At the end of our Okavango safari when we were settling the bill and determining gratuities, my Dad pushed the piece of paper in my direction and said, “You do it.”
The difficulty in determining the right tip is that it is highly discretionary, dictated by local norms, and industry specific. The level of service provided is also a consideration. If you are staying at a luxurious safari camp, the suggested gratuities will likely be higher not only because it takes more people to cater to your every whim in the middle of the bush, but because the standards are incredibly high. Which may leave you wondering, how much should I tip when I go on safari? If you Google safari tipping guidelines, suggested gratuities for a ranger span USD 5 – 25 per day/per room.
In my mind this is akin to no guidance since the range is so vast.
When booking your trip, I would suggest asking the travel agent or the lodge (if booking directly) whether they have tipping guide for the camp where you will be staying. Gratuities can add significantly to your final bill and you may want to include it in your travel budget from the start. If nothing is available, when you are checking out ask the camp manager if they have a tipping guide or a tip sheet. The advantage of the later is that it lists all of the individuals who you should tip (generally, ranger, tracker, butler, and general staff), but the list could be longer at certain lodges and certainly if someone went out of their way to make your visit memorable, you will want to recognize that person.
If nothing is available, this is my base suggestion for a high-end lodge. Remember this is per day/per room guidance and exceptional service generally warrants tacking on additional dollars.
Ranger – $20-25
Tracker – $15
Butler – $15
All staff -$50
If the camp manager went out of his/her way to do something out of the norm, you may want to recognize that person separately. If you indulged in a massage, include an additional 15-20% for the masseuse. While leaving a cash gratuity ensures that the person delivering the service receives the intended amount, it isn’t always practical when on safari. Moreover, I don’t recommend carrying that amount of cash in South Africa. Tips can be added to your credit card upon departure, but make sure you confirm before leaving home.
It’s likely that if you come to South Africa, you won’t only be going on safari. Here are some general guidelines for restaurants, hotels, and cabs.
Restaurants/Bars: The general guidance is 10% of your final bill, more for exceptional service. Try to tip in cash, as many servers receive their tips from credit cards at the end of the month. If you are leaving a tip on a credit card, remember to write the amount on the slip before the server brings over the handheld credit card machine, not after they run it through the machine as is customary in the U.S. Also, never let your credit card out of your sight as fraud is an issue.
Hotels: At hotels all tips should be left in cash. For the bellhop, R10 per bag. Housekeeping, R50 per day. If I am at a small boutique hotel, I generally will leave $20 per day for all staff and forgo individual tips.
Cabs: It’s customary to round up to the nearest R10, but I generally give 10%.
Wine Farms: If you are doing a wine tasting and there is a dedicated person assisting – pouring the wines, explaining the tasting notes, giving an overview of the vineyard, it is nice to tip R10 per person. In lieu of a gratuity, it is considered acceptable to purchase a bottle to take home.
If you rent a car, you will encounter parking attendants and petrol attendants, neither of which we have in the U.S. Parking attendants watch your car and may even assist with shopping bags, finding a park spot, or backing out of your parking space. It is customary to tip R2 -5. In South Africa there is no self serve at the gas station. Not only will the attendant pump your gas, he/she will also clean your windshield. R2-5 is sufficient. Try and keep coins on hand as it isn’t appropriate to ask for change.