GIVING TIPS IN AFRICA: HOW IT WORKS

It's a frequently asked and tricky question: how much tip should we give? In East Africa, 'tipping' is quite common: drivers, guides, housekeepers, and chefs expect a tip. Fortunately, we've been around for a while and can assist you with this matter! Our CSR Officer, Thijs, breaks everything down for you so that no one feels taken advantage of.

It’s a frequently asked and challenging question: how much tip should we give? In East Africa, ‘tipping’ is quite customary: drivers, guides, housekeepers, and cooks expect a tip. Fortunately, we have been here for quite some time and can assist you with this dilemma! Our CSR Officer, Thijs, lays out everything for you so that nobody feels taken advantage of.

Alright, let’s start with a little disclaimer: we provide very fair wages to our staff and partners – they are not reliant on tips. However, in the hospitality industry – and particularly in many parts of Africa – giving a tip when the service is good is quite customary.

Below are a few practical examples. For everything, the following applies:

  • You don’t need to reward bad service; duh duh…
  • If someone simply does their job, a small extra gesture is nice.
  • If someone goes above and beyond, exceeds expectations, ensures you have a great time: reward that with generous tips!
    And don’t be modest, stingy Dutch person! Those few shillings might not matter much to you, but here, they can make a world of difference.
  • Consider it a direct form of development aid without bureaucratic hassle. No Santa Claus concept where we, well-off mzungus (whites), come to save the third world by handing out pens and sweaters; just substantial cash for honest work.
  • Business is sustainable, a transaction where you both give something deserves recognition. So stop giving away and pay extra when the service is good.
  • I’m using Kenya and the shilling as an example, but this varies from country to country. Uganda and Tanzania are similar countries with similar prices. 100 KES = ~1 USD.
  • Besides a financial reward, of course, you should express your appreciation with a word of thanks. Treat people the way you would like to be treated yourself.

ACCOMMODATIONS

When your bags are taken to your room in a hostel, make sure you have a 50-100 KES note handy. If I’m not traveling too heavy, I often carry my bags myself, but on the other hand, you also don’t want to take away that person’s job; it’s a typical case of cultural difference.
Leave something for the housekeeping staff. 100 KES per night is usually sufficient, but it depends on the quality of your hotel or villa. Also, consider that a small single room requires less from the cleaner than a full house with bathrooms and kitchens.

TRANSPORT

For a few hours’ transfer, a gesture of 200-500 KES is a nice touch if it was a good ride, the driver drove safely, engaged in a friendly chat, or sensed that you didn’t feel like talking and kept quiet.
A driver (not a guide) who drives well could earn around 1000 KES per day if they need to cover a fair distance. If you’re traveling in a large group, you might consider a higher reward.

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A TIP FOR THE CHEF

A chef who accompanies you on your journey (hike, motorbike tour, road trip) can truly enhance your trip with their culinary delights. Furthermore, they work all day and evening to keep the food logistics smooth (especially with larger groups). For a group of 5 or more people, I find 1500 KES per day appropriate. For 2 people, 750-1000 KES per day is good. We have some excellent chefs in Kenya, friendly folks who sometimes do even more than just cooking and are partly guiding as well. Don’t hesitate to reward them for this! If there’s an assistant chef, the main chef will share the tip with them, so consider giving a little extra.

TIP FOR YOUR GUIDE

The most classic guide you encounter on an organized trip is the driver/guide: they take you everywhere, share insights about the country, nature, and animals, narrate the journey, and accompany you for multiple days. The standard is around 1500 KES per day, and if they’re doing a great job, I’d suggest going towards 2500-3000 KES per day. This varies based on group size, number of days, travel quality, transportation, and the connection you have with them. It’s not uncommon to reward someone who’s guided you for a few days with 10,000 – 15,000 KES. If someone has been driving you for two weeks, consider around 20,000 KES (but you don’t need to give 3,000 x 14 = 42,000 KES).

In many destinations, there’s a local guide who shows you their area. The quality of these guides varies: some provide minimal commentary and focus more on logistics (timing for boats, transportation from A to B), while others engage in conversation, provide inside information, and make the experience enjoyable. For the former, a tip isn’t particularly necessary, as they’re providing the essentials and are compensated for that. Someone going the extra mile can be rewarded with 500-1500 KES per day. You often don’t need to tip Dutch tour leaders, but a word of gratitude, a few beers, and perhaps a dinner are fitting.

GROUP TRAVEL / FAMILY TRIPS

When traveling with a larger group, it naturally involves more work for someone. Additionally, the tip per person is lower. Therefore, it’s not unusual to increase the tips slightly. If you’re a pair, it’s also acceptable to offer a slightly lower tip.

EXTENDED TRIPS

The calculations we’re making here aren’t set in stone; if you’re traveling with someone for 2 weeks, there’s no need to multiply the tip daily rate by 14. If someone has performed well, 150-200 USD is a generous tip that almost doubles their salary. If someone hasn’t been good but still traveled with you for a while, a small tip (~50 USD) should still be given.

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