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Tipping during a European river cruise

I am leaving Monday for a fully guided group tour that will start with 2 days in Warsaw, 2 days in Krakow, 1 day in Budapest, then we'll have a 7-night Danube River cruise. I'll be in six different countries on this 12 night trip. Three are on the Euro (Germany, Austria and Slovakia). But Poland has zloty and Hungary has forint and the Czech Republic has Czech koruna.

I hadn't given much thought to tipping until last evening, so I looked at the travel documents from the tour company to see what was said. They list suggested amounts per person per day for the tour manager and bus driver for the land part of the trip, and different suggested amounts per person per day for the cruise director and activity host for the Danube river week. And there is also a suggested daily amount for the crew on the boat, which will be split among all of them. That gratuity for the crew can either be paid in cash or can be put on your onboard account. (But you can't tip your cruise director or activity host using a charge on the onboard account. . .those are cash only, to be handed to the recipient.) They also give suggested amounts for tipping any local guides. They'll be used in some of the cities.

They didn't say anything about the bus driver who will take us on optional excursions during the Danube River part of the tour. I assume it's not the same bus driver we'll have for the first five days on land in Poland and Hungary, but I guess it might be. They said nothing about tipping for the transport van driver for the ride to/from the airport that's part of our tour package.

The only comment that there's "no need to tip" applied to wait staff for included meals and luggage porters.

The materials said "gratuities may be paid in the local currency or in US dollar equivalent where accepted." Well what does that mean? How do I know in advance where US dollars are "accepted?" As far as I know, paying in US dollars isn't going to be useful to any local guides we may have. It won't be useful to our tour manager or cruise director or activity host unless they happen to be American. Should I assume I can tip any of the tour company employees in US dollars and the tour company will help them convert the money to something they can use? What currency should I put in the envelope for the money that's being split among all the crew? I assume US dollars is fine, that the tour company is going to take all that money, add it up, and give each crew member his/her share of it as part of their paycheck.

For local guides, the suggested amount is $2 to $3 USD. Shall I plan to have some coins in the local currency of each country we are visiting, for this purpose, or if I get lazy and don't want to do conversions, or take the steps to have the right coins on me, is it workable for them to receive USD? Would that be considered rude?

Any comments would be appreciated.

Posted by
486 posts

A friend of mine works in Europe for an American tour company as tour director. She is paid peanuts (very American) and depends on tips to supplement her income. I would suggest that you pay the suggested amount by your tour company in the currency of the recipient. I would.

Posted by
470 posts

Wow. And now you know why some people pay more for all inclusive river cruise companies vs what you are going through. I've taken 4 River cruises with such a company. I'll do my best for you.

Bus drivers - generally $4 per day per passenger - double check with you tour manager on this. Also whether tour guides need to be tipped. They should have said.

Transport driver - we usually give a couple of Euros for the two of us - this might vary if it's a longer distance - some tip 15%

Currency - keep in mind that European banks are better able to change currency than ours are and workers in the tourist industry are used to getting currency that isn't the standard for their country. In fact your ship is likely to have crew members from multiple European and Asian countries. All of ours have. I'd charge it in euros and have your bank do the conversion not the ship. Otherwise euros.

Tour company employees - we've had ones who live in the US and Europe - again they are used to getting both US and Euros. We've even been known to tip in a combination depending on what was left over from the tour.

Where odd currencies like florints, etc are needed are shopping in that country, restaurants, public transport, etc IF paid in cash. Charging for everything possible is the easiest.I

Again, talk to the tour manager on this or contact the tour company directly. Have fun. River cruising is great.

Posted by
12 posts

Vicki, the reason you don’t tip the cruise director on the ship charge is that the director floats from ship to ship after the land based extensions are completed. The tips you put on your ships charge are shared among all crew members.
Excursions during the cruise are contracted out to local persons. The tour guide is paid almost nothing so we always tip them the most, usually 5-10€ Per couple depending on how long the tour is and how good we consider the guide. The bus driver receives union wage in most places so we tip him a Euro apiece of a little more if he has done a good job or worked especially hard.
Forget the part about tipping in dollars. Don’t do it. It’s a little disrespectful. If you have the local currency use that. If you don’t, use Euros.

Posted by
20598 posts

Mike is absolutely correct. We are just off a Viking cruise between Amsterdam and Budapest. I view tipping as a part of the cost of the trip. We accepted the daily charge from Viking for staff, tipped local tour guides at least 5 to 10 euro for both of us -- always in local currency if the euro is not local. And a couple euro for the driver. Giving dollars or other non local currency is not rude but does put the burden on them to deal with the exchange rate and the conversion process. US dollars are better than nothing. This is a misconception floating around the US dollar is highly desired by the locals --- it is not.

Posted by
4947 posts

I think they just give the suggestions in USD because you'll be more familiar with that in terms of the magnitude of the tip. Using USD just passes the burden of time and cost of exchange onto that working stiff. Use euro if you dont have anything local. I would expect that you'll want some local cash for small purchases anyway.

Posted by
1093 posts

Do not tip in USD!!! It's more than a little disrespectful, for a local guide it's downright rude. You tip them $3, what are they going to with that? After exchange fees, they might end up with 20-30 cents or so. And contrary to what some people believe, the locals do not all want dollars. That might be the case in Latin America, but US-dollars are close to worthless in most of Europe. If you don't have any local currency use Euro, but it would be polite to acknowledge that it is an inconvenience and say something like "I'm sorry but I've used my last zlotys".

Also, don't tip the tour company employees in dollars, that would be borderline rude. Even if some of them are Americans, they still can't use them in most shops in Europe.

Posted by
829 posts

A carton of Luckies and some nylons used to be acceptable, along with USD. But nowadays, tipping in the local currency is polite.

Posted by
4128 posts

We have traveled to 78 countries and live overseas for several years.

We have done four river cruises that included a land tour as well.

I disagree somewhat with those that categorically state that tipping in US dollars in a foreign country is wrong and an undue burden to the recipient.

I do agree that in some foreign countries tipping in dollars is not the best choice. However, in most countries outside the EU, in particular countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia as well as places like Russia and countries of the former Soviet Union, US dollars are fine. The reason for this is that the US dollar is used in those countries as a secondary currency. Example, Russia has had serious inflation since the SU collapsed and many people used US dollars to save and protect themselves from serious inflation. Places like Egypt, you will find if you want to tip the owner of the camel at the Pyramids of Giza after a camel ride that he will probably give you US dollars in change.

In most of the EU, I would agree that tipping in dollars is not the best. Euros would be the better choice. However, if you tip in dollars in a country like Germany and many of the others on your tour or cruise tip in dollars, going to the local bank to exchange for Euros won't be a huge problem.

Also, we always tip at or above the recommended amount if our river cruise was great. River cruises are close to all inclusive, except for the tipping. I always prefer to tip and reward great services.

Posted by
20598 posts

I believe that the OP was inquiring about an European river cruise so all of the discussion about not tipping in US dollars is accurate and appropriate. When they do go to Asia or Russia then they might reconsider. However, I do remember being in Russia with a guide and being warned several times that it was illegal to make payments with US dollars. The street vendors were eager for dollars because there is a black market for dollars. Russia is one of those countries that I am eager to stay on the right side of the law.