Tipping in Africa: A few simple tips

Tipping sounds so easy – but different cultures, different tipping etiquette. It’s no surprise that I regularly get asked by my guests about tipping in Africa and if there are guidelines while being on safari. Although tipping in Africa is not compulsory, it often contributes a substantial amount to the living wage. How do you ensure that a simple ‘thank you’ doesn’t become an awkward moment? Follow these simple tips to navigate through the African tipping jungle…

In which currency to tip?

I recommend having small bills in local currency, as it might not be easy for some people exchanging smaller amounts. Perhaps change your home currency at the beginning of your trip – using this guide can help you figure out how much you’ll need for tipping during your safari. Of course, if you are tipping larger amounts US$ notes are completely acceptable.

Who to tip?

There are a few individuals on your safari that you can tip for good service: porters, safari guides, transfer/taxi drivers, restaurant/accommodation staff, housekeepers, trackers, mokoro polers, gas station attendants, car guards and parking attendants. I do not recommend tipping children just because they look cute, as it might be tempting to not attend school anymore. Don’t give away tips ‘just because you can’ as this sends a wrong message; you most likely worked hard to be able to afford your holiday. A tip is a reward for a service – if in doubt, there is no harm in asking your guide or hotel manager for assistance.

How to tip?

If you’re going to be in one place for longer, you can tip at the end of your stay. Most safari lodges and camps provide a tipping box at reception, so your tip can be shared between all staff; especially also with those working behind the scenes ensuring you have a comfortable stay. Ask at reception about the current method. If there is no tipping box, I recommend giving a tip directly to the person for who it is intended – if it is a larger amount, place your tip in a sealed envelope. For housekeeping, you can leave your tip together with a ‘thank you-note’ as there will be no confusion why money is left on the bedside table.

How much to tip?

A tip is an acknowledgement and a reward for a good service, so use your own discretion and be the judge of your own experience. As a rule-of-thumb: if the service has been bad or you are blackmailed into paying a tip, you don’t have to tip. And exceptional service deserves a better tip.

How much is a ‘thank you’ worth?
  • Gas station attendants, car guards: $0.50 to $1; this is also depending on the additional service you receive, e.g. checking your oil, water, washing your windows or checking the pressure of your tyres.
  • Porters: $1 to $2 depending on the amount of luggage
  • General staff (housekeeping, reception, etc.): $3 to $10 per day
  • Trackers, mokoro polers: $5 to $10 per day
  • Transfer/taxi drivers: Round up the fare; 10% is a lovely gesture
  • Restaurant staff: Check if a service charge has been added to your bill. 10% to 15% of the restaurant bill is an adequate tip.
  • Safari guides: $10 to $15 per day per guest. You can adapt this amount according to the number of people on the safari. For bigger groups, a tip of $5 to $15 per day is recommendable.

What’s your experience with tipping in Africa? Share your tips and tricks with us…