Tipping in New York City: a guide to who, when and how much

When you travel to another country, it can be a minefield to know when to tip and how much to leave. Nowhere is this debacle more mind-boggling than the United States, and no city quite as complicated to decipher than good ol’ Gotham.

NYC has its own set of rules, but our cheat sheet should set you well on the way to tipping like a true New Yorker. If you get to the end and feel like we missed something out – make sure to leave us a comment and we’ll try to help!

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Dining out

For most restaurants in NYC, a tip between 18% and 20% on the pre-tax total is standard. If your servers were outstanding, a tip of 22% would be appreciated. If tip calculating feels too much like hard work, an easy way to work it out is to just double the tax – which equates to roughly 18% – then add a dollar or two on top. You could even try one of the many tipping apps out there – they’ll do the math for you.

If you’re eating at a hotel restaurant or with a big group (usually of six or more), often a service charge will be automatically included on the bill. It’s worth noting that sometimes it can appear as if the service charge is a food & beverage line item, so it’s best to give the bill a second glance to avoid accidentally tipping twice.

For service that’s average, a 15% tip will get the point across, but if the experience was truly awful, feel free to tip 10% or below. If you don’t intend on leaving a tip at all, it’s best to ask to speak to a manager to explain the situation before leaving the restaurant, or you might find you’re chased down the street by a disgruntled waiter (it happens!).

The only time you wouldn’t tip is if you’re dining at place where you order at a counter and take your own food to the table.

Bartenders

If you order a beer, a one dollar tip per bottle is typical. In regards to wine, if the bartender lets you taste the wine before pouring a glass, then a $2-3 tip would suffice. For standard cocktails, a $2-3 tip is fine. Though, if you go to a bar (such as the Orient Express) where cocktail connoisseurs take time to perfect an exceptional concoction, it’s suggested to leave $3-5 per drink.

Taxi drivers

If you take a trip anywhere in Manhattan or western Brooklyn, say Williamsburg, DUMBO, Fort Greene, etc. a tip of 15% is sufficient. If you pay with a credit card you’ll notice that a pop-up screen appears with boxes for 20%, 25% and 30%. This tipping percentage isn’t the standard, but cabbies hope to make a bit more in tips to make up for the credit card transaction fee.

To and from the airport: If the driver is kind enough to help load and unload your bags, it’s recommended to tip around 22%, or up to 25% if you have a lot of luggage.

Taxi drivers are required by law to take you anywhere that you want to go, so if your cabbie is difficult, rude or doesn’t drop you off at your exact location, feel free to skip the tip. It can be best in these situations to pay by credit card to avoid an awkward interaction when you require change back.

Hotel staff:

Get your dollars ready for this one. From the moment you enter a hotel, you should expect to tip most of the hotel staff that you encounter. It’s best to tip the person directly at the time of service.

Your tipping will most likely start as soon as you step inside the hotel lobby. First up is the bellhop, tip him a dollar per bag. Then there’s housekeeping. For any additional in-room requests, such as extra towels and pillows, a one to two dollar tip is appreciated. It’s also a nice gesture to leave a few extra dollars at the end of your stay.

When it comes to room service, the total on your room service bill typically includes a service charge that’s spread between the in-room dining staff. You can feel free to leave a tip specifically for your in-room server, but it certainly isn’t necessary.

Concierge is less black and white; depending on the task given, it’s suggested to give anywhere from $5 – $20. If someone goes above and beyond by procuring reservations at the always-booked Rao’s and front row tickets to The Book of Mormon, a $50 – $100 tip would be about right.

Finally, on your way out, you might want the doorman to hail you a taxi. If they manage this (especially during a busy time) it’s best to tip a dollar or two.

Salon/Spa services

Fancy getting a manicure or blowdry before a night out on the town? For most beauty and spa services in New York, the suggested tip is 20% of the pre-tax total.

Quick cheat sheet

General:

If tipping in cash, always leave notes – tips left in coins may be taken as an insult

 Dining out:

– Good service: 20% on the pre-tax total
– Mediocre service: 15% on the pre-tax total
– No need to tip if you order your food at a counter

Out on the town:

– Beer: $1
– Wine: $2
– Cocktails: $2-3

Taxis:

– Around the city: 15%
– To/from airport: 20%
– Assistance with luggage to/from airport: 22% -25%

Hotel staff:

– Bellhop: $1 per bag
– Doorman/porter: $1-2 per taxi hailed
– Housekeeping: $1-2 per special request, $5 at the end of your trip
– Concierge: Varies, based upon activity

Words by New Yorker and founder of StyleBomb, Jen Mendenhall-Waldorf

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7 Comments

  1. Brian Morris says:

    I do feel that this tipping situation is getting completely out of hand. As I understand it, the practice of tipping was for “service above and beyond a person’s job requirement” and NOT for simply doing the job for which they are paid. Please don’t think I am a skinflint, but being expected to pay extra to the cost as advertised for someone just doing their job does not seem right. Do I get tips for doing my everyday job on top of my salary? NO. The excuse that their pay is so low they need tips to make up their pay doesn’t hold up either. The employers should be made to pay a proper living wage so as not to encourage a Black Economy where workers incomes are not being taxed at the correct rate. That way the National economy wins, the employee wins and the customer wins. Yes, I appreciate that this would probably put up prices, but then the customer has the option to not use that service provider and choose somewhere else.

    • In Vermont the servers wage is just under $5.00 an hour. On a $100.00 dinner for two that is about $20.00 tip. So lets say a server works 4 hours and waits on 6 tables. The server made $35.00 an hour. That is in a nice restaurant the rate a skilled server earns, and there is a skill involved. Can you imagine if restaurant owners had to pay that wage, how much your entree would cost?

  2. Is it necessary to tip when you call in an order “to go” and then also go to pick it up yourself? If so, recommended amount?

    • Eleanor Cording-Booth says:

      Hi there, apologies for the late reply on this! No, there would be no requirement to tip in this case. You could put a dollar in the tip jar on the counter if the server was particularly friendly, but there’s really no obligation to.

  3. Giving tips is a good mannerism, which is normally followed in western countries. It is not compulsory, but a good way to show our respect and thanks to a person who helped us.

  4. Mannerism which is regulated by a conformed standard of 18% to 25% of the total price? What kind of ideology is that? Instead of the government and employer looking into the low wage issue, it seems like the consumer is to borne the responsibility of bringing up these waiters daily wages?

    I’m all out in rewarding services that goes beyond their job requirement, but if they are doing what they are supposed to, what’s the extra cost on the tips for? And when you do give tips, it should ultimately be of any amount the consumer deem to be within his or her means. They key here is sincerity.

  5. I cannot understand how the normal working class family survives in New York.
    Yes I understand it is only fair manners to tip for a service

    How on earth do these people manage in there every day life bringing up a family making ends meet and then having to spend a good part of their money tipping.
    On top of that you have to pay transport to get to work, which is also not cheap.

    I have just booked our first ever trip to New York, a family of 4 , and having to book a hotel that was within our budget plus flights as well, not cheap. South Side of New York
    On top of that it’s transport to Hotel from airport and back again.

    Meals are not included and so I have the added stress factor of paying to eat for the whole time we are there, and so my budget would have to be £10-$14 for each person for a main meal in the evening. Breakfast would have to be from a box of cereal and carton of milk bought from a supermarket. On top of that we have lunch on the go/snacks and not forgetting we have drinks to buy.

    7 day metrocard for family of 4 on top of that
    Money for Taxi fares for night time
    Then on top we have the New York card which gets us into as many cool places.

    I think eating out via take away would be our only option, as tipping would just use up a good part of our holiday money.

    What I will be paying out just to eat in New York for 7 days, well that would have fed my whole family for 3 months food bill in the UK.

    So if any New Yorker fancies feeding us for an evening while we are over there, please get in touch.

    Not one to moan, it will be interesting to write a blog about our New York experience.

    Sincerely

    A Scottish Mother

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