This post is updated September 2023. Any article on tipping you find on the internet dated prior to 2023 should be disregarded as the Egyptian economy is going through radical upheaval, especially since covid shut the world down.
Who, When, and How Much to Tip in Egypt
Up to September 2023, I provided specific tipping guidelines in US dollars within this post. However, in 2023, due to Egypt’s rising cost of living, the tipping amounts are now more in line with those in the USA and Europe in terms of wage standards, if that provides a clearer perspective
- Tour Guide: 10%–20% of the cost of your tour—he spends more time and energy with you than anyone else. You tip him or her at the end of a day’s tour. If you have him or her for more than one day, you tip at the end of the last day.
- Bus and car drivers for tours: 5%–10% of the cost of your day’s tour. While the driver is spending the day with you as much as the guide is, his work with you is not as intensive as the tour guide’s. I am being specific here about tipping the driver at the end of every day, as he may not be your driver on your next tour.
- Hotel Housekeeping: 10% of the total cost of your stay
- Waiters in restaurants, cruise boat restaurants, or hotel restaurants: many restaurants in Egypt now include a percentage of the bill for a tip. If the bill does not reflect that and/or you feel the waiter was especially efficient, nice, and helpful, then you could also give him a 10% tip in his hand separate from the bill and specify it is for himself.
- Taxi drivers, Calesh men: 5% of the fare if you feel the fare is reasonable and they gave you no pressure or hassle, but not less than 50 Egyptian pounds anyway, which is equal to about US$2.
- Felluca captains or helpers: 5% of the fare if you feel the fare is reasonable and they gave you no pressure or hassle, but not less than 100 Egyptian pounds anyway, which is equal to about US$4.
- Baggage Handlers, Hotel Porters: US$2 at least
- Toilet attendant: 20 Egyptian pounds – by the way, bringing your own toilet paper or extra tissues on day tours is not the worst idea—not to save on the tip but just in case the toilet is unattended.
- End of Stay Tipping on Cruise Boats and Hotels: Most have a tip box in reception for the staff you don’t meet, such as laundry staff, kitchen staff, and general workers. The minimum expected would be $10 per person per night. Managers are not generally included in the tip box, so if you have had regular contact with a manager of some sort, a tip may be in order, depending on how much you have had to do with him or her.
Here’s another way to look at it given the current economic situation in Egypt, which I will delve into in more detail below – you could also ask yourself “what would I be happy to receive, in this guy’s shoes?”
– tipping can be in Dollars, Euro or Egyptian notes but not coins as foreign coins cannot be exchanged or used to buy anything.
Exceptions to Tipping: When It’s NOT REQUIRED
- shop Keepers or people in bazaar/market
- police or security people
- guardians in the temples – really bad idea to listen to anyone offering to show you something special – highly unlikely he will.
- guardians in the tombs in the Valley of the Kings offering to let you take photos – there is no need – you are allowed take photos without flash anyway. Plus it can sometimes be a trap to threaten taking you to the police if you don’t give him a big enough tip. If that happens the police may take your camera or delete your photos.
- when buying food from take-aways or street food – however, I definitely don’t advise street food, the carts are left outside at night. If you want to eat street food, read my advice re tummy bug
- anyone in airports apart from baggage handlers. I mean baggage handlers who actually load and push your trolley, not someone who hands you a trolley.
Now that we’ve addressed the fundamental questions of whom to tip and how much, if you’d like to delve deeper, I’ll provide you with some background information on the importance and significance of tipping in Egypt.
Cracking the Code of Tipping in Egyptian Society:
Tipping is not “Baksheesh”
Tipping is not “Baksheesh” – it’s not charity but a reward for good service. Baksheesh is a charitable donation to those who haven’t served you. So, when tipping, think of it as expressing gratitude to someone who made your experience better. So, if you are suddenly accosted by someone holding out his hand, listen to his words – is the person standing in front of you saying “Tips?” or “Baksheesh please” ?
Why is Tipping Important?
- Tipping is expected by Egyptians from Egyptians – it is the culture, it is expected, it is given and received with grace and, in my personal opinion, it kept many people from starving in the years 2011 to 2017. In the absence of tourism and a social welfare system, tipping allowed Egyptians to help other Egyptians without anyone losing dignity.
- Egyptians tip with gratitude and grace or they don’t tip at all if they have a valid reason not to tip – discourtesy being a valid reason not to tip.
- Tipping or not tipping has psychological implications for Egyptian workers as it is a clear signal to them as to whether they did a good job for you or not.
Egypt’s Economic Landscape: Understanding the Significance of Tipping
While I encourage you to verify my advice and perspective on tipping through independent research, I hope I offer a clearer perspective on it here.
- The Egyptian economy has faced seven difficult years, with few people earning decent wages. Government employees work part-time and take on additional jobs like carpentry, cleaning, plumbing, and waiting tables to make ends meet. Teachers also have low salaries and rely on private lessons for extra income, reflecting the sacrifices many families make to support their children’s education.
- The Egyptian Pound’s value plummeted by nearly 50% in 2016 and has suffered two additional devaluations since 2022. This ongoing decline has resulted in significant financial losses for everyone in Egypt. For those fortunate enough to have savings, they’ve experienced the immediate loss of purchasing power, as their savings lost half their value overnight. Imagine waking up one day to find that your paycheck, earned through hard work, is now worth only half of what it used to be by the end of the week. The situation is particularly dire for those in the tourism industry, who endured six years of economic hardship before the pandemic hit, causing another two years of unemployment. Picture individuals working in bustling markets or tourist souks, where they only earn a portion of the day’s profits, with no guaranteed basic wage. Many Egyptians working in shops and bazaars rely on receiving payment only when their employers receive payment themselves
- Because of the removal of government subsidies (a condition imposed on Egypt to allow them receive huge IMF loans to keep the country going) every house is now faced with electricity bills and mounting arrears they cannot pay. The ever increasing cost of gas continuously drives up the price of everything else. Removal of the subsidies has also increased the cost of basic food items such as rice, (eating meat is not even an option), bread, cooking oil, medicines, clothing.
- There is no point blaming the government over wages, the economy etc. because they are doing the best they can to bring the economy to a viable state. There is a huge population here and they are doing the best they can – way better in my opinion than many western countries in similar situations. Rome was not built in a day and it is going to take several years before any of us are going to be really happy about the economic situation. However, we do realise Egypt is making excellent progress, everything taken into account. In the meantime, everyone does the best they can and gets on with daily life. Egyptians are, as a population, very patient.
- On top of all the above mentioned there is another problem in the tourist industry. many Egyptian Travel Agents, Tour Operators and Hotels still believe the only way to get business is to be the one giving the cheapest quote. Now, if none of the above poses a problem for you, this one does and the following may go some way towards shedding light on the wide range of prices between different operators for tours.
If the Egyptian operators quote crazy low prices to the foreign operators, the Egyptian doesn’t cover his costs. Not only has the Egyptian Tourism industry not made up for the losses incurred in the devaluation of the pound and failed to increase their prices to make up for it, many are afraid to raise their prices anyway from the lowered prices they offered in the wake of 2011.
If a service provider, be it a travel agent, tour operator or hotel quotes a below cost price to you, then he has to make up the balance and his profit another way – and one way or another, you, the tourist will pay the balance and the profit. To give you or the foreign operator the low quote the local operator has to do the following
- not pay his drivers, guides, other employees a livable wage so the tipping has become more important.
- not include all the entry tickets in his quote – e.g. at Giza leave out the entry ticket to the Gt. Pyramid and let the guide cover this by giving you a reason not to want to go in there – come on, why would you go to Giza and not go inside one of the World’s Greatest Wonders?! But this happens there every day.
- not include all the places in a historic site – e.g. the Mummy room in the Museum. So here you have hidden extras straight away.
- spend more time taking you to the shops that pay commission rather than to sites.
- sell you a tour that includes all meals then take you to the cheapest possible tourist oriented restaurants and convince you that you are having an authentic Egyptian experience….not!
- sell you one hotel or cruise boat then, at the last minute, tell you they have to make a change and you end up in cheaper accommodation.
The examples mentioned above are just a glimpse of the various methods employed to cover expenses and generate a profitable margin, instead of giving up-front fair pricing.
Alternative Tipping Recommendations You Might Have Encountered:
Questionable Tipping Guidance: Insights from Tour Operators
I’ve encountered certain tour operators, often those masquerading as genuine local experts, offering misguided advice on tipping, some even boldly advising against tipping altogether. Some of these operators who vehemently reject tipping and claim to include it within their prices may be using this as a tactic to win your business. It’s crucial to scrutinize what they’re truly offering in return for your business. These operators are aware of the frustration tourists often feel about tipping and exploit this sentiment, assuring you that tipping is unnecessary and relieving you of the emotional and mental burden associated with it. Instead, they should aim to help you grasp foreign customs in unfamiliar territory and guide you on making a positive impression on the locals. After all, every tourist serves as an ambassador for their home country while abroad
Questioning the Credibility of Some Travel Bloggers on Tipping
I find some travel bloggers’ advice on not tipping or suggesting minimal tips frustrating. It’s evident they receive complimentary accommodations, along with commissions from various sources, in exchange for promoting places, operators, products, etc. They enjoy a few luxurious days in a country with everything provided, and suddenly, they present themselves as experts without a genuine understanding of the local economy or cultural customs.
Why not include tipping in the pricing?
I understand that some guests would prefer if tipping was included in the pricing and every year, when reviewing my own tour prices, I am tempted to include the tipping in my group tours,as I cringe inside any time I or my guides have to remind people to tip the bus driver, a cruise boat or a waiter. I also feel very embarrassed if guests at Mara House ask me the appropriate amount to tip my housekeepers or Amr for cooking up his amazing Salahadeen Feast. However, altering the economic landscape of a country that isn’t mine isn’t a viable solution. Instead, my aim is to help you navigate and appreciate the local tipping culture.
Also, incorporating tipping into our prices wouldn’t serve its purpose because Egyptian workers would not comprehend it. They may assume the tip solely originates from us and not from you. Alternatively, they might think you tipped us on their behalf, and we failed to pass the full amount on to them.
In addition, if you don’t personally offer tips, the workers may interpret it as a sign that you didn’t find their service worthy of a tip, which could leave them feeling disheartened. It’s essential to recognize that tipping isn’t merely a financial transaction; it’s a culturally ingrained way of expressing gratitude throughout Egypt. It’s a tradition that extends beyond individual preferences
How to Tip a Person
In all situations, except when you’re directly settling the bill in a restaurant, it’s customary to discreetly fold the tip in the palm of your hand and offer it subtly during a handshake while expressing your gratitude. It’s generally seen as impolite to wave the tip in the air and hand it over to someone, such as a guide or housekeeper, as if you were making a payment. It’s worth noting that some Egyptians view it as a display of good manners to initially decline the tip once or twice, so it’s considered polite on your part to insist while expressing your sincere thanks.
Tipping: A Source of Frustration
Throughout the years, I’ve observed that tipping can be a source of annoyance for most tourists. They often feel the strain of additional payments for services they believe they’ve already adequately covered. As a foreigner, I can completely empathize with this sentiment, and my intention in writing this is to offer you a fresh perspective.
The tipping system also used to irk me considerably for an extended period. Primarily, it was due to the constant concern that I wasn’t tipping sufficiently. For a long time, this left me feeling inadequate, guilty, stingy, and overwhelmed by the whole process.
In conclusion, understanding who, when, and how much to tip in Egypt is essential for ensuring a positive and respectful experience while exploring this amazing country. Tipping is a cultural practice deeply ingrained in Egyptian society, and it plays a vital role in supporting the livelihoods of many individuals. While tipping can sometimes be frustrating for tourists, knowing the nuances of this tradition helps bridge cultural gaps and allows you to express gratitude for good and exceptional service. As you journey through Egypt, remember that tipping is more than just a financial transaction; it’s a gesture of appreciation and respect. So, as you embark on your Egyptian adventure, embrace the local tipping customs, and leave a positive impression as an ambassador of your home country abroad.”