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How much to tip?

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Illinois
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47 posts
33 reviews
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How much to tip?

Four in my family will be traveling to and staying in Fortuna in a couple of weeks. Needing to know how much to tip the various people we will encounter such as our van driver who pick us up in San Jose, housekeepers and taxi drivers. Should I tip in colons or would dollars be more appreciated? How much is appropriate? I don't want to throw money around like an ignorant tourist (which I guess I am) but I want to be able to acknowledge good service in an appropriate way.

Boulder, Colorado
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1,749 posts
3 reviews
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1. Re: How much to tip?

We usually leave $2 for housekeeping per room. Bar $1, waiters $2, taxi depends on distance. We tip in american dollars.

Atlanta, Georgia
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2 reviews
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2. Re: How much to tip?

Tipping is a tricky issue here. To begin with, Costa Rican culture, in general, does not tip - although there are regional exceptions, mostly in the San Jose area. On the other hand, a large continget of tourists come from the US - a huge tipping culture, which clashes with the local non-tip culture. Throw in the various European tipping cultures (the second largest tourist group) and you get a very confusing mix of do's and don'ts.

That said, most Ticos do not tip taxi drivers nor do taxi drivers expect a tip. If you do tip, they will likely be very, very grateful.

If you want to tip housekeepers, do what feels right to you but keep in mind that hourly wages rarely exceed US$2 for many of these jobs. You should adjust your tip accordingly and not apply North American standards.

Restaurant bills do include a 10% mandatory service charge as well as 13% VAT. It may seem like a lot at times but these numbers are mandated by law - although you will find out that the law isn't always applied! The 10% service charge is generally distributed among ALL restaurant staff (kitchen, busers, etc.) to varying degrees/percentages - although some places manage these funds differently. In essence, this means that anything you tip above the 10% WILL reward your waitstaff, and your waitstaff only. Consequently, if they provided exceptional service, tipping a little more is the only way to make sure their service is rewarded directly.

The local currency is the colon, of course, and you should tip (and pay) in this currency. However, nobody will get upset if you pay or tip in US$ - it is commonly accepted and Ticos do it, too. You will find that some prices are quoted in US$ (some restaurants, hotels, tours, and many things that are geared toward tourism) and if they are, it is perfectly fine to pay in US$ without asking.

Unfortunately, some people interpret the haphazard and unquestioning use of US$ by Americans as some sort of arrogance. Thus, to be curteous, I would ask if it is okay to pay in "dollares" if prices are quoted in colones - although there truly is no risk of rejection.

San Jose, Costa Rica
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46,017 posts
32 reviews
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3. Re: How much to tip?

In restaurants...10% is already included...if you like to give some extra is fine...drivers...ina 3 hour drive and English speaking driver...maybe $20.00 and Non bilingual maybe $10.00.

Maids at hotels maybe $ 3.00 a day..

In Costa Rica...we like dollars...if you can tip in good old dollars is a little better!!

Do not throw money around...you are a nice person...I can said that...because you are humble enough to ask about this topic!!

Thank you for being so kind ... we love people like you and your family!!

R.A Luis

Just buckle up and enjoy the ride in paradise!!

Glenside...
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35 posts
10 reviews
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4. Re: How much to tip?

Past forum with the same question:

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g309236-i3267-k108…

Tampa, FL
Destination Expert
for San Jose, Costa Rica
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2,209 posts
1 review
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5. Re: How much to tip?

Here we go again. this question has been addressed many times before. Try doing a search next time first before asking a question as you might find most of your questions already covered. In this case the link above is just one of the many threads on this subject.

There probably are as many views on this as there are members on this forum. With all due respect to RA, I think his standards are way on the high side, which is particularly surprising (or maybe not) given he is a tico, which as a group tend to tip much less if at all. I have to complement Panem on his (her?) diplomatic and balanced answer to this question.

Personally here is my own approach. Sometimes colones make more sense to use (as with leftover change) and sometimes dollar bills make more convenient round amounts (particularly on larger tips)

Hotel staff - bell boys $1/bag (or 500c ea.) though I usually prefer to carry my own luggage since I don't pack that heavy.

Hotel staff- maids $1/day at most places or $2/day at fancier ($100+/day) hotels, although actually I often actually leave the equivalent each day in left over change or 1K colone bills

Taxi drivers - them you're not "supposed" to tip but I usually let them keep the small change leftover from my 500 colone coin or 1K note since I don't really want to be bothered with the little stuff.

Restaurants-I tip only when the service is especially good and then only about 5% (keep in mind that 23% is already added to your bill when calculating how much if any to give beyond the servicio that is already included or your effective percentage may wind up being even more than you normally give at home)

Sodas- 10% is generally not included at less formal restaurants and again I generally leave the change though this is not really expected

Tour guides- $1-5 per person with more given for being in a smaller group (smaller group usually means more personal attention ie closer to $5/pp, larger groups means they're already making alot more in tips when you add up everyone else ie closer to $1/pp) or for better service (basic service closer to $1/pp, going the extra mile closer to $5/pp)

TourVan driver- sometimes these guys provide even better service than the guide himself, if so don't be afraid to give him an extra $2-3 bucks too.

Private drivers- frankly I never use these myself since I usually either rent or take the bus, but $20 seems like kind of a lot considering that these guys are self-employed entrepreneurs and they are already charging a pretty penny. For many their main justification for charging their already high fees is that they act as more than just a driver, so why would you tip a huge amount extra for what they're supposed to be providing to you anyway? But that is just me.

Baton Rouge, LA
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17 posts
22 reviews
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6. Re: How much to tip?

We used Prolijo's advise when we where there. Nobody was ever looking for a tip. Infact it was kinda hard giving the tip. We had 2 drivers leave before we could give them a tip and they helped a lot with luggage and deserved a tip.

Illinois
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47 posts
33 reviews
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7. Re: How much to tip?

With all due respect to Prolijo, I did quite a bit of research on the links but did not find anything useful or specific to CR. I had looked through all the recent posts and didn't see anything either. Maybe there is a better way to search, but I didn't find it. Even though some people find it redundant, I find that repeating a post periodically on local customs is not a bad thing. It helps keep people educted, espeically for those of us who are only occassional travelers.

That aside, I greatly appreciate the comments and responses and I am REALLY looking forward to La Pura Vida

Calgary, Canada
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3,544 posts
20 reviews
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8. Re: How much to tip?

Allen, for future reference, there's a search feature at the top of these posts. If you search on this page, you'll only get posts within the La Fortuna forum. You can go back to the general Costa Rica forum to get a wider search (which will include La Fortuna).

Personally, I would rather see this posted 10 times/day than have Canadians and Americans randomly tip what they would at home. It raises expectations for other travelers and raises prices for locals. When I was in Mexico, traveling with Mexicans and I left too big a tip (although much lower than I would at home), the Mexicans gave it back to me and said "Please don't do that, we have to live here." Meaning if foreigners keep leaving big tips, the locals will be required to leave bigger tips in order to get the same service.

And tipping is a horrible part of our culture to impose on others. Here in Canada, people in the service industry are worse off for it. Restaurant owners underpay their staff, expecting customers to cover it with tips. Some customers tip poorly, thinking that it should only be for exceptional service (which is how it started) or miscalculate how much to leave. In some restaurants, the waiters have to pay the tips to the kitchen staff (so the owners can cut their salary as well), and they calculate the amount owed based on how much food was sold. I have known waitresses who had to pay out of their own pocket because of this system because they didn't make as much tips as the kitchen decided they should have. It works out great for waiters in higher end establishments. But it doesn't require more effort to bring me a $60 steak as it does to bring me a $10 hamburger, so why should the server of steak make 6 times as much?

Tampa, FL
Destination Expert
for San Jose, Costa Rica
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2,209 posts
1 review
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9. Re: How much to tip?

Amberm,

I agree with all your points 1000% and it probably does bear repeating. The problem is that everytime this question comes up in a new thread you get the same people on the one hand saying "keep the tips sensible" while on the other hand the same other set of people saying "but they were all so wonderful they ALL deserved above average tips'(huh? how can they all be above average?) or "one should be allowed to tip whatever THEY want" (never considering what effect that might have on market expectations for everyone else). I'm more than happy to repeat myself if it will educate a newcomer to our way of thinking. OTOH, I think the repeated debate never really resolves anything, may just confuse new readers with the conflicting points of view and probably never changes any of the minds stuck on either side.

Allen,

No offense meant. As I said before you're not the 1st newcomer to repeat an old question or to have a little trouble with the search system (nor will you be the last). There are plenty of kind people around who will be happy to repeat their answers (or new peope to chime in) or direct you to the right place. Just don't make a habit about it! ; )

Atlanta, Georgia
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1,327 posts
2 reviews
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10. Re: How much to tip?

I agree - excessive tipping corrupts the system by imposing the system of a different country. It makes life harder for almost everybody - including locals, expats, and tourists from other countries. In some cases, I have seen wait staff discuss who would be sacrificed to serve the European or Tico table because nobody wanted work at a table where expected tips are lower. Sometimes, service is worse, too. Much better to wait for a bunch of U.S. visitors who don't consider what effect their behavior has here - fortunately, only a few never truly consider their own effect on others. Nonetheless, naturally everyone can tip whatever they feel is right and we all stumble across situations in which we don't do the right thing because we simply don't know.

Personally, I think tipping is fine within the parameters of the country's tipping system while considering average salaries. Although one might not know exactly how much people on average make, I think just about anyone can wager an educated guess by looking at the material possessions of locals - and yes, unfortunate as it might be, those are important to many people and cultures.

I also think it is quite okay to leave the extra dollar or two that might make a tip seem excessive IF it is warranted and IF I received outstanding, excellent, beyond-the-ordinary service. I do not think tipping based on "I have so much more," "these poor people," or "10 bucks is nothing to me" is a good thing - but there's a lot of that going on as well.