Wallet Rules: How Do You Tip In Spain?

Do you know how to tip in Spain?

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By Nancy Todd

The Scoop Experts say: Tip! And, you tip differently in Spain. We hope that servers in Spain are well compensated when payday rolls around because tipping is much less in Spain.

Whether you are in big cities like Barcelona or Madrid, or in villages,  service is slower as in really slow. Don’t let that deter the quantity of your tip. It is not bad service. It is Spain and people are in less of a rush. I have often been in a restaurant when the servers were talking with each other or on their cell phones, and they just continue talking.  The guest is not attended to until they are ready. The positive side to this is that you will not be asked to leave so that they can turn the table.

Review your bill to make sure it is correct.  Bills are incorrect about 50% of the time (a slight exaggeration…but do check your bill). Check to see if you are charged a tip. If you are, don’t tip anymore. Some places include a tip, most do not. Here are some rules of the wallet when it comes to tipping.

1. Coffee, beer, small stuff – Round the amount  off to the next euro. For instance, when I pay 1.30 euros for a coffee, I leave 1.50 euros if it is a place I go to often. If I don’t go there often, no tip.

2.  Lunch –  For the Menu del Dia (set menu/ daily special), tip etiquette is to leave one euro per person or about 5%. Some people don’t leave anything.

How much should you tip for dinner?

3. Dinner –  In a moderately priced restaurant, leave one euro per person.  In an elegant restaurant, 10%.

4. Taxis – Round tip off to the nearest euro. If a driver is surly or takes you out of your way, leave him a crumpled gum wrapper. Drivers usually charge 1.50 extra for each suitcase handled so no need to tip for that.

What have your service/tipping experiences been in Spain?  Any advice?

25 Responses

  1. bawa says:

    Having lived nearly 25 years in and about Bilbao and Santander, what I have seen with all my Spanish friends and family can be reduced to: No Tips. Zero.
    Regardless of type of restaurant, frequency of visits. Very very rarely someone has left a euro or two. But in a Bar or Menu del Día, not even small change.
    It is assumed that working in restaurants is a proper job, and you get properly paid for doing it.

    Only rounding I have seen sometimes is with taxis but only to the nearest euro (so centimes) but mostly not even that.

  2. admin says:

    Thanks for that insight into the North of Spain! Good tips for those traveling to the Basque Country.

  3. Jason says:

    Have to confer with bawa. It’s usually just tourists who tip in Spain. Slow, inattentive service IS bad service, regardless of which country you are in. Customer service is all about understanding your customers needs.

  4. admin says:

    Yes, we never leave more than a few coins.

  5. 1,30€ for a coffee plus 20 cents tip!? Madness.

    And 10% – 20% for an ‘elegant’ restaurant is way way way too much — given that, in Barcelona, the ‘elegant’ restaurant will likely be charging each diner around 50plus€.
    And, as regards slow service — I was in the States (New York, Cape Cod and Vermont) in June this year, and — generally — the service was much slower than here in Barcelona — not that it bothered me — I was in no hurry — just saying — but shocked how everyone — even a local bar EXPECTED a minimum tip of between 15% and 20%. Ridiculous. (For example, the service at a café/tearoom in Central Park was agonisingly slow — took 15 minutes before anyone thought to bring us a menu, another 10 minutes before someone asked our order — and then another 20 minutes to bring two beers, a glass of wine and a cup of tea!)
    In fact there’s a very well known sherry bar in Madrid (La Venencia on Calle Echegaray) which hangs a sign: DO NOT OFFER TIPS — THEY WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED.
    Yes, even now, in economically hamstrung Spain, there are still places which refuse to kowtow to the mighty dollar!
    In many places during the civil war tips were banned — tips were considered (as they are) anti-democratic — every customer should expect the same service as every other, regardless of their ability to pay a little ‘extra’ for favourable attention.
    Tips are a form of corruption — and expose the USA as the cheapskate nation that it is. Wait staff in Spain (for the most part) are professionals (and though sometimes family members) working for a wage and social security and health benefits — not skivvies, students and marginalised persons working on zero contracts.
    My tip is to only tip if the service is good, or if you’ve derived some additional, unexpected benefit.
    A tip (propina) is a gift — not an expectation — use it well.

  6. Doina Bird says:

    I have lived in Barcelona for more than 30 years. The tip you leave should never be more than 10%, so for your coffee max 13 centimes. Service is included because waiters receive a salary.
    The comment about “it is Spain” is indignant. I have waited far longer for a cup of coffee in NYC than I have in many places in Spain, not to mention rural spots. It depends where you go anywhere in the world. Also, people have longer lunch breaks here because they are more civilized. So why would you be in a hurry if you are on holiday anyway? Unbelievable that kids in the US are expected to have lunch in 15 – 20 minutes at school.
    Where do you get your statistics that 50% of the time the check is incorrect?
    In Europe the customer is not always right, especially the tourists, and more so the ones who don’t even bother to attempt to speak the languages.

  7. admin says:

    Hi Bill,

    Wow, tipping is a touchy subject!

    As far as how people choose to tip in the USA, well, that’s a whole different culture. I think it’s a bit impolite to say that the US 15-20% tipping policy is ridiculous…it’s just how it’s done there, it’s a different system. The point of this post is to inform people who are used to tipping that it’s not really as necessary as it is the US and other countries with a tip culture. “Tips are a form of corruption — and expose the USA as the cheapskate nation that it is.” — Bill, we just can’t agree with you on this one. Both Nancy and I are from the States, and so are our families. Generally, the US population are some of the most generous when it comes to giving to charity, etc. There are other issues in the US around money, but cheapskates? Common…….

    It is interesting about the anti-tip culture that was born in the civil war. I read about that too, when I was doing research for an article I was writing. Frankly, it cleared things up for me – don’t tip because it could be seen as rude; my job has the same value as yours and there’s no need to tip sort of thing….this was a relief because my American conscience was guilt stricken by not leaving tips all the time, and this helped me to just get the hell over it.

    Hope to see you in writer’s group sometime Bill! We’ve not seen you around in ages! And good luck with your various books!


  8. admin says:

    Hi Doina, 50% is an exaggeration. Like some other bits of this post, it’s not meant to be taken seriously….like leaving your taxi driver a gum wrapper. In any case, we are OFTEN overcharged, and undercharged, for that matter, in Barcelona. This is not just because we’re guiris. I was out with my husband the other night, who is Catalan, and we were overcharged by 20 euros. That was less than a week ago. It happens frequently. I am not sure if this is just because people are busy or if it is at times intentional. I hope it is not.

    I’d be interested in hearing what other people’s experiences with this has been in other regions of Spain.

    Thanks for your tipping tip on ‘no more than 10%’, that’s another approach to a confusing subject (seems like everyone has their own system in Spain).


  9. admin says:

    Doina, Thanks for writing and I appreciate your opinions. I have heard from many Catalans and other Spanish people to watch your check. They are the ones that told me bills are in excess 50% of the time. For me, that holds true, especially in crowded or touristy areas. Yes, people from the States need to slow down and enjoy life more. The slowness of Spain, the ease with which one can linger is a gift.

  10. admin says:

    Bill, thanks for sharing your insights about Spain and the U.S. Service can be slow anywhere. And, also efficient. In the States, servers are paid very little, sometimes about $4 an hour and depend on tips. We are looking at cultural differences here, salary differences. It would be much easier if wait staff in the States were paid well, but the reality is they are not. They also split the tips with the busboys and hostesses. I think being a waitperson is a very important job and they should be well paid. Not always the case. I know people who are waiters in the States who do this as a career. They are not all skivvies and students. Yes, a tip is a gift. And I agree, as you said, ‘use it well.’ I do not tip anywhere if the service is crap.

  11. Cyra says:

    This is spot on how I tip here. Even for the coffee. And I am Australian – we don’t have a tipping culture, at least, we didn’t when I lived there last.

    And I do agree with you, the bill is often incorrect. As is change as the supermarket, in stores, at the bar. I don’t believe it’s done intentionally. Even my Spanish friends mess up money when we are out. :)

    So, CHECK CHECK CHECK and they are ALWAYS happy to sort it out. It’s true what was said in the previous comments that “the customer is not always right” in Europe but when there is a charge for something that did not exist, or 3 euros of change missing, it is an obvious mistake that they can’t say is not a mistake. Staff are generally rushing around and not checking things properly, especially at the moment when many businesses are operating on skeleton staff due to the “crisis”.
    Cyra recently posted…Is TripAdvisor Reliable?My Profile

  12. Linda says:

    I don’t know which is more interesting your piece or the comments! I find it extraordinary that folk could get riled up over what is, as you say i think, simply a cultural difference. I think what you wrote pretty much holds true for the Canary Islands too. Perhaps the ten per cent may begin at a slightly “lower” level of establishment, but then so many establishments here are foreign run/owned and have international staff. One thing i have noted is that staff are always appreciative and let you know that.

  13. admin says:

    How much would you tip at a restaurant on the Canaries Linda? Just curious.

  14. admin says:

    Yes, we’ve been overcharged a lot. Also undercharged…but mostly over. An extra beer here, an extra coke there. It pays to double check your bill.

  15. bawa says:

    Came back to this post after a while. After reading other comments, I am surprised at the mistakes in the bill remarksthat come from several people.

    I have had that rarely, and never in a supermarket. In a bar, on the fingers of one hand? Of course, we have had restaurants that have overcharged in my opinion for the food but that is another kettle of fish.

    Only 2 recent instances come to mind, a restaurant that forgot to charge us for a second bottle of wine until we pointed it out, and a very busy pintxos bar where after I had paid upfront (simply because it is so so busy its easier to do it when you have the waiter’s attention), about 10 minutes later the waiter came looking for us with 90 cents to return because he had charged one of the new pintxos as a “special” and it was an “ordinary” one.

    I am just wondering if this wrong change happens more in some places than others.

  16. admin says:

    Yes, it happens all the time. Always double check!

  17. Carlos Linares says:

    If I’m happy with the service in a restaurant, I always leave 10% tip, except if we are a big group; then I leave slightly less money. It depends on the group size. I used to work as a waiter to help pay for my studies when I was young, now I’m a tour guide and I can tell you waiters really appreciate been compensated for a good job. In America I always have to leave about 20%

  18. admin says:

    Hi Carlos. Where are you based now? As a tour guide, how much do you usually get in tips? 20%? Just curious.

  19. Maryann Maslan says:

    Thank you for the variety of tipping suggestions for Spain. A great help. One thing that might be helpful to think of as a difference between Spain and most US restaurants is that most servers are not as well paid as in Europe. For the most part, they get a minimum hourly wage and no benefits. The gratuity is considered part of their salary. I hope this helps. Regarding service…hmm, case by case.

  20. The Spain Scoop says:

    Yep, you’re right about that. Plus in Spain there is socialized medicine.

  21. As a small bar in Barcelona with a roughly 50/50 mix of locals and visitors, we don’t accept tips. It always seems to cause so much consternation for visitors and regulars rarely tip – if they do its to get rid of loose change. In addition to their salary, all staff get unlimited food and drink, so a couple of coins as recognition of the great service we should be providing in the first place is not of any interest to them. I understand it’s a nice gesture and the attempt is genuinely appreciated, but only if, in a customers opinion, we have truly over delivered.

  22. I should correct by adding that all staff (at our bar) get free food and drink. That isn’t common practice in BCN.

  23. The Spain Scoop says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience. Interesting that you don’t accept tips.

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