One of the main sources of income for the Costa Rican people is within the tourism industry welcoming over 3 million tourists a year. It is a country rich in biodiversity, volcanoes and tropical beaches drawing in crowds from all over the world. Whether it be a taxi ride from the airport, your knowledgeable and fun tour guide or your friendly server at the local soda you will want to thank them for their service. However, not all countries are the same when it comes to common tipping practices.
Tipping at Restaurants
Costa Rica does not have a specific expectation when it comes to providing an extra gratuity for services in restaurants as they already include a 10 % service charge on your bill. This is governed by law and is for the servers and wait staff in the establishment. Your menu should indicate if this is included in your bill, if you do not see it simply ask to better understand if the tax and tip are already included for you.
If you enjoyed your dining experience and want to provide more, 5 – 10 % of the price of your meal is a generous amount if the mandatory gratuity has already been placed on your bill. You will often find a “propina” or tip jar at the register when paying for your bill especially at cafés and local sodas in the neighborhood. It is a perfect spot to leave some of your heavy Costa Rican coins as a token of your appreciation for friendly service and delicious authentic food.
When reviewing your receipts while in Costa Rica you may also see another tax on your bills, this is the VAT, value added tax. The national sales tax standard rate in Costa Rica is 13% with some government exemptions. You will notice it on your hotel reservation or a tour receipt, however, do not confuse it with the gratuity tax. This tax is not a tip for the hotel staff or housekeeping attendant.
Tipping at the Hotel
When arriving at your hotel it is customary to tip the bellhop as they assist you with your luggage to your room. The minimum you would want to give them is $1 per bag and also consider how far they are moving your heavy suitcase and how many bags they are transporting. Don’t forget to set aside some money for when you are checking out to thank the bellhops for bringing your luggage back to reception.
Deciding on the amount to tip at your hotel is usually dependent on the type of hotel you are vacationing at. Housekeeping staff play an important role in your stay, maintaining and caring for your home away from home. Often people will leave a bit more on the first day of their stay to receive a little extra care in the room that goes beyond the routine cleaning.
If you have travelled to other tropical countries, you may have left items out for the housekeeping staff such as clothing, body products or small gifts for children. However, unlike these other warm destinations, it is not customary in Costa Rica, many items are readily available for locals if they can afford them. At a higher-end hotel or resort, an ideal tip would be $2 – $5 a day to show appreciation for their daily tidying. If you are staying at a comfortable budget hotel up to $2 a day is generous.
While relaxing at the hotel you may take time to enjoy the bar and try some of the local drinks or a cocktail. The custom is no different than that back at home where you would tip per drink, $1 is a general suggestion for your bartender. Often luxury hotels have a spa on-site for relaxation and wellness treatments and you will want to tip up to 15% of your bill for their services.
When out exploring you may stop at a location where you need to leave your vehicle, here you can come across two options; an official parking lot attendant or an unofficial one. $1 for the first hour is a good tip for an official attendant and $2 if up to 3 hours in the lot.
Regardless if the attendant is official or not you will want to give them a tip, often the unofficial attendant is from the area and will keep a watch on your vehicle. You will want to give them $1 and even use up some of your small change as a nice gesture, this may be their only means of income.
Tipping on a Tour
During your stay in Costa Rica, you will most likely be visiting one of the National Parks or venturing off on a tour. A tour will give you life long memories and having a guide will give you local knowledge and expertise. It also takes the stress away from having to plan and research your adventure.
Tipping your tour guide can vary based on the size of your group. If your group is small at least $10 per person is a good way to show gratitude for their services and if in a larger tour group, a minimum of $5 per person. Take into account whether your excursion was half a day or a full day of activities in which you may want to offer a bit more such as 5 – 10 % of the total cost of the tour. Remember all that went into making this amazing day so unforgettable and the passion that most guides will share with you.
Tipping when taking a taxi or shuttle
If you are returning to the airport in a taxi or shuttle this will be the last tip on your voyage. When riding in a taxi you can round to the nearest dollar or let them have the change and for a longer route, $1 – $5 is sufficient. An appropriate tip for your shuttle driver is $2 – $10 as you will want to consider the time and distance for this service to your destination.
It is easy to forget that Costa Rica is a third world country when you see the luxurious condominiums on the beach, the adrenaline ziplines and the rich dining experiences. Tourism keeps Costa Rica”s economy thriving offering tourists’ endless options to explore and see Costa Rica’s amazing land. Tipping is a small way to say thank you to the country and the local people that make your vacation so memorable.