Different countries have different tipping culture and oftentimes it is a guessing game on how much or when to tip service providers along your travel journey. What struck us about South Africa as a whole is that it was not that different than our experiences in the United States. Same language, similar cuisine, exactly the same music.
From our three weeks in South Africa this is what we learned from tipping:
One of the best parts of traveling to South Africa was the Rand relative to the United States Dollar. At the time of our trip it was about 1 USD = .07 Rand. We have been to places where the exchange rate does not really matter given the prices are fully adjusted (such as Japan) but in South Africa most food we had was very inexpensive compared to what their American equivalent would be. Even in fancy restaurants we could get a bottle of wine for about $40 USD equivalent. I do not know of a place that I could get a $40 bottle of wine in the US. Given the beneficial cost of living and exchange rate, we always tipped 15-20% of our total bill, excluding any tax.
Delivery & Uber Eats
South Africa was an exception to our typical M.O. of trying new restaurants and always being out and about. When we arrived in Johannesburg it was already dark at 6pm and we were approaching the COVID curfew of 9pm. Between customs, picking up our rental car, and learning how to drive on the opposite side of the car/road upon arrival into the country, we arrived at our hotel around 7:30pm and opted for Uber Eats. Which, who knew was so popular? We ordered a feast from Nando’s a local chicken fast casual restaurant, which hit the spot after a 18hr flight.
For our uber eats delivery man we did a round up of our order, around 10% of our meal. We paid $27 USD and bumped it to $30.
Safari Game Drives
The gem of South Africa is by far the Safari. Seeing Big 5 + in their natural habitat was an incredible life experience. We stayed at a luxury lodge 57 WaterBerg, which is in a private game reserve. The lodge came with all meals included and game drives. The only add on was alcohol if we wanted it. There are two game drives a day, totaling about 3 hours each. During the 4 days and 3 nights there we went on 15 hours of game drives. Our game driver was fantastic as well, William had an eagle eye on game and was very knowledgeable of the animals on the property.
If you do a smaller tour, the rule of thumb is typically 150-200 Rand per drive, so we tipped William 1000 Rand for the several days we were there.
A strange quirk of South Africa was the omnipresence of parking attendants. Folks out there in reflective vests collecting money to watch over your vehicle. We knew this before we arrived so it wasn’t startling, but it was a bit frustrating to constantly be giving folks rand to look at your car. We started off giving a fellow 20 Rand the first day, then realized that is a way overpayment. Typically 10 Rand will suffice, maybe even 5 if you’re there for a short time.
Hotel Staff & Room Service
We stayed at a variety of places in South Africa ranging from international hotel chains to boutique luxury lodges, to mom and pop Bed & Breakfasts. We had a range for which we tipped the hotel staff and room service.
At our luxury game lodge, 57 WaterBerg we tipped the staff a collective $100 USD. That was inclusive of the room cleaning, the folks greeting us with Amarula at the front desk upon arrival, and the chef and waitstaff at the fine dining onsite. They truly provided exceptional service.
For other ad hoc services like room service coffee we tipped 10-20 Rand and for hotel luggage trolley we tipped 10-20 Rand as well. For the valet we tipped about 80 Rand since we got our car in and out multiple times a day, and we were staying at this particular Cape Town hotel for several days. They hustled for their tips!
It never hurts to err on the side of more generous than less. What came in handy was breaking our large currencies up as quickly as possible so it was not awkward to request change back from someone we were tipping. We also held onto the 5 and 10 Rand coins like they were gold because of the convenience they were in the casual tips we gave folks, mostly parking lot attendants.
Have you seen the tipping culture change in South Africa since you’ve been?
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