Do You Tip in European Restaurants? Understanding Gratuity Customs Abroad

Written by Jim Belt in How Much To Tip

Unlike in some countries where tipping is almost mandatory, European restaurants often have different customs. This guide helps you understand gratuity customs abroad and shows when and how much you can tip.

In European restaurants, tipping practices vary by country, but it is generally common to leave a small tip of around 5-10% for good service, unless a service charge is already included in the bill. In some countries, simply rounding up the bill is customary.

Tipping Customs

Tippping is customary


  • Tipping customs vary across European countries, and it's not always required.
  • The decision to tip is often based on service quality and local practices.
  • Small gratuities are common, but misleading practices can be encountered in tourist areas.

Tipping Etiquette for Services

When traveling across Europe, it’s important to understand the distinct tipping customs that vary from country to country. Tipping can reflect your appreciation for the service provided, but it's shaped by local customs and often an amount is already included in the bill.

Restaurants and Cafes

Establishment Service Charge Cash Tip Credit Card Tip Additional Information
Restaurants and Cafes May be included Round up or add 5-10% Less common For exceptional service, pay in cash

In most European restaurants, a service charge may already be included in your bill; however, it's customary to leave a small cash tip for the servers if you received exceptional service. It's typically sufficient to round up to the nearest euro or add an additional 5% to 10% of the total bill when paying in cash. Credit card tips are less common, so having some cash is handy for showing your gratitude.

Understanding Tipping in Europe

When dining out in European countries, you'll encounter varying expectations regarding tipping. Keep in mind that practices can differ greatly from one country to the next.

Service Charges and Tipping

The concept of a service charge can be a bit confusing. Some restaurants include a service charge in the bill under "service compris," meaning that the service is included. However, if you see "service non compris," this indicates that service is not included, and you may consider leaving a tip. A tip of around 5-10 percent is customary if service is not included, although it's always your choice to tip according to the level of service you've received.

Tipping by Country

When dining in European restaurants, tipping customs can vary significantly from country to country. Understanding these differences ensures that you are prepared and respectful of local practices during your travels.

Western European Countries

In France, service charge is often included in your bill, but for exceptional service, rounding up or adding a few extra euros is appreciated. Similarly, Germany and Austria include service in their bills, though it's common to round up to the nearest euro. Belgium also sees a service charge included, but a small tip is considered polite for good service. In the Netherlands, tipping is not obligatory but leaving up to 10% for great service is customary. For Switzerland, while service is included, it’s still expected to leave a small tip, about 5-10% as a courtesy.

Scandinavian Countries

Tipping in Scandinavian countries like Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, Norway, and Finland is not as common, with service charges usually included in the bill. However, if you wish to leave a tip, about 5-10% is satisfactory to show your appreciation for exceptional service.

Southern European Countries

In Italy, a service charge may be added to your bill, but leaving an extra few euros is a sign of satisfaction. Similarly, in Spain, while tipping isn't expected, a small tip is appreciated for good service. Greece and Portugal are more relaxed, with leaving change up to 5-10% being a kind gesture after a meal. In Malta and Cyprus, tipping is not customary but appreciated just the same, at around 5-10% if you felt the service deserved it.

Eastern European Countries

Countries such as Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic generally expect a 5-10% tip at restaurants. While Romania, Bulgaria, and Slovakia don’t have a strong tipping culture, tipping up to 10% is considered a sign of gratitude for good service. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania also appreciate tips in the range of 5-10% for excellent service. In larger cities and tourist areas within Eastern Europe, tipping is becoming more standard.

Handling Tipping Payments

When dining at European restaurants, understanding how to handle tipping payments can enhance your experience and show appreciation for the service you receive. Whether you decide to leave a tip using cash or on your credit card can make a difference, as can knowing any cover charges or extra fees that might apply.

Cash vs. Credit Card Tips

In Europe, it's common for waiters to prefer receiving gratuities in cash. This allows them immediate access to the tips without having to wait for card payments to process. Always carry some local currencies with you to accommodate this preference. Credit card tips may not always be an option, especially in smaller establishments. If you do tip with a card, make sure to check if the servizio non incluso (service not included) can be entered as a separate amount on the payment machine.

Cover Charges and Extra Fees

Some European restaurants charge il coperto, which is a cover charge added to your bill. This is not a tip, but a fee for bread and other table settings. It’s customary in Italy, for example. The servizio incluso (service included) note on your bill indicates that a service charge has been added. In France, the term service non compris (service not included) may be used if the service charge isn’t added to the bill. It’s your responsibility to check the bill and determine if extra fees are there so you can adjust your tip—should you decide to leave one—accordingly.

Guidance from Travel Experts

When dining in European restaurants, travel experts have specific tipping guidance you might find useful. Noted travel authority Rick Steves suggests that for activities like two-hour walking tours, a tip of two to five euros per person is fitting, and more should be offered for smaller or private groups. This advice often extends to dining experiences where customer service goes above and beyond.

In Europe, tipping customs can vary by country, but a general practice highlighted by The Points Guy is to tip between 10% and 15% of the bill before tax. They emphasize that in countries with higher wages for hospitality workers, such as those in Northern Europe, tipping might be less expected.

Here's a quick reference you can use:

Remember, these are not rigid rules but rather travel advice to help you navigate the nuances of etiquette in European restaurants. Always observe local customs, and when in doubt, it's okay to ask your server or local guides for their recommendations. Your thoughtfulness in honoring regional practices will be appreciated.

Frequently Asked Questions

Navigating tipping in European restaurants can sometimes be confusing. Here, you'll find specific answers to common tipping queries to help ensure you're following local customs.

Do You Always Have to Tip in Europe?

No, you don't always have to tip in Europe. Tipping is not as standardized as in some other countries and can often depend on the country and the setting. For instance, it's commonplace to round up the bill in a German restaurant, but not mandatory.

How Much to Tip for Various Services?

Typically, in restaurants, a tip of 5-10% is appreciated if service charge isn't included in the bill. A couple of Bulgarian levs per order at bars or per bag for hotel porters is customary. In self-service settings, tipping is not expected.

Is Tipping Expected in Pubs and Bars?

Tipping in pubs and bars isn't obligatory, but if you've received exceptional service or have a complicated drink order, leaving small change or a small amount like one or two euros is a kind gesture. Check your bill or ask the bartender if a service charge has already been added.

Dealing With Tipping Anxiety

To relieve tipping anxiety, always check the menu or bill for a service charge – if it’s included, no additional tip is necessary. If not, a small tip according to the local custom is sufficient. When in doubt, adjusting the tip based on the quality of service is a safe bet.

Published: 31-01-2024

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