The definitive guide to mastering the art of tipping in Mexico
Tipping is hard. Really hard. There are thousands of apps that help you calculate how much you should tip, but figuring out which situations should warrant a tip is not part of those apps. Now add a foreign country where you are going on vacation.
Here’s the ultimate list of situations for tipping in Mexico and how to handle them. Say goodbye to the awkward moments in which you don’t know if you should tip or not, and master the delicate art of tipping in Mexico.
If you want to master the art of tipping in Mexico with confidence, then let us get a few basic but very important ground rules out of the way:
- Always tip in cash! Cash is instant and the waiter won’t have to wait for the restaurant to process the bills and pay out the tips – that’s if the actually do pay out the entire tip.
- If you haven’t already exchanged some pesos before entering Mexico, then make finding an ATM your first priority in the airport right after picking up your luggage. You will need some cash at hand right away.
- Have some change with you all the time. This is especially important when driving around by car in Mexico. If you are having a hard time finding small change, then head over to a supermarket and ask one of the grocery baggers to change your bills into coins.
The first chance to start your tipping in Mexico will be with the luggage handlers in the airport. He will help you get your luggage to whatever means of transportation that will take you to your hotel, resort or other destination. My going rate for this task is usually 50 pesos or $3 depending on the currency I have with me.
Restaurants and Cafes
Tipping in restaurants in Mexico is just like tipping in restaurants at home. A normal tip here is around 10% to 15%. Be aware that more and more places will have a 10% tip include on your bill already. We have seen many such cases in the main vacation destinations like Cancun, Riviera Maya, and Los Cabos and expect to see this trend carry over to other touristic places. Just check your bill and see if a tip has already been added and maybe tip a little extra if it has.
You may notice a guy cleaning the sink and handing you a paper towel when you use a restroom in various places – mainly restaurants but will occur other places too. Not my first choice for a job that’s for sure and I will always leave a few pesos if I have any on me.
Musicians in Hotels and Restaurants
It is very normal for restaurants to have deals with local musicians to play for their patrons. They will move around the restaurant and seem to play specifically for your table. You can request songs at a price – something that’s really nice if you are having a romantic dinner with your significant other, or if you a larger group of family and friends having a festive night.
Host / Hostess
Here’s a group that’s being overlooked a lot and I can only hope they have some kind of tip sharing with the busboys and waiters. If you ask for something special, or they go out of their way to make your dining experience top notch then give them a tip. I rarely tip which is on me – but have done so from time to time if I have gotten a perfectly located table for a romantic dinner with the wife.
All Inclusive Resorts
Tipping in all inclusive resorts is a hard one to nail down for most people. Ask 10 people and you will receive just as many different answers. Experience and asking the staff at various resorts just showed that tips received are handled very differently from place to place. Some use shared tips while others keep everything they make. That makes it almost impossible to nail down the exact science of tipping in all inclusive resorts. So here goes one suggestion on how to handle the dreaded resort tipping.
Chances are that a porter will bring your bags to the room then tip according to how many bags, the size of the bags and how far he has to take them. I normally tip the same as I would the airport luggage handlers.
Tipping at the buffet or the specialty restaurants can be done in a couple of ways. Tip every meal or tip a larger amount on your last day. I prefer to tip a small amount at every meal, and there is actually a good reason to do so. Sit in the same area of the restaurant and chances are that you will have the same waiter almost every day. This translates into excellent service, where the waiter will give your table more attention than others who don’t tip. It’s really nice to get your drinks refilled right away, and I have even had waiters ask for my preference in eggs before I could sit down and then relay my choice to the cook at the omelet station. The waiters have a better than normal memory if you ask me, and they will notice if/when you skip a day at the buffet. The attention to details will make for a pleasant stay.
Don’t worry I didn’t forget about tipping on the last day. My opinion: Don’t. Unlike the waiter, you might not even remember who have waited on your table during the vacation, and you can’t be sure that he or she will be working the day you are leaving. Should someone else get the tip that their colleague worked hard for? Get my point?
What’s an all inclusive resort without a beach, and by extension also service at some sort of beach restaurant? Most resort visitors don’t bring money when they go to the beach. The waiters here work just as hard or even harder since they spend a lot of time outside in the sun. Tip them! Especially if you or your family frequent the beach restaurants.
Tipping the Maid
I could tell you horror stories about messy hotel rooms where maids had to do the cleaning afterward. They do real hard work and I truly respect what they do for a living. New towels, fresh bedsheets, and clean floors don’t happen by itself. You may or may not bump into your maid during your stay – but try and do so if you can. It’s nice to put a face or name on the person that makes your room look like new. Tipping the maids can be done in many different ways. Some prefer to tip daily while others leave a big tip on the last day. If you are leaving a tip when you check out, then make sure your maid is working that day and try to deliver the tip in person if possible (see my point of getting to know the maid). If you can’t deliver it personally then make sure you write a small note saying thank you for the services, so there can be no mistake what the money is for. I usually tip around $15-$20 for a week or two-week stay – but it entirely depends on how much hassle our family has been.
Spa and Hairdresser
Did you have a good experience with your spa treatment, massage or haircut then, by all means, give them a tip. Their fixed salary is by definition very low and a big part of their income is based on the tips they make.
Here’s a simple one. Tip your bartender as you would back home. This seems like a universal rule of thumb. Tipping ensures quick service and in Mexico, it will in most places mean the bartender being extra generous with the alcohol.
Having a great tour guide can often make the difference between a nice experience and one you will remember forever. I have yet to encounter a tour guide that didn’t do a good job and have more than once had the pleasure of a truly great guide. The best guides will be passionate about what they do and if that doesn’t deserve a tip I don’t know what does.
Gas stations in Mexico are great. I have never ever pumped my own gas in Mexico. You simply ask for how much you want them to put in the tank. Some will wash your windshield and check the tire pressure for you. You can have the oil checked too and buy some if needed. I usually tip 5 pesos just for getting the tank filled, and will tip a bit more for the whole package.
Most supermarkets have grocery baggers at the registers which will fill, pack your bags and put them in your cart. The grocery baggers are typically school kids working part time. Same situation with the person that carries your groceries to your car. Tip them a few pesos for their help – most of them don’t have a salary and rely solely on tips given to them.
Ordering takeout is a great way to have an easy and fast dinner. Delivery guys in Mexico are literally risking their lives in traffic trying to deliver your pizza in 30 minutes or less. I’m truly amazed every time my take out order arrives. I tip according to how far away I order my food from – but I tip every time since most of their income is based on tips.
Car window washers
Driving by yourself in your own or a rented car is a great way to get around. Having spare change somewhere in your car (not visible) is not just a good idea but the ultimate must have. You will see kids washing the windshields for tips when cars are at red lights. This is something that happens very fast, and you know in advance if it’s something you want or not. Simply wave them off if you don’t or let it happen if you do. Hand them a few pesos before they rush off to the next car in line.
An offspring to this is traffic light entertainment. You might get to experience some kind of quick show. Dancing, juggling, fire breathing to just name a few. You can give them a few pesos if you feel inspired or like the show.
Parking attendants / help
Almost everywhere you park, street, parking garages, and supermarket parking lot, chances are that there will be someone trying to help you park. I call them “whistle guys” as many of them guide you into the parking spot by whistling and waving a piece of cloth. Some may even ask if they should look after the car and take care of parking meter while you are away from the car. Tip accordingly depending on the time away from the car and place you park etc. I tip around 2-5 pesos. You might even get asked if they can wash your car while you’re away. Make sure you agree on a price if you want the car washed.
Taxis around Mexico are different. Some cities are strictly taximeters while others don’t use them (yet). As a rule of thumb, it’s not necessary to tip the taxi driver unless you feel they have provided you with a special service. That being said most will be very helpful with your bags etc. I personally like to tip or round up if I have had a good service. Taxis in Mexico City, for example, use taximeters or fixed prices to different zones, and for taxis, in Acapulco, you still agree on a price with the driver before you get in.
The same goes with Uber that has been popping up in various cities in Mexico too.
Street beggars are not a big issue but will occur. Giving them a few pesos will be entirely up to you as a person. Some do it while others don’t.
We hope you feel more prepared for your next vacation to Mexico, and keep in mind that tipping will help put food on the table as it’s often the biggest part of a persons income.
Have you had a good or bad experience tipping in Mexico, or have we missed something, then let us know in the comments below.