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A Guide to Tipping in Canada

Is there tipping in Canada? Do Canadian restaurants have automatic gratuities? How much should I tip? These are common questions visitors to Canada ask. Although tipping is customary in Canada, practices vary depending on the service. Some establishments leave the gesture to the customer. Some places add tips to the service fees and many restaurants ‘auto-grat' larger groups. The big question remains, is there a tipping culture in Canada? Definitely.

It is customary to tip hotel housekeeping in Canada.

The local travel experts at Canada Train Vacations help visitors to Canada plan their trips. Along with arranging personalized itineraries, we offer insider information on travelling in the country. Our guide to tipping covers how tipping works in Canada and what constitutes respectful tipping, as well as much more about Canadian tipping practices, including when, where, and how much to tip.

Overview of Tipping in Canada

The tipping culture in Canada features customary tip amounts for different services. Common tipping practices include tipping restaurants, bars, hotels, taxi services, train assistants, and other personal services. The standard tipping percentage in Canada is 15 to 20 percent for servers and a dollar a drink for bartenders. Baristas and liquor store staff usually feature a jar where throwing in a few coins is customary. The amount is more variable among cab drivers. When tipping, use the local currency for easy calculations and exchange. There's no standard tipping policy in Canada, so you can give as much as you want if the business permits it. Most tippers consider factors such as exceptional service, menu prices, and payment options. Tipping practices and amounts also vary depending on the type of establishment. 

History of Tipping in Canada

The history of tipping in Canada is relatively recent compared to the practice's origins. Tipping can be traced back to sixteenth-century feudal Europe. American and Canadian travellers brought the practice back to the continent in the early 20th century. Tipping has since gone through an evolution that has seen it become engrained in Canadian culture. Initially, it was seen as a way to appreciate exceptional service providers. However, tipping practices evolved into a social norm. No one is compelled to tip but walking out of a restaurant without tipping would be a major faux pas. The practice diminished during the pandemic as service industries closed. However, tipping is back to being part of Canada's social fabric, albeit with a few customer concerns.

Types of Services Where Tipping is Commonly Expected

Restaurant tipping in Canada is the most common practice. But where else is tipping expected in Canada? Well, hairdressers, taxi drivers, bellhops, and personalized service providers all expect tips. If the service doesn't fall under 'professional,' you can tip. Professional services are offered by doctors, attorneys, and the like. Tipping in Canada is generally expected in the following types of services:

1. Restaurants and Bars

The answer to is tipping common in Canada is best answered in restaurant and bar settings. Servers and bartenders are the most tipped servicepeople. Tipping in restaurants in Canada usually involves 15 to 20 percent of the pre-tax sale. You can calculate your tip using the goods and services tax (GST) printed on the bill. The GST is 5 percent in most cities, so you can multiply it by three. Cities like Ontario have a harmonized sales tax (HST), which is around 13 percent. You can adjust the HST to get your 15 percent. Tipping at restaurants in Canada continues beyond the servers. Bartenders, wine stewards and sommeliers all get tips, but their tipping percentages are usually low. The standard rate in bars is a dollar per bottle. Remember also to tip for the coat check, which is generally around $2 per coat. 

2. Taxi Drivers

Tipping in Canada taxi rides is common but variable. The tipping amount depends on how much you're willing to give. Most people give round-up tips, so if the trip costs $8, you may pay $10 and tip the $2 to the driver. Although taxi tipping practices vary across provinces, the customary tip percentages are 15 to 20 percent. You can tip more or less, depending on how well you liked the driver's services. Ride-hailing services like Uber, Lyft, and Bolt say they give their taxi drivers 100% of the tips. You can give $1 to $2 tips for short trips under $5 and $5 tips for longer trips over $10. Rounding up the fare based on the length of the journey is a common practice. You can agree on the fare before the trip, and nothing stops you from tipping more when you reach your destination. 

3. Hairdressers and Other Personal Services

Personalized service providers like hairdressers, nail salons, and cab rides all accept tips. However, while tipping is customary, it's not expected to the same degree as restaurants. The average rate is 10 percent, so a client can tip $25 to $40 for a $400 blowout. You can also round up the figure to give the hairdresser an extra $10 if you're impressed with the results. Not all personal services are tipped though. Professional services, such as treatments prescribed by a doctor, don't require tipping. In fact, it may be considered inappropriate or mistaken for bribing. You can express gratitude without involving monetary tips. That said, spas, massage parlours, car washes and many other service areas accept tips. Personalized tipping in Canada percentage usually ranges from 5 to 10 percent.

4. Hotel Staff and Bellhops

The hotel staff and bellhops are crucial in ensuring your stay is comfortable. They help you take care of luggage, parking, and other requests. Hotel housekeepers, concierge, porters, and valets expect tips, though not as much as servers. Suggested tip amounts in most Canadian provinces range from $10 to $20 a night. However, the amount depends on how much you're comfortable giving. Tipping in Canada hotels also depends on the province and establishment. According to the Montreal Yellow Pages model, bellhops expect $1 to $2 per bag. Some hotels have a no-tipping policy, so make sure you go through their gratuity terms. For such establishments, the tip is probably built into the experience. However, even with strict tipping etiquette, you can appreciate exceptional service.

Quick Tip: Consider the location when tipping

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You’ll often get a point-of-sale (POS) tip request at different service locations, including self-serve cafeterias and retail stores. You are under no obligation to tip in these instances. Often the machine is set up this way automatically and cannot be changed.

Blog Author - Athena McKenzie
Athena McKenzie
Content Manager

Factors Influencing Tipping Behaviour in Canada

Tipping has been woven into the social fabric of most Canadian towns. So why is tipping customary in Canada? This question can be answered by examining the main factors influencing tipping behaviour. Minimum wage rates for servicepeople, service quality, menu prices and payment methods are among the top aspects we review.

1. Minimum Wage Rate and Living Wage

The standard provincial minimum wage in Canada varies from $13 to $16 per hour.  Some provinces, like Ontario, also have a living wage model, which is a guideline for how much someone needs to earn in each city to cover all expenses. For example, the living wage rate would be $25 per hour for Toronto, though it is up to employers whether they choose to or can match this. Nonetheless, servers and bartenders remain underpaid throughout Canada and rely on tipping. Because of this, servers enter the industry expecting gratuity from clients.

2. Quality or Exceptional Service

The concept of tipping has always been to appreciate quality or exceptional service. If the quality of service surpasses your expectations, you'll be inclined to tip more. Outstanding service can influence the tip amount, but some studies dispute the correlation. That's because of the wide range of motivators behind the tipping experience. However, servicepeople who provide quality services can expect to attract bigger tips. 

Quick Tip: Reward excellent service

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Along with tipping, consider leaving a business a good review when you receive great service. It helps the employee, the business and future customers.

Louise Weiss
Director of Legendary Hospitality

3. Menu Prices and Sales Tax

The menu price or sales tax can influence tipping behaviour in restaurants, coffee shops, and bars. Higher menu prices often attract higher tips, which is why pay tabs in five-star hotels feature higher tip prompts. The base ask can be as high as 25 percent in some establishments. Higher prices and sales tax are often associated with higher standards and quality service, which are top customer considerations.

4. Payment Terminals and Credit Card Machines

The proliferation of point-of-sale machines has made tipping effortless. Every service business can now request a tip when you pay using credit card machines. Some restaurants have the tip prompt built into their payment terminals, allowing clients to accept or adjust the amounts. These devices facilitate payment and a more convenient tipping process. It has become standard tipping etiquette to accept prompts from payment terminals. 

To Tip or Not to Tip? Unique Scenarios

Tipping might not be expected in some scenarios. This doesn't mean you should stop tipping in Canada. Instead, you should seek to understand when to tip and when not to tip. Uncommon tipping scenarios in Canada include takeout orders and tourist activities. You can review the establishment's policy on gratuities. If the establishment prohibits tipping, then it's best to avoid the gesture. The easy decision is to ask the person serving you whether tipping is allowed. Ask kindly and courteously before tipping. Tipping is never mandatory, but the percentages may be built into the prices. In such situations, the establishment may discourage monetary tips.

Handling Service Charges and Gratuities

The question 'Is tipping mandatory in Canada?' often comes up when service charges and ‘auto-grats' are involved. Service charges or automatic gratuities occur when the establishment integrates tips in the charged service. Since the tip amount is part of the menu price, you may wonder if additional tipping is necessary. However, everything is in the policies. You can still appreciate exceptional service if the policy doesn't prohibit tipping. Ask existing personnel if you need help understanding the tipping policy.

Tipping Dos and Don'ts for Visitors

Is tipping a thing in Canada? Of course, but some tipping experiences aren't called for. Understanding and avoiding the tipping faux pas can help prevent mistakes and awkwardness. Tipping should be done respectfully and with cultural awareness. Here are some of the tipping dos and don'ts for visitors: 

Dos: 

  • Tip before leaving the restaurant unless the policy prohibits it 
  • Ask for guidance if you're unsure of the tipping practices 
  • Consider local tipping percentages, menu prices, and GST 
  • Use the payment terminal or place the monetary tip inside the tab 
  • Include a note if you're impressed with the service 

Don'ts: 

  • Don't leave a restaurant without tipping unless there's a no-tipping policy 
  • Don't withhold a tip because the kitchen is slow or the meal isn't good. Instead of punishing the server, speak to the manager so they can make improvements. 
  • Beware of culturally inappropriate humour and comments 
  • Don't be rude to service personnel 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it customary to tip in Canada?

Yes. No mandatory obligations exist, so don't expect absolutes like here's when and how much you should be tipping in Canada. People in Canada are accustomed to tipping their servicepeople anything from 15 to 20 percent of the pre-tax bill.

Do you tip hotel staff in Canada?

Yes. You can tip hotel staff in Canada. The valet, concierge, receptionists, housekeepers, room service, and bellhops expect to be tipped. However, some hotels have a no-tipping policy because tips are included in the service charge. Make sure you inquire before tipping.

Is it rude not to tip in Canada?

Sometimes. Tipping is a nice gesture to service people who are always there to ensure your needs are met. Leaving without tipping can be rude if the serviceperson did their best to provide exceptional service. However, you're not obligated to tip if you don't want to.

About the author: Louise Weiss is Director of Legendary Hospitality with Fresh Tracks Canada. Having worked in the Canadian travel industry for more than 25 years, she enjoys sharing her local expertise with visitors. She is based in North Vancouver and has spent time... Read more

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