Tired of winter? Need a warm tropical vacation right about now? Planning a trip to Mexico for Spring Break? Check out my Tips for Tipping In Mexico…
You’re gonna be hearing A LOT about Mexico from me in the coming months–It’s my happy place! And after a few weeks with all snow and no sunshine here in Colorado, I’m about ready to pack my bags and escape for some much needed vitamin sea with some sand and sun mixed in!
Sadly my Mexican vacation will have to wait. Instead, I decided to start the Mexico themed blogs with one of the topics that I consider to be most important. Because I travel to Mexico a lot and I eat out in Mexico a lot, there’s something that I think we all need to understand about Tipping in Mexico: DO IT!
ESPECIALLY if you are staying in an all inclusive resort…
What you need to know about Tipping In Mexico
Back in the day when Mexico was one of the cheapest places to vacation (and live) tipping small amounts was the norm. Today however, tourism is king in many parts of Mexico and as a result, costs have gone up for everyone, including the locals who are trying to live in areas where the rest of us have managed to help drive up their cost of living.
The difference is Mexican’s are still making on average less than $8-10 dollars a day (in resort areas). That’s right folks, per DAY not per hour! And that’s the high end! In fact, the official Mexican minimum wage was raised last year to a whopping $5 PER DAY. (See this article from the Mexico Gulf Reporter.)
Based on my conversations with servers in Cancun and Isla Mujeres; servers in locally owned restaurants often do not make a base wage. The only way they get paid is through tips and many restaurants take the first 10% of tips before the server sees anything. That means if you tip only 10%, your server sees none of it. In order for the server to get paid you would need to tip more than 10%. And if you only tip 15%, your server is now sharing his or her 5% with other restaurant staff. That’s why when it comes to Tipping in Mexico, I’m going to recommend tipping at least 20%, regardless of where you are from. Why?
Here in the US, the average tip is now 18-20% (up from 15% a few years back). Most often people will tip on the before tax amount—which is acceptable. I tip on the after tax amount because I like the Good Karma points. BTW, if you’re still tipping 15% in the US, it’s time to ante up!
Europeans (and others) do not usually tip at all because in Europe, servers make a livable wage. What a concept! Americans tip—in fact many of us tip very well—because in the US we realize that most server’s wages are only a small fraction of the minimum wage, and the only way they can hope to get to minimum wage is through our generosity. (This is not the case for all US states, some pay more, some less. If you want the US wage details click here.) That said, I’d like you to apply a similar principle and level of generosity to Tipping in Mexico.
If your Mexican server does make a base wage it is minimal! Keep in mind, many still have to pay rent, bus fare and buy food for more than they make in a day or a month! Thus, the rule of thumb, if you want to be a good vacationer, is to tip at least %20 percent for good service! More for amazeballs service if you’re willing, because consider that even at 20% your server is only going to see 5-10% of the final tip. And before you balk at the suggestion to leave a little extra, I just want you to consider what a dollar is worth to you? Seriously, how quickly and easily do you spend a dollar at home without even thinking about it? One dollar in Mexico at the current exchange rate is worth roughly 15 pesos. It costs 19 pesos for your server to get to and from work on the bus every day. So if 1 US Dollar in Mexico is 1/5 th of the minimum daily wage a person earns, and they have to spend more than that to get to and from work, it’s almost a losing battle. And yet, most Mexican’s do it with a smile on their face and kind word for you. PLEASE consider this when Tipping in Mexico!
Now, I’m not telling you to tip well for crappy service. There is still a standard that I expect (see my Cinners Guide to Great Service). I’m just saying, if you get good to great service, please tip accordingly!
Which leads me to my earlier comment about tipping well if you are at an ALL INCLUSIVE resort. Based on my conversations, servers at all inclusive resorts make some of the lowest server wages! They also get the least in tips! Typically, vacationers paying for all inclusive resorts don’t tip because 1) they assume “all inclusive” should include tips, 2) because they’re cheap or 3) they don’t know any better. I’m going to assume if you haven’t been tipping at your all inclusive resort it’s because of number 3. 🙂
All servers, and especially those at all inclusives need your tips to survive. It’s not the difference between choosing an Iphone or a cheaper Android for these folks. It’s the difference between feeding their kids or not! If you’re going to go on vacation, even if you are vacationing on a budget and/or at an all inclusive, please factor TIPS into your daily allowance.
Side Note: US buffet servers get paid servers wages too (not full minimum wage). Don’t just drop a dollar on the table and call it good. Pay the full 20% of your bill! Every time.
Something else you will find when Tipping in Mexico (at the resorts especially) is that if you tip well, you will often be treated like a King or Queen! Servers, bag handlers, bartenders, beach boys and others who rely on tips remember the people who tip well! They will keep you in their sites and make sure you have everything you need from speedy service to towels to the best beach chairs, the best drinks, attentive service and great views. The restaurants we frequent in Mexico where the servers know us; they always make sure to go that extra mile to take care of us and I for one appreciate that kind of attention. 😉
Tips for Tipping in Mexico:
Most of this post has focused on tipping servers, but there are all kinds of activities and people to consider tipping when you’re on vacation. I’m sure I haven’t covered all the bases but below is a fairly good list of general Tips for Tipping In Mexico!
- If you are using Mexican Pesos at today’s exchange rate:
- 20 pesos = $1.31 US Dollars
- 50 pesos = $3.29 US Dollars
- 100 pesos = $6.58 US Dollars
- Tip about $1-2 for each round of drinks if you are paying as you go.
- If you are drinking on happy hour prices or using coupons, remember to tip on the non-discounted amount.
- I recommend 20% of the total bill for Servers, Bartenders and Spa Service Providers.
- Tip in Cash (not on your credit card) when you can.
- In many places in Mexico you can use US Dollars. Be aware if you are using US Dollars (not pesos) to pay for your meals (not just for tipping) the exchange rate at restaurants can be very poor. Often it’s 1:1, which will cost you more! We have found using our debit card at ATM’s to get pesos gives us the best exchange rate–check your bank for fees before you go.
- Tip in US Dollars when you can because it is worth more.
- If using coins to tip, DO NOT USE US COINS—they are useless to Mexicans and cannot be exchanged for pesos. It’s worse than leaving someone pennies in the US.
- Tip the bellman and the cab driver just like you would in the US – a good rule is $1-2 US per bag and 5-10% for a cab driver if he helps with luggage or groceries and opens doors for you.
- Trip Advisor and other travel blogs say that bagging clerks in grocery stores don’t get any wages so they rely 100% on your tips! Imagine working all day on your feet for NO Dinero ($)!
- Musician’s tips vary. A tip of 50 pesos or $3-5 US is recommended for musicians playing in restaurants, if you make a song request. On the Ferry from Cancun to Isla Mujeres 20 pesos or $1 US or more is acceptable for your entertainer, as are Mexican coins if you’ve got them.
- Tip your housekeeper! $3-5 US for each visit is appropriate. If you are a slob, tip more! We often stay in timeshares which have once per week only housekeeping; so we usually tip around $10 US for the week.
- We don’t do too many tours but when we do we tip! At least $5 US if your on a tour with quite a few others. If you’re doing a smaller group tour, we usually tip about $20-30 US total for two of us. Sometimes more. This also depends on the skill, knowledge and fun-factor of your guide of course!
- Photographers. I had not encountered this one before my last trip to Cancun. Some restaurants have photographers that take patron’s photos. The photographer does not earn a wage. They do have to give a cut of what they earn to the restaurant. Thus, they will take your pic and try to sell you trinkets with your photo in it. We opted not to buy the trinket but I did tip the photographer.
- One other important thing to note is that some restaurants in Mexico (especially in Isla Mujeres) do not accept credit cards. Be sure to have enough cash with you for your meal and your tip!
- If you are paying by credit card, check with your card company to know whether you are incurring international fees (many cards like the United Explorer Card I use, do not charge fees). It’s also good to let your credit card company know that you will be traveling out of the country before you go.
I met a couple on my last trip to Mexico who said they bring 100 US $1 dollar bills with them on every trip for tipping. I think this is an awesome idea that I’ll be stealing for my next trip! 🙂
Pay Attention: Recently, we have come across some restaurants in Cancun and Isla Mujeres that automatically add a 10% tip to your bill. They’ve started this practice partly because of the foreigners whose cultures do not include tips. Can you blame them? In most cases you will be informed of by your server if a gratuity is already added but you should still always look at your bill! If the 10% tip is already added and you’ve had good service, be kind and add another 10% for your server’s benefit! He or she will be very grateful.
Here’s a little trivia for you. In Mexico, your server will not bring you the check until you ask for it. Meals in Mexico are a social event so they want you to feel comfortable to stay and enjoy!
Tipping in Mexico Spanish Lesson:
- To find out if someone speaks English, say: Se habla Inglés? (pronounced: Say ahb-la Ing-glais)
- To find out how much, ask: Cuanto cuesta? (pronounced: Qwan-toe qwes-tah)
- To ask for the check/bill, say: La cuenta, por favor. (pronounced: la qwen-tah poor fah-vohr)
- Thank you is: Gracias. (pronounced: Grah-see-ahs)
- Your Welcome is: De nada. (pronounced: Day nah-da)
- When asked how much tip to add to your check when paying by credit card, say: Veinte por ciento. (pronounced: Ben-een-tay poor see-en-toe)—Which means 20% 🙂
For the record, vacationing in Mexico is still cheaper than vacationing to Hawaii or some other tropical destinations; so plan and budget accordingly and make sure that Tips are a part of your planning! Viajes Seguros! (Safe travels.)