Tipping is a difficult subject because expectations and what is considered polite varies so much from country to country. In some places tipping is mandatory, but in others it is not. In the USA it is not acceptable to not leave a tip in a restaurant, but in some European countries a tip might only be left if the service was truly outstanding. It is best to be clear at the outset what the expectations are, so that you can do the right thing, and especially if you feel you have experienced excellent service. This also saves on awkward moments where you are not sure what to do. It is worth remembering that wages are fairly low in Ecuador, so if you can give a small tip to someone who works hard to make your experience special it will be much appreciated and will go a long way. Here we will look at tipping tour guides on the Ecuadorian mainland and in the Galapagos Islands (yes, it is different in each of these regions), tipping at restaurants, bars, in taxis, in the airport and at the hotel.
On a Galapagos Islands cruise, tipping is expected and is normal. Your naturalist guide is very knowledgeable and will have spent a lot of time training to secure the qualifications necessary so that they can work in this type of job. For your naturalist guide you should plan on leaving a tip of approximately 10-20 per day, per person (e.g. if you are a couple you would leave $20 to $40 per day of the cruise in total). The crew also work hard to ensure that you enjoy your trip and you should tip them too. For these staff members, approximately $10-20 per day should be allocated, to be split between all of the crew.
For example, for a five-day Galapagos Islands cruise, a couple should leave at least $10 per person per day for the naturalist guide, and at least another $10 per day each for the crew, or $200, minimum.
For tour guides on the mainland in Ecuador, expectations of tips differ somewhat. You should aim to give your tour guide somewhere between $10-$20 per day for the tour, and this amount is for the whole family / the couple, not per person.
For example, if you are on a 10-day tour with your family and you left a minimum tip of $10 per day, you could be leaving $100 with the guide at the end of the trip.
Don’t forget if your tour has both a tour guide and a driver, it is good not to overlook the driver – and especially so if your tour runs over several days and they’ve been driving you around a lot.
Tipping in restaurants is not obligatory in Ecuador, unlike in the United States and some other countries. However, if you feel you received good service it is courteous and polite to leave a tip of 10%, or maybe a couple of dollars.
At mid to higher end restaurants sometimes a 10% service charge will be added to your bill. In this case there is no need to tip in addition to this. However, if you do experience outstanding service, you might want to offer the wait staff a dollar to indicate your satisfaction. At lower end restaurants the service charge is usually not applied to the bill and leaving a dollar for your wait staff is appropriate.
As with tipping in restaurants, tipping in bars is not compulsory and not necessarily expected. However, if you do receive great service, a small tip is appreciated by the staff member who serves you.
It is definitely not expected to tip in taxis, so do not do this. If you do you might be making things harder for future foreigners who take the same taxis. If you wanted you could round up the fare, especially if the taxi driver helps you with your bags. This may be easier to do anyway than trying to get change, as taxi drivers are notorious for not having small change to hand.
There are a few situations where tipping at the hotel is appropriate. For example, if someone carries your bag to your room for you, you might give them a tip of between $0.50 and a dollar. You may want to leave a tip for the staff that have cleaned your room. If you do that, a tip of $1-2 is reasonable. In most hotels this wouldn’t be expected, but employees will appreciate it.
If a porter carries your bag for you, you should give them approximately a dollar per bag carried. Please note that this is NOT a tip, but rather this is payment for carrying your bag, since this is how the airport porters bring in an income.
Remember when tipping that people in Ecuador really do not earn very much, and your dollar tip means a lot more to them than that dollar means to you – it goes a lot further in Ecuador. We recommend that you tip using the amounts mentioned here as a rough guide. Beware of over-tipping. This may seem kind and generous but giving an over the top tip might raise expectations, making things difficult for future visitors to Ecuador. The person being tipped might face a lot of disappointment in the future when they never again receive such a high tip.
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