NEW YORK • It is a question that confounds even the most seasoned travellers - just how much are you supposed to tip the staff during your hotel stay? And what about tour guides and drivers? Also, the attendant looking after you on your cruise?
Mr Josh Alexander, a travel specialist at the New York Citybased Protravel International, has written tipping guidelines for his clients.
"In my experience, no matter how much they've travelled, people tend to get confused and even stressed when it comes to tipping," he says.
Here, he gives advice:
Many travellers will leave a cash tip in an envelope at the front desk at the end of their stay and ask that it be divided among various departments, but Mr Alexander advises otherwise.
"You have no guarantee that the money is going to get to the people it should," he said.
Instead, tip the employees who have served you throughout your stay directly. Whether domestically or abroad, at a luxury hotel that number is US$5 (S$6.70) a day for housekeeping, US$3 to US$5 a bag for bell people and US$2 to US$3 for employees who call you a taxi or hold the door open for you. The tip for the concierge depends on how much you use his or her services. For a simple dinner reservation, US$5 to US$10 is enough, but for more elaborate requests such as tickets to a sold-out show, upwards of US$50 is in order.
For guides and drivers
No matter the country, Mr Alexander says that for a private, English-speaking guide who spends the day showing you the sights, tip US$25 to US$50.
"Good guides will include atypical stops, such as taking you to their friend's art studio, and are willing to go over their scheduled time with you, and should be tipped more," he says.
For a driver, US$15 to US$25 a day is appropriate, and for half-day tours, guides can expect US$15 to US$25, and drivers, US$10 to US$15.
The exception is a tour that begins very early in the morning, such as the 3am start for the hike up Mount Haleakala on the island of Maui, in Hawaii, to see the sunrise. In cases like this, add US$20 to US$25 on top of the usual tip.
Also, Mr Alexander says that guides for group tours can expect US$10 to US$15.
On cruises, safaris and train trips
On trips such as these, Mr Alexander says that a small, dedicated staff or even a single employee is likely attending to you throughout your stay.
"On a safari, your ranger is taking you on game drives and also looking out for your needs at the lodge. And on high-end cruises and train trips, one person is usually overseeing every aspect of your trip, such as helping you unpack and pack," he adds.
These people should be given US$20 a day.
The exception is if a tip is included as part of the trip price.
"In this case, there is no expectation to tip extra, but you can if you feel like you got knockout service," he says.
NEW YORK TIMES