A beginner's guide to tipping in Turkey
Turkey’s tipping culture has grown in the past two decades as more tourists head to the country. Leading the way are travellers from the US, who are used to tipping and do so generously. As a result, tipping has become relatively commonplace.
A drop in the bucket
When it comes to eating out, Stephen, from the UK, says food is so reasonable in Turkey that a 10 percent tip shouldn’t be an issue to most tourists, especially if you’re sticking to moderately priced restaurants. “The two of us ordered two large chicken shish and rice, water, a Turkish pizza for starter, and they also gave us loads of fresh bread, salad, potatoes, Turkish tea and sauces. And the total was 35 Turkish Lira, which is US$11. If a tourist can't give a minimum of 10 percent tip on that, maybe they shouldn’t be eating out.”
Stephen says while tipping isn’t compulsory, waiters rely on the extra gratuities to supplement their income. “Today at the restaurant there was a couple next to us who left zero tip, and when the waiter came to get the money at the end, he gave a disappointed look to his workmate and uttered something in Turkish I'm sure wasn't good. It was our third time at this restaurant and the waiter always seemed nice, and does a good job, so for him to show annoyance at that, it made me feel that tipping is pretty expected here.”
However, remember that tipping is a nod to good service. If you feel the quality of the service has been poor, you’re perfectly within your rights to tip a low amount - or not at all.
Cash or card?
If you’re paying by card, at a restaurant for example, you can’t include the tip on your payment. Instead, leave a cash tip. If possible, to the person who served you - if you leave money on the table it could very well end up in the cash register.
Although most servers will prefer to be tipped in Lira, any currency will be welcomed, just so long as it’s notes - coins are largely useless as it’s hard to exchange them for Lira.
Who should you tip?
At airports, bus stations and train stations there are usually signs indicating how much you should tip porters. If you miss it, it’s generally around two or three liras per bag. Porters generally aren’t shy about letting you know if the amount you pay isn’t correct.
Most locals won’t tip - they just round the fare upwards. So if the fare comes to TL14, hand over TL15. It’s worth noting that most drivers don’t like dealing with change so if you spend TL15.10 they’ll just accept TL15. If your taxi driver helps you with your bags you might like to tip them a little extra.
You don’t need to tip private transfers or shuttles, but if you feel your driver has gone out of their way or been particularly helpful 5-10% f the fare is a good tip.
Porters will be content to receive TL2 to TL4 for each bag. Your housekeeping staff - typically underpaid and overworked - will greatly appreciate tips, and around TL6 is considered a good daily tip. Some hotel dining rooms and receptions have a tip box where you can show your appreciation for staff.
Although they’re not expected, a 5 percent tip will be appreciated in cheap restaurants and cafes. In mid-priced or luxury dining establishments a 10 - 15 percent tip is expected.
Tipping tour guides and drivers who take you on organised tours is completely down to you. If you think your tour guide and driver have done a good job, tip them. If they haven’t met your expectations, you’re not expected to tip - after all, you’ve already paid for their services.
As a rule of thumb, a tip somewhere between TL20 and TL30 per group, per day is considered an acceptable tip for a tour guide, and a little less for the driver.
Bear in mind that if your tour guide takes you to a shop or factory as part of your tour they will receive a commission from the shop for any purchases you make.
Forget about slinking out without paying any gratuity after your Turkish bath. After your hamam experience the attendants will line up to bid you farewell - and receive a tip. In this instance, around 15-20 percent of the price you paid will be acceptable - if the service has been good. It’s customary to share this amount out between all the workers, so make sure you have some change with you.
You aren’t expected to tip on a dolmus or minibus.
Some restaurants or bars have strolling musicians who play for tips. If it’s not your thing you don’t have to grin and bear it - politely wave them away. If you do allow them to serenade you you should tip them by sliding a note (usually TL5 or TL10) behind the strings of the violin when the violinist leans over your table.
For the Turks who rely on tourist income, tipping can make a huge difference to their quality of life. However, you should never feel pressured to tip if you feel the service wasn’t up to scratch.