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Tipping Etiquette in Cancún: Who to Tip, When, and How Much

tipping in cancun

If you are planning to travel to Mexico in the near future, there are several things you must prepare for. From finding the hotel to planning your excursions, a lot of time and energy go into the planning of your upcoming vacation. Of course, there are some things that many do not think of until they arrive in the country, such as how much to tip those who assist you along the way. 

What is proper tipping etiquette in Cancún? Who do you tip, when and how much? If you have never traveled to Mexico before, it can be hard to know what to tip, and you never want to offend someone by missing a tip that is expected. The safest bet is to tip anyone that you would normally tip in America or other countries, but we will discuss the specifics of how much to tip and when. 

Some basics for tipping that we will jump into are:

  • Tipping at All-Inclusive Resorts
  • Tipping at Hotels and Resorts
  • Tips for Various Restaurants
  • Travel / Transportation Tipping 
  • Tour Guide Tipping
  • Miscellaneous Amenities 

How to Tip While in Cancún

Before we jump into who and what to tip, you need to learn more about how to tip while you are in Cancún. In essence, you tip very similarly to how you would in other countries either giving it directly to whoever assisted you or leaving it in an envelope

However, one thing that many wonder when traveling to Mexico is if they should tip in the US dollar or in pesos. Essentially, the answer is that either will work, but both have some benefits. 

Tipping in Mexico vs. the USA: A Comparative Insight

Tipping, a customary act of showing appreciation for services rendered, varies significantly between countries. Two neighboring nations, Mexico and the USA, have distinct tipping cultures, shaped by their unique socio-economic landscapes and traditions.

In the USA, tipping is deeply ingrained in the service industry. It’s not just a gesture of gratitude but a necessary supplement to the often low wages of service workers. In many states, employers pay tipped workers less than the standard minimum wage, with the expectation that tips will make up the difference. As a result, it’s customary to tip 15-20% of the bill in restaurants. In some establishments, especially in larger cities, tipping below 20% might be considered stingy. This tipping culture extends to other services too, from hairdressers to taxi drivers.

Mexico, on the other hand, has a more relaxed approach to tipping, though it’s still customary in many situations. The standard tip in Mexican restaurants is around 10%, although this can vary based on the region and type of establishment. While tipping is appreciated, it’s not always expected to the same degree as in the USA. However, given the economic disparities in Mexico, tips can be a significant boost to a worker’s income. It’s also common to tip in coins or small bills, and in some cases, especially in local markets or street food stalls, tipping might not be expected at all.

Another notable difference is the currency used for tipping. In tourist-heavy areas of Mexico, it’s not uncommon for workers to accept tips in US dollars. However, it’s always more appreciated and practical to tip in the local currency, the Mexican Peso.

In conclusion, while both Mexico and the USA have tipping cultures, the expectations and norms differ. The USA’s tipping practices are deeply tied to its wage system, making it almost obligatory in many scenarios. In contrast, Mexico’s tipping culture is a blend of tradition and economic necessity, with a more flexible approach. Travelers should always be aware of these nuances to navigate the tipping landscape respectfully and appropriately.

Why Tip in the USD?

For most travelers, using United States dollars is simpler because this is what they are used to and already have. However, there are a few other key benefits of using the dollar for your tipping needs, including:

  • Most tourist hot spots like Cancún accept the dollar as a second currency, and it is widely used and accepted. As long as you do not travel to less touristy areas of Mexico, the dollar should be accepted easily. In fact, most stores and restaurants in Cancún feature both the price in dollars and pesos and will happily accept both. 
  • Keeping your USD instead of exchanging them for pesos is more convenient as you never have to exchange the money back before you leave. If you do not use all of your money while traveling through Mexico, it is much easier to return with whatever cash you have left. You do not need to take the time to change pesos back into dollars. 
  • Some locations in Mexico identify the dollar as being worth more and actually prefer to get tipped in dollars. While pesos are traditionally worth less than the dollar, you will pay an equivalent amount when you buy something.
  • It is easier to tip in dollars because you do not have to do any math to guarantee you are tipping the equivalent. You already know what a dollar is worth, and you do not have to figure out what that would be worth in pesos. While the conversion rate is somewhat simple, as 20 pesos is equal to one dollar, it can be inconvenient. Also, the conversion rates are constantly changing and can be difficult to keep up with. 
  • Many prefer accepting the US dollar because most tip more if they use the dollar versus the peso. Unless you are carrying around a lot of cash, you will probably leave either a couple of $1 bills, $5, or more depending on the service. However, the peso has a wider range of smaller amounts, making it possible to leave 50 pesos, which is the equivalent of $2.50. 

Why Tip in Local Currency or Pesos?

On the other hand, if you are going to be in Mexico for some time, you may want to go ahead and exchange your currency. This is usually not a super difficult process and can be seen as more courteous. Some other reasons to tip in pesos are:

  • Since the peso and the dollar are not equivalent, and they do not convert fully, you will actually tip a little more when you tip with pesos. For example, the 20-peso note is actually worth a few cents more than a dollar. While this may not seem like much, it can add up over time and can really pay off for workers by the end of the week. 
  • It is easier for the person you are tipping to receive their tip in the local currency. While most of Cancún does accept the dollar as payment, there are some things that locals may not be able to pay for easily through dollars. This means that they will have to go through the process of exchanging their currency just to pay bills or buy necessities. Also, some locations will charge a fee for these exchanges, and this can cost them even more. 
  • Many find it more respectful to tip in pesos because it shows you are adapting to the country’s local currency. While many Americans do go with the mindset that the American dollar is worth more, some may find this rude or even disrespectful. Most local citizens enjoy being tipped in the peso because it simply shows you put forth the effort of making the exchange. 
  • You can actually be more flexible with your tipping when you choose to use the peso versus the dollar, simply because there are bigger variations of pesos. For example, a $5 bill is a traditionally accepted tip in most places but may be a little higher than you would like to pay for quick service. However, the 50-note peso is about $2.50, which may be a more reasonable tip in some situations and still only requires you to use one easy bill. 

Tipping Guide While Vacationing in Mexico

Now that you know more about the benefits of choosing whether to tip in USD or pesos, we will jump into the actual guide on how to know what to tip in every situation. While there are sometimes that you may run into that we do not discuss, this list should give you a better idea of what to expect and how much to tip. In most situations, tips are welcome and highly appreciated during your travels. 

Tipping at All-Inclusive Resorts

Cancún is known for having some of the best all-inclusive resorts in Mexico, and these are usually a first option for most travelers. Though these resorts can be a great choice, they do have somewhat different guidelines when it comes to how to tip and when to tip. Tipping at this style of resort will vary, and some of these have a strict no-tipping policy. 

When you book a stay at an all-inclusive resort, you may want to browse their website to see if tipping is mentioned and if the workers there accept tips for their work. Most will politely decline should you try to tip, and they are not accepted. If you are unsure, it is best to either ask the workers early on or to try to tip and see if they do accept, this is better than assuming they do not and appearing unappreciative. 

If you are staying at a resort that allows tipping, you will want to bring some cash with you to the onsite restaurants, eateries, bars, etc. to leave a small tip to waitresses or bartenders. Most resorts will include meals in the price of the stay but adding a tip will be extra on you. 

For those all-inclusive resorts that do allow tipping, a basic chart to go by is:

  • Bellmen: $1 to $3 per bag that they help you with
  • Housekeeping Services: $1 to $5 per day
  • Pool Boys: $5 if you are saved a chair or if they assist you with drinks
  • Concierge: $5 for help with finding amenities or booking restaurants for you
  • Bartender: $1 for each round of drinks 

Tipping at Hotels and Resorts 

If you are staying at a traditional hotel or resort that is not considered all-inclusive, it is often recommended that you do tip anyone who assists you along the way. Most nicer hotels or resorts do have a concierge, bell boy, housekeeping, and other amenities that may require tipping. 

Depending on the level of care you receive, your personal budget, and the work done, leaving a tip is always a kind gesture if it’s not against policy.

How Much to Tip Bell Boys

If you are staying at a hotel that has bell boys, they may assist you in taking your bags to your room. This is a great way to get assistance to your room and to have your bags delivered more easily. While you do not necessarily have to tip the bell boys that bring your bags to your room, a recommended amount is $1 to $2 per bag or 20 to 50 pesos. 

How Much to Tip Housekeeping

Each hotel will be a little different when it comes to how you tip the housekeepers. Some will provide you with an envelope that you will place your tip in and leave at the end of your stay, which is a good sign that they do expect some form of a tip. 

However, even if an envelope is not left, you may want to leave a tip for good service. If you do not have an envelope to place your tip in, simply leave it in a common area where it will be found along with a note thanking the housekeeping staff for their service. 

Depending on the length of your stay, the amount you leave will vary. Most will either leave their tip daily starting from the beginning of the stay or leave one larger tip at the end of your vacation. Unfortunately, sometimes housekeeping staff will perform better when tipped daily, but this is all situational. 

A recommended amount to tip while staying in a higher-end hotel is:

  • If you are staying only one night – $1 to $3 or 20 to 50 pesos
  • If you are staying a week – $10 to $15 or 200 to 300 pesos 

Tipping at Your Hotel Spa

Many nicer hotels do offer spa services, which are often a great addition to your stay in Cancún. If you choose to partake in these spa services, you may want to tip your masseuse, facialist, etc. and this is a common courtesy for most spas. If you are staying at a resort, you may want to look over your bill to ensure that there was no gratuity added to your payment already, then feel free to tip as you see fit. 

For amazingly good services, you can add a small tip on top of any already added gratuity. If you do not see any mention of a tip on your bill, a common option is between 10% and 20% of the overall cost of the service. This will clearly range depending on the services you received and the amount you spent. 

Tipping at Various Restaurants 

Something most will do several times during their vacation to Cancún is to visit a restaurant in the area. Cancún has an abundance of well-known chain restaurants, fast food options, food trucks, and local cuisine options that many love. These will vary in the amount you should tip and what is generally expected from the tip. We will further discuss each type of restaurant and what is often recommended as far as tipping goes.

If you’re wondering about great places to eat while you’re there on vacation, try reading through this blog, and if you make your way over to Isla Mujeres read this blog on the best places to eat.

Tipping at a Sit-Down Restaurant

If you are visiting a higher-end sit-down restaurant in Cancún, you can expect that the waiters are getting paid similarly to what they would in the United States. On average, the waiters at even nicer restaurants are getting a lower end hourly wage and rely heavily on tips. Most often, you will want to aim for around 15% -20% of the overall bill price for your tip, if possible. 

The minimum you will want to tip at any type of sit-down restaurant will be 10% of the overall bill cost. If you are traveling with a larger group, you may want to check your bill to see if any form of gratuity was added. It is common for groups to have gratuity added to their bill, and you can either give an additional tip or let this suffice as your tip. 

Service at Beach Clubs

If you visit a local beach club while you are vacationing in the area, they often have waiters and bartenders there that will bring you food and drinks. They will often come around to the beach chairs there and take your order, bringing you your food once it is finished. While you may pay to get into the club and also pay for your food, it is always recommended that you give a tip as well for good service. 

This style of beach club often requires that you consume a certain amount; for example, each visitor may have to pay 500 pesos worth of food and drinks. If you have a couple of people in your group, you can expect to spend around 1,000 pesos at a similar beach club. Ideally, you will throw in a 150 peso tip, which comes out to between $6 and $8, depending on your preference. 

Street Food Vendors / Food Trucks

If you visit Mexico, you will probably be drawn in by one of their delicious street vendors. These amazing little carts have some of the best tacos you will find in Cancún along with great local flavors. 

These vendors are usually extremely inexpensive and a great place to grab a snack or light meal for cheap. While tipping is not traditional for food trucks or street vendors, most will not decline a small tip, and rounding up your total is always a good option.

Cancún also has an abundance of fast food and quick-eat options that you can choose from, along with several small coffee shops and diners. As with most chain fast food restaurants, no tips are necessary, and no one will come to your table to deliver food. Some locations may have tip jars up front where you can throw a few cents, but traditionally no tip is expected. 

Local Cuisine Restaurant

While you are in Cancún, ask the locals at your resort, tour guides, or hotel staff about their favorite local eateries. This is the best way to find delicious local cuisine that you won’t soon forget. While these restaurants are not as well known as some of the bigger chain, sit-down restaurants, it is still expected that you tip, and these locations are run by locals of the area. 

Ideally, you should tip at least 10% of the overall cost of the bill. While you can tip more, you do not want to go overboard as these are usually locations full of locals, and they would traditionally tip between 10% and 15%. Of course, if you have exceptional service and food, you can leave more if you see fit. 

Leaving a Tip at a Bar

If you are at a traditional bar or nightclub, it is often expected that you tip the bartenders that assist you while there. If you are at a sit-down beach club or bar, you may want to glance at your bill to ensure that gratuity was not added to your overall total. Some locations will add a certain amount to your bill or a percentage of your overall costs. 

If the bar you are at does not automatically add a gratuity, the tip will truly depend on how much you spend. If you are occasionally grabbing a drink while dancing or hanging out with friends, you may want to leave around $1 or 10 pesos per drink or set of drinks. If you find yourself sitting at the bar for some time watching TV, drinking, eating, and chatting with the bartender, you will want to leave a little more or around 50 pesos. 

Tipping for Transportation Services

While traveling in Mexico, there is a good chance that you will need to take some form of public or private transportation. Often, this is the best way to get to excursions so that you do not have to pay for a rental vehicle. Also, many tour buses are a great option for learning more about Cancún and the available attractions there. If you are using these forms of transportation, some things to keep in mind are:

Shuttle Bus Driver Tipping

Even those staying at an all-inclusive resort will have to use some form of taxi or shuttle bus from the airport to the resort location. Often, using a shuttle bus is the fastest and easiest option to get from the local airport to any of the Cancún resorts. To get the same price, you may want to book your shuttle bus ahead of time, but you can always find one once you arrive. A good average tip for the drivers of shuttle buses is 50 pesos or $2.50 per rider.

Tipping Taxi Drivers in Cancún

While taxis are abundant in Cancún, they can be a little harder to navigate as there is often not a set rate, and many are taken advantage of when it comes to pricing. However, if you do want to take a taxi, you may want to leave a tip once you arrive at your destination. If you are going on a short, cheaper ride, just giving an extra ten or 20 pesos will suffice. 

If you are going on a longer trip or have exceptional service, you may want to tip a little more. If you feel that you are being overcharged for the trip, no tip is necessary as you are already paying more than needed. You can always simply round up your final fare price and tell the driver to keep the change. 

Tour Guide Tipping 

Taking a local tour is a great option while you are visiting Cancún as it can allow you to see all the local attractions and learn more about the area. There are a variety of tours available in the area, from simple bus tours to full-on diving excursions. However, you always want to ensure that you are booking these tours through a reputable company, or many resorts will have information regarding how to book a tour through them. 

The amount you tip will not only depend on the type of tour you take but also the level of customer service you receive. If the person leading the tour is highly educated, experienced, and you feel like you are in good hands throughout, they deserve a nice tip. If the person is driving recklessly, you do not feel safe, or you are not getting valuable information, a tip may not be needed or should be lowered.

If you are on a tour that has a main bus driver with several attractions, you will only tip the bus driver. Once you are at the attractions, you may have to purchase a ticket to attend, or this may be included in the final pricing. Some common tipping prices for various tour types are:

  • A full-day, driven tour that lasts a few hours – $5 to $10 per person or 10% to 20% of the total costs
  • A multi-day tour – Tour leader should be provided 60 to 100 pesos per day per person
  • A private tour – 200 pesos per day 
  • A driver that takes you to other locations – $1 to $3 per person 
  • Both a driver and a tour guide – 40 pesos for each per person per day

Miscellaneous Tipping Situations

Since you may be spending some time in Cancún for your vacation, there are some random amenities you may partake in that need additional tips. While these will always vary, hopefully, this quick list of additional amenities and services will help you on your trip. 

Local Restaurants and Street Musicians

While in Cancún, there is a good chance you will at some point run into a mariachi band, whether this is out at dinner or on the street. Of course, bars, local restaurants, and other locations have a variety of live music offerings on the regular that you may listen to while visiting. Also, many locals set up on the streets to grab a tip here or there for their talents. Some common tipping options are:

  • Street Players – Any loose change or small pesos you may have 
  • Restaurant or Bar Bands – 5 to 20 pesos if they have a tip jar available 
  • Mariachi Band at Your Table – 20 to 50 pesos 

Gas Station Attendants

If you do rent a car while you are visiting Cancún, most gas stations are full service. Essentially this means that someone will pump your gas for you and may also wash your windows. It is best to have the exact amount that you are hoping to get in gas, as not to get scammed by any attendants. However, a good gesture is to throw in a few extra pesos up to 10 as a tip.

Hairstylists, Barbers, Manicurists, or Other Beauty Services

If you are in Cancún for a big event like a wedding, you may want to partake in a local beauty service. While these will vary in costs, a tip is often expected at the end of the service if you have a good experience and quality results. Most often, the tip will be around 10%, depending on how you feel about the quality of the visit. This means for a 200 pesos bill; you will add an additional 20 peso tip. 

Grocery Baggers

In Mexico, a lot of local grocery stores and convenience stores will have grocery baggers that work for tips. These individuals may not be paid an hourly rate and simply live off of the tips that they receive. If you are at a local store and have someone bag your items for you, it is customary to leave a small tip. 

You are not expected to leave a large amount, but around 5 pesos for a smaller purchase of one or two bags is appreciated. If you are making a larger grocery purchase with several bags, you may want to leave about 20 pesos.

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