You are here to learn all about tipping in Costa Rica. In most countries, you’re expected to tip, even if you’re not happy with the service. In others, tipping is simply not done.
You just arrived at the international airport in Costa Rica. As soon as you walk outside arrivals, 10 guys jump on you, trying to help you with your suitcases. Of course, they want to get paid for their services, how much should you pay them?
You’re having a great lunch with friends in this fish restaurant in Jaco Beach and the service is outstanding. Should you tip at all and how much?
“Propina” is the right word for a tip in Costa Rica. A 10% service charge is customary in most parts of the world. Well, in Costa Rica, the 10% propina is not customary, its LAW.
In all restaurants and bars, the service charge of 10% will show on your invoice as Imp. Servicio and is charged over the total sum of the products consumed. The 13% IVA (or VAT in English) is calculated after the 10% service tax is added. So you pay the sum of the products + 10% + 13%.
Restaurant and bar employees
In Costa Rica, restaurant and bar employees are on a minimum salary, which includes their social security. Service charges or tips are ALWAYS included in your bill. Therefore there is no need to tip on top of the bill unless the service was outstanding. It is quite customary to leave any loose change as a tip. Be aware that lots of smart waiters give you plenty of unnecessary loose change so you can leave a generous tip without noticing.
I have also seen waiters not to return change if you pay them cash, just taking for granted that the difference is an extra tip. Don’t fall for that story as it is unacceptable.
Tipping taxi drivers isn’t really necessary unless you use the same driver all the time. Lots of expats ask a driver they feel comfortable with for their cellphone number so they can use him/her as a private driver. In that case, it’s a good habit to tip them without overdoing it. 10 – 15% should be sufficient when they’re nice to you, when they don’t take the long way to get you home or when they help you with your luggage.
In Costa Rica, when you park your car on the street, even when there is a parking meter, you will find someone watching over a bunch of cars. We call them a guachiman (Watchman). If you don’t give them any money, next time you go to that same place, they might scratch your car. 200 – 300 Colones should be sufficient to keep them happy and they will watch your car next time too.
Tour guides and dive masters
It is good practice to give your tour guide or divemaster a tip of 10% of the cost of your tour.
Bellhops and skycaps
Bellhops are covered by the service charges but they expect you to give them a tip when they help you with your luggage to your room. A couple of bucks should suffice. The skycaps at the airport expect you to give them $5 but if it’s only a couple of suitcases they take care of, don’t give them more than half that unless you have a truckload of luggage.
Are you a good tipper?
North Americans are customarily good tippers, that’s because the system works basically on tipping. Europeans rarely tip well. If the job is done well, they should get paid well, it’s a system that works based on performance. That’s how it is in Costa Rica (except in the bars and restaurants), but don’t let them take advantage of you because you’re a gringo but don’t over-tip either. Not always you will find the great service you would expect and you should feel free to say so.
No tips for real estate agents
There is no need to give our real estate agents any tips. We sell real estate for a commission, which is paid by the seller. Just make sure that when you look at properties with any of our agents, you buy property from us and not from our competitors.
We’ll appreciate your business and do more for you after the purchase than you could ever imagine. Check our testimonials and you’ll understand what I’m talking about. Ready for business? Then contact us now.