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Travel in Sri Lanka – A Guide to Tipping From a First Time Visitor

For most Australians tipping is not part of our DNA. So on a recent tour of Sri Lanka the question of `how much to tip?’ became a topic of discussion daily. As a group of first time visitors we had been given a ballpark of how much to tip our guide and driver for the tour of Sri Lanka, but what about other services we encountered along the way?

With tourism undergoing a revival in Sri Lanka, it’s not customary to tip – yet. Like any non-tipping culture, discretion is left to the individual and the service delivered. Here’s how much we tipped and why, and the reaction we got.

Our guide and driver during our Sri Lankan itinerary were tipped generously and they deserved it. Our guide was a genuine, warm person who had an infectious laugh and welcomed us daily with a big smile. He was knowledgeable and patient with seven women who walked to their own timetable; where a 10-minute tea stopped turned into 30 minutes for example! Sri Lankan traffic and road conditions are tricky but our driver handled everything with aplomb. We tipped each guide and driver $10 a day, an amount they didn’t expect.

At some high-end properties the term `butler’ was used to describe the concierges, who went out of their way to provide the ultimate in service. We later discovered that most were well educated and/or had hospitality experience from abroad in places such as Dubai, Qatar or Europe. At one property, while our ‘butler’ was not at our beck and call for 24-hours, they were obliging nevertheless and we tipped them $10 for a less than 24-hour stay because of the genuine “yes mam, not a problem’’ attitude they displayed.

Like us, your Sri Lanka itinerary will most likely include a visit to Sigiriya Rock Fortress (and if it doesn’t it should!). With weary legs and aching calves from walking up the 1000 steps of this impressive sight, some of us decided to have massages at our next stop. Each massage was performed with great care and for the full hour as advertised, there were no short cuts. So we tipped each masseuse $5.

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Have we tipped these amounts in other Asian countries? The answer is no and we are a well- travelled group. Sri Lankans are sincere, caring people doing their job and doing it well. All those we met during our tour made our trip go as smoothly as possible and for that we over tipped.

And if you find tipping all too difficult, many hotels have a ‘tip box’ where you can leave a tip which gets distributed to all the staff at the hotel – not just those in the front of house. Failing that, you can simply put your tip in an envelope and ask the front office manager to share it amongst the staff.

At the end of the day, tipping is left to your discretion but we can guarantee that even if you don’t, you’ll be greeted with the same warm smile every day.

– From a first time Sri Lanka visitor, 2016.

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