The best way to say thanks for a job well done
Being a tour guide isn't an easy job, even in a place that feels like paradise such as Honolulu. The job often requires hours of walking (some of it backwards), answering dozens of questions and monitoring the safety of all group members. Guides often aren't paid much, because it's expected that part of their salary comes from tips, so don't be stingy at the end of a tour. Unless your guide was incompetent or rude, you should tip a minimum 5 percent of the cost of the tour, and maybe much more.
Q: What should I tip the guide after a short tour?
A: For a guide who leads a walking tour or short excursion (one full day or shorter), it's customary to tip between 10 and 20 percent of the cost of the tour. You may feel that's too much, especially if you took a high-priced tour; in that case, about 5 percent is suitable.
In some cities, guides lead free walking tours. In those cases, an unspoken understanding exists that tour participants will be generous with tips. Give a minimum of the local equivalent of about $5 per hour.
Even if you feel confident about your ability to calculate a fair tip, ask your hotel's front desk clerk or concierge for guidance about gratuities. They're experts on the area's tourism industry and can suggest an appropriate range, and they can clue you in about any local quirks or customs about tipping. For instance, you may find that local guides prefer American dollars if the exchange rate works in their favor. Getting local input is especially wise outside of North America and Europe, as customs vary in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Central America and South America.
Remember that tipping is intended to be a recognition of a job well done. If your tour guide doesn't provide a good experience, you have no obligation to give a gratuity.
Q: What about a days-long tour?
A: Check with the company that organized your trip. Overnight tours may build in gratuities for the tour guide, and you may feel that the included tip is sufficient.
If the tip isn't included in the price, don't calculate it based on the cost of the tour; after all, that price probably includes hotels, meals and other fees, so adding 10 to 20 percent would be a lot of money. Instead, give a tip equivalent to around $5 per day, plus or minus a few dollars. Increase the tip if the guide went above and beyond to give you a good experience, or less if the guide didn't do much.
Q: Who else should I tip?
A: If your tour involves a separate driver (as opposed to a tour in which the guide doubles as the driver), you may want to tip the driver also. Verify first that your tour price didn't include a gratuity for him or her. You can discreetly ask the guide if you're not sure. A tip equivalent to a few dollars per person per day is usually sufficient.
On a boat tour or any other type of excursion that involves a crew, look for a communal tip container and toss in the equivalent of a few dollars.
These estimates are appropriate if you're traveling solo or with friends who are handling their own tips. If you're the one handling tips for your entire group, however, calculate amounts that reflect it. So you might tip the tour bus driver $1 if it's just you, but give $5 if you're traveling with four kids.
Q: How should I handle tipping a tour guide?
A: Wait until the tour is over and you're ready to part ways with the guide. Count out the tip in exact change. Sometimes guides will put out tip containers at the end of the tour. If not, approach the guide, say thanks and hand over the money.