Along with mealtimes in Spain, the topic of tipping and gratuities is one question that we often get asked about by our clients. It’s a tricky subject. While the Spanish are not big tippers per se, it is true that the tipping culture has come to Spain. That said, gratuities are not expected. It is certainly not a legal requirement to tip. People working in the Spanish hospitality sector are usually full-time employees and are paid a salary for the work they do. But if you come from a country where tipping is customary and you are travelling in the more touristic areas of Spain, you certainly won’t be insulting anybody by leaving a tip. Living and working here in Spain as we do (Totally Spain is Spain-based travel agent and specialist in custom travel to Spain since 2000), we’ve put together some concrete examples of when you should or shouldn’t tip in Spain below.
The norm here (if you want to follow local tipping etiquette), is small change for bars and taxis, single euros for other transactions including everyday restaurants and anywhere between 5 and 10 percent for more elaborate meals.
If you order a coffee at a bar – you don’t need to tip – although we do sometimes if we’ve made full use of the facilities such as reading a few magazines and newspapers or a few toilet runs with the kids. (You’ll never have to pay to use a toilet in Spain and standards vary significantly). If you order a coffee whilst seated at a table, you don’t need to leave a gratuity but if the service is good or helpful, you could leave small change.
Wines, Beers & Tapas
As per coffees, we might leave small change especially if given free olives, cheese or jamon etc or if given help selecting a wine etc. If the tapas experience is more of a sit-down affair, we would always tip.
Simple sit-down meals
If you have a simple meal such as a set-price ‘menu del dia’, you can tip the small change. For example, if a lunch for two people plus coffees comes to 21 euro, leave a 1 or 2 euro coin if you were happy with the experience. Tipping more than 1 euro per person for a simple meal would be unusual. Unless you were given a lot of extras…
Eating Alone, Special Dietary Requirements & Large Groups and Evening Meals
We recommend tipping a bit more when you are eating alone and the place is really busy. We would usually leave an extra euro or even two – although of course this is not expected. We would also leave a gratuity if you are given free drinks at the end of a meal or if your coffees were on the house. When somebody goes to great lengths to translate a menu, play with your child, or provides extra special attention by preparing a decent kosher-style, vegan/vegetarian or celiac meal etc we would tip a percentage of the meal rather than a single euro coin. And if you are out with a large family group and the staff are very accommodating, you should pay a percentage between 5 and 10 percent. And for some reason, probably because the meals are more elaborate – we usually tip more for evening meals.
Tips for top class restaurants or Michelin-star restaurants would follow more international lines as you really are getting high levels of service here. We would tip around 10 percent if happy and more if you felt you were given good value for money – which is almost always the case, in our experience.
How to Read the Restaurant Bill in Spain
On the receipt, you may see something that looks like a service charge per person. It may be labelled ‘pan’ which is bread and can be anything up to 2.50 per person. It’s a cover charge that is applied by many restaurants to guarantee a certain amount per diner – which in a country such as Spain where many dishes are shared – is not to be applauded but can be understood. It is exactly that – a cover charge and should not be interpreted as a gratuity.
Another line on the bill (often towards the end) you will come across is IVA – this is VAT and should not be confused with a service charge.
Paying the Tip with the Bill
As with anywhere else, if you want the tip to go to the person who gave the good service – seek them out or refer to them when leaving the tip. Never ask for the gratuity to be added to the meal total and charged on your credit card. This may be commonplace in many countries but is not in Spain. Cash is king when it comes to tipping.
Bars/Late night drinking
If you are ordering a few beers or wines at a bar in the evening, you don’t need to tip. If you are getting table service and are happy with it, you could leave small change or a few euro coins especially if you are ordering the more expensive drinks such as cocktails and spirits which can be beautifully prepared and are very labour-intensive. If you are having a wine in a small neighbourhood bar and are grateful for a friendly smile, you could leave a small tip at the end when paying. If you’re in a late night bar without table service, you would never leave a tip.
Porterage doesn’t really exist in Spain in the way it does in Anglo-Saxon countries. Unless you are in a five-star hotel you usually won’t find anybody designated to help with your bags. If somebody does take your bags from your car or lobby to your room – they should be tipped – usually a euro per bag up to a total of 5 euro. For room service – you can tip the person who delivers your meal or drinks – 1 euro for drinks is plenty and 2 euro for something more elaborate. For chambermaids – we often leave a few euro coins at the end of our stay – but it isn’t expected.
For taxis, you could round up the loose change. For example if your journey comes to 9 euro – you could leave the euro if the journey was comfortable and the driver was pleasant. If it wasn’t, just take the euro change. If it was 9.75 – and the experience was good, leave the change. We sometimes find that when you leave a gratuity, the driver will wait to see you get into the hotel or apartment safely – which is nice when it’s late at night in a city you are not familiar with.
If you contract a service for assistance at a train station – you could tip but it won’t be expected. You will not find assistance at bus stations or train stations unless requested in advance. Airports are similar. You will not find anybody to assist with bags. If you need assistance such as a wheelchair upon arrival, you need to arrange this in advance.
For private drivers, we would recommend tipping at the end of the journey/day/period of contract for extra services provided. For example, if they carry your bags, translate for you, and help you out in any other way – we would leave a tip. Remember that knowledge is time. And unless you have researched the area (and even when you have) it’s hard to beat the personal recommendations of a local. We would suggest a tip of 15 – 20 euro per day. Of course, no gratuity is ever expected and you won’t ever be put under pressure to tip, so please make your decision based on the quality of service you receive rather than feeling you have to.
Hairdressers and other Service Industries
Hairdressers. You are getting a trim or blow-dry and it comes to 9 or 14 euro. If you wanted you could leave 1 euro – that’s what we do. You could leave 2 euro if you were given an amazing level of service that went beyond the call of duty – for example if you don’t speak Spanish and the hairdresser really made an effort to understand you and what you needed done. It’s similar for beauticians and spas for treatments. You would leave one or two euro if you wish but it is not expected.
We can’t think of many reasons for tipping in a shop. We think it’s safe to say that in a shop, you don’t need to leave a gratuity.
For deliveries – you could tip a euro or two if you have you shopping delivered to your hotel or self-catering apartment – especially if you are in a particularly awkward location or if the building doesn’t have a lift. If you are staying in a self-catering apartment and need to get somebody to call out for example a locksmith or plumber, you could tip 5 euro for the callout.
We do recommend tipping anybody who is self-employed – especially when they go beyond the call of duty. Take the example of a private guide. Beyond the call of duty varies depending upon the situation and place but it can be anything from a truly genuine welcoming smile and their knowledge of where you have come from and what you have already seen. It can be practical such as when they take a few photos for you of your group and point out good locations for photos. We especially love when guides take us off the beaten track and show us places that are very personal to them – and we believe these reasons and a few others are well worth a nice tip because no amount of guidebook reading would bring you there.
For half-day tours with a private guide, it is entirely at your discretion, but we would suggest a minimum of 10 – 15 euros per couple would be welcome and more if you are extremely pleased. We would only suggest this for the private sector eg we wouldn’t tip a state employee at the Prado museum but we would tip a privately contracted guide for a tour of the Prado. If you have a guide for the day you are pleased with, we would suggest a minimum of 15 – 25 euros per couple.
Whether you do or don’t tip, remember that when a guide or driver gives you personal recommendations for places to visit or suggest places to eat, and you enjoy their recommendation, you should advise the owner (especially if it is off the beaten track) that you were sent by your guide. It won’t do you or them any harm. And while we are on this topic, if you are particularly happy with your guide or any other self-employed services, you should always let your tour operator know. Spain isn’t the easiest or cheapest country to be self-employed – and we believe an entrepreneurial spirit is to be praised.
Tipping & Gratuities In Spain – The Summary
Compared to the US and the UK, tips in Spain are often small change – literally. If you like to tip for good service – something between 5 and 10 percent is more than enough.
Useful Phrases for Tipping in Spain
- Asi esta bien=that’s fine (keep the change)
- Quiero dejar una propina para nuestro camarero/conductor/guia =I want to leave a tip for our waiter/driver/guide
- Esto es para la chica que me lavo el pelo = This is for the girl who washed my hair
- Muchas gracias por la ayuda = Thanks for your help (use it when handing over a tip)
- Muchas gracias por traducir = Thanks for translating (doesn’t make sense I suppose but it’s nice to use a bit of Spanish)