Should you tip your tour leader? Here’s what we think.

written by Intrepid Travel August 21, 2019
Two yound travellers with their local leader in Egypt

Tipping is one of those topics than tends to split travellers into tribes: the Pro Tippers and the I’ve-Already-Paid-For-This-Service-Thank-You Anti-Tippers.

Usually the divide is simple: travellers who come from countries that tip versus travellers who didn’t grow up with a tipping culture. But it can be a thorny question. What are the rules? How much should you tip (if at all)? What are the consequences if you get it wrong?

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We’ve already written a bit about tipping in America and Vietnam (and Smarter Travel has some good general advice) but today we’re talking about small group travel. In particular: whether or not to tip your tour leader.

Our position

A group of young travellers with their leader in BudapestIf you book any trip with Intrepid, you’ll find a section in your Trip Notes about tipping. It basically says, ‘Tipping is never compulsory, but always appreciated. Try to give what you can.’ And that’s always been Intrepid’s position.

We work closely with local unions and abide by regional laws on wages to make sure every local leader and porter gets a fair and decent wage. But tipping is still a big part of leaders’ overall income. Particularly in cultures where tipping is entrenched in the tourism industry, like America and South East Asia.


Why tipping matters

A smiling tour leader in MexicoObviously the big value in tipping is gratitude. Simply saying thank you to your leader for all their hard work, making sure you got the room you wanted, keeping everyone safe, and tracking down that life-saving Imodium on Day Five (enough said).

But beyond good manners, tipping injects cash into the local economy, which is really the big benefit of small group tourism. By tipping in local currency, you’re making sure money is going to those who deserve it most. Tips don’t pass through any third party (not even Intrepid). They either go straight to the leader, or get divided up among your porters and local guides.


Do I have to tip?

Travellers with their leader in PetraDefinitely not. Tipping the leader has never been compulsory on Intrepid trips. And you shouldn’t let any travellers shame you into tipping, if you strongly believe against it.

All we ask is that you research the effects of tipping before making up your mind. And if you still don’t want to tip, find some other way to show your gratitude. Your local leader will really appreciate it.


How much should I tip?

An Intrepid leader with a family group in EgyptThere is no hard and fast rule when it comes to tipping at the end of a tour but if you would like some guidance on this, you’ll find suggestions for how much to tip in the Essential Trip Information for your trip.

If you haven’t been on an Intrepid trip before, and the idea of tipping is giving you mild anxiety, this is generally what happens: on the last day, over lunch or dinner, the group covertly gets together (like an office organising a colleague’s surprise party). Some discuss how much they’re thinking of tipping (talking about money can be awkward, so some travellers just put in what they feel), and there’s a quick whip-around in an envelope, which gets presented to the leader at the completion of the tour. It’s also fine to give your own tip separately from the rest of the group. The amount each traveller tips is usually anonymous.

A female truck driver in KenyaIf you’re on an Intrepid trip, check the Essential Trip Information in your trip notes; this includes suggested daily amounts, depending on the region you’re travelling in. For example, in South East Asia, we recommend US$2-4 per day; Europe is 4-5 Euros per day; USA is US$7-10 per day. Read through your trip notes for more info.

How much you put in is up to you. Chat it over with your group. See what you think is fair. Whatever amount you decide on, we can almost guarantee it will make a substantial difference to your leader.

If I don’t feel like tipping, what should I do?

People clinking their wine glasses in HungaryFirst of all, don’t panic. Many travellers decide that tipping isn’t for them. It’s okay. There might be something else you can do to show your gratitude, like write them a thank-you letter or card. Any small gesture will be appreciated.

If you’d like some more info on tipping, or anything else to do with Intrepid leaders, check out our FAQ page. There’s some good general advice there.

Interesting in exploring the world on an Intrepid small group adventure? Search our range of tours now

All images C/O Intrepid Travel. 

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