Tipping Culture in Portugal
A Guide to Tipping Etiquette
Not long after we arrived in Portugal, we met an older British expat lady for lunch in a local café. She had lived in Portugal for 30 years and was eager to offer some advice about living in the area including the tipping culture in Portugal.
When it was time to pay the bill, Paul offered to pay for her lunch as well. As he was leaving a tip, she looked at the coins he had placed on the table (at least 20% of the bill, which is what he was accustomed to leaving in the U.S.), and she said to him, “No. That’s too much. Don’t spoil it for the rest of us.” She went on to explain that although tipping in Portugal is appreciated, it’s not necessary and it shouldn’t be a lot – just leaving some spare change on the table was normally sufficient.
That conversation got me to wondering what the tipping culture in Portugal is and if there was some type of a guide to tipping etiquette. So, I decided to do some research on this topic.
Here’s what I found:
Tipping in Portugal is appreciated but not expected – for the most part - and it’s not considered to be rude if you don’t tip. However, in some of the touristy sections of Lisbon, Porto, or the Algarve, or where establishments such as restaurants and bars are owned by expats or international corporations, you may see something on a menu or on a sign indicating that tips are appreciated. You might even see that a ‘service charge’ (known as serviço) will be added to your bill (always check your bill for this in the tourist areas). We’ve experienced a few waiters casually looking for a tip from us in the tourist areas of Porto, but we haven’t experienced any outright expectation of a tip even in some of the 4 & 5-star hotels we’ve stayed in.
If you’re accustomed to tipping (as in our case), it may seem awkward not to tip. We tried not tipping a few times in small cafes and restaurants, and we did feel like cheapskates, but that’s our problem and shouldn’t be a reflection on the ways of a different culture. We’re the ones who need to adapt.
Now, it’s not to say that we don’t tip waiters, taxi drivers, and other service providers because normally we do – not because we feel obligated - but because we appreciate their service and their hard work. Plus, we know that the Portuguese minimum wage is only 705 Euros per month, with a lot of service providers at the bottom of the wage scale, so we don’t mind supporting the businesses and services we frequent. It’s just that we don’t tip as much of a percentage as we would be expected to tip in the States.
For example, we have two dependable taxi drivers who speak decent English. They have both gone out of their way to help us out when we needed a ride. Once when we had recently arrived in Portugal and needed to go to Lisbon to our bank for the first time, Carlos, our driver would not let us get out of his taxi until we found the bank (located in an office building with a sign that was hard to see from a terribly busy city block). I think we’d still be looking for that bank branch if it weren’t for Carlos! And when Rodrigo took me to my SEF appointment (in a rather seedy area), he told me that when I finished my appointment, to call him, wait close to the door of the SEF building, and he would pick me up.
In our neighborhood, we go to a little family-owned café where Rui, the owner, has gotten to know us (he speaks a little English as well). If we have trouble ordering something in Portuguese, he politely corrects us with the proper word. He is also proud of Portuguese cuisine and occasionally gives us free samples of Portuguese food and pastry to taste, so that we can learn more about the different types of foods available.
Tomas is a waiter in one of the beachside restaurants we frequent. He goes out of his way to warmly welcome us, and always finds a good table for us even when we don’t have a reservation.
So yes – in Portugal, we tip good service and good people.
If you’re curious about tipping, I’ve created this little guide to tipping etiquette in Portugal.
TIPPING ETIQUETTE IN PORTUGAL
A Guide to How Much and Who to Tip
This Guide explains how much and who to tip for services in Portugal. Use it as a guideline to tipping etiquette. How much you tip or not is ultimately at your discretion.
HOTEL SERVICES (Not including restaurants and bars)
Porter – 1 Euro per bag but no more than 5 Euros in total.
Doorman – If a doorman assists you with your baggage or hails a taxi for you, tip 1 Euro.
Restroom Attendants (sometimes found in upscale restaurants or hotels) – No more than 0.50 Euro.
Housekeeping – For hotels 3 stars and under, 1 Euro per night. For 4 and 5 star hotels, 2-3 Euros per night. We usually leave the tip on the bedside stand. Hint: If you want exceptional housekeeping service, leaving a tip daily instead of at the end of your stay might help.
Concierge – Tip 1-2 Euros if the concierge provides information such as suggestions for restaurants, shopping, or visitor attractions. If the concierge makes dinner reservations for you, sets up a tour for you, books a concert or special event for you, or if you feel they provided an exceptional level of service, tip 5-10 Euros.
GROCERY AND OTHER DELIVERIES
Grocery store, laundry, or pharmacy deliveries – No tip is required.
Take-away food deliveries – If we order take-away from a restaurant or from Uber Eats, we include a 10%-15% tip in the order for the driver, especially if the driver has traveled from a longer distance than just a couple of miles. This is a personal choice and not an expectation.
RESTAURANTS & CAFES
Inexpensive cafés, sidewalk kiosks, and pastelarias - Although many Portuguese do not leave tips in these establishments, if you want to tip, just round your bill up to the next whole Euro and leave the difference. If the service was exceptional, add an extra Euro.
Mid-priced and upscale restaurants – assuming a serviço (service charge) is not included (sometimes found in upscale or tourist area establishments - check your bill first), a 5% - 10% tip is appreciated, with 10% left for exceptional service.
Tipping a bartender is not customary or expected in Portugal. But, if you’ve asked for a specialty cocktail or suggestions for the type of wine you’d like, round your bill up to the next whole Euro and leave the difference. If the service was exceptional, round up to 10% of the final bill.
Tipping taxi drivers is not expected in Portugal. Drivers may charge a small fee for handling luggage, and you may be asked to pay any tolls, but this is standard practice and not an attempt to exploit you for extra money. If you’ve received good service and want to leave a tip, round up the total fare to the next 5 Euros, or just add 10% to the fare.
AIRPORT SHUTTLE DRIVERS
Tipping airport shuttle drivers is not customary in Portugal, but if the driver assists you with your luggage, tip 1 Euro per bag.
Since tour guides are working with tourists – many of whom are accustomed to the culture of tipping - a gratuity, although not required, is somewhat expected.
For paid tours, it is customary to leave 5-10 Euros per person for a half-day tour and 10-15 Euros per person for a full-day tour.
If your tour was free, tip the guide at least 10 Euros per person, since this is how the tour guide is paid.
Of course, if your guide provided exceptional service, was informative, knowledgeable, took you to some special spots, or was entertaining, tip more if you’d like.
HAIR STYLISTS, BARBERS, AND SALON SERVICES
It is not necessary to tip a hair stylist or barber, but if they’ve provided good service and you’re pleased with the outcome, a tip between 5% - 10% of the final bill would be appreciated.
For other salon services such as spa services, facials, manicures and pedicures a tip is not expected, but if you receive exceptional service a tip of up to 10% of the final bill would be appreciated.
When tipping, use Euros. Currencies from other countries are not accepted.
If you need change, the hotel desk should be able to make small change for you.
Unless you’re at a hotel or an upscale restaurant, most establishments do not have a line on the bill to add a gratuity. So if you’re paying your bill by credit or debit card, leave a tip in Euros for your server whenever you can.
If you leave a tip using a credit or debit card, your server may not receive it. Whenever possible, pay your server with cash.
When tipping in small local cafés, it is often customary for the owner of the establishment to keep the tips (we’ve seen this happen ourselves at a café). If you want to tip a server, do so by handing them a tip directly and as discreetly as possible.
Many small restaurants and cafes, even in tourist areas, may only accept cash and not credit or debit cards in their establishments. If this is a concern, be sure to ask before you’re seated.
Need a copy of this guide for your own reference? Download the Guide in a PDF format.
Until next time…