What is the tipping etiquette on the Camino, and in Spain in general?

I see this question come up regularly in Camino-related forums. The answers given can vary a lot depending on people’s personal experiences. Some will tell you they got strange looks when they tipped while some others felt their tip was welcome and appreciated. And I’ve even read one or two stories about bar owners chasing people in order to return their tip.

 

So, should you tip or not?

One of the stereotypes about Galicians is that we answer questions with another question, we don’t give straight answers and so you never know whether we’re coming or going. So, as the good Galician that I am, my answer to “should you tip or not?” is… it depends.

But before we go into details, do you know how do you say tip in Spanish? The word we’re looking for here is propina. BUT! Propina means tip in this context only. If you’re talking about the tip of your tongue or a piece of advice, just to name some other tips, there are different words in Spanish for those. We’ll leave those for another day.

And now, let me elaborate on that “it depends”. First of all, a couple of general things you should know about propinas in Spain:

  • They are not mandatory. Bar/restaurant staff are paid a living wage; they don’t depend on tips to survive. A tip is usually a way to say that you were very pleased with the food and/or service.

 

  • All tips go into a common pot. At the end of the week or month, this money is split between all staff. So your tip does not go straight to your server.

 

  • Using a credit card to pay? You can’t add a tip. In theory, you could ask them to increase the amount you have to pay to reflect the tip you want to leave. But chances are that money will go to the owner of the establishment, not your server. So, use your card to pay la cuenta (the bill) and then leave the tip in cash… if you’re planning to leave a tip at all.

 

There’s no tipping in Europe.

I read this a lot, but it’s not true.

First of all, Europa is a diverse continent and every country has different customs. In this post, I’ll try to clarify the tipping etiquette in Spain. I’m Spanish and I live in Spain, so that’s what I know best. I can’t guarantee that this will work for Francia (France), Portugal or any other European country.

So, what’s the tipping etiquette on the Camino (and in Spain in general)?

 

 

Tipping in bars and cafés

No tipping is the norm in bars and cafés. What we sometimes do is just round up to the next euro. Let’s say you stop for a second desayuno (breakfast) of café con leche and tortilla, and you must pay a total of €3.80. You can pay 4 euros and not collect your change of 20 céntimos (cent).

And that’s if you feel you must leave a tip. As I said before, it is not mandatory and it’s not generally expected (unless maybe you are in a very touristy area full of foreigners who regularly tip).

 

Tipping in restaurants

As a general rule, the more informal the place is, the less common tips are. So propinas would be more expected in high-end restaurants, but not so much in basic establishments serving menú del peregrino. It’s also more common to leave a tip if you’re part of a large group.

How much should you tip? You can just leave the change or, if that’s too little, around 5% of your bill. And that’s if you’re happy with the food and service.

 

Tipping in taxis

Again, propinas are not expected. But if your driver was very nice and extra helpful you can round up to the next euro or leave a €1 tip.

 

Today’s Spanish words

Does that clarify your doubts about tipping etiquette on the Camino?

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¡Buen Camino!

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