Travel SOS: do you need to tip in Canada as you do in the US?

Travel SOS: do you need to tip in Canada as you do in the US?

Travel SOS: do you need to tip in Canada as you do in the US?

Jean is about to jet off to Canada and wants to know if tipping there is the same as in the US. Today, we explain the gratuities in the Great White North and share a simple tipping video.

Q. Jean
I’ve read your stories about Canada and booked my flights to visit the polar bears and see the Northern Lights this Canadian winter. I do have a budget and want to know if I need to set some money aside for tipping, as they say you should do when visiting the US. Some of my friends have been to Canada and they said you don’t need to tip, but I have read elsewhere that you do. Can you clear that up for me?

A. The tipping situation in Canada is similar to that of the US. Sure, you don’t have to tip, but most hospitality workers are on a minimum wage and rely on tips to make a decent living. Your friends who didn’t tip probably weren’t aware that many restaurants charge their staff a service tax (yep, you read that right), which is an eight per cent take on a waiter’s gross sales for the day. This means the waiter actually had to pay to serve you.

Also, it’s common practice for wait staff to have to ‘tip out’ at the end of each shift, meaning they are required to give a percentage of total sales to cover tips for hostesses, bussers, and similar service staff. This happens regardless of whether you tip or not.

Sounds a bit unfair, right?

So, most waiters hope for a tip between 15 and 20 per cent (before tax), to cover this fee and to make ends meet. If you receive excellent service, perhaps you might tip more or, if your waiter was substandard, a little less.

It’s also nice to tip your hotel staff. Canadians are known for being uber-polite – you may have heard the old saying, “how can you tell the difference between a Canadian and an American? The Canadian says please and thank you”. This means that the staff will often refuse tips but, although often unsaid, still highly appreciate it if you insist.

The same goes for taxis, tour guides and drivers – in fact, most service providers will be very grateful for a 10 per cent tip.

It all may sound a bit confusing, so to help matters, Ryan has created a special video, that shows you the basics of tipping in Canada.

Just a few things to add:

  • you don’t have to tip for counter service – it’s your choice and you won’t be judged for not doing so
  • when a gratuity is automatically charged, you don’t have to tip over and above this amount
  • if the service is not worth a tip, don’t tip
  • if the food is bad, remember, it’s not the waiter’s fault and it’s unfair to penalise them for the cook’s poor performance
  • when leaving tips for housekeeping staff, write a thank you note on hotel stationery and place the money underneath.

So, that’s tipping in a nutshell. Hope it helps!

Have you been to Canada? How did you find the ‘tipping thing’?

Video help
To enlarge the video to fullscreen, click the square icon at the bottom right-hand corner.

Volume can be adjusted by clicking the vertical bars to the right-hand side of the time indicator.

If you require subtitles, they can be activated by clicking the speech bubble icon at the top right corner of the video.


    To make a comment, please register or login
    28th Oct 2017
    When are these employers going to start paying a fair wage to their staff rather than expect customers to pay for them.
    We have this situation on Cruises where they expect customers to pay for (by tips) cabin service, and drinks service. Rotten way to treat your employees.
    29th Oct 2017
    If you look up the pay rates for cruise workers, you'll be mortified. Call it slave labour. Most of them come from poorer countries and in some cases have to pay an agency thousands to gain work. The american based companies hold you to ransom by adding a daily tip charge to your bill. Hopefully it goes where intended but then again, this is is greedy industry.

    Leaving a tip with your room attendant for example, makes up for the poor wages.
    22nd Nov 2017
    On cruises always go to the ships service desk and fill out a form to cancel automatic gratuities.
    Those gratuities are far too high and up horribly over a two week cruise and to add insult to injury, there is usually a 15% gratuity added to all bar drinks that you can't get out of, (considering the drinks aren't already overpriced).
    I then tip the room attendants and the dining room waiters at the end of the cruise - the cruise company should be paying everybody else.
    pedro the swift
    28th Oct 2017
    I regard tipping as demeaning to both employee and customer. The should pay staff a proper wage so they don't have to rely on tips.
    As far as giving service goes , it shouldn't rely on the size of a tip. Service should be a part of the reason people work in these industries.
    As far as tips on cruises goes, I have been on a few cruises and happy to say its been on ones where tipping does not occur. It may be a little bit more expensive but you don't have to fell guilty about not giving all and sundry a tip for the simplest thing.
    28th Oct 2017
    I worked on a blast furnace for many years, and when I was not working on a blast furnace, I worked in heavy industry including a stint in the mines, I don't recall anyone saying thanks for making the steel that went into making their cars, fridges,washing machines etc, these things all made life a little easier for everyone, I didn't receive a tip for doing my job, in fact if I didn't do my job the likelihood is that I would lose my job. I have been to the US a few times with some good experiences and some not so good, the problem with a tipping system is that eventually people expect a tip no matter what the sevice is like, this also applies on cruises, but at least on cruises I have found the service to be excellent. I have never been to Canada, but from what I have read the tipping culture in Canada is the same as the US. If people stopped tipping then its possible that people might get paid a proper
    wage, after all if people don't get paid or don't get paid enough to live on then no one will work in the service industry.
    29th Oct 2017
    The tipping culture has spread to Australia, probably because of north american tourists. The problem is that despite wages being decent for wait staff, it's almost expected now.

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