Tipping in London

When you first come to another country, it is difficult to know when, who, or how much you should tip the service provider. Certainly here in the United Kingdom there isn’t the strong tipping culture that you get in the United States, where tips are considered part of a service provider’s pay. With this ambiguity in mind, here is a quick guide to tipping in London.

Tipping in Restaurants

As a general rule, you do not tip in pubs—not even if you have ordered food.Unfortunately we are off to a bad start here with regards to tipping, as there are no hard-and-fast rules about tipping and service charges in London’s restaurants. Some restaurants add a discretionary 10 or 12.5 percent to the bill as a service charge. If this is included, it should be shown on your bill (and in the menu), and you don’t have to leave an additional tip. However, not all employers are good about passing on the gratuities to their staff, so you may want to leave a cash tip instead of the service charge. This way the person who served you gets the gratuity, not the restaurant owner.

A row of draft beer spigots line in the bar in a traditional English pub.

Tipping etiquette changes depending on whether you’re in a pub or a restaurant. Photo © claudiodivizia/123rf.

If there isn’t a service charge, then the normal amount for the tip should be between 10 to 15 percent and can be left on the table. If you are paying by credit card, there will be a chance to include a tip with the credit card transaction, though most wait staff prefer a cash tip. Generally, in sandwich bars, coffee shops, and cafés staff do not expect a tip, although there may be a jar by the checkout where you can leave some change in appreciation of the service.

Tipping in Pubs

As a general rule, you do not tip in pubs—not even if you have ordered food (although once again there may be a jar on the bar for tips). Of course, if it is a pub that has a restaurant attached, then the rules for tipping in a restaurant apply. If you want to show your appreciation to the bar staff or publican you can always offer to buy them a drink. However, this is a bit uncommon in pubs, unless you are a well-known regular.

Other Tips

It is not required to tip taxi drivers, but they appreciate it. Most people just round the fare up to the nearest pound if it is a straightforward fare. If they’ve helped you with your bags, give them a bit more—say a pound per bag. If the cabbie has given you a bit of a tour around town or been a real help, feel free to leave up to 10 percent. If a bellhop has carried your luggage to your room, give them a pound or so. It is up to you whether you want to tip a hairdresser or barber, though most appreciate being given a few pounds.

Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon Living Abroad London.

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