Scotland can be a strange place for tourists, especially for first-time travellers coming here from overseas.
Not only are there differences in food (haggis anyone?), there are accents that are nigh-on incomprehensible, a fondness for wearing kilts, and customs like the annual Burns Night that will make no sense to anyone that doesn’t live here.
While having an understanding of those customs isn’t at all necessary for visitors, the practice of giving gratuities (AKA tipping) is something that’s practically universal and is as relevant in Scotland as it is in any other country – with a few exceptions.
In this article, we’ll cover the ins and outs of tipping in Scotland, when you should or shouldn’t give a little extra, and where it’s customary to do so.
The basics of tipping in Scotland
When it comes to giving a tip in Scotland there are no hard and fast rules. A tip is basically your way of saying thank you to any staff you’ve encountered that have gone the extra mile to make you feel more comfortable, whether that’s a waiter handing out your evening meal or a tour guide that has shown you the highlights of a city.
Here in the UK, all workers are given a minimum wage that by law has to be above a certain amount (the ‘living wage’) so workers do not have to rely on tips as much as they do in other countries.
One thing to remember in Scotland is that unlike many countries, specifically the U.S., not leaving a tip is perfectly fine in pretty much any scenario, and you won’t be chased out of town by angry locals waving pitchforks if you decline to leave a tip for whatever reason.
The general etiquette, though, is to give a little extra – usually 5 to 10% of the bill – if you’ve particularly enjoyed the service you’ve received.
I’ll cover a few examples in the following sections for tipping in Scotland which also apply to the rest of the UK for those of you coming to Scotland as part of a UK-wide tour.
Tipping in restaurants and bars
This is the main place where you’ll give tips as a tourist, though there are a few exceptions where you’d never give the staff a gratuity.
As a general rule of thumb, if you eat in a restaurant whether it’s a big chain or a small independent diner, you will usually leave a tip as long as the service is decent. That means if the staff are polite and attentive you can feel free to add a little extra to the bill, but do not feel obligated to do so if you’re in any way dissatisfied with the service.
As mentioned above, you won’t raise any eyebrows if you don’t leave a tip in Scotland and no one will make any mention of it if you choose not to.
Bear in mind that it’s customary not to leave a tip for staff in any fast food restaurant. Instead, you’d normally just give a smile and say thank you before taking your food.
Likewise, if you visit a pub you would not normally give the bar staff a tip if you only buy one drink. It’s not uncommon to say ‘get one for yourself’ when it comes to buying a final round if you’ve enjoyed several drinks, though.
Of course, the staff won’t actually get themselves a drink while they’re working, so don’t wait for them to start supping a pint as soon as you’ve handed over your money!
Tipping percentages and guidelines
With regards to how much to tip in a restaurant, from personal experience I suggest 10% of the entire cost of the meal rounded up to the nearest pound.
That being said, there are limits to the upper amount you’d normally give which tends to be around £10. So if you’re part of a big group and the bill comes to £190, round it up to £200 instead of £210.
It’s all personal preference though and as I said at the start, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to tipping in Scotland.
How to give a tip in a restaurant
There was an annoying policy in some restaurants a couple of years ago where a mandatory service charge was automatically added to the bill whether you felt the service was good or not.
Thankfully that practice has now pretty much died out due to a backlash from consumers as many restaurant owners were pocketing the extra money and not handing it back to staff.
That being said, you might still find yourself handed a payment terminal after your meal which has an extra 5-10% automatically added as a service charge. These card machines usually have the option to cancel the extra charge though, so you can only pay for the cost of the meal if you don’t want to leave a tip.
If you receive a bill that has had a service charge added and you are not happy with the service you’ve received, ask the staff to remove it or ask to speak to the manager to remove it.
Special cases (large parties, private events, etc.)
If you find yourself at a social gathering such as a wedding where there’s food and alcohol on offer, you are not expected to give the staff a tip whether they’re serving tables or serving behind the bar.
Likewise, at formal events such as business conventions where there’s food and drink available, you wouldn’t normally give tips to the waiters and waitresses, and in fact, it might be considered strange to do so.
Tipping hotel staff in Scotland
Other than eating out, the other situation where tourists might feel like handing over a tip is at their accommodation, but again, only in certain situations.
If you’re staying in an Airbnb or a Bed and Breakfast you will not be expected to leave a tip of any kind but it’s customary to leave a nice memo in the guest book or an online review site like Trip Advisor.
On the other hand, if you’re staying in a hotel, especially in a city centre, you will most likely leave a tip for staff at some point during your stay.
Note that this does not apply to budget hotel chains like Travelodge or Premier Inn. No matter what the level of service is in those hotels, tips are rarely given to staff whether in the restaurant or for housekeeping.
Gratuities for housekeeping
If you’re staying in a large premium hotel you might like to leave a little money for the housekeeping staff if they’ve done a particularly good job during your stay.
If you’ve stayed in a hotel for a few nights and you have spare change you can leave it on a counter once you’ve moved out of the room. Anything from a couple of pounds is an acceptable amount.
Tipping concierge and front desk staff
Tips are normally only given to staff in high-end hotels in Scotland. Front desk staff and the concierge in these hotels are not normally given tips, however, the bag boy (sometimes called the bellhop) is usually given a couple of pounds as a thank you whenever they carry luggage from the lobby to the room and vice versa.
The only other person you might give a tip to is the doorman if they’ve performed a service such as booking you a taxi.
Tipping drivers in Scotland
When using taxi services in Scotland it’s customary to leave a tip, but not as an additional payment. What most people do instead, is round the final bill up and ask the taxi driver to keep the change, so if the bill was £18 you might give them £20 as a cash note.
If it’s a long journey then feel free to add an extra 10%, but (this is my personal preference) I usually add a wee bit more if the destination is hard to find.
For short journeys, if the taxi driver is using a card reader (most do nowadays) then simply ask them to round the final number up to the nearest pound.
When using public transport in Scotland whether bus, train, or tram, you are not expected to offer members of staff a monetary tip.
If you do want to show your appreciation, just say thank you at the time and perhaps send a quick email to the transport company if you really want to go the extra mile.
I’ve done this myself when a conductor helped me with heavy bags at my local train station and I got a reply saying it was passed onto him the same day. It cost nothing except for a minute or two of my time and I’m sure it was appreciated.
Tipping for other services
There are very few other circumstances where you’d give a tip for services received in Scotland but you may have your own customs from your home country and are wondering if they apply here. I’ll cover the most obvious ones in this section.
Tour guides and entertainers
In some cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow you’ll often find free tours offered by independent guides. These guides rely solely on the income from the tips they’re given so it’s customary to give them £5 to £10 to say thank you when the tour is over.
You’ll also find free street shows in Scotland’s cities (especially in Edinburgh) that rely on tips from the people watching the show, usually £5 to £10. Unlike the tours mentioned above, if you watch a street show and don’t enjoy it then feel free to walk away without handing over any money.
The same goes for buskers and bagpipers, feel free to leave a donation if you enjoy the music they’re playing, but it’s completely optional.
Grocery and food delivery tips
Visitors staying in self-catering accommodation might arrange to have food delivered from a supermarket rather than do the shopping themselves. You would not normally give any tips to the driver for this service, nor would you give tips to any member of staff if you shop in a grocery store.
If you’re having food delivered from a takeaway then payment is made in advance online or by phone and you would not give them a tip, but feel free to give some spare change to the delivery driver if they’re early.
Tipping for home services (plumbers, electricians, etc.)
On the very rare instance when a tourist might need to call out a tradesperson, it’s not usual to give them a tip even if they’ve been called outside of normal working hours.
Emergency call-out service costs will be added to the bill – which will undoubtedly be exorbitant – so don’t feel guilty about not giving them any extra cash when they leave.
Gratuities for medical professionals
If you’re unfortunate enough to incur an injury while visiting the UK you’ll be able to use our excellent National Health Service. In this scenario, it is not customary to offer any tip to nurses or doctors (they’ll refuse it even if you do).
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I tip in restaurants in Scotland?
Yes, tipping in restaurants in Scotland is customary and appreciated, though not mandatory. The standard practice is to tip around 10% of the bill if you are satisfied with the service.
However, it’s essential to check if a service charge is already included in the bill. If so, you don’t need to tip additionally but you can leave a small extra amount for exceptional service.
In casual eateries or pubs tipping is less common but you can still leave a small tip if you feel the service was outstanding.
Is it rude not to tip in Scotland?
In Scotland, tipping is not as expected as it is in some other countries like the United States. However, it is still considered a nice gesture to tip for good service.
It is not necessarily rude not to tip, but if you receive exceptional service then leaving a tip would be appreciated.
In restaurants, a tip of 10% of the bill is standard while for other services like taxis or hotels, a smaller amount is acceptable.
Remember, tipping is ultimately a personal choice and should be based on your satisfaction with the service provided.
Do I tip in hotels in Scotland?
In Scotland, tipping at hotels is appreciated but not mandatory. It’s customary to tip bellhops or porters around £1-£2 per bag, depending on the service and the weight of your luggage.
Housekeeping staff can be tipped £1-£2 per day, left in the room or handed directly to them.