Tipping in South Africa, A Local’s View on Etiquette

tipping in south africa

Want to know how to tip when you’re in South Africa? You’re in the right hands. As a local who has lived in Durban and Cape Town, I understand how important gratuity in South Africa is. It’s a part of the culture and there are some important do’s and don’ts, which I’ll share in this guide. This article will share some no-nonsense advice on how much to tip when to tip, and the things that are considered polite or rude.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Tipping Percentage: In South Africa, the standard tipping percentage is 10%, but it can range from 10% to 15% or more if you recieved good service.
  2. Importance of Tipping: Tipping is vital in South Africa, where many service industry workers earn low salaries, and some rely solely on tips for income.
  3. Tipping in Different Settings: Tipping practices vary by location, but common guidelines include 10% for restaurants, loose change for bars, and 20 ZAR ($1) for hotel staff.
  4. Tips on Tipping Like a Local: Cash tipping is preferred, especially for car guards who usually accept only cash. Carrying loose change is convenient for tipping, and tipping etiquette suggests a minimum of 10% or more if service is exceptional.

How Much Should I Tip in South Africa?

The general rule is to tip 10% of the total bill in South Africa, however, this can be anything from 10% – 15% (more if you can afford it or if you’re truly impressed with the service received). You are not obliged to tip if the staff member is rude or takes too long to deliver the service without any explanation or apology offered.

Let me say upfront that even though 10% is the standard there are instances where, depending on the nature of the service, this may vary and cases where it’ll have to be an amount instead of a percentage but we’ll talk about that further below.

In South Africa, many of those who are employed in the service industry earn salaries that are way below the minimum wage. Secondly, a large number of those people live far away from work, and have to catch public transport to and from every day. Therefor, these people often rely on the tips they receive from their customers to make a decent income, and to afford the transport to and from work.

In worst-case scenarios, there are also people who don’t even receive a basic salary but only make money out of the tips they receive as their only source of income. Tipping, therefore, is an important act of kindness while you’re on holiday in this country and a great way to help someone who needs it and put a smile on their face.

All of the above is the reason why tipping in South African culture is often required.

Tipping For Different Services in South Africa

Tipping in Restaurants and Cafes

Tipping in Johannesburg restaurant

Tipping waiting staff in restaurants is the most common form of tipping in this country and the one that everybody understands and expects. Again the standard here is 10% of the total bill or more if happy to do so. Make sure you check your bill before you settle as some restaurants, especially the high-end establishments, now have a practice of adding the gratuity or service charge onto the bill for large groups of six or more people at the table.

If you didn’t know this you would add another tip because you’d be completely unaware that it’s already been added to the total.

You can additionally add more to what the restaurant has put on the bill if you feel it’s not enough for the service that you received.

Please note: most waiters prefer a cash tip to card. This is because most have to wait till the end of the week or month for the restaurant to do the accounts before paying them what’s due to them, whereas many of these people need the cash flow daily for transport to and from work.

It’s perfectly acceptable (and appreciated) to ask the waiter what they prefer when it comes to this matter.

Tipping in Bars & Pubs

Tipping bartenders is a bit different simply because there is no general rule for this specific type of service, unlike waiters in restaurants. Most people generally tip the bar staff whatever loose change they get back after paying for their drink. This can be any amount of money depending on your level of generosity, I feel. However, if you are running a tab it would make perfect sense to go with the 10% guide and add that tip when you’re settling your bill.

Hotel Tipping South Africa – Hotel Staff, Bag Carriers etc.

This one is a bit tricky because there are many people who contribute to your comfortable stay for the duration of your stay. If you tip the front staff you may be forgetting the others like cleaners, cooking staff, etc.

Most hotels have a common tipping jar for them to split the tips across all staff, but if you’d like to tip individuals, say the porter who helps you with your bag, then 20 ZAR ($1) is an acceptable amount. If you have a lot of bags I would say between 20-50 ZAR ($1-$3) is good. You would tip the staff member who helps you with bookings a similar amount as well as the doorman and housekeeping staff.

Tipping Petrol Attendants in South Africa

Petrol attendants are one of the lowest paid service staff and tips go a long way to helping them make a decent income. Secondly, petrol attendants don’t just pour petrol in your car (in this country you don’t pour petrol for yourself) but they go the extra mile of cleaning your front and back windows and will check your air pressure and put air in your tires, when required, as well as oil if you have a leak.

Most people tip anything from 5-20 ZAR ($1) but if you can afford to tip more then please consider doing that.

Tipping Hairdressers in South Africa

When it comes to hairdressers in South Africa, a tip is optional, but they do appreciate it and most people do so if the service has been exceptional. I think it’s optional because most hairdressers own the business and when they charge a fee they have already worked out what their labor and profit would be so the question is do you add to that or not? I don’t see why not if you’re extremely happy with what they’ve done.

10% of the bill or a flat fee of 20 ZAR ($1) should be acceptable when tipping hairdressers in ZA, but this is a personal opinion.

Tipping on Safari in South Africa

Safari guides do a lot to give you a great experience on safari. They not only ensure your safety in the bush where you are among very dangerous animals but they also point out those you could have missed and educate you about the various animals, etc. so it makes sense that they should be tipped well.

When tipping Safari guides in South Africa, anything between 50-100 ZAR ($3-$6) is good.

Trackers also provide a great service by guiding you as you track the animals on foot so they know the bush well. A 20-50 ZAR ($1-$3) tip for trackers is a good amount and would be greatly appreciated.

Most safari places also have common tipping jars where you can leave a tip to be shared by all staff, especially if you’re staying with them for a number of days and not just there on a day visit. If staying for a few days consider leaving 100-250 ($6-$15) per couple per night.

Tipping Tour Guides in South Africa

Tour guides provide an important and necessary service. They often hold a vast amount of knowledge about the various places that they take you to see, including the history and the current information, and sometimes double-up as photographers when you need a photo taken in front of some famous building. They can really contribute to you having an amazing experience of the place so tipping them should be standard practice. Consider tipping 100 ZAR ($5-$6) for a whole-day tour.

Tipping Taxis, Ubers/Ride-share Drivers & Public Transport Workers

Tipping public transport drivers is not a requirement especially those who earn a salary like the bus drivers, but do consider tipping if the service was exceptional, especially with Uber drivers. There are Uber or rideshare drivers who go out of their way to help with your luggage and/or ask if you are happy with the music, or they find the quickest route to get you to the airport, etc. Adding 10% to the bill should be standard in those cases, or tipping more if the service was truly exceptional. The rideshare apps give you the option to tip at the end of your ride. Minibus taxi drivers are not tipped in South Africa.

Tipping in Spas & Salons

Massage Therapist in Cape Town

Spa and salon staff pamper you and make you feel beautiful and good in your skin and so tipping them should be standard, however it’s not. If you are happy with the service you should definitely consider adding 10% to the total bill or at minimum 20 ZAR ($1). This also goes a long way to making sure you get great service again the next time you visit.

Car Guards

South Africa is a country with a very high unemployment rate which leaves many of the unemployed trying to find creative ways to earn a living. And sometimes, due to the informal nature of those jobs, the only income those people earn is by way of the tips that they receive from their customers since those jobs are not salaried. One of those jobs that has become popular in this country is people who work as car guards.

Car guards look after your car when you go inside the mall or any establishment where you’re going to spend a considerable amount of time. This is to stop those who are looking for opportunities to break into other people’s cars by smashing a window and stealing the contents of the car or stealing the car itself! So car guards play an important role by volunteering their services. These days we are starting to see shopping malls employ car guards but you will know who is employed at the mall because they will wear a full uniform. Whether a car guard is employed by the mall or not doesn’t really matter as they would be earning less than a minimum wage anyway, so tipping them is a way to show gratitude for the service that they provide.

Most people tip anything from 5-20 ZAR ($1). Do not feel obliged to tip in instances where the car guard is harassing you or being rude to you, and only tip when you get back to your car and have made sure that everything looks good. Sometimes they also offer to help you carry your bags to the car but feel free to say “no, thanks” if you don’t need them to.

You will normally recognize car guards by the yellow or orange vests that they wear. They are also different from the parking meter attendants that are employed by the municipality – the latter wear a full uniform and are paid by the municipality so no tip is required there.

Tips on Tipping Like a Local

  • Tipping in cash is preferred over tipping by card, as many staff members rely on daily cash flow for expenses like transportation.
  • Car guards generally only accept cash tips, as they do not have card-swiping machines.
  • Carrying loose change for tipping can be a convenient way to ensure you can tip when necessary and maintain the safety of your vehicle.
  • Tipping etiquette typically involves giving a minimum of 10% or more when possible, but exceptions can be made if the staff was rude or provided poor service without an apology or explanation.
  • In situations where service is unsatisfactory, tipping may be withheld, such as when a waiter argues over a wrong order.
  • If you don’t have cash available, it’s acceptable to inform your waiter and add the tip to your card payment as an alternative, which is still appreciated by the staff.

Gratuity in South Africa is always preferred in cash over card. This is because, as I explained earlier, most staff need the daily cash flow for transport, etc. Car guards don’t carry card-swiping machines so they always take cash. I have been embarrassed enough when I didn’t have cash on me and had to apologize profusely for not tipping so I started carrying some loose change just for tipping. This also ensures the safety of your car because some of them can take it personally when they think you’re stingy and do something to your car or simply turn a blind eye!

I always tip 10% minimum or more when I can afford it but I never feel obliged to do so if the staff were rude or took too long and offered no apology or explanation. I’ve had a waiter argue with me when they were giving me the wrong order and it’s such cases where I won’t tip.

If you don’t have cash on you don’t stress too much about it. You can politely explain this to your waiter and just add the tip to the card payment. That will still be much appreciated – it definitely beats not tipping at all.


What is the standard tipping percentage in South Africa?

10% -15% is the standard tipping percentage. You can always tip more if you are happy with the service.

Is it rude not to tip in South Africa?

Yes, but this depends on the service industry. In restaurants and hotels it is expected but with spas, hairdressers and drivers it is appreciated but not expected.

How do I handle tipping for large groups?

10% – 15% of the total bill still applies but some restaurants add the gratuity upfront for larger groups of six or more. Check the bill before you settle.

Who do I tip in South Africa?

Tip everyone who provides you with a great service; drivers, petrol attendants, beauty treatment staff, hotel and safari staff, and waiters and bar staff. The only people who are not tipped are minibus taxi drivers and parking meter attendants.

Are there situations where tipping is not expected?

Generally, it’s the owners of the business who do not expect a tip. So, if the hairdresser owns the business or the beauty therapist is also the owner of the business, wa tip is not expected.

How can I show appreciation without tipping?

Consider leaving a note of appreciation to the staff member or telling the business owner about the excellent service that you received from the staff member. It is also quite common and appreciated to write a review on websites like Tripadvisor and mention the staff member by name.

Is it acceptable to tip with foreign currency?

This can be done but it’s not preferred simply because it would be very difficult for the person to exchange the money since this is done in the bank and foreign exchange places that require a lot of documentation. If you want to tip in US dollar in South Africa, it’s not possible, as it doesn’t work in the staff member’s favor.

Can I tip using credit cards or mobile payment apps?

Absolutely, payment apps have an option to add a tip and you can indicate the tip amount on the bill as well when you are paying by credit card.

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