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tipping included?

Those of you who have taken a RS tour, did you tip your tour director or anyone? It says "Tips included for guides and bus driver..." But does that include the tour director? I am on the Best of Italy in 17 days beginning June 8.

Posted by
1171 posts

No addtional tipping is required for tha bus driver, main and local guides.. Sometimes a tour member will organize a small group gift such as a scarf or book or something similar for the main tour guide.

Posted by
745 posts

I like the idea of bringing something from the United States as a welcome gift for our RS tour guide. The RS office knows a thing or two about your guide - they will probably suggest something local from your region. I brought marionberry jam, a popular item from my region, as a token gift. Big hit.

Posted by
5885 posts

Don't tip anyone. They are not supposed to take tips, and could get in trouble if they did. Take them at their word when they say so. That's one of the principles of his company, along with paying his staff and the bus drivers well enough not to.

Please note that when they say no tipping of guides, they are including the person leading the tour. They don't refer to them as tour director or tour leader. Its pretty clear.

Posted by
86 posts

Stan is correct: absolutely no tipping of the tour guide, bus driver, or any local guides connected with the RS tour. Often someone on the tour will buy a "thank-you" type greeting card for the tour guide and driver, and pass it around for everyone on the tour to sign. Occasionally someone might get the guide a small personal gift but that's definitely not expected. More commonly, on RS tours, a tour member might get a box of local treats to pass around on the bus for everyone to share (including the guide and driver). I think that's a nice tradition.

Posted by
76 posts

Everytime I start packing for a tour I think I might bring the tour guide a small gift from home.. then I have second thoughts thinking she/he would have carry the token around the entire tour.. think if everyone did that how much weight that would add to their luggage.. so usually we offer to purchase a glass a wine or chocolate etc. I keep trying to get my bag lighter and lighter..
Sue

Posted by
4345 posts

I don't understand this 'tipping included' business. How can it be included? Surely the idea of a tip is an extra bit of money for good service, an amount decided by yourself and given to the person in question. Including it in the cost of the tour simply means including it in their wages. How do you determine what portion is wage and what portion is tip and why? Surely you just say "you're daily rate is €15 an hour" rather than "€12 and hour plus €3 per hour tip".

Posted by
11450 posts

jc.. really you dont understand a no tipping rule.. Do you tip the girl at the store who helped you find which aisle the pickles were in.. do you tip the young man who takes your order at the fast food place and compiles your order... do you tip your doctor,, do you tip your drycleaner when he gets a tough stain out.. do you tip the bus driver who waits that extra 10 seconds to pick you up before he leaves the stop, do you tip your dental hygenieist ??? There are many jobs where no one expects and tip, or where giving a tip would be very inappropriate.. think about it..

RS tour guides are professionals.. they are paid a decent wage, and while giving a small gift might be an option.. RS does have a no tipping needed or expected policy.. The tour is priced to reflect that..

Posted by
4345 posts

Pat, you really didn't understand my post.

In answer to all your questions about who I tip? None of them unless I'm in the US and then I will begrudgingly tip the wait staff because I know how badly they're being exploited.

The point is, tips are discretionary, intended to reward exemplary service. If I paid to go on a guided tour it would be at my discretion to tip the guide if I felt they they had provided exemplary service. It's rather presumptuous to consider that everyone would automatically give a tip and to state that tips are included in the price defeats the whole purpose of what a tip is. How do they determine what the level of tips would/should be and by doing so automatically it's not really a tip but rather an addition to their wage.

Why not simply state, "tips not required/expected"?

Posted by
6697 posts

Why not simply state, "tips not required/expected"?

Because that kind of soft, vague language doesn't work with Americans....many don't even heed the tipping advice for European countries (many of which don't tip at all). Plus the "no tipping" rule is a marketing advantage for RS tours and makes them unique, and I'm fairly sure they don't want to water it down. It's not hard to roll in some arbitrary tip level into a tour price, it's simply part of the profit margin.

Posted by
8202 posts

JC, most of the US based tour companies DO expect you to tip the guides and bus drivers. They also give a suggested amount of something like $5-7/day per person for the guide and a bit less for the driver. These are for tours in the US OR internationally and the guides and drivers work basically for tips and no salary.

There are also some horrible tour companies in the US where I've read reviews that the guides actually extort tips from customers. These generally are very low cost tours, mostly offered in Chinese with minimal translation to English.

Road Scholar is another company in the US that clearly states tips included.

There have been some occasions where a person on a tour will want to "take up a collection" for a tip. I won't participate in that and explain the rules say no tipping.

BTW, the RS guides are not forbidden to take tips nor do they get in trouble for accepting them.

I ~have~ tipped on occasion. I am vegan and if the guides have had to do extra work to get me vegan food for the group meals, I feel they have gone over and above. I do it discreetly in a card I've brought from home. I have had a guide try to return it as he said he was very well paid. We agreed he would give it to a charity of his choice. I don't share my plan with anyone. It's between the guide and me. It is never expected and if it were I'd probably balk at doing it, lol.

Posted by
2263 posts

Kathy, if a tour member buys a box of candy or other treats and passes it around for the group, under no circumstances are the guide or driver allowed to have any. Not even one piece. Clearly a violation, verboten!
Just kidding there. But the no tipping of guides, drivers or local guides is a strong principle and rule of Rick Steves Tours. It means a lot, including that the tour price you pay does not need to be supplemented by up to $200 or more per person. Even more, the guides and drivers are present to serve every tour member's needs as much as possible, and not give extra attention to those who tip or might be expected to tip. Even better, guides are well-paid enough so that they do not fall into that syndrome of taking their tours shopping at (sometimes inferior) shops that then pay the guide a commission based on sales. The tours don’t spend time making group shopping stops, other than a little free time at the end of a museum or site visit, for rest rooms and site book shops, and rarely a visit to a winery, ceramics or carpet-making studio, for a learning experience, and maybe an opportunity to purchase an item if you like.
Now, if you make your own arrangements to take a guided tour during your free time, then you can and well might be expected to tip for good service.

Posted by
4345 posts

Pam, I guess old habits die hard even when the culture of the country you're visiting is not one that expects tips. Sometimes people go above and beyond what is expected of them simply because it's in their nature, they don't do it for money and sometimes tipping these people is viewed as patronising and leaves them feeling uncomfortable.

Posted by
308 posts

On the two RS tours I've taken, a fellow tour member arranged for a card and gift for the guide. There was absolutely no pressure to donate money whatsoever. On the first tour, someone purchased two bottles of wine and said if we all wanted to donate 1-2 Euros we could.

If you want to be prepared, you could bring a card with you, but I am willing to bet someone on your tour will organize something.

Posted by
3458 posts

There is no tipping because each of the guides and drivers you have on the RS tours is paid a generous salary (way over minimum wage). What this gets you is they are not stopping the bus at their cousin's trinket shop in order to get a kickback from sales. They are not skimping on expenditures during the tour for meals and such and pocketing the difference. And other such things I have run into when I took a tour where the guides expected, almost demanded, tips from everyone.

This doesn't mean they are not 100% available and providing their best to each tour member, because they are (and if they aren't they won't be working for RS much longer).

The phrasing may not be the best, but they put it in terms that people who have taken other tour where tipping was mandatory understand there will be no additional out of pocket expenses while participating in any tour activity. You are free to tip (or not) any one when you are doing free time activities not included in the scheduled activities.

Posted by
16847 posts

To fill out a few details, your RS tour guide (tour director) does receive a generous salary, upon which they can rely, with no tips or uncertainty built into their pay structure. (They like this much better than the alternative.) The tour funds that are budgeted for each itinerary also include tips that meet the expectations of local suppliers, including the bus driver (whose salary is determined by the bus company), local guides, restaurant staff, and hotel staff in cases when we've requested a special service. Your guide pays out these tips in person, in cash, separate from invoiced amounts. But the money has originally come from you - you have already paid! Please do not offer more.

You can also see: https://www.ricksteves.com/tours/the-most-value-for-your-money.

Cruise travelers are another group who are used to seeing tip expectations laid out in pre-cruise materials. These strongly-recommended tips may be billed to you automatically, but as separate charges with an option for you to adjust them before leaving the boat.

Posted by
8202 posts

Pam, I guess old habits die hard even when the culture of the country you're visiting is not one that expects tips.

All the guides we are discussing are working for an American company guiding tour groups that are mostly Americans. Some guides are American, some are not. I do understand cultures differ and I try to respond appropriately based on local expectations for everyone else. I do understand people do things as part of their jobs or just because they want their tour members to have an enhanced time.

Posted by
308 posts

For the two RS tours I went on, I do not really consider what was given to the guide a "tip". I see it more as a gift of genuine appreciation for someone who helped us have a truly amazing trip. On the last tour, the tour guide gave each of us a small personalized gift at our last dinner together, and we were able to return the favor.

Posted by
17 posts

"The phrasing may not be the best, but they put it in terms that people who have taken other tour where tipping was mandatory understand there will be no additional out of pocket expenses while participating in any tour activity..."

Thank you Mark (and Laura for her explanation).

This tipping question has nothing to do with other cultures.....

It is about Marketing 101- which Rick Steves clearly understands. Many tour companies advertise low prices then "nickel and dime" by charging extra after extra...extra for side excursions, stops for 'shopping (and guide kick backs)', tipping (almost mandatory-actually I've seen it mandatory and paid up front). Rick is very smartly letting his potential customers know the price listed is the price you pay, Period. NO add-ons. They are very clear that you pay your own air fare and some dinners/lunches etc but no 'extra' fees.

I have often seen/read of individuals complaining that RS tours cost more then xyz company until you read the fine print. My first trip to Italy was a small group tour-enjoyed it but it also cost more then advertised. BIG letters with the price on the flyer but also with an '*' by the price. The * was meant to cover the mandatory 'add-ons'....x dollars for the airline fuel surcharge, x dollars for guide tipping, x dollars for bus driver tipping--all required fees that had to be paid before the tour ever left the US. The end result was the great big bold attention grabbing price increasing by $600 once the final invoice arrived and was paid.

Rick simply doesn't pull that crap and is letting people know up front.

I have been on 2 RS tours and on both some members didn't understand the process and tried to tip at the end of the tour. In each occasion the guide very politely explained the RS philosophy and turned down the tip-- joking that the guests should use the money to start a fund for their next RS tour. NO hard feelings, no embarrassment, very kindly done.

Posted by
130 posts

I have only been on one RS tour, and one tour member took it upon herself to take up a collection to tip the guide. Several of us declined to donate specifically because of the RS policy. (There was no pressure and no one kept track of who did and didn't donate.) Nevertheless, at least two hundred dollars were collected (can't remember exactly). The woman who initiated the collection said she had been on several RS tours and claimed that despite the policy a tip was usually given. If true, I find that unfortunate. I much prefer the philosophy of paying people a decent wage so that the tip is not necessary.

Posted by
3458 posts

Michele, I have been on 10 RS tours spread over the past 15 years. Not once was a "tip" collected and given to any guide or driver that I was aware of (someone may have given the guide something privately, but that would be between them). Small gifts with a thank you card, yes. But nothing anywhere near $200 or even $100 of value (maybe $100 split between the guides and drivers). I sure hope the person collecting the "tip" actually gave it to the guide.

Posted by
130 posts

Mark, they did give the tip to the guide. In fact, a piece of luggage was purchased as part of the gift; that may have been part of the $200+ or in addition to it. I can't remember the amount, but I do remember feeling it was a lot. Glad to hear this isn't typical.

Posted by
11450 posts

I think our resident RS staffer Laura answered the question perfectly.. and explained the situation.

On the one RS tour I took we did a collection.. but it was not given to the tour guide and driver in cash.. a small gift was purchased by the person who took the collection ( and I dont recall what is was)... but when the lady collected she suggested a donation of " only a few euros".. so nothing like the cash levels of regular "tipping".