As in any other country, tipping in Turkey is a gesture for showing the gratitude for a service received. Tipping is a straightforward process as it is widely accepted worldwide. Still, Turkey has its own slight differences in use to show the appreciation.
Tipping in Turkey 101
Although leaving tips in places like restaurants, bars and cafes is a practice accepted by the public, it is not an obligation.
Turkish culture is based on personal relations. We tip for the people, not for the venue itself. It is all about the personal relation between the client and the person who provides the service you received. When tipping in Turkey, you tip for a smile on the face, for a kind and respectful interaction, and for a timely service which make you feel comfortable.
On the other hand, if you would like to show your dissatisfaction, leave nothing at all even if the service personnel expect a return favour from you. Tip only if you are satisfied with the experience you had.
In general, leaving 10% of the total bill as a tip is considered “proper” in Turkey. However, there may be some other practices like valet services where there is no bill, or when the check amount is too low or too high to pay its 10%. Well, in such cases, you need to follow your instincts to decide your tip amount.
The local banking system is not suitable for charging tips directly into credit cards. Instead, we use cash for tipping in Turkey.
Of course, you can still ask your waiter if it is possible to add the tip to your credit card payment. It may work especially in expensive bars and restaurants. However, the amount charged to your credit card will be received by the business owner and it is subject to tax. At the end of the day, sharing extra payments with the employees will be in the owner’s discretion.
Foreign coins are not officially interchangeable in Turkey which may also be an issue when tipping. Banks or exchange offices do not accept or convert foreign metal coins – like Euro or Dollar coins – into Turkish Lira because of the regulations.
In touristic destinations like Bodrum, where foreign currencies are widely used, service personnel can find a way to use coins; but in non-touristic regions, coins are generally useless.
Tipping in a Restaurant, Café, or Bar
“10% as a tip” motto works just fine in any “a-la-carte” restaurant, café, or bar. Leaving less than or more than 10% is up to you based on your experience.
If you want to express your dissatisfaction, leave nothing! It will not be perceived as an insult. Instead, they will realize that they need to do a better work.
Fast-food chains and self-service cafés and restaurants have tip boxes, usually in front of cash registers. Well, in this case you know the drill!
Tipping for Valet Parking or Cloakroom Service
Leaving a fair amount of tip for the valet parking is another thumb rule. Just do it upon the delivery of your car. Unfortunately, there is no standard tipping rate for this one. It depends on how fancy your venue is. You can assume something around €1.50 to €3.00 would work well in most restaurants. If it is one of the fanciest places around, just add €1.00 or €2.00 to your base tip.
The same applies for cloakroom services, the same amount of tip you use for valet parking will be just fine.
Parking your car in a crowded area of the city, such as Bodrum town centre, is usually a problem. There are car parks owned by the municipality or private sector where you can leave your car for an hourly or onetime fee. In such parking spaces, leaving a tip is not a common practice.
Tipping in Turkey: Hotels and SPAs
At the check-in desk of your hotel, a bellboy may show up to carry your luggage to your room. This is the guy you can hand over a tip. Although the amount is totally up to you, the tip amount depends on your hotel. More luxury it is, more tip is expected. As a reference, you can assume something between €2.00 to €5.00 for 4-star or 5-star hotels.
In Turkey, we are not accustomed to leave tips for front desk clerks. Typically, they will not expect to receive any tips. However, if you are happy with their assistance and it is within your budget, it would be nice to show your appreciation by leaving them a tip.
SPAs are very popular in Turkey. Many nice hotels offer award-winning SPA services for their guests as well as for outsiders. Depending on the treatments you chose, generally 20-30% of the expense is appropriate as a tip for the masseurs and masseuses. Once again, it is not a must but just a socially accepted practice.
Tipping in Cabs and Public Transportation
During my first time in US, I took an airport shuttle to the city upon my arrival. I remember how I was surprised when I saw a sign in the bus, saying that tipping is very important for the driver. Everybody can use some extra cash but announcing that publicly felt very odd as somebody from a culture which considers discussing income related subjects in public embarrassing.
Here in Turkey, this is not the case, though. Tipping in any kind of transportation service is not something we are familiar with.
In public transport – like in buses or minibuses – we certainly do not leave a tip. If you decide to give it a try, get ready to explain yourself to the driver. Probably he would have a hard time to understand your good intentions.
The cabs, or taxis, are another story. The taxi drivers do not expect to receive a tip as well. However, you can let them keep the change if you are in a hurry to get off.
On the other hand, taxi drivers working at touristic destinations are used to receiving tips thanks to foreign travellers. Although it is still not a common practice of tipping in Turkey, I am pretty sure that they will gladly accept your tip.
Tipping in Tour Organizations
If you are travelling with an organized tour, tipping practices are not very different than they are in many other countries. Leaving tips for the drivers and guides are something to consider.
Your tour leader will help you in determining the proper tip amount for the driver, and for any other organization you may attend like a special Turkish Traditional night out.
When it comes to tipping for your tour leader or tour guide, organizing a group spokesperson would probably be the best method. You, or somebody else from the group can take the initiative to collect tips among the other attendants. Putting the collected money into an envelope – if you can find any – before handing it over to your guide at the end of the tour would be culturally nice and kind.
If you are having trouble in organizing tip collection in a large group, you can always personally give your tip to your guide.
A similar tip collecting approach can also be applied to the Blue Cruises. Since there are no tour guides in these boat trips, you need to tip the captain and the crew separately. Determining the tip amount with the other guests based on your overall satisfaction at the end of the trip is what you need to do.
You can give all the tip you collected to the captain, asking him to distribute a certain amount to the crew is one method. Or you can present the captain’s tip directly to him and present the crew’s tip to one of the crew members of your choice.
When Not to Tip
You are in a foreign country, and you need all the help you can get. It is understandable that you may want to give a tip to somebody who helps you. However, there are some cases where leaving a tip could be unnecessary or even rude based on the local culture.
For example, I was approached by a traveller who asked me how to get to The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus years ago. I was in Bodrum for a vacation myself, and I offered to walk with him there. When we arrived, he wanted to give me some money. It may be normal in some parts of the world but not in Turkey and, not for many people. I appreciated his good intention, but it was an embarrassing and an unpleasant experience for me.
Somehow this has happened to me more than once and each time I question myself if it was my fault.
Therefore, you do not need to pay for the help coming from locals. If you believe that you have taken their time unnecessarily long, try offering them a cup of tea or a beer but do not offer money.
Unfortunately, there may also be some people asking for money for the help they provided to the travellers. This type of behaviour has its downsides both culturally and legally.
First, Turkish culture is built on hospitality. Asking money for a simple help is culturally unacceptable. Such behaviour certainly would not be about tipping in Turkey.
Second, Turkish laws clearly indicate that any touristic service, even an airport transfer, requires a special licence from the Ministry of Tourism. If somebody without a license tries to charge you for something, like taking you to a museum, it is a serious crime with a penalty and jail time, starting with 3 months.
If you need help in Turkey from a local, just go on and ask. They are usually very friendly and helpful. However, if you feel that he is expecting something in return, find another person for help. If they persist or become annoying, report them to the local authorities.
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