Tourist Tip #211 / Who Do You Tip and How Much?

And can you tack the tip onto your credit card? (No.)

Cliff Savren
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Cliff Savren

There is no inherent logic in tipping practices, as the New York Times recently pointed out. It's a matter of custom. Why in the United States, the columnist asked, do you tip a pizza delivery person but not someone delivering a parcel? Here in Israel, the logic of tipping isn't the same as in the U.S. or France, for instance, so here for your convenience and the relief of your server is a short rundown on tipping practices in Israel.

Unless a restaurant bill includes a service charge, which is a rarity here other than for large groups, it's standard practice at restaurants to tip 10 to 15 percent of the bill, if not more. The bill will come in Hebrew: if in doubt, ask whether service is included.

The fancier the restaurant, the higher the percentage of the tip, but good service is rightly rewarded while poor service should result in a smaller tip.

More importantly: the tip should be in cash, in shekels. Most restaurants will not agree to tack it into the credit card bill.

Why? One reason is the commission credit card companies charge the business, which ends up "subsidizing" tips paid that way. Another is that the restaurants will only pay the tip to the waiter the next month – when they themselves get the money. The bottom line is, it isn't done.

What of cases when you are served by a bunch of waiters, not one? Worry not – Israeli waiters pool their tips (and chances are, have to share with the cooks too, a rule at many restaurants trying to keep salaries down without hurting morale in the kitchen. And no, waiters don't like it.)

Tips at bars also range between 10 percent and 15 percent and the rule of cash applies here too.

The average tip for a bellman who brings luggage to your room is about NIS 20, says a source at a major Tel Aviv hotel.

There is no general rule regarding what you should leave for the housekeeping staff who clean your room, although NIS 10 to NIS 20 per night was suggested by the hotel source.

Israeli cab drivers do not expect a tip, at least not from Israelis. But it is the better part of valor to suggest that the driver keep small change.

Hairdressers get up to NIS 15-20 depending upon the extent of the service, but you do not tip the owner of a hair salon. And if the person who washed your hair isn't the one who cut it, which happens at upscale salons, you're expected to tip them both.

One last point. There you are at a wedding banquet or bar mitzvah bash. Food or some sort is being served. What of the waiters there? You will note that most people don’t leave tips to the serving staff, but it is a courtesy to leave a 20-shekel note by your plate when you leave, or slip it into a server's hand. They're working just as hard as a waiter at a restaurant, if not harder, and it isn't for top shekel.

Waiter taking orders at a restaurant in Israel.Credit: Haaretz
Israeli cab drivers don't expect to be tipped, but leaving them the change is nice.Credit: Eran Lanun