“Tipping” or “service” as the West calls it do not fully express the purpose of the practice known in Egypt as baksheesh.
Tipping isn’t easy in Egypt. With seemingly endless situations calling for a gratuity of some kind and virtually no set rules – and the added confusion of inflation – you are frequently left guessing at the appropriate amount to give. The look on the recipient’s face when they take a peek at what you’ve given doesn’t clarify things.
The average annual income in Egypt is about $1500US a year (2006) and the very poor may make far less than US$ 40 a month. Tipping, therefore, is and integral part of life in Egypt and a few pounds will make a difference in man’s life. This does not mean to hand out money like you’re the Prince of Persia, either. Be generous or not, as you like, but remember don’t let it ruin your trip.
This problem leads to the issue of what amount is appropriate to pay. The details of the baksheesh system are second-nature to an Egyptian, but can be very confusing for a foreigner.
As a guideline for tipping in Egypt, it is considered appropriate to tip between US$ 5-10 per person per day for his vacation to Egypt and here is a summary of how this tipping is distributed over one’s trip.
- Travel Agency Representative 20 – 30 L.E.
- Guides 40 -60 L.E. (Per Day)
- Drivers 10 L.E. (Per Day)
- Felucca Captain 20 – 30 L.E. (for the 2 night Felucca cruise)
- Cruise Captain 10 L.E. (per night on the boat)
- Porters and Hotel Staff 2 – 5 L.E. (per service rendered)
For more details about how you can distribute your tips;
The first opportunity to tip during travel is usually upon arriving at the airport or train station. Here are some tipping guidelines:
Porter or skycap – $2 per bag or more if the bags are heavy. $2 extra for curbside check-in is optional. If you arrive late and he helps you get to your flight on time, tip an extra $5-20.
Electric cart driver – $2-$3 a person.
Wheelchair pusher – If they are just pushing you down the ramp from the gate to the plane (or in reverse), then nothing. If it is from the ticket counter to the gate/plane or from the gate/plane to the luggage carousel, then $5 is appropriate. Tip more if they help you with your luggage ($1-2 per bag) or if they help you to your car. If they are pushing you from one terminal to another (long distances), then $10-20 would be appropriate plus extra for luggage. Tip less if they are unpleasant or rude.
Check ahead. If the tip is not already included, give 10-15% of the tour price. No less than $3-4 for a half-day tour, $5-7 for a full-day tour, and $15-25 for a week-long tour. This is a per-person rate. Tip private tour guides more. If the bus driver is particularly helpful then tip $1-2.
Hotels and Beaches
Bellboys, beach-boys and other people who serve you in the hotel expect to be paid extra and often make use of your good mood during your vacation. Tourists vary widely in their opinions on how much to tip hotel staff, with some vacationers choosing not to tip at all as the hotel charges a service tax.
Those who do tip will give from the modest $ 1 to the bellboy and the guy who helps find you a lounge chair and umbrella on the beach, to an extravagant $ 20 at the end of a visit for those who carry your laundry and clean your room. If meals are included in travel package, $0.5-1 on the table per person to say thank you to the help that has to clear the tables and do the entire grunt work to make sure you are served a good meal.
Find out in advance. If you are supposed to tip, find out if it is done at the end of the trip or at the time of service. Oftentimes, at the end of the cruise you are provided envelopes with suggested tip amounts. If you are supposed to tip, budget about $5-10 per day.
Waiter – $3 per day per person.
Cabin steward – $3 per day per person.
Bus boy – $1.5 per day per person.
Maitre d’ – Not necessary unless special services provided.
Bar steward – Usually, 15% is automatically added to bill.
Tipping on Sleeper Train
Tipping on trains can be very confusing because most people don’t travel by train often and the situations can be confusing. For instance, sometimes the meal is included, sometimes it isn’t.
Dining car waiters, stewards and bar car waiters: 15 percent of bill (or estimated cost of meal when included)
Red caps, or porters: $1 per bag
Sleeping car attendant: $5 per passenger per day
There is no shortage of factors in determining how much you should leave as a tip. Some people choose not to leave one because of the 8-12 percent service charge automatically added to the bill. But for those who do want to leave something extra, the proper amount depends on the type of restaurant, number of people dining and how much was ordered.
For eateries such as Chili’s and Johnny Carino’s, the standard gratuity is usually US$ 1-5; particularly poor service merits a tip that varies from nothing to US$ 1, although very few people leave without tipping. For upscale eateries including hotel restaurants, most people leave anywhere between US$ 4-10. For a particularly large meal shared by a party of five or more people, many leave 20 percent instead of the standard 15.
Nothing is more disgusting than having to clean up after someone else, especially in the bathroom. The men and women who do this for you at the airport, hospital, malls and any other public place should be treated with more respect. Not only are they stuck with a job that many of us don’t even want do in our own homes, but they are snapped at and yelled at for not doing a good job, when there’s really only so much they can do.
For the person who gives you the couple sheets of paper on your way into the bathroom, an US$ 0.5-1 tip should be good. Not only will they appreciate it, but you will also be told which stall is the cleanest.
Some travel agencies would make a central tipping kitty which is handled by the tour leader who distributes the proper amount of tipping to the people who served the tourist according to the type of service rendered. Apart from this it is normal to tip any particular individuals that you feel has been especially attentive to your needs for the duration of the stay as opposed to a once off service. Most won’t expect the tip until the day you are leaving or before anyway.
An exception, though — don’t tip someone if you ask them for directions, even if they insist on changing directions and walking you halfway to your destination. It is considered rude to offer money for such a simple request. Taxi drivers are not tipped as the fee is agreed upon in advance
Whether or not monetary appreciation is displayed, Egyptians are always more than happy to help in any way they can. Nevertheless, baksheesh will be a frustrating game for all newcomers to Egypt, but it is part of the way this system works. The most important thing is knowing the rules of the game so that the foreigner is also an informed traveler. This way, baksheesh will become a tool, rather than a nuisance.