Tipping Etiquette in London and the UK

Whenever Ciaran and I are travelling to new places, we always learn ahead of time what the etiquette is in terms of tipping. In the USA, it’s customary to tip almost everyone but in London and the rest of the UK, this isn’t the case per se. It can be really difficult to know when to tip, who to tip and how much to tip, so with this in mind, I’ve put together a handy little guide of tipping etiquette in London and the UK 🙂

TIPPING BLACK CAB DRIVERS 

In June 2012, I touched down in London for the first time to study abroad for the summer. I had never been out of the USA before and had no clue what was customary to tip! I jumped into a black cab at Heathrow airport and asked him to drive me all the way to Russell Square, which is roughly about an hour and a half drive from the airport. The cab fare came to £80 (!!!) and I went ahead and gave him a £20 tip! In my mind, he had driven me a long way, the cab fare was quite high and instead of asking for change, I told him to keep the £20. When I told a few of my British friends this, they were in fits of laughter and told me to never tip a cab driver that much again.

The custom is typically to round up to the nearest pound and let them keep the change. For example, if a cab journey comes to £9, you could be kind and round this up to £10 and let them keep a pound.

If you have quite a bit of luggage and you hire a cab to take you to the airport, it’s customary to give them £5 as a way to say thanks.

TIPPING AT PUBS 

Tipping at pubs is not common. Bartenders in bars and pubs don’t expect to be tipped either. They get a much better hourly wage than they do in the US, so do not feel horrible about not tipping. However, if you have exceptionally good service, it’s appropriate to tip a small amount or let simply let them keep the change. A good rule of thumb to follow is if there is no table service, it’s not customary to tip unless you want to of course.

TIPPING AT RESTAURANTS 

Service charge at the majority of restaurants is 12.5% and this is almost always built into the bill when it comes, which is handy! You don’t have to add anything extra on top of this, however, if your service and meal are very poor, you can ask for the service charge to be removed from the bill. Some restaurants in London have levied their service charges from the bill altogether and guests do not have the option to add a tip when the card machine comes around. If this happens and you would like to leave a tip for your server, you can give them cash which will go straight into their pocket.

In some instances, you will find that your service isn’t included on your bill and when the card machine comes around, there will be an option to include a tip. It’s quite a nice gesture to do this if your service and meal have been good.

TIPPING AT CAFÉS

Tipping at places like Starbucks, Costa, Cafe Nero, Pret, independent coffee shops, etc isn’t customary but if there is table service, you can tell your server to keep the change or give them £1-2.

TIPPING AT HOTELS 

Staff at higher end hotels usually get tips of handling bags up to £5. You can also tip the cleaning staff by leaving them some money on the side, but this isn’t mandatory. A lot of hotels have started including a service charge of 12% on your total bill, so keep an eye out for this when you’re checking out.

TIPPING FOR DELIVERY/TAKEAWAY 

When you get food to go, no tip is customary. If you get food delivered, you can of course give the delivery person some change as a tip, but it’s not seen as rude if you don’t do this. Deliveroo and a lot of other delivery apps have the option to tip now, which is quite handy if you don’t have cash on you.

TIPPING AT HAIR AND NAIL SALONS AND SPAS 

Tipping at hair and nail salons and spas isn’t customary but if you would like to leave a small tip as a way to say thank you, that is totally appropriate and appreciated.

TIPPING LONDON TOUR GUIDES 

On a coach tour, a tip is really appreciated by the driver and expected. I would give anywhere between £2-£5 to the driver as a nice gesture.

I hope this guide to tipping in London helps! Leaving a nice tip to someone for doing a good job and showing your gratitude is always a nice idea 🙂 A little goes a long way here!