Tipping etiquette is a common source of confusion for worldwide travelers. Tipping culture varies greatly across the globe, so what is a traveler to do? Most folks like to reward good service, but how much is too little or too much? We want to respect local tipping customs and avoid causing offence. Tipping in Ecuador is no different – for North Americans & Europeans alike there are pitfalls that can eaily be avoided with careful preparation.
Keep reading for a complete guide to tipping in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. In which social situations is a tip expected? and how much is appropriate?
There is no set of widely agreed set of rules for tipping in Ecuador. Between locals, tourists and expats you may hear 3 very different opinions of when and how much to tip.
To add to the confusion, there are also considerable differences in tipping culture across our own home countries. While tips may be common and generous in North America, they are often not expected in Europe. In Asia tipping can even be frowned upon or cause offence.
So, how should one approach tipping in Ecuador? Firstly, read our general guidelines (below) before travelling. Then apply a healthy dose of your own common sense based on each situation.
Remember, there is no right or wrong, and tipping is always optional. So do what you feel is correct in any given situation, and don’t feel pressured.
Above all, tipping is an excellent way to reward exceptional service as you travel. Give something back to those people who make your trip extra special.
For perspective, also take into account that Ecuador is a developing country, with a minimum wage around $400 per month. So there is a considerable wealth gap between a working Ecuadorian and the average traveller. This means that even a small tip can go a long way, and help to support workers and their families.
Ecuadorians are also very gracious in receiving tips. A common phrase you may hear is “dios le pague”, translating directly as “god will pay you”, or interpreted as “god will reward you for your genorosity”. Tips in Ecuador are certainly appreciated, even if not always necessary.
When to tip, and when not to tip in Ecuador?
In most tourist-oriented restaurants in Ecuador a 10% tip is the norm, especially if the food and service were good. Be aware though that often a 10% service charge is already included in the check along with the 12% iva tax (value added tax). So analyse the calculations in the check first to see if 10% has already been included. If not then you should add 10% to the final bill.
Even if the 10% service fee is already in the check, you might wish to leave something extra. The restaurant owner is supposed to divide the 10% service charge between all staff, although in reality this may not always be the case. So, if you enjoyed the service then it’s a nice idea to leave a small extra tip directly for the server.
In basic cafes or restaurants no tip is usually expected. There may, however, be a tipping box next to the cashier for loose change.
Tipping is not customary to bar staff at pubs or clubs.
On guided Ecuador mainland day tours or multi-day trips, a tip of $10-20 per day is fairly standard for a guide (per couple or family, not per person). If a tour guide really goes out of his/her way to make the day extra special then a higher tip is a nice touch.
Don’t forget your tour driver. If you give him aprox 50% of the tip paid to the guide it will usually put a smile on his face. For an airport pickup, a few dollars of loose change, or up to $5 might be tipped, especially if the driver has helped you with heavy luggage.
Also, consider inviting the guide and driver to lunch with you. Not only will they appreciate the gesture, it is also a great opportunity to share a local experience with them.
In Quito, Guayaquil and other large Ecuadorian cities, taxis operate with a fixed meter to calculate fares. It’s fair to say that locals almost never pay a tip on top of this to taxi drivers. At most you could round the fare up to the nearest dollar, although this is rarely expected or necessary.
The only other situations in which a tip in Ecuador may be appropriate are:
Hotel porter – a dollar or two can be tipped to hotel porters who assist with heavy bags.
Hotel room cleaning – no tip expected, unless you would like to leave a token of appreciation at the end of a stay.
Hotel / lodge staff – some speciality hotels or lodges might have a tip jar, especially where teams work together to ensure a high level of guest service. In this case a group tip at the end of your stay should reflect the overall service that was received, $10 total per day (per family or couple) as a general guideline.
Parking assistants – this refers to city street parking rather than car parks. When parking at night in social zones closet to restaurants, it is common for a local to appear and help to guide you into a parking space. They’ll also keep an eye on the security of your car while you dine, so you can rest easy. A $1 tip usually does the job, paid as you exit the parking space on your way home.
The Galapagos archipelago may belong to Ecuador, but here different rules apply.
Do you tip in Galapagos? Absolutely yes, and Galapagos tipping expectations are higher than on mainland Ecuador.
Why is that? Remember that the islands are located around 1000km off of the Ecuadorian coast in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. All goods have to be shipped or flown out, creating a higher cost of living for Galapagos residents. So, as a visitor you’ll notice that shop prices and services are in general more expensive. In turn, Galapagos tip expectations are also higher.
This is one of the most common questions before a Galapagos vacation. In fact, rather surprisingly it can be the most stressful and confusing part of a Galapagos cruise for many tourists. So let’s relieve that stress by breaking it down to simple facts.
Firstly, there is the Galapagos tipping process. Usually during the last night of your cruise a two tipping envelopes will appear in each cabin. This may or may not come with instructions or recommendations. The idea is to make tipping easier and less awkward for guests.
Why 2 enevelopes? Remember, the success of a cruise depends on team effort. Visitors spend most time with their naturalist guide, but he/she is ably supported by a yacht captain, cruise assistants, chef, panga (zodiac) drivers, bar man, waitor, cleaner etc. A huge amount of work and dedication goes on behind the scenes, so tips needs to consider each and every team player.
So, two different Galapagos tips are generally expected. One to your guide, and the other to be divided between captain and crew. As a very general guideline expect to pay $10-15 per guest per day to your guide, plus an additional $20-50 per guest per day to be split among the captain and crew.
Consider these values as a guideline only. At the more luxurious end of Galapagos cruises, higher values may be suggested by the yacht operator. If you have made a particular friend on the crew (a bar man or a panga driver who has been extra friendly or helpful) then by all means slip an extra tip into his hand as you bid farewell.
One final word of warning on Galapagos tipping. It is not unheard of for guides to suggest that larger tips are expected. We’ve even heard reports of unscrupulous guide requesting up to 10 or 20% of the overall cruise cost. Don’t be fooled, this is absolutely not the case. Tipping is voluntary, so guests should never feel uncomfortable about it. Use our guidelines above, don’t feel pressured, and only pay what you believe to be correct and fair.
For each day of a Galapagos Land Tour, a tip of $5-10 per person per day to the guide is the norm.
On navigable day tours an extra $5-10 per person per day to be shared by the crew is expected too.
Perhaps $5-10 total to a driver too, depending on the amount of time he/she is with you, and whether it is a private or shared transport service.
Our suggestion is to put aside a tip of $10-20 per day for a guide (per couple or family, not per person), and the same again for the rest of the lodge team. At backpacker lodges tips can be lower. $5 or so will be appreciated by canoe drivers too.
While on the subject of cash, check out our blog about Ecuador money and currency.
In conclusion, we hope that these Ecuador tipping guidelines and suggestions are useful. Tipping in Ecuador and Galapagos should not be a cause for stress or confusion on your vacation. Tipping is afterall a personal decision, so it’s best to do what you believe to be true and fair. Many workers in the tourism sector do provide exceptional service, so tipping is a lovely way to show your genuine appreciation after an unforgettable vacation.