A guide to tipping in India By machadinha
India has a long, robust tradition of baksheesh – and the clamor starts at touchdown where arms will insist on helping with the tiniest backpack and strident voices will try to herd you towards a specific car/taxi/hotel/shopping emporium – all for a few rupees in gratuity.

Yes, India likes tips. The liftman, the waiter, the taxi driver, the hotel bellboy, the fortune teller, the maid at the friend’s house you’re crashing at … all expect a sizeable baksheesh. Here is a general guideline to help you navigate the mores of Indian tipping.

And before you start, here’s a handy tip from IM-er hfot2, who says when you first get here, ask the bank for enough bills in change. Having 10s and 50s handy will go a long way to ease the tipping point.

Tipping while Travelling

Unless you really can’t carry your own luggage, you can say no to the touts at the station and airport who will try to hustle you. Often they’re simply hangers on, not the drivers, hopeful for a tip.

For taxi and rickshaw drivers, know that locals do not tip. If there’s a situation with change, locals will round up to the nearest ten and leave the few rupees as a tip. You can leave as much as 10 percent if your currency conversion affords it. IM-ers generally advocate up to 12 percent on the meter.

If the transport is a fixed flat rate for a long-haul journey, simply pay the fare and then give the driver a meal allowance (Rs. 50 is generally enough). If the driver has been exceptional, slip them a 100 at the end.

Beware of the side excursions to shopping outlets of any kind recommended by a driver or concierge. The drivers get a commission from the shop owners for every person who steps in – whether the visit culminates in a purchase or not.

Read: A discussion on Tipping in India

Tipping at Hotels

Bell boys and liftmen, especially if they carry your luggage, get Rs. 20 per bag. Or you can give them a 50 or 100 rupee note at the end of your stay. Just be aware they might not be on duty when you check out.

Tipping at Restaurants

The accepted tip in a restaurant is 12 to 15 percent. In the metros, there is the new vexation of sorting out “service charge” from “service tax”. Service tax is government imposed; service charge is a forced, in-built tip. Do check your bill: If there is a service charge or gratuity included (anywhere from 5 to 20 percent), it is up to you to leave a cash tip. For instance, if the restaurant has charged 7 percent service charge, you should probably leave another 7 percent in cash.

Tipping Domestic Help

If you’re staying at someone’s home, there is probably someone employed to do the cooking and another the washing up.  Most Indian families also have drivers. At the end of a short stay, a tip of Rs. 100 to each of the house help is customary. If they have really gone above and beyond and you’ve stayed more than a day, up to 500 is generous. Your host will have a good idea of what is acceptable.

Whatever your exchange rate at home, grappling with the Indian rupee will make you either feel like you’re being too extravagant or too miserly. The balance is really up to you.

There are more suggestions on this Dressed-Up Tipping thread. We’d love to know what you think.