When you come to Costa Rica, you’re going to find that the tipping in Costa Rica is different than the United States or other countries. Luckily the tipping culture in Costa Rica is fairly laid back but there are still some things you need to know about it.
Something very important to note is that I am writing this from a Costa Rican AND foreigner point of view since Yeison is Costa Rican and I am from the United States. The tipping cultures in both countries are drastically different.
So what someone from the United States tells you about the Costa Rica tipping culture may be different than what we tell you because Americans have a very big tipping culture. But in Costa Rica (and many countries in the world), it is completely different. I’m going to tell you about the tipping culture in Costa Rica from a local and foreigner point of view in this post.
Tipping in Costa Rica
So first things first. Tipping is not a normal part of the Costa Rican culture. Costa Ricans normally don’t give anything extra no matter how great or lousy the service is. It’s nothing personal, it’s just not their culture because the tip is already included in the price.
Yeison never tipped, even growing up in San Jose and working in tourism because locals don’t give extra tips in the Costa Rican tipping culture.
How Much to Tip in Costa Rica
But what if you want to tip?
Then that is totally fine and is very much appreciated. However, tipping as a tourist is completely optional. If you want to tip, the standard percentage is 10%.
A good way to see the tipping etiquette in Costa Rica for tourists is that it’s never mandatory but very much appreciated. It was difficult for me at first not to tip at first but now I understand why.
And since I have been living in Costa Rica for nearly 6 years now, I have adapted to their culture in many aspects, including this one. I still do like to tip every now and then but only in certain scenarios or if the service is especially good or extra services were given.
Tipping in Costa Rica – Dollars or Colones?
You can tip in Costa Rican colones or USD. Locals readily accept USD (and prefer it), especially now that the exchange rate is around 560 to 1 so they get more colones to the dollar. You can read more about exchanging money, Costa Rican currency and using USD in this post. We personally always leave colones since that is the currency we carry the most living in Costa Rica. But as a tourist, you may use USD to pay for things and you may tip in USD.
Something interesting about the tourism industry is that you will see more tip boxes and people asking for tips in Guanacaste, La Fortuna and Manuel Antonio. This is because these areas receives a lot of American tourists. If you go to the Caribbean coast, South Pacific or Osa Peninsula, you won’t see it as much.
Tipping Culture in Costa Rica for Restaurants
So what about restaurants?
Most of the time, you don’t need to worry about calculating tip at restaurants. In Costa Rica, it is required by law that restaurants include the service tax, which they call tips and sales tax in their price. Sales tax is 13% and service tax (tip) is 10%.
However, some restaurants don’t include the taxes in the prices and will write somewhere on the menu “taxes not included” or impuestos no incluidos. If taxes are not included, then you should expect to pay an extra 23% on top of the menu price.
Be aware that in some of the more touristic areas they may not include all the taxes to make prices seem cheaper. Always check the menu to see if they include them or not. We have experienced this a lot in Samara, Manuel Antonio and Tamarindo.
Tip: Some high end restaurants (usually owned by foreigners) will give you an extra receipt with a tip section. You do not need to tip extra if you don’t want to as you will be paying extra on top of the 23% you already paid for service and sales tax.
Tiping Etiquette in Costa Rica for Tour Guides
And for tours?
Some tour places (particularly in Guanacaste where they get mostly American tourists) will have tip boxes. Again, this is optional. Sometimes the guides will kindly ask if you want to but if you don’t, that’s perfectly fine. If you want to tip extra, you can. 10% is the standard amount.
Same with drivers. If you want to tip the driver, do. For a normal shuttle driver, if we want to tip, we give around 2-3000 colones for a 4 hour drive.
If you hired a private driver who took you to places, guided you around and took the time to stop at view points/bank/supermarket, I highly recommend giving them a tip around 10% since they took the extra time.
Tipping the taxi driver is not normal in Costa Rica. Yeison has never tipped taxis.
Tipping Etiquette in Costa Rica for Hotel Maids
We always try to leave a little for the maids since they don’t make very much here. I personally like to give 500-1000 colones a day.
Tipping All Inclusive Resorts in Costa Rica
We like to give a small tip to the valet (if we use one), hotel maids and the bell boys. We don’t normally tip bartenders unless they are really good. I usually like to give a little bit to the masseuse, around 5%.
These are the ones who say they will watch your car and guide you in and out. I feel kind of torn with them because many of them seem to be in hard times but Yeison had a terrible experience before. Instead of watching his bus like they said they would (and he paid them to do), his shuttle got robbed.
They can also be quite persistent to get you to park in “their area” and can get nasty if you try to ask a question or try to drive away. And honestly, I don’t count on them to stop someone from lifting our car or anything. After all our experiences, if we have extra coins we give them like 200-500 colones to be polite. And we always give it to them after we get back in the car.
To Tip or Not to Tip
The bottom line is that tipping in Costa Rica is completely optional and 10% is the standard percentage.
This is because businesses include service tax in their price. So coming from a Costa Rican point of view, Ticos do not tip since it’s not the tipping culture in Costa Rica. But for tourists, it has become more of an expectation in some places. From Yeison’s point of view as a Costa Rican and I as a foreigner, we do like to tip if the service is good. And if we tip, we always give Costa Rican colones.
Read more travel tips for Costa Rica!