Tipping Etiquette in Peru

Published: 27th March 2016

Visiting any country for the first time can be both a wonderful and a very confusing experience - often at the same time! Travelling to new destinations creates the opportunity to visit new and exhilarating destinations, but the subtle differences in cultures in countries and regions across the world can often mean it is very easy to commit a travel faux pas or fall foul of a local custom.

Peru is a world-renowned travel destination but despite its obvious attractions certain elements of travel in Peru can cause confusion, and tipping is one area in particular that creates pre-holiday concern or confusion and is a regular topic on travel forums. Here's our guide to help take the confusion away and steer you in the right direction on if you should tip, when you need to tip, and how much you should tip when on holiday in Peru.

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Tipping In Peru

As a nation and a culture Peruvian people actually tip very rarely, so although it might be the norm in Europe or Northern America to leave 10% after enjoying a fine meal, in actuality in Peru it is not uncommon for Peruvian's to leave no tip.

However this doesn't necessarily mean that tipping is not appropriate for tourists or people on their holidays, and although it is important for you to make your own decisions based on your situation, tipping by tourists in Peru is very common. Tipping in Peru can also often be a good thing to help support the local workers that do their best to make sure your holiday is as enjoyable as it is - the average salary in Peru is a fraction of what it is in Europe or North America, so a US$2 tip can actually go a very long way and will be very much appreciated by the Peruvian people.

Tipping in Restaurants in Peru

Peruvian cuisine is developing quickly, and Lima now contains many of the top 50 restaurants in the world with "high-end" dining becoming a common occurrence among Peru's richer inhabitants.

Although as a general rule Peruvian people won't tip in typical restaurants, in high-end restaurants it is common to tip and many of these restaurants have adopted the technique of adding a service charge or inclusive-tip of around 10% to your bill. This is also common in restaurants located in hotels. If you feel your service has been poor, or the restaurant or waiter is not deserving of this amount, simply ask for it to be removed from your bill.

In more standard everyday-type restaurants, snack bars and sandwich bars, and other food establishments such as street-food vendors, tipping is much less common and certainly not included automatically within the bill. In these types of restaurants Peruvian people would rarely tip, however if you feel you have had a good meal or the service has been particularly good and/or friendly, tipping is welcomed. In these situations a tip of around S/.2 to S/.10 (£0.50 to £2.50) depending on cost of meal and size of group is perfectly appropriate.

Tipping Tour Guides in Peru

The tourism industry is one of the most important industries in Peru and individuals will spend time at university studying foreign languages (such as English), tourism studies and specialist skills (like the history of Peru and the Inca Empire, or the Wildlife of the Amazon) in order to become a tour guide. Most of Peru's tour guides are passionate about their country, try their hardest to ensure people have an incredible holiday, and are both deserving and thankful for any tips received.

Tipping guides isn't mandatory so never feel obliged tp tip, however tipping guides is very common in Peru and, whether it is correct or not, some guides do expect tips to help their income.

You should only consider tipping your guide if they did a good job - i.e. if they spoke good English and were easy to understand, they were friendly and engaging, they were passionate and knowledgeable about their subject, and they were entertaining.

Based on this, if you have decided that you are going to tip your guide then the amount you tip should be proportionate to the length of the tour and how good the guide was. For a typical half-day tour a tip of around S/.10 to S/.20 (£2 to £5 depending on exchange rate) is acceptable, and for a full-day tour S/.20 to S/.30 is fine.

Remember though that tipping is not mandatory, so if the guide spoke dreadful English, was disinterested in his subject, or was rude, feel free to walk away without tipping!

Tipping on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

One of the most common questions we get asked by people doing the Inca Trail is "do I need to tip the guide and porters on the Inca Trail?" The simple answer to this questions is: yes, although do not feel obliged as tipping is not mandatory.

We always recommend tipping the guides, porters, chefs and other helpers on the Inca Trail (or on any trek) as they work very hard, spend significant amounts of time away from their families, and are usually very deserving of a little "thank you" from the tourists who have used their services.

On the Inca Trail the porters wake up early to prepare your morning coffee and breakfast, they erect and dismantle your tents, they run ahead of you to set up lunch and evening meal dining tents, and they carry your camping equipment - they work very hard to ensure you have a wonderful experience. The chefs work equally hard, some might say even harder as they often double-up their role acting as a porter during the day to help carry equipment as well as cooking the meals throughout the day and evening. The Inca Trail guide may not carry equipment like the porters do, but they go out of their way for days at a time to ensure you have a fantastic experience.

Tipping on the Inca Trail tends to happen one of two ways: either the Inca Trail group will all join together to combine tips into one pot that is donated to the guides, porters and chef to share out amongst themselves; or each individual trekker will donate money themselves directly to each of the porters and helpers. Whichever method your group uses as a rough rule on how much each trekker should tip for the full four-day Inca Trail (or a trek elsewhere in Peru) for the porters an amount of S/.20 to S/.100 is a good guide (depending on how friendly and helpful they have been, and how long the trek was), for the chef around S/.30 to S/.120 is a good guide (depending on how nice the food was), and for the guides around S/.100 to S/.200 is fairly typical.

Tipping Summary

Tipping in Peru during your holiday is perfectly normal and acceptable, although there are a few key things to consider:

  • Tipping is a choice, it is always optional and never mandatory - never ever feel forced or obliged to tip and only tip if you want to and if you feel the services provided were deserving of tipping.
  • When tipping be sure to tip the local tour guide or waiter etc directly to ensure they receive the money, rather than it going to the tour company or restaurant.
  • Tip in Peruvian Soles (the local currency) rather than US dollars or your own currency.

Tipping is complex! We've prepared this guide in good faith, so hopefully it helps advise you, reassures some of your concerns, and helps you avoid awkward moments or confusion during your holiday. Enjoy your trip!

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