What to tip in South Africa?
When you arrive in a new country as a tourist, you will most probably ask yourself how much to tip in service-oriented businesses. There are always a few uncertainties about the tipping rules in that particular country as you don’t want to give too little or too much tip, or maybe even not anything at all. Some countries don’t have a tipping culture and consider it rude to receive those extra bucks.
First things first: South Africa definitely has a tipping culture and it is usually expected that you pay a certain amount on top of your bill or for certain services. People working in the service industry are very much reliant on tips to make a living wage, so be considerate and at least tip the minimum amount of 10% when visiting restaurants, hotels or other service oriented attractions. There are other services where other rates apply and which will be covered in more detail below.
We already discovered that you should tip a minimum of 10% in restaurants and bars. Some restaurants (especially the fine dining ones) automatically add a 12.5% tip to their bills in which case you don’t have to pay an additional amount on top. In those cases, the tip is already included in the bill. You can also use this amount as a standard tipping rate when going to other places as it is above the minimum of 10% but still within reasonable tipping amounts. So you can never go wrong with 12.5%. Anything above the 12.5% is much appreciated and you can basically give as much as you want, but staying within a 10% – 20% range is recommendable.
In South Africa, you don’t have to get out of the car to fill it up yourself. There are numerous petrol attendants working at gas stations who assist you with that. They fill up your tank, clean your windshields and even check on your oil and water and tire pressure if required. So depending on the amount of tasks that you require from them, a tip between R5 and R20 is considered appropriate. If you don’t have small change in cash, you can also add the tip to the overall bill and pay it with your credit card.
According to a poll conducted by BusinessTech in 2021, 36% of South African motorists don’t tip their service station attendants at all while 30% give R5, 19% tip 10 Rand, and 7% hand over a R2 coin. 5% of those who responded are more generous and tip R20 or even more (3%). Since petrol attendants use tips to supplement their low wages (according to data from 2021, the minimum wage of petrol attendants was R36.10 for each working hour which amounts to R7,147.80 per month) and offer a lot of complimentary services on top of filling up your car, it is recommended to give at least 5 Rand, even if the process of having to fill up your car is not an enjoyable act like a visit in a nice restaurant and tears a hole in our own wallet due to rapidly increasing oil prices. But keep in mind that inflation, which is generally high in South Africa, affects the poorest the most.
Poll: How much do you usually tip serve station attendants?
|I don’t tip|
|More than R20|
In public streets, you will often find those unofficial car guards, wearing a neon-yellow security vest, who keep an eye on your car during your absence and (hopefully) make sure that nothing happens to it. They are not paid by the city and often just claim the parking spots to earn some money. There are also official parking guards employed by the city during office hours who issue an official parking ticket where applicable. Those guards don’t need to be tipped.
For the rest (since it’s not an official job), we usually give them between R2 and R5 depending on how long we stay (or leftover food that we didn’t finish in restaurants) as a courtesy if they are friendly and honest and we feel they made an effort to look after our car and help us back into and out of the parking space. On a hot day, a bottle of cool water or a soft drink is also very much appreciated by the car guards.
Please note that you always only tip the unofficial car guards when you leave, never upfront! The official car guards in the City Centre however, that wear a proper uniform and carry a small orange registration and time-tracking device on a strap around their neck, usually charge upfront.
Unfortunately, some of the car guards are rude if you don’t give anything (e.g. if you don’t have small change or they come running from two blocks away without actually having watched your car) – especially if they are drunk. Don’t let yourself intimidate by them and harass you for money but also don’t verbally abuse them.
Car guards are a sensitive subject in South Africa. There is a big discussion going on whether it is right or wrong to tip unofficial car guards which mostly are unemployed and sometimes live on the street. Some of the car guards also have mental health issues and/or an addiction. Many locals are not very sympathetic to their cause due to the constant demands for money which quickly can become overwhelming and irritating. Those that are completely opposed to car guards argue that the presence of them supports homelessness, turf wars and increases crime and grime in the area. They say that by supporting them (and indirectly their addiction to alcohol or drugs), you keep them on the street instead of nudging them to seek help and support in shelters for the homeless. Some even claim that the self-appointed car guards act as the eyes for car thieves, drug dealers or muggers or that they have their own car lock jammers or sell drugs themselves. That’s not our experience though. In contrary, our local car guards have helped our neighbourhood watch and police to drive away or expose and catch car breakers and other criminals. Most of the car guards are super friendly and honest. Instead of begging or turning to crime they show some initiative and work for their money. They at least try to make a contribution by keeping an eye on people’s cars. Those that really make an effort deserve to be acknowledged and supported. But of course there is exceptions and the other side of the coin as mentioned above. As a tourist however, we would recommend to always tip them in order to avoid any negative experiences and unnecessary hassle with the car guards.
Here is an additional security tip: Unfortunately, car jammers that jam the radio signal from key to car lock are a thing in South Africa. Whenever we lock our car with our remote control, we always physically check that the doors are really locked to make sure that the car wasn’t jammed and can be plundered. Do the same with your rental car instead of just walking away while casually pressing the lock button. A general rule is also to never leave any valuables in your car.
If you require a taxi to go to places, you have basically three different options: the mini busses (not recommended because they drive around like crazy and don’t have designated stops), metered taxis or taxi apps such as Uber, Bolt, Yookoo Ride, inDriver and Taxi Live Africa. If you have any of those e-hailing apps on your phone, make use of them. It’s easy, quick, safe and you can tip the driver within the app.
When you take a metered cap, you can also tip according to distance travelled, the friendliness of the driver and your overall experience.
The standard tip for taxis is between 10% to 20% of the overall fare. Alternatively, you can just round up to the nearest R10 or R20. Minibus drivers don’t get a tip.
Beauty Therapists and other Professionals
When you’re on holiday, you’re probably going to book yourself some treatments. Whether it’s a massage, a new haircut, new nails or a new tattoo: you should definitely show your appreciation after your treatment and not leave without a friendly tip.
The average tip for those services is between 10% to 15% of the overall service charge. Of course, if you are super happy, you can always go higher than that.
Visiting South Africa and going on a Safari Trip is almost the same thing. Many tourists coming to this country want to have a luxury game drive experience and spot the Big 5 and other wild animals. So you often book a safari package for several days where rangers take you out on game drives, point out the animals and provide you with many interesting information. The house-keeping ladies make sure you are comfortable in your lodge and cooks and service personell add to your happiness.
At the end of your stay, you receive your bill and the question arises: how much tip shall we pay? This is a very difficult question to answer as it all depends. In a luxury accommodation, you should certainly tip more than in a standard lodge. Here, the average tip for your guard should be around R1,000 or higher.
In more down to earth lodges, it’s a little lower. In general, you can apply the rule to pay a tip of R150 – R250 per couple per night. The ranger should be tipped separately and if possible directly after the game drive is over (you often have rotating rangers, so you might not see this particular guide again). We would say that R50 to R100 is advisable, but of course the amount can always be higher depending on your overall experience.
Staying in a hotel is convenient for so many reasons and there are quite a few staff members who make your stay enjoyable. From the porter who carries your luggage, to the cleaning ladies who make your bed and do the laundry to the receptionist with a helping hand and great advice.
So they all deserve a nice tip at the end of your stay as a Thank You. We usually tip the porter directly with R10 to R20 for bringing our luggage to the room. The other staff members, we don’t tip directly, but add a tip at the end of the stay. At hotels it is customary to leave R50 per person per day for housekeeping. Otherwise, you can also add a standard 10% tip to your overall invoice.
We already covered the tips for rangers and tour guides who accompany you on a safari. For a short game drive of 2-3 hours, you can tip your guide R50 to R100. For a tour guide that is with you for an entire day (or a couple of days) and shows you around exclusively, the tip should be higher and a recommended daily amount is R200 to R300.