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New York City is one of the top travel destinations in the United States for both travelers who cross continents, oceans or just a few state lines to get there. When you’re traveling somewhere that you’ve never been before, it’s a good idea to know what the people in this city are going to expect of you, and one of the most useful things to know is how much you’re expected to tip in New York City. While you don’t have to give a cab driver your life-savings, it’s also important not to completely take advantage of the services in the city. Here are a few tips and guidelines for who to tip and how much.

cab-nyCab Drivers in NYC
Cabs are probably the most common way to get around in NYC, but the amount you tip depends more on the distance than it does anything else. When you only go a few minutes in your cab ride, the most common tip is between $2 and $5. A tip for your cab to or from the airport is usually around $10. New York City isn’t the best place for a peaceful drive, but if your cab drive does a great job to make your trip from place to place pleasant, strikes up a friendly conversation or gives you some helpful advice, they deserve a good tip. If they’re mean, take you in the wrong direction or feel like they’re being unnecessarily wreckless, you don’t have to give them any extra money. It all depends on your unique experience to and from each place. The good drivers usually earn their good tips.

Restaurants in New York City
As a general rule, tip your waiters and waitresses about 15-20% when you’re dining out at restaurants in New York City. Restaurants in this huge tourist town stay pretty busy, and it takes a lot from the wait staff at each of them to accommodate all of the hungry diners and each of their particular need. Nobody will come running after you if you tip a little under if the service really didn’t meet your standards, but it’s expected for you to tip.
When you order something simple or the meal was just decent, a 15% tip is fine.
If you’re at a fancy restaurant, the service and your experience was great, an 18% tip is perfect.
When your waiter goes above and beyond to accommodate you and make your dining experience unforgettable, they probably earned their 20% tip.

bartender-nyBars in New York City
Bartenders get about the same treatment as your waiter would. If you go to a bar just for a quick drink, the rule of thumb is about $1 to $2 for every drink you throw back, and when you run up a tab or add on food, it’s easier just to calculate the 15-20% of your bill. Bartenders are very loyal to their good tippers, and usually when you tip well for your first or second round of drinks, it’s not uncommon for them to return the favor in a drink of on the house to show their appreciation for your generosity. Don’t expect them to start giving you free drinks just because you’re tipping though, because a bad tip at the beginning could also end up getting you on your bartender’s bad side and you’ll be waiting for drinks for a while the rest of the night.

Tipping at your hotel
New York is home to some of the best hotels in the world. Whether you’re staying at a budget-hotel or the Ritz though, it’s not a bad idea to tip the people taking care of you every day when they go above and beyond to make your stay more enjoyable. New York City hotels offer a variety of amenities and services, so whether you’re ordering room service, setting up transportation or you’re wondering what the best thing to do nearby is, someone around there can help you out and make your stay more comfortable or more adventurous. You definitely don’t have to tip everyone at your hotel, although many people work very hard to make sure your stay is enjoyable, so it’s really just up to you whether you want to leave a tip. And it probably never hurts to come prepared with a healthy bribe so that you can bribe the concierge by smoothly slipping him a $20 just like in the movies. If not, here are some general tipping guides for hotel staff should you decide you want to use them:

  • Room Service: $2 – $5 a day, depending on the size of your room and how messy you’ve been
  • Bellhops who help with bags: $1 – $2 per bag
  • Doorman who hails a cab for you – $2
  • Room Service – 15-20% again
  • Just in case, it’s a good idea to keep a few small bills on you just in case an occasion for tipping someone who helped you out comes up

doorman-ny-hotel
One of the hardest things to get used to when you’re traveling internationally is the tipping expectations in the United States, and in New York City in particular. Many of the services and people in NYC try their hardest to help you out, but it’s really up to you to tip the amount that makes you feel comfortable. Tipping more can only help, whether it’s getting you something extra, leaving a positive impression or earning some karma points.

This article was written by Lizz Riggs, editor of NYCTourist.com.