Hello experienced travelers! I know it says that tips for drivers and guides are included- is that really true or do travelers give them something extra? I have no problem tipping for good service, but I need to know if I should budget for it on a RS tour, or if that no tipping policy is firm.
I suppose no one will stop you if you want to give extra. But you're already paying those tips as part of your package cost.
If I were on a RS tour in which the PR literature said TIPS included, I would just refuse to contribute to any additional TIP conjured up by another tour member. If I personally felt a person deserved something more, I'd make it private and perhaps more personal than a TIP. Remember, TIP actually stands for 'to insure promptness' so the better use is to give a little money, palm to palm, before hand to someone for a windowseat or such, if that is what you want. IMO
I've been on 8 RS tours. On only one tour did the subject of "something extra" for our excellent RS guide come up. It was decided to collect money from those interested and buy a gift of a restaurant meal in the guide's home city.
I have been on RS tours when small, inexpensive gifts from the group such as a scarf, special treat (cheese, cookies, candy, bottle of wine, etc,) have been given to both the guide and driver or just the guide. If you care to donate to a small group gift or present your own privately, then do so. Nothing extra required or expected, by any means. I often write them thank you cards.
Yes, tips are included and nothing more needs to be paid to anyone on the tour that is part of a group activity (that is: the RS tour guide(s), the bus driver(s), hotel staff, local guides, restaurants where the group eats included meals, etc.). And the tour guides will refuse any type of cash tip (at least they have on every tour I have taken).
On most of the 10 tours I have taken the group usually buys a small item for the tour guide and the driver and presents it to them at the final group meal (a couple dollars (Euros) per person is all it is). I bought dinner for the bus driver (over his strong but good natured objection) on one tour because we ended up at the same restaurant on a free night. He was fascinating to talk with.
When you are on your own on the tour tipping is done as you would normally. At restaurants where you pay for the meal, any guided tours you may book on your own, a taxi ride and so on, you should tip as expected.
Never in 6 tours has there been any tipping per se. On one tour someone started a small collection to get the guide a scarf or broach or something small like that, but that's been the extent of it.
No tipping: they mean it. I've asked guides and drivers and they have all said that RS pays them very well.
Absolutely no tipping of guides or drivers. The guides are adamant. But as some other posters have noted, it is common, but not obligatory or universal, for people to chip in to buy a small gift. I think only on 2 or 3 of the 9 tours I've been on has a group gift been bought for the guide. You can certainly treat your guide or driver to a drink or coffee; they will accept graciously.
By the way, on a couple of the tours we've taken, the guide has bought small gifts - keychains, etc. - for the tour members. (They often have funds for treats.)
Agree with other posters. I have never taken a RS tour when we tipped $. Several times we bought a small gift for the guide and driver, but that was it. I think the most I ever contributed was a couple of Euros.
My experience on 7 tours has been the same as most others. Sometimes someone will buy a small memento for the guide. On my Best of England tour there happened to be lots of teachers on the bus. For some unknown reason the song The Wheels on the bus go round and round got started and that became a running joke. Someone found a kids book along the way with yep..The wheels on the bus go round and round, so we chipped in for it for a gift for His Guideness. He laughed and laughed when he opened it.
There have been a couple of times where someone wanted to start a collection for a tip but I have declined to participate in that as I don't feel anyone should be obligated as Rick and the guides are clear on the No Tipping policy.
Having said that, I have started giving the guide a card with a small tip from me as they go out of their way to get me vegan meals at the group dinners and I am sure it is a pain in the neck. I appreciate their special care. I don't discuss it with anyone or indicate I am doing it. To my mind it's just between the guide and me. I usually do it after the farewell dinner. I have usually seen the guides the next day and in every instance they have made sure to tell me the tip was totally unnecessary. My feeling is that if it WERE necessary I would not feel nearly as good giving it.
I have only tipped two bus drivers and that was because they were extraordinary. I did give the bus driver on my 21 Day BOE all my leftover Swiss Francs (about $10) as he was coming back to Switzerland 2 more times that year and I figured it would stand him to a beer or two in Stechelberg.
I tried to give my guide some money and he refused to take it, it's not their policy. Problem was I was only trying to repay him for some money he lent me earlier. He eagerly took my money when I reminded him. LOL
Per this website the prices of tours include, "All tips for guides and driver." And, "Most companies expect you to pay out-of-pocket for guide and driver tips. This can add up to several hundred dollars!" Absent extraordinary efforts to manage a personal issue, why pay tips, as such tend in essence to create two classes of tour members, those that tip and those that don't tip and encouraging potential differences in services received?
As all have said, no tip. I have purchased a thank you card got the entire group sign it, and then presented it to the guide at the final dinner. I have also been asked to chip in to purchase a small token gift, scarf and such. On one tour, I gave my guide a bottle of her favorite wine. This was done privately. Strangely, my least favorite guide announced her birthday would occur during the trip and gave the date. She did this on more that one occasion...hint,hint. Not surprisingly someone took up a collection.
On the other hand, I have had several guides arrange a group picture and then present a copy to each member during the final dinner.
I have taken 13 RS tours and am signed up for #14 (Portugal) this coming June. In several conversations with RS and his employees at their headquarters in Edmonds, WA (a 30 minute drive from my Seattle house) all have said "No tipping is allowed and all of our guides know that". While on those 13 tours so far, several times someone has tried to take up a collection for a gift which might include money. When it has been made obvious that the gift is some low cost memento, I have contributed a small amount. However, several times some one has tried to get fellow tour members to contribute a larger amount for something more expensive. When that happens, I politely remind them of RS rules regarding "No Tipping" and leave it at that.
I can't believe how much the recommended tipping amounts for tour guides, local tour guides, and bus drivers are on non RS tours. I am currently looking at tours to Australia and New Zealand and it appears that on most tours, the tipping is almost mandatory. Some tours state a specific amount to be given to the guides and driver and the don't use the word "recommended". The total amounted to $15 a day. For my wife and I, that comes to $30 a day. On a 20 day tour, that amounts to $600. Ouch! Of course they make a big point that you don't have to tip the hotel staff or porters. I am sure the tour guides are compensated well by the stores that the tours stop at.
I think I have been spoiled by Rick Steves tours.
My word Yosemite, that is hair-raising! My private token to my guides has in no way been along these lines...more along the lines of a few pints in a pub. Not much, just something to say I appreciated the extra work they did for me.
I don't remember whether it was at our first meeting or our first day on the bus, but our tour leader emphasized that RS staff members, including bus drivers, were very well paid, so there was no need for tipping. She also said that she would be tipping the hotel staff, including housekeeping, on behalf of the group.
As many of you have pointed out, all tips and gratuities for the Tour Guide, Driver, Hotel Staff and Restaurant Servers where the group eats are all included in the price you pay for your tour. Nothing else is required. We feel that the guides and drivers are well compensated for their efforts, and we like to make sure that the staff at the hotels where we stay and the wait staff at the restaurants where we eat - are all taken care of for the wonderful service they provide. Our approach is to always have the full cost of what we provide on the tour right up front - no hidden optional trips when you get there, no tips requested by your guide and driver at the end of the tour. We want people to not have to worry about extra unforeseen expenses. I think people appreciate this approach. So no you do not have to tip at the end of your tour. hope that helps. Cheers.