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Paris: When (and when not) to tip in Paris

Posted in: Paris Planning

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Cafe croissant Paris
No tip necessary. Photo by Julie70

In a city where customer service is as low a priority as cleaning up after your dog, the scarcity of tipping in Paris should come as no surprise. Still, many Americans find it difficult to stop calculating 15-20% of the bill before it hits the café table.

Some visitors and foreigners in Paris take a “no-tip” approach to everything in Paris, based on the idea that service is included in the price listed on the menu. There are general rules, however, for those who want to be good customers, especially those who want to become regulars at neighborhood establishments.

When NOT to tip:

Paris cocktail

No tip. Photo: Kenn Wilson

In general, it is never wrong to tip, but some people just don’t expect it. Imagine if you left the dentist a few dollars after a mouth cleaning—it’s nice but also, let’s admit, kind of weird.

Cafe: A quick coffee and croissant at the local café may set you back five euros, but there’s no need to drop an extra euro on the tip. The server isn’t working for tips and his salary is consistent despite how many tables he or she gets.

Bar: Drinks at a bar are usually tip-free and bartenders rarely expect anything extra, which is good news for happy hour fans.

Club: At clubs, coat checks already cost a few euros, so tipping more is unnecessary. I can only imagine tipping the checkers in ritzy clubs that budget-seekers don’t frequent anyway.

In general, the less something costs, the less likely it is that a tip will be necessary. Leaving 15% on a coffee that only cost two euros seems like you were trying too hard.

Related: 50 ways to save money in Paris

When TO tip:

Paris taxi

Tip, please! Photo: Garthof

Restaurant: When a server goes out of their way to explain the wine list in a cozy neighborhood restaurant or is exceedingly nice throughout the service, a small tip is absolutely deserved. You can leave up to five euros depending on the bill and expect a gracious “merci.”

Hair: Hairdressers and barbers, especially if you want to become a regular without mangled bangs, appreciate a few extra euros.

Taxi: Taxi drivers usually expect a bit extra, understandably. Driving in Paris isn’t easy, and they will often be very helpful with luggage and shopping bags.

Guides: Tour guides are not poorly paid, but those who go the extra mile to answer questions and make the visits enjoyable deserve to be tipped. Anyone in the service industry, familiar with foreigners, will often expect a tip, so have a few coins on hand.

Related: Our 8 favorite hotels in Paris under €80

Doubtful?

Not sure if the service was good? You spent two hours in a café and only bought two coffees? The taxi driver was a bit erratic driving down the Champs Elysées? When in doubt, just round up the bill, even if that means leaving just 50 centimes.

Although Parisians seem exceedingly proud, no one is going to refuse your tips if you offer it. Money speaks the same in any language!

Your tipping advice?

Got a tip for us? What has been your tipping experience in Paris? Tell us about it in the comments section.

About the author

Bryan Pirolli

About the author: With his college diploma fresh off the press, Bryan Pirolli headed for Paris and four years later he’s still there. A journalist and a tour guide, his main M.O. is pursuing a doctorate degree in communications at the Sorbonne Nouvelle. Bryan regularly travels on a budget, experiencing the best of European culture while still trying to make rent.  So far, so good. You can follow his adventures on his blog: www.bryanpirolli.com.

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8 Responses to “Paris: When (and when not) to tip in Paris”

Libbie says:

Everybody comes home from France with an ugly waiter story, and mine involves a tip for a drink. I sat on the terrace of the Really Famous Restaurant in Aix-en-Provence, and after ignoring me for a while, the waiter served my drink and flipped my one euro change into an empty (clean) ash tray on the table. As I was drinking it a street musician began playing just in front of me, so I gave him the euro. The waiter was so incensed he refused to wait on me again, gave me a tongue-lashing in French I didn’t understand, and not doubt told me to leave. Which I did — without leaving another euro (although that had been my original intention). So I think sometimes French bar waiters do expect tips from Americans.

Great advice especially for people new to the city.

However, it seems that some people in the service industry expect a tip if the people they’re serving are foreigners … or maybe it was just this one waiter:

http://unexpectedtraveller.wordpress.com/2009/05/25/admirer-in-waiting/

It took me a long time to get used to not tipping. I think most Americans are just used to tipping and it’s a tough habit to break.

Bryan Pirolli Bryan says:

Everyone has their story, that’s for sure! I will get drinks with French friends who consider me rude if I don’t want to leave a tip and then I’ll get coffee with other French friends who call me “So American” if I want to leave some change. Ultimately yt’s a lose-lose situation so you just have to hope for the best!

Roy says:

I was told, by a French person, that you do not tip the owner.

this is great the next time am in paris i will use your advice. but i admit it is hard to know when to tip or when not to tip especially after the service the person serving you looks at you for long time and you are not sure whether he wants extra money as a tip or a compliment

Bill Olsen says:

This is but one example of why there is a long list of places to go before I go back there. I found the whole visit insufferable.

AlphaWolf says:

As a French, I would say that you don’t have to tip anywhere, whether it is at a café, a restaurant, in a taxi, etc. Service is included and no one should force you to tip.

Personally, and as a lot of people, I almost never tip.

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