The Tip of the Iceberg
The short and sweet answer to how much you should tip is the following:
- Taxi Drivers: NOTHING
- Restaurants: 10%
- Bellboy: Either as part of tour package or around $5.
- Hotel Cleaning Staff: $2-5/day
- Tour Guide and Bus Driver (group tour): $100/day for guide, $50/day for driver
- Tour Guide (private tour): $25/day or more, encouraged but not required
Don’t ask me why, but we don’t tip taxi drivers in Israel. I know it feels weird, but don’t do it. You are more likely to make an Israeli acquaintance angry by tipping the driver than to make the driver mad by not giving a tip. Learn from my experience!
The way tipping at restaurants works in general really drives home how arbitrary these customs are. Why do we tip the waiter and not the chef? If the tip is supposed to be for good service, why is it automatically added to large groups? But in any case, in Israel there are two things you need to know about tipping in restaurants. The first is that 10% is a perfectly good tip. No need to get out your calculator. Just move over that decimal place. You don’t tip more than this except if the staff was truly exceptional in some way and you feel like being generous. The second is that in most restaurants in Israel you cannot add the tip to a bill when paying with a credit card. Some places will let you do this if you ask, but generally you should assume you need to tip with cash. Waiters are usually happy to split a bill for you for this purpose, after all they want the tip!
PRO TIP: The two lines on the credit card statement you need to sign are ‘phone number’ and ‘signature.’ There is no line to add a tip. You can sign anywhere on either of the two lines, or over both of them, and ignore the phone number. I don’t know why they ask for it but nobody ever fills it out.
For group tours the bellboy handling your bags is usually paid by the tour leader as part of your tour package, if not 5 dollars or 20 shekels is fine. For the cleaning staff leaving somewhere between 2-5 dollars per day, per room will cover you.
Tour Guide and Bus Driver
DISCLAIMER: I know some of my colleagues will read this and may disagree. I surveyed a forum of hundreds of guides and the following are the most common answers I received. Unfortunately there is no precise standard as there is with waitstaff, but this is the most common practice. Your mileage may vary!
If you’re here on an organized tour you will most likely have a bus driver and a tour guide. They are both hoping for and expecting a tip at the end of your time together. $100 per day of touring is standard for the guide, and usually half that for the driver. That means for the whole bus, not for each individual! If there is a tour leader other than the guide, they will usually figure out the math and ask everybody to pitch in a certain amount. If not, then someone will need to take on the job! Just do the math and figure out how much you need, then collect it one evening in the hotel.
If you’re on a private tour, such as most of the tours I did, the expectations are less clear. We are certainly hoping for and expecting some tip, but since we’re likely making more on the tour it’s less crucial, and demanding the same amount from one customer would be unfair. I feel good about it when I get 100 shekels (about $25) per day of private guiding. Some guides are expecting more.
Yes, this section is self serving, but at least I put it at the end! 😉