Are you an international student in the UK? If so, you need to learn about one of the touchiest subjects in the history of cultural customs.
Tipping etiquette in the UK is similar to the rest of Europe, partially because of the way the service industry works. As mentioned in our previous post about how to tip in the United States, the federal minimum wage in the U.S. for tipped employees like bartenders and waitresses is just $2.13/hour, or about £1.31. By contrast, all staff in the UK over 21 must be paid at least the National Minimum Wage (£6.50/hr starting October 1) whether they receive tips or not. Therefore, the need and culture for tipping is much less than in the U.S or Canada. So when and where should you tip in the UK?
In the UK, tipping is appreciated but not always expected or even appropriate in some situations. We’ve put together some guidelines for students on when and how much to tip to avoid getting flustered when that bill arrives.
Restaurant or café
In restaurants and cafés with waiter service, it’s customary but not mandatory to leave a 5-10% tip (or 10-15% in the not-so-cheap city of London). However, some restaurants include a service charge of around 10% of 12.5%, especially if you’re in a large group. This charge should always be noted in the menu. If the menu or bill states something like “Service included”, then gratuity is included in the price and you do not need to add any further tip. If you were unhappy with the service, you can ask for the service charge to be removed.
For takeaway meals or self-service meals, do not tip. If you get food delivered, it doesn’t hurt to tip the delivery person a pound or so.
Many people don’t tip at the hairdresser or barber. If you’d like to leave a tip, keep it to just one or two pounds, or around 10%. For example, if the bill was £9, give the person a £10 note and say “Keep the change” or “No change needed.” Some people tip the apprentice who washes your hair, since they are usually students and their minimum wage is much lower. The tip may also vary depending on if you’re in the city or in a rural area.
It’s customary but not necessary to add 10% (or up to 15% in London) to a typical metered taxi journey. Most people simply round the fare up to the nearest £1 and tell the driver to “keep the change”, more as a convenience than a tip. Rural taxis and minicabs usually charge a pre-agreed, flat fare and many people do not add an additional tip, unless you’re traveling to the airport and the driver helped you with your bags, in which case you may wish to tip up to £5.
Bars and Pubs
Tipping a bartender is not expected or common. A possible exception would be if you’ve developed a rapport with the barman or barmaid, and you can buy him or her a drink by saying “and one for yourself” when you pay. This is considered an offer that they buy a drink for themselves, or if that’s not permitted to take the extra money as a tip. This is not typical, however, and would be inappropriate on your first visit to the bar, for example.
Guides do appreciate a tip at the end of a tour. Consider £2-5 for a single traveler or £1-£2 per person for a family. If you’ve been on a bus tour of a few days, tip the coach driver £1-2 per day per person at the end of the trip.
Of course, if you were exceptionally happy with the service and can afford to do so, go ahead and leave a tip! Ultimately, gratuity is discretionary and depends on the quality of the service you receive.