Tipping in New York City: a guide to who, when and how much

When you travel to another country, it can be a minefield to know when to tip and how much to leave. Nowhere is this debacle more mind-boggling than the United States, and no city quite as complicated to decipher than good ol’ Gotham.

NYC has its own set of rules, but our cheat sheet should set you well on the way to tipping like a true New Yorker. If you get to the end and feel like we missed something out – make sure to leave us a comment and we’ll try to help!

New York City, USA. Image: iStock

Dining out

For most restaurants in NYC, a tip between 18% and 20% on the pre-tax total is standard. If your servers were outstanding, a tip of 22% would be appreciated. If tip calculating feels too much like hard work, an easy way to work it out is to just double the tax – which equates to roughly 18% – then add a dollar or two on top. You could even try one of the many tipping apps out there – they’ll do the math for you.

If you’re eating at a hotel restaurant or with a big group (usually of six or more), often a service charge will be automatically included on the bill. It’s worth noting that sometimes it can appear as if the service charge is a food & beverage line item, so it’s best to give the bill a second glance to avoid accidentally tipping twice.

For service that’s average, a 15% tip will get the point across, but if the experience was truly awful, feel free to tip 10% or below. If you don’t intend on leaving a tip at all, it’s best to ask to speak to a manager to explain the situation before leaving the restaurant, or you might find you’re chased down the street by a disgruntled waiter (it happens!).

The only time you wouldn’t tip is if you’re dining at place where you order at a counter and take your own food to the table.

Bartenders

If you order a beer, a one dollar tip per bottle is typical. In regards to wine, if the bartender lets you taste the wine before pouring a glass, then a $2-3 tip would suffice. For standard cocktails, a $2-3 tip is fine. Though, if you go to a bar (such as the Orient Express) where cocktail connoisseurs take time to perfect an exceptional concoction, it’s suggested to leave $3-5 per drink.

Taxi drivers

If you take a trip anywhere in Manhattan or western Brooklyn, say Williamsburg, DUMBO, Fort Greene, etc. a tip of 15% is sufficient. If you pay with a credit card you’ll notice that a pop-up screen appears with boxes for 20%, 25% and 30%. This tipping percentage isn’t the standard, but cabbies hope to make a bit more in tips to make up for the credit card transaction fee.

To and from the airport: If the driver is kind enough to help load and unload your bags, it’s recommended to tip around 22%, or up to 25% if you have a lot of luggage.

Taxi drivers are required by law to take you anywhere that you want to go, so if your cabbie is difficult, rude or doesn’t drop you off at your exact location, feel free to skip the tip. It can be best in these situations to pay by credit card to avoid an awkward interaction when you require change back.

Times Square, New York City. Image: iStock

Hotel staff:

Get your dollars ready for this one. From the moment you enter a hotel, you should expect to tip most of the hotel staff that you encounter. It’s best to tip the person directly at the time of service.

Your tipping will most likely start as soon as you step inside the hotel lobby. First up is the bellhop, tip him a dollar per bag. Then there’s housekeeping. For any additional in-room requests, such as extra towels and pillows, a one to two dollar tip is appreciated. It’s also a nice gesture to leave a few extra dollars at the end of your stay.

When it comes to room service, the total on your room service bill typically includes a service charge that’s spread between the in-room dining staff. You can feel free to leave a tip specifically for your in-room server, but it certainly isn’t necessary.

Concierge is less black and white; depending on the task given, it’s suggested to give anywhere from $5 – $20. If someone goes above and beyond by procuring reservations at the always-booked Rao’s and front row tickets to The Book of Mormon, a $50 – $100 tip would be about right.

Finally, on your way out, you might want the doorman to hail you a taxi. If they manage this (especially during a busy time) it’s best to tip a dollar or two.

Salon/Spa services

Fancy getting a manicure or blowdry before a night out on the town? For most beauty and spa services in New York, the suggested tip is 20% of the pre-tax total.

Quick cheat sheet

General:

If tipping in cash, always leave notes – tips left in coins may be taken as an insult

 Dining out:

– Good service: 20% on the pre-tax total
– Mediocre service: 15% on the pre-tax total
– No need to tip if you order your food at a counter

Out on the town:

– Beer: $1
– Wine: $2
– Cocktails: $2-3

Taxis:

– Around the city: 15%
– To/from airport: 20%
– Assistance with luggage to/from airport: 22% -25%

Hotel staff:

– Bellhop: $1 per bag
– Doorman/porter: $1-2 per taxi hailed
– Housekeeping: $1-2 per special request, $5 at the end of your trip
– Concierge: Varies, based upon activity

Words by New Yorker and founder of StyleBomb, Jen Mendenhall-Waldorf.

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