When it comes to tipping, you’re going to find that the tipping in Costa Rica is different than the United States and other countries. It’s important to know about the Costa Rican tipping culture so you know what to expect and how much cash to bring to Costa Rica.
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. Obviously 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.
So in this post, I’m going to tell you about the tipping culture in Costa Rica from a local and foreigner point of view.
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 so that is what they’re used to.
Yeison never tipped as a Costa Rican, even working in the tourism industry and growing up in the Greater Metropolitan Area. It just isn’t part of the Costa Rican culture and it’s not something taught to them when they’re young.
How Much to Tip in Costa Rica
But as a tourist and guest in another country, what if you want to tip?
Then that is totally fine and is very very much appreciated. However, tipping as a tourist is completely optional and the standard percentage to tip in Costa Rica 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. Especially since the minimum wage is not that high and touristic areas are expensive when it comes to cost of living.
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 600 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 leave colones since that is the currency we carry the most living in Costa Rica. As a tourist, you may use USD to pay for things and you may tip with American dollars in Costa Rica.
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?
Some 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 menu price. Sales tax is 13% and service tax (tip) is 10%.
However, some restaurants don’t include the taxes in the menu prices and will write somewhere “taxes not included” or impuestos no incluidos. If none of the taxes are included, then you should expect to pay an extra 23% on top of the menu price.
Sometimes they will only one of the taxes but not the other so just keep that in mind.
Another thing to watch out for is that in some of the more touristic areas, some resorts 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.
So for example, you get your bill and it comes to $50 USD with the 10% service tax and 13% sales tax include and at this point, you’ve paid everything you’re supposed to so if you don’t want, you don’t need to tip on top of the $50 USD. But then they’ll hand you another American looking receipt in English with a “tip” section making you think you haven’t tipped yet and need to tip.
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 to take you around.
Tipping the taxi driver is not normal in Costa Rica for locals. 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 wearing an orange vest. They’ll come up to your car and charge you for parking, saying they’ll “watch your car” for you.
I feel kind of torn with them because many of them seem to be in hard times but Yeison had a terrible experience with them before. Instead of watching the vehicle like they said they would (and he paid them to do), it got broken into it and robbed.
Another thing we don’t really like about them is that they can also be quite persistent to get you to park in “their area.” We’ve seen some of them get nasty if you try to ask a question, leave, or not give them “enough” I’ve seen them charge international and local tourists a ridiculous amount of money to park in their area during the holidays but the thing is, they’re not even official parking guards or have insurance.
After all our experiences, if we have extra coins we give them like 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 it has become more of an expectation in touristic, more Westernized 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!