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Tipping in Spain is completely different than in other countries such as the US or Canada, where tipping usually comes mandatory and probably in somewhat significant amount.
In Spain, tipping is entirely optional and it’s not very common. You may see people leaving small change at cafés and bars and, eventually, someone tipping at a nice expensive restaurant. But most of the time, you won’t see anyone other than tourists leaving a tip.
If tipping is a regular custom for you and you feel that the situation deserves it, your tip will be kindly appreciated. However, don’t feel that you must do so. This is particularly true if the service was bad or not even particularly good.
As a rule of thumb, whether you tip or not will depend if you intend to return or not, if the waiter was nice, if you feel you’ve already been overcharged or if you feel generous on that particular day. The best advice is to follow your intuition, and remember the service charge is never given to the staff.
Never add tip to a credit card slip because the money will go straight to the owner again. Instead, always use cash.
Spaniards generally never tip at restaurants with table service, and if they do it’s next to nothing because a service charge is usually included in the bill (look for the servicio incluido mention). If service is not included (servicio no incluido), you should tip up to 10%.
Additionally, you may be charged an extra fee for sitting outside. To avoid any confusion, ask the waiter if there is a terraza fee. If you leave a tip, make sure you don’t leave your table unattended until the waiter takes it.
Example: You had a 27.10€ lunch, you can then leave 1-2€. Should you go to a more luxurious place and have a 90€ dinner, leave 5€.
Spaniards do not feel compelled to leave a tip for drinks or light food (e.g. tapas, bocadillo, sandwich). Therefore, if you order a meal at a counter, as you often will in a tapas bar, there’s no need to tip. Nevertheless, if you’d like to leave a tip you can round up the bill a few coins.
Example: If you have a coffee, don’t leave a tip. For a 2.80€ bill that you pay with 3€, you can leave the spare change.
Tipping in Spain is rare, but doing so in a taxi is practically nonexistent. You may leave a tip if the driver helped you with your luggage or rushed frantically so you wouldn’t miss your flight. Other than these extraordinary situations, just don’t tip.
Example: The ride has been 6.85€ – don’t leave a tip. You go from the airport to your accommodation and the ride costs 30€, don’t tip the driver either – the ride was expensive enough!
Your tour guide is most likely a freelancer with a varying monthly income, so they will almost certainly welcome any tip you choose to leave them. As a general rule, the smaller your group is, the more you should tip.
And please, please don’t take one of the ubiquitous free tours that make their way through the streets of Madrid.
Example: You book a 95€ Spanish cuisine tour and you like the guide so much for her explanations and enthusiasm that you tip her anywhere from 5 to 20€.
In general, if you are treated like a royal or someone does a super job for you, you could consider leaving a small tip – probably a couple of euros. But that’s it. Tips are a reward for an excellent service, nothing more.
Remember, it’s by no means an imperative and is never expected.