Blog · How Much To Tip a Tour Guide in the U.S. and Europe

How Much To Tip a Tour Guide in the U.S. and Europe

February 15, 2023
How Much to Tip a Tour Guide

Let’s face it. Tipping can be a delicate topic, and how much to tip a tour guide can seem especially ambiguous. What’s the right amount? When do you tip? Is gratuity ever included? Do you tip for kids, too? What if you had a bad experience? Does the amount you need to tip change based on how long the tour is?

Those are all valid questions. We’ve worked with hundreds of local tour guides to offer tours in over a dozen cities across the U.S. and Europe. With that experience, we have some tipping know-how for tours in top tourist destinations like Paris, New York, and Rome. This isn’t meant as a rule book. Tipping is always at the guest’s discretion, but whether you tour with us or someone else, we want to demystify tour guide gratuities for everyone.

Below, we’ll answer the most frequently asked questions about tipping tour guides (plus a few you hadn’t thought to ask). But first, let’s define what gratuities are.

Gratuities and tour guides: an introduction

Tip Jar

A gratuity is an amount of money given voluntarily to certain service workers as a thank you for excellent service. 

It’s considerably less than the full cost of the service, often a percentage or a flat amount, and it really is a way to show appreciation. Gratuity comes from the Latin word gratus, meaning thankful, the same word that gives us “gratitude.” And you thought we wouldn’t be covering etymology in this blog post.

Gratuities are most common in the restaurant and hospitality industry. You often tip cab drivers, bartenders, hair stylists, bellhops, and valets but not other service professionals like your accountant or plumber. Tour guides — those fearless leaders who show us new places and take us on exciting travel experiences — are in the group of hospitality workers who frequently are tipped for good service.

Should I tip my tour guide?

Basic tipping etiquette says, yes, you should tip your tour guide. There are exceptions if your specific tour experience includes gratuities or you simply didn’t have a good time, but in general, tipping your guide at the end of the tour is customary in the U.S. and Europe, though it’s much more common in the States.

Is tipping on vacation different in the U.S. vs. Europe?

Tour Guide at Eiffel Tower

Tipping is much more prevalent in the United States than it is in Europe. In America, a traveler will tip for all kinds of hospitality services, from wait staff to the person who carries your bags to your room.

People don’t tip as much in Europe, so travelers don’t there as much either. For example, servers at restaurants are paid a normal wage and don’t rely on tips for part of their income.

When it comes to tipping tour guides, a tip isn’t required in either region, but it’s much more expected in U.S. culture. Tips, when given, aren’t typically as high in Europe. Tipping a few euros after an excellent walking tour of 1-2 hours is considered sufficient. For a longer tour or a tour with a higher price point because it includes tickets, you might tip more, around 5%-10% of the total tour cost for each person in your group.

Because of globalization, especially with many American tourists in Western European countries like France, Italy, Germany, and Spain, you don’t have to worry about gratuity being awkward or unwelcome. Most tour guides are familiar with the custom of tipping and will anticipate (and appreciate) this from their guests. But even more so than in the U.S., tipping is a sign of excellent service, so if you feel your guide did a fabulous job, a tip is a good way to show that.

How much should I tip my tour guide?

This is the harder question, but it’s probably why you’re here. So you had a good time. Your tour guide shared some local recommendations, made you smile, and overall added to your experience. How much is the right amount to tip?

It’s up to each guest — and at the end of the day, it’s optional — but here are some rules of thumb from our guides and tour operators on the ground.

  • For a short guided tour in the U.S.: Tip $5-$10 (or more) per person if your tour is around two hours or less. This would be an appropriate amount for most walking tours, like our JFK Assassination Tour, as well as some attraction tours, like our express Statue of Liberty visit. For a slightly longer tour, like our Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island tour, you might increase the gratuity some.
  • For a full-day guided tour in the U.S.: Tip $10-$20 per person if it’s a longer guided tour (think six hours or more). A family of four might tip $40 for our guided six-hour Getty Center and Griffith Observatory Tour.
  • For a short guided tour in Europe: Tip €5-€10 per person for a neighborhood walking tour that’s under two hours. This would be a good fit for our 90-minute Le Marais Walking Tour in Paris. For something longer, you might add a few more euros.
  • For a full-day guided tour in Europe: Tip €10-€20 per person — or about 5%-10% of the total tour price — for a full-day guided tour. If it’s a bus tour, like our Normandy beach tour from Paris, it’s customary to include a tip for the bus driver as well.

Those ranges above are averages, and tipping may end up being more or less, but they’re practical guideposts that any tour guide would feel good about receiving.

When do you tip your guide?

This one is easy. You tip most commonly at the end of the tour. As you’re saying your goodbyes to the guide, you can simply hand off the money. 

“A tip shows that I did an outstanding job, that I exceeded guests’ expectations, especially here in Europe where it’s less common that in the U.S.”

Cristina Carrisi, Barcelona tour guide

We’ve seen many people like to do it in a “secret handshake” sort of way, slipping them the money as they shake hands. This works, but a simple hand-off is fine, too.

What if I don’t have cash?

Tour Group

More and more today, people don’t carry cash when they travel. Guides are aware of this, and most have other ways to accept payment, such as Venmo or Zelle. Some guides even have a QR code guests can scan. 

If you’re not sure, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask what kind of electronic payment methods they accept for gratuities. You’ll find most guides have a way to tip without cash. For example, most of our guides in the U.S. have Venmo accounts. In Europe, cash is king, so bring money if you plan to tip.

Do you tip the driver for a bus tour?

This varies by tour. It’s common for bus drivers to have a jar or box near the front where guests can drop a few bills on their way out.

For our U.S.-based bus tours at ExperienceFirst, tipping $5-$10 per guest is appropriate to cover both the guide and the driver. The guides split their tips with the driver, so giving your tip directly to the guide works best. In Europe, tipping the bus driver is customary. Around 5%-10% of the tour price is a good rule of thumb.

This rate matches about how much you’d tip for a traditional 90-minute walking tour. Even though bus tours are much longer, buses tend to be fuller than a walking tour, so this smaller tip amount is adequate. As always, tipping more is appreciated, and it’s a great way to tell your guide they did an outstanding job.

How much do you tip a private tour guide?

Tour Guide Tip

Everything works pretty much the same for a private tour. On private tours, people are sometimes less likely to tip, but unless gratuity has been included in the tour cost, it’s a nice gesture to thank your guide for their time, especially if they went above and beyond to make it a special experience for your group.

When people do tip for private tours, they typically tip more since gratuity is usually a percentage of the total service cost, and prices are higher for private tours. Private tours are also often longer and frequently involve private transportation. For a longer private driving tour, for example, such as a private Los Angeles tour, $50-$100 in tips is common, but for a larger group of, say, eight people, that’s only around $10 per person.

Do you tip for free tours?

What about those “free” walking tours? Are they really free? In short, no. Locals who offer free walking tours expect gratuities nearly always, so you should factor this into your costs when you plan.

There are a few exceptions. Sometimes a tour will say “no tips accepted” or something similar. Perhaps it’s being put on by the local convention and visitors bureau or other tourism organization. In this case, take them at their word. The walking tour really is free. Here’s one such example of a genuinely free walking tour in Bath, England.

Is gratuity included with your tour ticket?

Tour Group

Generally, gratuity isn’t included in the tour price because it’s optional. A few tour operators may include gratuities, particularly for multi-day excursions that also include room and board, but this is typically listed under inclusions. If you’re unsure, feel free to ask before or after booking. 

Good tour operators will make it clear if gratuities are included or not. After all, the last thing we want is for people to be surprised or feel unprepared.

Do you tip if you didn’t like the tour?

If you didn’t enjoy the tour, it’s acceptable not to tip. A gratuity really is a sign that you had a great time and want to show the guide your appreciation.

That said, not giving a tip sends the message that you didn’t enjoy the tour. You can view the tip as a way to communicate your feelings about the tour. 

Do you tip for every person in your group, including kids?

Tour Group

Does the tip amount change if you’re a solo traveler, a couple, or traveling with friends or kids in tow? It’s a good question. Tips are generally per person. While your guide probably isn’t expecting gratuity to cover an infant in arms, kids often require the guide’s attention as well as adults, so they’re typically factored into the tipping amount.

However, if you’re a larger family, it’s understandable to consider a sliding scale that you feel comfortable with to cover your group. A family with six kids might tip the same amount as one with five. As always with tipping, do what you feel is right for you.

What if you don’t know if tipping is appropriate?

After reading this article, hopefully you understand when and how much to tip guides. But you might be in a situation where you’re still not sure for some reason. Maybe it’s not even for a tour.

But there’s one hack you can always use — just ask. Even the famed Emily Post Institute, which provides etiquette training to businesses and individuals around the world, says it’s OK to simply ask in advance if you’re not sure about tipping protocols for the experience or country you’ll be in. Calling or emailing in advance with your questions can help settle any concerns you might have, and it’s better to know before you go, so you can come prepared and decide what you’d like to do.

What tips mean for tour guides

As we mentioned above, a tip shows appreciation. Tipping vs. not tipping lets the guide know if you did or didn’t have a good time. We asked a couple of our guides what tipping means to them. Here’s what they said.

“It is very appreciated when we receive tips,” said Jonathan Mannato, a tour guide in NYC. “For example, there was a tour I gave in pouring rain. We give tours rain or shine, but this obstacle can be hard to keep the guests happy and engaged. We work extra hard because of this. A family of four at the end generously tipped me for my work, and it made me as a guide feel valued. While we know tipping is not required, it is very helpful with our income in this role.”

“A tip shows that I did an outstanding job, that I exceeded guests’ expectations, especially here in Europe where it’s less common that in the U.S.,” said Cristina Carrisi, a tour guide in Barcelona. “I remember one time as I was giving a tour, a 5 year old accidentally broke a small statue inside a shop. Her mother had stepped away to look for the rest of the family. I patiently took care of the child while still giving the tour. The tip her family gave me at the end of the tour showed me how well I had handled the situation.”

Demystifying tour guide tipping

Tour Group Tips

I hope we helped demystify how, when, and how much to tip your tour guide. Not knowing the cultural norms or expectations around tipping can make guests feel nervous, which is the last thing any tour guide or operator wants. You’re on this trip to explore and have fun, not worry.

Now that you know how to tip your tour guide, tell a friend what you learned or join the conversation on Facebook if you have more questions. We’d love to hear from you.