The Tipping Point - Gratuity Guidelines for Visitors to Belize

What is the tipping culture in Belize?

Excessive tipping is not a common practice within Belize’s local culture and service industry. Local patrons are not likely to leave a server at a restaurant more than a few dollars as a tip, regardless of the size of the bill, and leaving more than 10% would be extremely unusual. That being said, the tourism sector has different expectations in regards to gratuities. Like most countries that host a large number of international visitors, the Belize tourism sector has adopted the tipping culture associated with the home countries of its visitors. Most of Belize’s tourists travel here from the United States and the United States has a strong tipping culture – as such, leaving gratuities for restaurant and hotel staff, tour guides, and drivers, has become customary and is now expected in Belize.

How much gratuity is the right amount?

The amount that constitutes a suitable tip can vary widely, and in truth, any amount that you are willing to share is greatly appreciated by the local staff whose salaries are greatly augmented by generous gratuities and hotel service charges. In general, 10-15% of the total is a good guideline for tipping servers at restaurants when you are out and about, and the same would be true at resort restaurants where you pay for your meals and bar bills separately from your room bill. As a shared tip, leaving US $5-10 per guest per night is a good guideline for a general tip that will cover restaurant, housekeeping and all other hotel staff. For example, a couple staying at a resort for 4 nights might leave US $40-80 as a general tip to be shared among all the hotel staff.

Tipping Tour Guides

Tour guides are often over-tipped relative to other staff as they get the full credit of having shared the beauty of Belize with you and shown you a good time. A good guideline for tipping tour guides is US $5-10 per person per day (US $20-40 for a family of 4 on one tour would be a suitable tip, for example). For drivers providing you with private transfers, US $5-15 per trip is an acceptable tip.

When is a good time to share your gratuity?

With restaurant service when you are out and about, it is obvious when to leave your tip – on the table when you depart. However, some restaurants have a general tip box near the register so check for this as well. On the other hand, tipping separately for each service and meal does not make sense when you are staying at a resort where the services are added to a single bill that is paid for at the end of your stay. In this case, it is acceptable to distribute your gratuities when you check out and pay your bill. The easiest course is to leave a general tip that can be divided among the hotel staff according to hotel policy, but many resorts will also be happy to dole out tips for specific staff upon your request. You may also give cash directly to any staff that you felt went out of their way to help you, but do bear in mind, that whoever is given the money, is likely to keep it for themselves rather than share it with their team. You may also leave any tips for drivers and tour guides with the reception when you check out.

What about mandatory hotel service charges?

Many resorts include a mandatory service charge that is automatically added to your bill and is distributed among the hotel staff according to a sharing policy that they have established. The service charge amount varies from 5-12% but is often 10%. Some hotels only add a service charge fee to the room rate, while others only add it onto restaurant and bar bills, so it is worth double checking how much service charge has already been added to your bill when calculating any additional gratuities that you might leave. Do bear in mind that any additional tips you wish to provide the staff are always greatly appreciated by them and supplement their incomes nicely. In addition, note that resort service charges do not generally cover guides and drivers, so they should be tipped separately even if you have paid a hotel service charge. When in doubt about which staff is covered by the service charge, simply ask.

Gratuities are for gratitude

Despite the fact that leaving gratuities has now become an expected practice in Belize, tipping should always be done at your discretion and as a result of having received good service and a satisfactory Experience. Poor service or a bad attitude from any staff should not be rewarded and any instances of poor service or negligence by any member of a resort’s team should always be reported to the management.