Are you visiting the UK for the first time in UK? The tipping culture in the UK can be difficult to navigate, but our guide to tipping etiquette will help make it clear.
When you’re visiting the United Kingdom, it can be hard to know when you’re expected to tip and how much you should leave. If you’re used to American tipping culture, it can seem strange that Brits don’t tend to tip as often or as generously, especially if this is your first visit to the UK.
For many lower-paid hotel workers and service industry workers and staff in the UK hospitality sector, tips can be an essential way to supplement their income. This is especially true since new legislation made it illegal for a business owner to withhold tips from their employees.
Tipping is also a great way to show your appreciation for their hard work and good service.
So, here’s our guide to UK Tipping Etiquette to help you navigate the tricky social protocol around tipping in the UK.
In this Post:
The key takeaways
- Tipping culture in the UK isn’t as prevalent as in the USA.
- 10 per cent of the bill is the standard service charge in high-end hotels and most restaurants.
- A small cash tip is more appropriate in bars, cafes and family-run hotels.
- Tipping isn’t expected in budget and most mid-range hotels, public transport or fast food restaurants.
- ‘Keep the change’ is appropriate for cab drivers and bar staff.
Tipping in UK restaurants and bars
Although tipping hospitality staff is customary in UK restaurants and bars, how you tip varies between establishments. Some restaurants add a service charge to your bill, while others allow you to add a tip to the amount you pay. There are others who leave it up to you to leave a cash gratuity.
Tips in UK restaurants are generally smaller than in countries like the United States, because UK restaurant staff must legally be paid at least the National Living Wage. So, the rule of thumb here is to tip 10 per cent of the total bill, which is often put into a shared tip jar and split with the kitchen staff. Of course, you can leave more than 10% if you feel you received exceptional service.
Tipping isn’t expected if you eat in a fast food restaurant, and coffee shops tend to have a tip jar near the cash register where you can leave a small cash tip when you order your food and drink.
Tipping in hotel restaurants can be trickier because it depends on when you pay for your meal. If you pay at the end of your meal, leaving a tip at that point would generally be appropriate. However, if you’re staying in the hotel and charge the meal to your room, there will often be a service charge included in the amount added to your bill. Leaving a cash tip on the day would be at your own discretion.
Tipping in pubs
As a general rule, tipping isn’t expected when you order drinks at the bar in UK pubs. However, depending on the quality of service, you might tell the bartender to ‘keep the change’ or ‘have one for yourself’. They probably won’t have a drink there and then, but will put the money aside in a tip jar. If you see a tip jar on the bar, there’s no obligation to put money in it, but you might like to leave some small change.
If you have a meal in a pub or the pub offers table service for drinks, the guidelines for tipping in restaurants also apply here. You can generally add a tip to your bill at the end of the evening.
Many businesses in the hospitality sector now operate on a cashless basis and only accept credit or debit cards, so they may also offer cashless tipping. This is usually either done through an app or a QR code directing you to a web page where you can leave your tip.
You may also be able to leave a review at the same time, which helps the business improve their service and build a strong reputation online.
Tipping in UK hotels
There are no hard and fast rules about tipping hotel staff in UK hotels, which can make your decision a little confusing.
In general, tipping isn’t expected in UK hotels unless you are staying in a four or five star hotel. In this case, a 10% service charge on your total bill may be appropriate.
It’s also fairly common to tip door staff and any staff who help you with your luggage at a high-end hotel in the UK. If your hotel has valet parking, there’s no obligation to pay an additional tip for this service.
If you’re staying in a budget or mid-range hotel for more than a day or two, you might like to leave a tip in your room for the cleaning staff when you depart. And if you’re staying in a small family-run hotel or B&B, you could leave them a small cash tip or gift to thank them for excellent service.
However, some mid-range hotels with additional facilities like a spa or fitness centre now add an optional service charge to your bill. If you didn’t use these facilities or prefer to choose how much you tip, you can ask them to remove the charge from the bill.
Tipping for room service is more common, and you may find that an optional service charge is added to the bill when you sign for it. 10% or around £5 is the expected amount to tip for room service.
Tipping in taxis, cabs and Ubers
When you’re taking a minicab, black cab or London taxi, it can be hard to tell if you should tip the cab driver or not.
Generally, if you’re paying cash on short journeys, it’s usual to tell the driver either to ‘keep the change’ or ‘make it £xx’., rounding up to the nearest pound or £5. Many taxi drivers now have card machines in their cabs, so if you’re paying by card, you should be able to add a tip this way. And if you’re taking an Uber, you can tip your driver through the app.
A 10% tip would be appropriate if you pre-book a cab for a longer journey or have a lot of luggage, for instance, when travelling to or from the airport.
You won’t find tip jars or QR codes on British public transport as tipping isn’t expected.
Tourist attractions, tours and experiences
If you’re taking part in a guided tour, walking tour or boat trip during your UK holiday, it’s usual to leave a small tip to thank your guide for their work. As above, 10-15% of the tour cost would be appropriate, or at least a couple of pounds per person if you’re travelling in a group.
If you’re taking a bus or coach tour, you’ll often find a tip jar near the door. A decent tip of £2-3 per person per day would be appropriate, especially if your driver has also acted as a tour guide along the way.
As with the UK hospitality industry, many tours and curated experiences now offer cashless tipping via an app or QR code. This can make tipping tour guides easier than carrying a pocket of spare change for tipping!
Tipping at the salon or spa
If you visit a hairdresser, barber or beautician during your visit to the UK, leaving a tip at the end of your appointment is common practice. 10% of your bill would be appropriate, and many UK salons now offer QR tipping, which directs the tip to your stylist.
If your UK holiday includes a day or longer relaxing at a spa, you’re not usually expected to tip your spa therapist or beauty therapist, especially if they’re one of the senior staff members. If you’ve had great service or want to leave a tip for the junior members of staff, who tend to earn little more than the national minimum wage, 10% would be appropriate.
Our take on UK tipping etiquette
As I mentioned earlier, the UK doesn’t traditionally have a strong tipping culture compared to the USA.
In the past, hospitality workers and service workers weren’t dependent on tips to top up their wages. However, things have changed in recent years, and that’s no longer the case, thanks to the post-pandemic economic climate.
Leaving a tip is a nice way to show your appreciation for good service, but leaving an overly large tip can cause embarrassment.
UK tipping etiquette can be confusing at first. Generally, 10% is the standard tip for restaurants, high-end hotels, hairdressers and long taxi journeys. In most other circumstances, leaving some small change or rounding up to the nearest pound or two is more appropriate.
And don’t forget that British pounds are still the local currency in the United Kingdom, and tipping in euros would not be appropriate!