A regular question received by our consultants is that of who to tip, and how much.
Tipping in Africa, while not compulsory, often contributes a substantial amount toward ensuring that those working in the service industry earn a living wage. It should, of course, be done on merit, for good service, and nobody should feel obliged at any point to hand out wads of cash for poor service.
In this blog, we will attempt to clarify who to tip, how to tip, and how much is the norm, in order for you to plan for your trip, budget-wise, and not have to worry about getting it wrong.
Tipping is often done in small denominations. Safaris, accommodation, etc. are booked and paid for in advance, or by credit card. This means that often, especially if you’re only in a country for a short period, you may not have local currency.
We advise changing a small amount – using this guide you can calculate about how much you’ll need for tipping during your stay in each country – of money into the local currency, and asking for it small denominations.
If exchange rates (see latest ones at xe.com) confuse you, go into a local grocery store and check the price of milk and bread to get an idea of the value of the local currency.
South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia and parts of Mozambique all accept South African Rands (ZAR) as tips. Zimbabwe, who have no local currency anymore, accept US$, Botswana Pula and ZAR. They’ve also recently accepted the Australian Dollar, Chinese Yuan, Japanese Yen and Indian Rupee as legal tender.
Tipping with US$ in East Africa is generally acceptable, although even there, for smaller amounts, local currency is preferred. Exchanging foreign currency may not be easy for some people working with smaller amounts, such as porters.
To get around this, we advise changing a small amount – using this guide you can calculate about how much you’ll need for tipping during your stay in each country – of money into the local currency, and asking for it small denominations.
For bigger tips, such as the tips for your tour guides etc., US$ or local currency are both completely acceptable.
If using US$, please ensure that they were printed post-2008, and are not old or torn, as these may not be accepted. Always keep large amounts of cash in a safe, or money belt close to your body. Carry a small amount in a pocket, or easily accessible place, for day-to-day expenses. You don’t want to be pulling out piles of notes to pay for an ice cold beer!
Changing Currency On The Street
Throughout Africa, you will be offered currency exchanges by people on the street. While it is tempting to avoid conversion commissions, this practice illegal and best avoided. Jail in Africa is not a nice place.
Many returning visitors bring personalised gifts for their guides etc. Even if you’re a first-time visitor, small gifts are received gratefully. Pens, footballs and pumps, clothes and magazines are just some of the most desired items. These can often be bartered, too, for curios and the like.
How To Tip
Tipping is not compulsory, and the amounts that you tip each person is also not set. Do remember, though, when tipping larger amounts (e.g. to your guide at the end of a 10-day safari), to place the tip in a sealed envelope, and hand it directly to the person for which it is intended.
Many people feel embarrassed by the whole tipping procedure. There is no need for this – tipping is firmly entrenched in the tourism industry in Africa, and brings with it no embarrassment at all.
Communal Tip Jar
In many of the lodges and hotels, a communal tip jar is kept, so that your tip can be shared between both the staff you see, and those ensuring that your stay is comfortable, behind the scenes. Speak to reception on arrival to establish the system used there.
Tipping On Overlanding Trips
On many overlanding tours, a kitty is kept. Each person contributes a set amount at the beginning and the guide tips where necessary throughout the trip (excluding restaurant tips). A running tab is kept to keep track of where the money goes, and anything left at the end is returned.
Who To Tip
The most often-asked question is ‘Who do we tip?’, as this differs significantly from other continents. In Africa, we tip for good service by porters, transfer/taxi drivers, petrol attendants, wait staff, hotel/lodge staff, guides, trackers and mokoro polers.
While some countries differ on tipping etiquette, in general southern and East African tipping is relatively generic. Some hotels/restaurants/safaris include a service charge in the overall bill, so ask about this at each establishment.
Taxi Drivers/ Transfers
For longer transfers, a 10% tip is fair.
In Africa, petrol (gas) is poured by attendants at garages. They will often also clean your windscreen and check oil, water and tyres. A small tip is welcomed, preferably in local currency (e.g. ZAR5 in South Africa).
Parking Attendants/Car Guards
Again, something fairly unique to Africa. While some car guards are officially employed, others may be doing it of their own accord and their tips may be their sole income. Be aware of chancers, though and tip only when you return to your vehicle.
A good rule of thumb here is to greet the car guard when you arrive, get his/her name, and offer up that you will tip on return. Here, too, local currency is preferred.
In some of the bigger cities, official parking attendants charge hourly rates. Be sure to find out what this is when you park, to avoid nasty surprises on your return!
Many hotels have a communal tip jar which ensures that tips are equally divided between housekeepers etc. Tipping 10% or USD5 to 10 per person per day is recommended, depending on the standard of service received.
In many places, wait staff rely on tips to earn a living wage. A 10% tip on the bill total is usual. Check your bill before adding on a tip, as some restaurants – especially on large tables – may automatically add on a service charge.
Day Tour Guides
A general rule of thumb on safari is to tip your guide USD10 and your tracker USD5 per person per day. This tip is given at the end of the safari, not on a daily basis. This amount can be adapted according to the number of people on the safari, and a ‘per day per car’ amount may be more suitable for bigger parties.
Safari camp/lodge staff which can include chefs, wait staff, butlers, housekeepers etc. depending on the level of luxury, may also be tipped. As in hotels, there is often a communal tip ‘jar’ for this and a reasonable rate to go on is USD10 to 20 per person per day.
Mokoro Polers In Okavango
Tipping On Kilimanjaro
Tipping on Kilimanjaro has become much more standardised recently. A general rule is that about 10% of the tour cost is tipped, but different operators have different processes. Also, the amount given depends on the size of the group (and the number of support staff.)
A group of two hikers may have one guide, one assistant guide, five to six porters and a cook. A group of six hikers would have three to four guides, two to three assistant guides, seventeen to eighteen porters and two to three cooks.
As a general guide, tips are given as follows. These amounts are per group per day:
- Guide USD20
- Assistant Guide USD10 to 15
- Cook USD10
- Porter USD5
In general, the full amount, from all hikers, is put together and given to the guide, who will then distribute the tips. This, again, differs from operator to operator, so enquire before the trip about preferred tipping etiquette.