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I’ve visited most of the major tourist hotspots in Mexico a few times and also have spent some time living in Mexico. During that time, I gained a lot of experience with tipping different people in different industries across different locations.
I’ve learned that tipping (“la propina”) in Mexico can be quite different than it is in the US and in some cases should be avoided all together.
So keep reading below to find out how much you should tip for different services and in what scenarios you should avoid tipping all together.
How much should you tip in Mexico?
The amount that you should tip in Mexico depends on the type of service you are receiving and possibly on your perceived impact on the local economy.
I’ll breakdown the different suggested tipping amounts below but before I do I wanted to share some important information about tipping customs in Mexico because it should inform the way that you tip responsibly.
Many articles on tipping in Mexico don’t mention these factors but I believe they are extremely important and should at least be considered.
Tipping customs in Mexico
Tipping in Mexico is similar but not the same as in the US, largely because of the potential implications.
In Mexico, there is a strong argument that overtipping is problematic for the locals. Essentially, the argument goes, overtipping in certain areas, such as highly visited tourist areas, creates a preference to serve Americans and Canadians over locals which eventually leads to discrimination.
Many report that on average Mexicans will not tip as much as Americans or Canadians. So where an American may tip something like 10% to 15% at a minimum, a Mexican may tip something closer to 5% to 10%.
Many workers and servers and restaurants are apparently aware of this and because of the disparity, they will show a preference to serve Americans and Canadians over locals. This problem only gets amplified when Americans and Canadians head south and overtip large amounts of 20% or more at restaurants and other places.
So when it comes to tipping in Mexico you’ll have to make a decision.
You can choose to tip like many other American and Canadian tourists do when they visit. You will be helping some hospitality/service industry workers who probably do not make very much money and also will not upset workers who have expectations of you tipping higher.
Or you can choose to tip a lower amount with the intention of not contributing to discrimination of locals.
Or you can be like me and tip somewhere in the middle, primarily basing your tips on the level of skill and effort provided by servers.
Should you tip in pesos or US dollars?
In the tourist hotspots like Cabo, Cancun, Playa del Carmen, etc., you can pay for almost everything in US dollars and so it is perfectly fine to tip in US dollars.
However, I try to have a mixture of pesos and US currency just in case someone has a preference. Some people, especially those without passports, may have issues exchanging foreign currency.
This is especially true if they have foreign currency in the form of coins.
So if you are venturing out of touristy areas, it’s very important to carry pesos with you so that the people you give your tips to don’t struggle to use them.
All-inclusive resorts and tipping
A lot of all-inclusive resorts will have tips included as something like a service fee.
So you are technically already paying to receive many services that you would tip for. But that doesn’t mean that the servers won’t still be expecting some level of a tip.
Again, this is why I am guided by performance when it comes to tips; it just makes things easier.
The way I see it is service fees are covering the basic level of service I should expect to receive at a resort. If somebody sticks out above that, they are deserving of some level of additional compensation which would be a deserving tip.
How much to tip for services in Mexico
Below are some guidelines for how much to tip for services in Mexico.
These are based on my personal encounters and experiences over the past ten years as well as data points I found online from others who have experience traveling in the region.
Taxis/Transfer to your hotel
Generally, you do not have to tip taxis and they will likely not be offended if you don’t.
But if the taxi driver is overly helpful and is catering to your preferences and needs (e.g., making sure the temperature is comfortable, helping with bags, driving well, etc.), I would probably give the driver a couple of bucks or at least round up a dollar or two.
But if you were getting a private transport in something like an SUV or private van from the hotel, then you probably want to give them a little more.
If you’re getting transported from the airport to your hotel, tossing them $5 is acceptable. If you are traveling from a longer distance, let’s say Playa Del Carmen to Cancun and the service is very good, then you might want to increase it to something like $10.
And finally, if this is a shuttle bus with many people, tipping is not necessary, but if the driver is helping you with your bags you could toss them a buck or two.
Many resorts will have a bellhop that handles your luggage upon arriving at the hotel.
I usually tip the bellhop in Mexico about 1 to 2 dollars which I think is pretty fair as we are usually traveling as a couple. If I were traveling as a bigger family, let’s say a family of five, I would probably bump that up to $3 to $4.
If you don’t have anything to tip them with, you can always insist on handling your own luggage.
Hotel cleaning staff
I suggest leaving one or two dollars per night for the hotel cleaning staff.
How do you do this?
I usually grab a couple of bucks and write “Gracias” on a post-it note and place the money and the post-it note in the middle of the bed the first night so that they know the tip is for them.
After that, I just leave a dollar or two on the bed.
Try to tip your first night so that your service might be even better going forward.
Sometimes you might be on a strict schedule and need your room cleaned at a certain time. If you have been tipping, the odds of the cleaning staff honoring your request go up a lot.
Also, try leaving tips every night because if you wait until the end or only tip one night, it’s possible that some people who worked on your room will never see those tips due to their rotation.
If you’re at a restaurant out in public then you have to decide which type of tipping strategy you want to go with. A typical tourist will likely tip around 15% to 20% but someone trying to avoid overtipping will tip around 10%.
If you’re eating at a restaurant at an all-inclusive resort, you can get away with tipping less. I personally don’t always tip when I’m eating at a buffet and the server simply comes around and pours me a glass of water. But if I am eating at a restaurant where I am being served then I will typically tip 10% to 15%.
Again, if the service is absolutely exceptional that tip could increase.
At bars in Mexico, many tourists will tip around 10% to 15%, but others trying to avoid overtipping would stick to no more than 10%.
If you were visiting an all-inclusive hotel, chances are you will be frequenting many bars throughout the property.
You definitely don’t have to tip after each drink but sometimes if you want stronger drinks you might think about tipping extra. Just throwing a dollar to the bartender for most of your visits will usually be good enough — they are not expecting a lot at all-inclusive hotels.
If you have a server serving you at a cabana many times people will give them an upfront tip of some thing like $20 to ensure quality service.
I always tip room service at least a couple of bucks. This is especially the case if they roll in with my meal and set up a mini eating area within the room. If they are just bringing in bottles of water or a quick snack, just one dollar will usually do the trick.
Tipping tour guides is another time where you may feel the need to implement responsible tipping. Many tourists may tip 10% to 20% but if you are trying to tip responsibly you might cap that at 10%.
For me personally, I base tips for tour guides highly on performance. My baseline tip for tour guides is 10% but with the potential to go up from there.
For example, I am an avid scuba diver and I have done many dives in the past so I know what it takes to be a good scuba instructor. If I get a sense that an instructor is going above and beyond, I will tip closer to 20%.
Tipping the concierge can also be expected. If you find their advice especially helpful or informative, I would give them a couple of bucks. But if they are just answering a quick, one-off question, I don’t think there is a need to tip.
Spas are generally were I will tip the most if service is exceptional. This has a lot to do with the fact that I would not enjoy rubbing on someone else’s body for 90 minutes straight and so I feel an extra obligation to tip when a masseuse knows what they are doing. I usually ramp up the tips to 20%+.
In the US, we don’t tip grocery baggers on most occasions. But in Mexico this is completely acceptable. Consider tipping someone bagging your groceries a couple of pesos.
Be careful about offering to “keep the change”
Be careful about telling a vendor to “keep the change.”
I once purchased a few snacks from a street cart vendor in Oaxaca and after I gestured for the vendor to keep the change which I thought would be accepted as a token of my appreciation, I got a scowl and she refused to take the change and I had offended her with the gesture.
It was not my favorite travel experience but it just goes to show that when in Mexico and away from tourist areas, you need to be a little bit mindful about your “keep the change” moments.
Tipping in Mexico is pretty similar to the US, especially in the tourist areas.
You just need to decide if you want to tip like many other tourists do in that 15% to 20% range or if you want to be more conscious of potentially contributing to discrimination of locals and limit your tips to 5% to 10%.
It’s not an easy call to make because either way you are potentially upsetting somebody.
Personally, I am guided by what feels right in the moment.
I believe people should be rewarded when they go above and beyond and so I try to strike a fine balance between tipping responsibly and also rewarding people for their hard work.
It’s not always easy and practically impossible to do perfectly, but I think it is a better route than simply overtipping universally.
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.