In New York, as throughout the United States, it is customary to leave a tip in many situations. But as a traveller, it's not always clear how tips really work.
Why is tipping important? When should you tip? Who should you tip? How do you calculate the amount of a tip? In this guide, I answer all these questions to help you fully understand how tipping works in New York 🙂
Why should you tip in New York?
It is important to understand that in New York and everywhere else in the United States, tips represent a significant part of the income of many employees (waiters, taxi drivers, valets, concierges...), if not the main part.
Such is not the case in the U.K.. Of course, tipping is more common there than in the rest of Europe, and only polite in some cases – but as a rule, the practice is very different from how they do it in the US of A.
A tip in New York is not an extra. In fact, service is not usually included in the bill, so tips should be considered as payment for services – an additional expense that should always be taken into account.
When should you tip in New York?
Since tips can be considered a service charge, there are many instances where you will need to leave one:
- For waiters,
- For people you take pictures with in Times Square,
- For baggage handlers,
- For hotel cleaners,
- For delivery people,
- For doormen,
- For hairdressers or beauty salons,
- For valet attendants,
- For cloakroom service,
- For taxi or shuttle bus drivers,
- For tourist guides,
- And more generally in all cases where a professional has rendered you a service.
Generally, a tip is given after the service has been rendered – for example at the end of a taxi ride, when the luggage handler puts your suitcase in your room, or when you pay the bill in a restaurant or bar 🙂
How much should you tip?
Knowing when to tip is one thing, but knowing how much to tip is another matter entirely. There are no actual rules, and the amount to leave is quite different depending on the situation. I explain it all just below 👇
Tips in bars
In a bar, estimating the amount to be tipped is much simpler: you can usually tip $1 per drink ordered, and up to $2 in more upscale establishments 🍸
Tips in hotels
For all the small services provided by hotel staff (porter, baggage handler, chambermaid, etc.), you can leave a tip of between $1 and $5, depending on the time taken by the employee and your satisfaction.
Tips in restaurants
In New York restaurants, tipping is a must. Waiters are paid a fixed salary that is often below minimum wage, so they need the tips left by customers to live – especially in this city where the cost of living is very high. It is customary to leave a tip of between 15% and 25% of the total amount of the bill, all taxes included.
To estimate the total amount, many people make a fairly basic calculation based on the amount of tax, clearly indicated on the bill as Tax. Tax amounts to 8.875% of the bill, so multiply however much that is by two and round it up to the nearest dollar. This way, you can easily find out how much to give to leave a very decent tip of around 18% of your bill.
For example, on a restaurant bill of $70 excluding tax, the amount of tax shown will be $6.22, so a tip of $13 would be perfectly fine.
Before leaving a tip though, check the bill to make sure that a service charge is not already included. This can sometimes happen, especially in the more touristy establishments. In such cases, there is no need to leave an extra tip unless you really want to. On the bill, these services may be listed as service included, tip or gratuity.
It is also common for a suggested gratuity to appear at the bottom of the bill, giving some examples of tips and their corresponding percentages, so as to help customers know how much to tip. By the way, if you're flying to New York soon and want to learn more about the best restaurants in New York, don’t hesitate to read my article on the subject! 😋
Tips in taxis and transports
After taking a ride in one of New York's famous yellow cabs, you will also have to tip the driver. Generally, it is customary to leave a tip of between 10% and 15% of the fare 🚕
When travelling with any other chauffeured vehicle (shuttle, vehicles for hire, JFK airport transfer), you can also leave a tip. In these cases, however, there is no real established practice and you can really leave whatever amount you want. Depending on the trip, $1 or $2 per person will often do the trick 👍
How to leave a tip?
In many cases, you can simply pay your tips in cash. This is one of the main reasons why you should always carry some cash with you when in New York.
When the waiter brings you the bill at the restaurant, he will often bring it to you in a folder or a cup. You can just put a few notes inside for your tip. If you only have a large note, don't hesitate to ask for change.
If you would rather pay by credit card, leave yours in the cup or folder after checking the bill. You will then have to write the amount of your tip directly on the bill before signing it, and the establishment will directly deduct the full amount.
When is it not necessary to leave a tip?
There are of course situations where you will not need to pay a tip. Generally, it is when you have to pay at a counter or a cash register (bars being an exception).
This includes, for example, a bakery, a supermarket or a grocery shop, conventional shops and most fast food outlets (where there is no table service). In all these cases, you can always tip in the same way as you would in the UK, i.e. to show your satisfaction. But in these establishments, tips are not essential to the staff’s income.
In those cases, a good practice may be to simply round up the bill, or to leave a dollar or two in the Tip Jar that is usually placed on the counter 😉
That's all for this article on tipping in New York, I hope it helped you! And by the way, if you are currently planning your trip to the City that Never Sleeps, do read my articles What to do in New York and Where to sleep in New York. They’re bound to be of help! 😊