Living in Mexico

Tipping Points

A guide on how much to tip and what it means for most local employees

The bellman carried your 50 lb suitcase to your room. You finished an amazing meal on La Quinta. The dive master took you to an unbelievable dive site on the Palancar Reef. What’s next? Time to express your appreciation for the service provided, whether they went above and beyond or were mediocre. Saying thanks doesn’t pay bills, but money talks.

In the U.S., we are used to leaving 18-20% on most services, a bit more if our toes tingled, less if we were faced with incompetence. Now, Mexico is slowly heading in the same direction. As I travel from Playa del Carmen to Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos, I carry a wallet full of $1 bills for the little things, because foreign coins are worthless to a local worker. Consider that the average hospitality worker in Mexico makes $6 USD per day and that the staff in most businesses share in the tipping process. An 18% tip gets shared with the dishwasher, cook, hostess, cashier and manager.

Putting it into perspective: most service staff in Playa spend at least 25 pesos taking the colectivo to work, and if their shift ends after 11 p.m., they must take a taxi home, upwards of 50 pesos. Their tip just went out the window. If service is horrendous, then definitely adjust, but never fault the waiter for a kitchen-made error.

At today’s exchange rate those 50 pesos you left are just $2.75, and for most of us back home that is pocket change, so don’t be stingy. Also remember the global rule: when using a coupon, getting a discount or having the time of your life at happy hour, tip on the original amount, not the discounted price. If you want the bill, you will have to ask for it, the staff won’t bring it otherwise.

Gas station attendant: Most gas stations are not selfservice, so a 10 peso tip goes a long way when they pump your gas and wash your windows.

Housekeeping: Rule of thumb is $1 per day per room.

Musician, grocery bagger: $1, as long as they sing on pitch and your eggs aren’t broken.

Spa service: 20%.

Taxi: If they help you with groceries or luggage, then 20 pesos.

Tours: 40–50 pesos per person, per tour if it is a ½ day, double for full day.


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