuba? Should you tip? And how much?
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!
Tipping in Cuba, Should You Tip?
If you’re lucky enough to come to Cuba, you’ll find that the people offering a service are warm and friendly and 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 your money and creating inflated tipping system that other tourists will end up having to match.
Thankfully there is a generally accepted level of tipping in Cuba. The level of tipping in Cuba varies depending on what precisely what you’re actually being helped with.
Tipping in Cuba: It Really Helps
People working in the service industry are usually paid an hourly rate and yet this is still a fairly low income on a global level. Most Cubans will make around USD$12 to USD$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. That extra bit of cash can go a long way to supporting the life of an average Cuban.
Tipping in Cuba, the Magic Number is 10%
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.
Double check your bill twice as many places on the tourist circuit may have already added the 10% to the final bill as a ‘service fee’. If the service was simply acceptable and as to be expected, then feel free to not pay anything else. But if the service was truly excellent consider adding another 5%, as we’ve suggested already. Remember that leaving without tipping in Cuba can be a major social faux pas.
What to Tip in Your Hotel
It’s always a good idea to have a few small EURO or USD 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 EURO or USD 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 EURO or USD for the maid, each day of your stay. Simply leave any tips in the room and the maid will know it’s for them.
When You Really Need El Bano
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 USD $0.50 cents ordinarily, though you might want to double this when using more luxury establishments.
Buskers Need to Eat Too!
Cuba is a musical paradise and the and there are buskers everywhere, particularly in parks and squares of Old Havana. Talented as they may be artists need to eat too, so a tip of approximately USD$2 or €2 is about average. This is equally appropriate to musicians working in bars and restaurants you dine 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.
Tipping Tour Guides
Tipping in Cuba is also applicable when it comes to tour guides. Depending on the type and length of the tour, you should tip your guide anywhere between EURO/USD$2 to $5 per day. This is done at the end of a day tour or if it’s a longer tour then at the end of the whole tour. Just thank them and hand them the money – this is the done thing. There’s certainly no reason to be embarrassed or coy about the transaction – you’re tipping someone for a job well done, not donating to a charity.
Likewise in taxis, you should remember to add 1 or 2 EURO/USD for the driver. You might want to increase this amount little more if your driver has been really helpful with directions, shown you points of interest, or has helped you with your bags.
Forget any worries you might have had about tipping in Cuba. We hope this has helped you to better understand the tipping culture in Cuba!