What, how, and if to tip take over most of the frequently asked questions that you’ll ask before traveling abroad. There’s a chance you’ll get as many answers as each person’s experience.
Leaving a tip, especially if this is normal in your home country, feels almost like a universal gesture of appreciation. But there are countries without rules set in stone that might make you doubt if you’re being appreciative or offensive.
Despite being a quite unfussy country, tipping in Portugal is the one thing that makes most tourists scratch their heads in confusion. Mostly because it’s hard to get one standard answer, but we here at Devour Lisbon compiled some of the more basic questions (and answers) that will help you make an informed decision before your next trip to Portugal.
Should or Should You Not Tip in Portugal?
The simplest and hardest question to answer at the same time.
In Portugal, on a regular basis, locals will typically tip taxi drivers and waiters at restaurants (not so much in cafes or bars, although it might happen), regardless if they’re at one of the Michelin star restaurants in Lisbon or a family-owned eatery in a village in Alentejo. The first ones, to make it easier for the driver if they’re low on change. The latter, only if the service was exceptional.
In businesses catering more to tourists than locals, it’s not unusual for the employees to expect a tip. Well, you don’t have to, and most certainly no one will give you a hard time if you choose not to tip.
Tipping is not mandatory, and you should only do so if you feel comfortable about it and if you want to reward truly exceptional service.
Which Businesses Should You Tip?
If you’ve experienced excellent service in cafés, restaurants, and your hotel, tipping is welcomed and appreciated. It’s harder to evaluate the excellent service of a taxi driver, especially if you don’t know the city well to figure out if they’re taking you for a spin.
To have a rough idea of what’s the average cost of taxi fare in Portugal, use an online tool like Taxi Fare Finder.
When you go on a guided tour and your guide went above and beyond to provide you with a memorable experience, it’s not rude to tip them in the end. But don’t insist if they politely refuse.
How Much Should You Tip?
At restaurants, you can choose to leave 5 to 10 percent of the final bill as a tip or, to make it easier, round up the check. So, for example, if the meal was €37, you can pay €40 and tell them to keep the change.
Some people who don’t feel comfortable tipping actually find the “keep the change” approach less awkward than openly tipping. It’s a matter of personal preference.
Most cafés have a tip jar next to the cashier, if not all year round at least during the holidays (Christmas and Easter). Anything between €0.20 and €1 is appropriate, just make sure you don’t use the “small” coins (€0.01, €0.02 and €0.05) because it makes it look like you’re dumping unwanted change. Use the small change to pay for the bill, instead. The cashier will thank you for it.
Considering that taxi drivers are paid employees or entrepreneurs, and the taxi fare already includes so many taxes and fees, locals usually choose to round up the fare. Either because it’s simpler for the taxi driver to give change or because they don’t want to get stuck with unnecessary change. In the end, paying an extra €0.15 or €0.50 doesn’t make that much of a difference.
How do You Tip When Paying with a Card?
Paying your bill at a restaurant using a debit or a credit card is normal in Portugal, especially for larger amounts and if you’re not keen on carrying a lot of cash. You can tip in cash by leaving some coins (or a €5 bill if you’re feeling extra generous) on the table on top of the check.
In some places, the POS system (the little machine where you swipe or insert your card) allows you to add the tip. It usually shows the price to pay on the first row and then €0.00 on the second row where you can insert the desired tip (gratificação in Portuguese).
Some Portuguese actually find it rude to see the gratificação on that little screen because they assume the employee is trying to guilt them into tipping.
In addition to that, there’s no saying if that tip goes to the employee or the employer, so it doesn’t feel like you’re rewarding their service. Again, it’s a matter of personal choice.
Some Do’s and Don’ts of Tipping in Portugal
Except for restaurants and taxis, tipping in Portugal is not a typical action for locals. That’s one of the reasons why you’ll get different answers when you ask about appropriate behavior. But to avoid being misunderstood, keep in mind some basic rules:
- Avoid tipping using the “small” coins (€0.01, €0.02 and €0.05). It looks like you’re cleaning your wallet of unwanted change, instead of genuinely showing appreciation for excellent service.
- Don’t assume the person providing you a service could use the extra cash. They might find it offensive. Some people engage in the “no, please” game of refusing tips and it’s up to you to read the situation. You can decide not to insist or you can use an alternative tipping technique by telling them they can “keep the change” because you’re in a hurry or by telling them you’re traveling back to your home country and you won’t need the Euros anymore (if you live in a country with a different currency, that is).
- Don’t feel you have to tip someone even if they’re pressing you to do it. If the service wasn’t reward-worthy, then don’t reward it.
- In most restaurants and cafés, the employees don’t keep the tip to themselves. It’s added to a mutual fund and then divided by each employee based on the number of working days every month. It’s up to you to tip or not.
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Sandra Henriques Gajjar is a freelance web content writer and travel blogger born in the Azores and based in Lisbon for 20+ years. Since 2014 she’s been blogging about travel, culture, and the people she meets in between at Tripper, a blog on sustainable cultural tourism.