Tipping in Mexico

…a few words of advice…

Some articles that I’ve read online suggest that tips in Mexico should be equivalent to what they are in the United States or Canada.

This simply isn’t true.

Ignore anything you read online about tipping in Mexico other than what you read on this page.

This page is the first and the last about the subject.

Frankly, there are too many websites out there spouting out information that they have neither investigated nor learned about first hand.

Too many website authors have visited multiple tourist destinations around Mexico, but have come to erroneous conclusions about tipping that are not congruent with the reality on the ground.

Prior to arriving in Playa Del Carmen, I spent 5-1/2 years living in the central part of Mexico – far, far away from the tourist “bubbles” that these people are familiar with.

Consequently, I learned things about Mexican culture and lifestyle that most authors have never touched.

With that said, this page is all about telling you the truth and leaving the “cookies and ice cream” nonsense to the amateurs.

Here are the hard numbers that you can use if you don’t want to read the rest of this article to understand how tipping in Mexico is dramatically different from the US and Canada.

American-Style Tipping Does Not Apply South of the US Border

Although most people working in the service industry rely on their tips as a part of their income (as they do in the United States), people in Mexico are generally paid less because the cost of living is significantly lower.

I have lived in Mexico for several years, and I can say without reservation that Mexicans in general tip much lower percentages than their American counterparts – and many times, not at all.

In fact, the tipping practices in most of Mexico are dramatically different from the United States.

However, because most Mexican tourist areas like Playa Del Carmen are used to catering to Americans and Canadians, the expectations of service workers are different in those areas.

Thus, tipping percentages are higher overall in tourist areas. NOTE: This does not mean this is how it should be; it just means this is how it is.

In any case, it is not necessary, and even detrimental, to tip as high as you would in the United States.

Of course, you can tip however much you want – more in some cases, and less in others.

But please understand, the locals pay a heavy price for your overtipping. In fact, with the help of an infographic on this page, I’m going to tell you how tipping wrecks havoc with the way locals are treated.

Just remember this: UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES WHATSOEVER SHOULD YOU TIP MORE THAN 10% AT BARS, RESTAURANTS, OR ANYWHERE ELSE IN MEXICO.

I’m going to tell you exactly why in a moment, but let me repeat that so you don’t forget it. It’s important: NEVER………MORE THAN 10%………ANYWHERE………EVER…..IN MEXICO!!!

Moreover, you shouldn’t tip at all for bad service here.

There is nothing worse than a service worker expecting a huge tip while providing poor service!

To be honest, the expectation for tips has gotten out of control in the tourist areas in Mexico.

Tourists are being targeted for a never-ending barrage of unnecessary “services” for no other reason than to guilt people into tipping.

Interestingly, just like normal boobs were never a problem until girls with implants flaunted their HUGE boobs, the expectation of American-style tipping amounts did not come from Mexico; it originates from people who have OVERtipped relative to local customs.

A Brief History of Tipping In The US and How This Relates To Tipping In Mexico

Tipping was never a part of Mexican culture.

In fact, it was not originally part of American culture either.

All the way up until the early 1900s in America, the practice of tipping was virtually absent.

Even worse, tipping was generally considered immoral – a way of bribing or coaxing a server or bartender into dispensing larger portions of food or drink.

That’s right, for the majority of US history, tipping was considered a form of petty corruption.

It sounds strange, but think of it like “tipping” a police officer – bribery under a different name, right?

So, what changed? Why was tipping not acceptable in the past, but has become a normal part of American culture today?”

In one word: Prohibition.

In most establishments that sell food and liquor, the profit from drinks is substantial.

Thus, a major source of revenue for the food and beverage industry dried up once prohibition became law.

As you might imagine, many businesses were devastated – not only were they competing with their preexisting competitors, but they now also had a new class of competition in the speakeasies and underground bars that begin to pop up everywhere.

Times were tough.

Restaurants had a choice to make: run short on service staff, or go broke maintaining adequate service.

However, there was a third option – another source of funds for paying staff that had been previously overlooked.

You guessed it!

TIPS…..

If the money flowing from tips could supplement servers’/bartenders’ wages, then labor costs to restaurants, bars, and other service businesses could be minimized.

It was all about the money; (it’s always about the money).

In this way, tips became standard operating procedure during Prohibition, and the practice of tipping still exists today.

And the rest, as they say, is history – but not Mexican history.

Tipping In Mexico Is NOT A Traditional Cultural Element

Despite the social acceptance of gratuities that gradually changed the service industry in America, tipping in Mexico neither existed in the early years of Mexico’s foundations as a Spanish colony nor during the Prohibition era of the United States.

Thus, it can be correctly stated that tipping never was a part of Mexico’s culture.

“So, when did tipping become normal in Mexico?” you ask.

TIPPING IS NOT NORMAL IN MEXICO! AGAIN, IT NEVER HAS BEEN!

Even today Mexicans don’t tip in the majority of the country – at least not the way we think of it.

In the vast expanse of central Mexico today, tipping is minimal (0% is normal in bars/restaurants) in cities that do not host tourists or expats.

Of course tipping is common in certain areas – specifically, tourist cities where there are a lot of Americans and Canadians.

But tourist-area tipping is the exception, not the rule.

In short, it was Americans who brought tipping to the tourist destinations of Mexico.

When the sunny beaches and seaside resorts of places like Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta, and Cancun begin opening their doors, this is when tipping became acceptable in Mexico– not a day before!

This contrast of cultures clashed without much friction – the Mexicans loved the extra money, and the Americans thought they were supposed to do it because it was normal back home.

However, there is a dark side to tipping in Mexico that most people either don’t understand or would rather keep secret.

This dark side of tipping still continues today.

I’m going to tell you about it.

Ying yang, Good bad,

To see what’s happening is sometimes sad.

The Dark Side of Tipping In Mexico

As the throngs of visitors have repeatedly come to Mexico, property values in tourist areas have increased.

More importantly, the traditional Mexican families (or “locals” as they’re often called), have been pushed further and further away from the beautiful areas of this country; they cannot afford to live in them.

Moreover, they have become unwanted.

They are not wanted in the restaurants. They are not wanted in the bars. They are not wanted in the shops. Nobody wants to take them on tours. To the vendors here, they’re just useless bodies that “get in the way” of their businesses.

A lot of this has to do with the amount of disposable income they can spend.

Think about this:

Yet, despite all of these contrasting economic concerns, there is only one particular reason that local Mexicans are not wanted in so many places:

TIPS.

The Rise of Absentee Ownership and Why Service Workers Only Care About Tips

I would guess that 98% of the businesses that you will visit (bars, clubs, restaurants, activity providers, etc.) are not attended by their owners.

In other words, the actual owners of the businesses are absent, and hired employees perform the day-to-day operations to assure the business is profitable.

In economics, they call this “Absentee Ownership.

During your time here, you will constantly meet servers, bartenders, clerks, tour guides, etc.

Most of these employees work for absentee owners who live in other parts of Mexico or the world.

IMPORTANT: While the absentee owners of the businesses in Playa Del Carmen are happy with sales from ANYONE, the workers (servers, bartenders, tour guides, etc.) are not; they do NOT see all customers as equals.

Specifically, they want to work with customers who tip the most – NOT with customers who tip little (or nothing).

Thus, if you followed the key points of this argument so far, you will understand the following:

  • Tipping is NOT part of Mexican culture
  • However, tipping is quite common in tourist areas of Mexico
  • Average Mexicans produce (and earn) far less than Americans and Canadians
  • Owners of businesses simply want sales – from ANYONE who will pay
  • BUT owners are not running their businesses and are not dealing directly with customers
  • Servers, bartenders, tour guides, etc.. are the representatives that customers meet
  • These service personnel strongly prefer customers who tip; those who don’t tip (or tip little) are useless to them

The logical conclusion to all of the above is that those who tip little are not wanted.

Believe me when I say that it is no secret that Mexicans tip poorly.

Service workers know this and react in two ways:

  1. Treating local Mexicans poorly so that they can focus their attention on tipping customers/ (Americans & Canadians)
  2. Treating local Mexicans poorly to “teach them a lesson” in hopes that they won’t visit the establishment again and uselessly take up space.

Thus, the collision between a tipping culture and a non-tipping culture is not victimless, as it would appear at first glance.

Take a look at the infographic at the bottom of this page to better understand how the process works.

Why This Discrimination Is Kept Secret

This information that was relayed from Nelly, the 5th Avenue server, was the final experience that cemented this idea in my mind and was the real eye-opener.

I began searching online for answers.

Nothing.

No other website reported this.

Nobody else had investigated and followed the logical conclusion through to the end.

Honestly, this massive discrimination I’m telling you about goes on every day in every tourist destination in Mexico.

But why? Why was nobody talking about this? Didn’t anyone know about this?

What really surprised me was the following:

  • Servers know about this.
  • Restaurant owners/mgrs know about this.
  • The locals also know the discrimination happens, but don’t speak about it (except in whispers and murmurs) because it’s easier to simply stay away from popular tourist spots and just refer to tourists as “gringos,” a semi-derogatory word used to categorize Americans/Canadians.
  • Unfortunately, Americans and Canadians know NOTHING about this system. They tip in their own respective countries, so assume it’s okay to do the same here.

Understandable, but there are 100s of “authoritative” websites out there spouting information about how 15-20% of the bill is “normal” tipping in Mexico.

Believe me. It’s a lie.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Here’s the actual breakdown and what special interests are at stake for each:

Service workers – Although servers / bartenders know that this kind of discrimination happens, they don’t want to say anything about it because they want the money that the tips provide.

Restaurant owners/managers – Just as restaurants during the Prohibition era were happy that servers and bartenders were able to accept tips in order to offset the costs of labor, restaurant owners and managers encourage high-level tipping because tips drive down the overhead costs of running a restaurant.

Locals (Mexicans) – The local Mexicans are overwhelmed by the amount of tourists in these locations. They usually find their own way to take advantage of tourists and stay out of the establishments that serve them. Also, many restaurants/bars/clubs give a small discount to locals on drinks and food.

Americans/Canadians – the Americans and Canadians who visit the tourist areas don’t pay attention to what’s going on. They never stay long enough in order to really learn the system, and when they do, they never really put the pieces together because it makes them feel good to help the individual server or bartender that they’re tipping.

Of course, there are other dynamics and relationships between all of these people, but that is a summary (albeit a brief one) that explains the perspective of each party.

What You Can Do About It (HINT: You Should NEVER Tip More Than 10% In Mexico)

The most reasonable reaction to the phenomenon mentioned above is disgust, closely followed by a mental search for a reasonable solution.

Luckily, I’ve done all that for you.

For all practical purposes, you have three basic options:

  • Keep OVER tipping as you’ve been doing thus far and continue engaging in an activity that alienates locals
  • Start NORMAL tipping like the locals do so that they are viewed as equals
  • STOP tipping altogether and under any circumstances in order to reverse the roles that have been established

The first option is probably what many of you reading this will do.

The third option is probably the best, but none of you will probably do that because it will feel too awkward for you.

The second option is what I strongly recommend and believe is the most proactive and realistic. It is what I do, too.

Tipping In Mexico Infographic

Here is an infographic that explains the above and also describes why you must never tip more than 10% at any time here.

Some of you will find it offensive and stare at it in disbelief; others will immediately understand it.

I’m comfortable with either – so long as you read this whole page before questioning the ideas presented within it.

All of it is true. But it’s much easier to come here and enjoy your vacation without being aware of it, much like the young citizens who lived in that beautiful city of Omelas in The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas.

If you decide to choose the easier path, do it openly and honestly.

Here it is:

Pesos Or Dollars

Mexican pesos are the national currency in Mexico, so they are obviously always acceptable.

Despite this, many restaurants have found it most expedient to accept pesos AND dollars.

However, (and this is important), DON’T PAY FOR ANYTHING IN DOLLARS (UNLESS THE SERVICE / ACTIVITY / RESTAURANT REQUIRES IT). 

THE MOST PREVALENT SCAM IN THIS CITY IS WHEN RESTAURANTS, BARS, STORES, AND ACTIVITY PROVIDERS GIVE A HORRIBLE EXCHANGE RATE.

IF YOU ASK THEM, THEY WILL SAY, “WE’RE NOT A BANK, SO THIS IS THE ONLY EXCHANGE RATE WE GIVE.”

The general rules for tipping (different than buying things) are as follows:

  1. If the restaurant or service only accept pesos, it is best to tip in pesos.
  2. If the restaurant or service only accept dollars, you can tip in either pesos or dollars.
  3. If the restaurant or service accepts both dollars and pesos, it really doesn’t matter which currency you use for a tip. This is because the managers of the restaurant or service usually allow the service personnel to exchange their money on site for a reasonable rate. Conversely, the worker can exchange the money themselves or buy something at WalMart (which has the best exchange rate of any store in the city).

But remember, always pay in pesos.

🔘 Poll: Tell Us Your Tipping Practices In Mexico – and See The Practices of Other Visitors

As you might have guessed from this article, I like getting down to the bottom of things instead of just guessing.

In order to make things interesting for all of you reading this page, I created a short poll.

Choose what you believe this to be the correct tipping percentage in Mexico and then click the “VOTE” button.

You will be able to see the results after you vote

VOTE NOW!!!

[democracy id=”3″]

NOTE: YOU WILL BE ABLE TO SEE THE RESULTS OF OTHER VOTERS AFTER YOU VOTE

Do What The Hell You Want – or What You Think Is Best

Although tipping in Mexico is not what you’re used to, it won’t take you long to adapt.

Follow the guidelines suggested above and you shouldn’t have any problems.

Most of all, focus on enjoying your trip, but also be aware of the unintended consequences of tipping more than 10% (considered over-tipping in this culture)!

Lots of love,

Rufus

Rufus signature

It’s your turn. Do you have any tips or suggestions about tipping here? Leave them in the comments section below!

19 comments on “Tipping In Mexico

  1. Hey there…… just a kwik question…. where can i exchange us dollars for pesos? I am visiting oct 3rd to 8th at Grand Palladium, and plan on visiting playa del carmen. I am going to take ur advice on tipping however dont kno where i can exchange my money.
    Also….. will the weather at this time be beach weather?? And how far is the hotel to playa?
    Thanks for all the info

    • Curvaceous Christina,

      There are a number of places that you can exchange US dollars to pesos in Playa Del Carmen. In fact, they are all over the place. You will usually achieve the best exchange rates the further you are from the tourist areas. If you want to know specifics, try the area of Benito Juarez and 20th Ave. That is still in the tourist zone, but this is a very “Mexican” area of the tourist zone.

      Even though there may be a difference in exchange, it is not going to be a HUGE difference. Your best option for a fair exchange rate is to bring backup cash with you and then visit an ATM machine at one of the local banks once you arrive in Playa Del Carmen. The ATM machines usually offer the best rates as you’re going directly through a bank (not a bank, the middleman, a street vendor, then to you). Of course, if you have problems with your card, you could get in trouble, so make sure you have some backup cash. Also, DO NOT USE THE ATM MACHINES DIRECTLY ON 5TH; ONLY THOSE INSIDE BANKS. The ATM machines on 5th have been known to host “card skimmers” that can steal your card and PIN information. (You can read about it by clicking on the previous link.)

      Thanks for reading the “Tipping In Mexico” article. I’m glad you’re following the advice. Most Americans/Canadians assume their culture fits like a glove onto other cultures. Tipping is one area that it does not. There are a number of bad things that happens when tourists consistently tip over 10%. I was recently reading an article about the pyramids in Egypt and how this area is almost unbearable to visit because of the unreasonable expectation of tips (from everyone for everything). If a local smiles at you, they expect a tip for it there. Don’t fall for it. The less we interfere with the culture here (or as far away as Egypt), the better off we are and the less of a burden we are to the locals. BUT, don’t let anything cultural interfere with having fun on your vacation here. If you’re staying at the Palladium either you or someone in your family is a hard-working person, and you deserve the best.

      The weather in October is somewhat unpredictable. We have had several rainy days in the last week or so, but the weather is generally hot at this time of year. It will probably be beautiful while you’re here! Bring your biodegradable sunscreen (it’s expensive in the resorts), a good pair of sunglasses, and a nice hat to protect your skin and face from the sun. Of course a bikini and blah, blah, blah other things as well.

      I’ve never visited the Grand Palladium, but it looks awesome! I think you and whoever you are going with are going to have an incredible time! The Grand Palladium Is about 25 min. from Playa Del Carmen. Not too far. Moreover, you are very close to Tulum, Akumal, Puerto Aventuras, which are all interesting places. Personally, I especially like Akumal as the beach is very beautiful and swimming with sea turtles is absolutely amazing.

      And remember, nobody is doing you a “favor” by accepting US dollars; they are usually trying to scam you on the exchange rate. Always pay for everything at restaurants, bars, clubs, etc. in MX pesos. There are still restaurants here that are giving 13 pesos to the dollar as an exchange rate (the actual exchange rate is 19.40 As I’m writing this)! Crazy, isn’t it???

      Alright….gotta go, Christina. I hope this helps.

      Finally, while you’re here, don’t forget to bookmark my Playa Del Carmen Events Calendar. It lists some of the weekly specials that take place here. Oh, and give me some love on Facebook as well….

      Take care, and I hope to see you here soon….

      Lots of love,

      Rufus

  2. This article is full of wrong information.

    1. Tipping is not new in Mexico.

    2. 15-20% is fair for a restaurant. You have to be a real cheap ass to not tip someone who earns $20 USD (if their lucky) for a 12 hour day of work.

    • Moody Maurice,

      First of all, thank you for your comment. It is always nice to hear the opinion of others.

      This article is not full of wrong information. The information in this article is 100% correct. However, many people would rather see it unspoken because it’s not politically correct to talk candidly about different cultures nowadays. Moreover, there are certain interested parties that would rather not see this information made public (as the article explains).

      First and foremost, I am here to give my visitors accurate information about things that they may not have the opportunity to pick up during a short vacation here. Political correctness or keeping secrets has never been my priority.

      I don’t know how much time you have spent in Mexico, but after several years here a person begins to see things more clearly than they did when they first arrived. It takes more than a few weeks to understand the symbiosis of the various interests and how they work together. More succinctly, living here is different than being on vacation here. Thus the advantage I try to offer my visitors is to show them how things really operate here and what they need to be aware of. Tipping is something they should be aware of.

      This website was written in English for an English-speaking audience – primarily for Americans but also for Brits, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, etc.

      If it appears geared towards Americans, it is because I am American myself, as are around 75% of my site visitors. Furthermore, I am not sure if you are aware of this, but approximately 60% of people on vacation in Mexico are Americans. (That figure is a simple head count and does not represent the purchasing power of American tourists compared to other tourists, which is likely significantly higher.)

      Because of the language differences, I strongly believe that English-speaking people are often targeted for several kinds of financial extortion. Again, tipping is a source of soft money that service workers here use to squeeze tourists. That is why I wrote this article.

      In regard to your first statement, “Tipping is not new in Mexico.” —

      Tipping is new in Mexico – both from a relative perspective and an absolute one. In all the parts of Mexico I’ve traveled and lived, tipping is minuscule (and even nonexistent) compared to what it is in the United States. I lived in a city/state named Zacatecas for around 5-1/2 years. I used to go out sometimes 3 to 4 nights per week to MANY, MANY restaurants and bars. Moreover, my next-door neighbor (who I was very good friends with) worked at one of the most popular restaurants in the city called Wings Army. (There is one in Playa, too.) In all of the places I visited, it was more common for people NOT to tip than it was for them to leave a tip. And even when they did tip, it was never more than 5%. I have seen groups of 15 people rack up bills of 3000-4000 pesos and leave a 10-peso tip. I haven’t seen this once, but on a great number of occasions. To me, 10 pesos on a 3000-peso bill is not a tip at all; it’s an insult. If you call that a tip, then my definition of “tipping” is simply different than yours.

      The fact remains: in most of Mexico, tipping is, for all practical purposes, nonexistent.

      In addition, tipping in Mexico is relatively new. It was not until the late 50s and 60s when Mexico began to attract tourists. Even then, there were only a few tourist meccas in the country – most importantly, Acapulco. It was not until the late 70s and early 80s that the Mexican government earmarked the Yucatán Peninsula (particularly Cancun) for tourist development. At that time they renamed it the “Riviera Maya.” It was then that a huge influx of Americans/Canadians begin to visit and bring their tipping practices along with them. So, 50 years is “new” to me, and considering that tourist areas only make up a small percentage of the actual land in Mexico, tipping is still “new” to the vast majority of this country and its inhabitants.

      Another relevant point is that not only are percentages different between the United States and Mexico, but who receives tips is also different. For example, in the United States it is very common to tip taxi drivers and hair stylists. Here, it is never done (even in tourist areas).

      With this in mind, tipping is very new in Mexico (at least by my definition)!

      Your second statement said, “15-20% is fair for a restaurant. You have to be a real cheap ass to not tip someone who earns $20 USD (if their (sic) lucky) for a 12 hour day of work.”

      To be sure, “fair” is a relative term. A tip of 15-20% is considered fair in the US. However, this is Mexico, not the United States. In most of Mexico this is considered an extraordinary tip by the average service worker. I would argue that it even borderlines on arrogant. (i.e. “Look at me, I’m rich! I can tip more than THREE TIMES what everyone else in this bar tips!!!“)

      I don’t know exactly how much people earn here, but I do know that temporary workers come from all over the country (and many from other countries) for the opportunity to seek employment in this city. Consequently, I would imagine that they are being compensated fairly. Again, I don’t think it is right to compare salary differences between countries without also considering that the cost of living is also dramatically less here than it is in the US and Canada.

      A “fair” price for an average apartment in Indonesia might be $200 USD / month. In Hong Kong a “fair” price for an apartment might be $3000 USD/month. Let’s compare apples to apples, not apples to watermelons.

      There is a famous proverb that states, “When in Rome do as the Romans do.

      It does not read, “When in Mexico do as the Americans do.

      My whole point of this article was that by tipping two to four times more than the locals do, visitors inadvertently create unintended consequences that disrupt the local balance of things.

      Again, Maurice, thank you for the comment, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

      Take care,

      Rufus

  3. I have read this article meaning the completely including these comments. You should not even answer Maurice as he thinks he knows how much someone makes as he says if they are lucky for a 12 hour shift and that makes everyone not tipping our customary 15-20% is F ing cheap. He sounds like one of our spoiled waiters that thinks he is entitled to his percentage of the bill including the tax, bar tab, meal, the bottle of wine , etc. meanwhile a bartender makes the drinks, someone has to cook the meal, a food runner brought the food, and a bus person clear, cleaned, and set the table for the turnover not to mention that they might just add 18% gratuity to your bill if your party is larger or the bill is over a certain amount without letting know. 15% is being a cheap F er here also, and I hope he over kicks back to his runners and bus people as a diner runs a little different. Hey sorry for the rant, but he should take into consideration to the saying when in Rome or in this case Mexico as you said. With the rant over I am an over tipper for excellent service and a good tipper for service that is adequate as base pay for servers is low. I do this even more-so in the company of friends and family that have and still make their living in this field. What disturbs me in your explanation is the extortion that Nelly faces of the 9% kickback she has to pay as my 10% tip would just cover. Does she only pay this in the off-season just to keep her job as 5 dollars a day and 1% does not seem like enough especially if she pays this in season also. Rufus please send me an e-mail to clear this up as I am coming to your town and area 2 or 3 times in the next year to set up a wedding and prepare for it, I hope just twice but for extended stays. I would also like to know if the rest of the service industry makes a livable wage (housekeepers, bell hops etc.) as I will be paying a lot of that in multiples when my daughter gets married, as the only time I was there was long ago and all inclusive, I was younger and I know had fun but a lot of the details are fuzzy.

    Thanks, your info seems to be helpful, I will know better after my first visit.

    • Amazing Al,

      Thanks so much for the comment. I really do appreciate hearing from you.

      The comment above is typical. I don’t know if Maurice is Mexican, but I do know that the service workers try to “guilt” tourists into tipping more with similar statements and attitudes. It’s nonsense.

      Yes, servers really do need to be fair with other staff members. In some places it’s mandatory tip sharing, but not most.

      In regard to your questions about the server who has to pay 9% of her gross sales to the restaurant, I should first make it clear that this is what she told me (as mentioned in the article). Whether or not it is true, whether or not this money is supplemented by other money – or more money – in offseason, etc, is unknown to me. My guess is that she may have been embellishing a bit by saying she was “working for free.” But I don’t doubt whatsoever that she makes more money in high season when there are an abundance of Americans/Canadians here.

      The point of mentioning her is to emphasize that, even she (despite being Mexican and talking to an American) expressed her dissatisfaction with the way “her people” tip. Moreover, even this statement alone is revealing; the only way she would feel dissatisfied by her people is because she has something else to compare them to. In the majority of Mexico, there is nobody to compare tipping practices to because there are no tourists.

      However, I do know that in high season, servers, bartenders, and people involved in the tourist industry here can make a LOT of money.

      In fact, I’m going to tell you something interesting:

      The word for “hungry” in Spanish is hambre. Moreover, the word for the month of “September” in Spanish is Septiembre. Ironically, the tourist industry workers here call September, “Septihambre” which is a combination of the words September and hungry!! Why? Because this is when they make little money because there are so few Americans/Canadians here!!!!! In September there are Mexican tourists here. There are loads of Argentinians here (mostly working here illegally to pay for their extended walkabout-style vacations). There are a fair amount of Europeans here. Despite all these “others” here, the real money is made during high season when the big money rolls into town.

      In regard to your question about bell boys, housekeepers, etc., I think they do make enough money to live an equivalent lifestyle of other Mexicans. Many of these service workers come from all over the country, which leads me to believe that there is good money to be made here. If not, people from other parts of the country would not come here for the purpose of working. Do people live here at the same lifestyle as those living in the United States / Canada / Western Europe? No, they don’t. However, there are reasons for this that go far beyond the scope of this answer (government corruption, the “laid back” culture that doesn’t place a high value on education, etc…). Frankly, no amount of money or tipping is going to improve anything in Mexico until these core values change.

      Honestly, Al, your focus should be on enjoying your time here and……..OOPS…. I almost forgot! Congratulations on your daughter’s engagement!

      Follow theses simple rules and you’ll be fine:
      1. Get the best dollar/peso exchange rate possible.
      2. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER pay in USD unless absolutely necessary here (they will overcharge you EVERY time by royally screwing you on the exchange rate; this is the biggest scam in this city even though it is perfectly legal).
      3. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER tip more than 10% here.

      You can beat them at their own game if you follow those simple rules.

      I hope this helps, Al, and if one of the wedding guests cancel last minute, don’t forget about your helpful friend, Rufus!

      See you here soon,

      Rufus

  4. Thanks for the info. Our family of 4 is eventually going to an all inclusive resort near playa del carmen. Being that we don’t know what things cost, how much do we tip servers, bartenders, housekeeping & other resort staff? I plan to take Pesos.

    • Racy Robyn,

      Thank you so much for the question / comment.

      Also, congratulations on your decision to take your family to a resort here in Playa Del Carmen. I think you will have an incredible time in the Riviera Maya as there are so many things to see and do. This is a very kid-friendly destination, so I think your children will enjoy themselves as well, which I imagine is very important to you.

      I’m really happy to hear that you are going to be paying in pesos while on vacation. Believe me, it is the wise thing to do and will save money that you can spend doing fun things with your family.

      In regards to tipping at your resort, I’m not sure what their policies are. Many of the all-inclusive resorts have a “no tipping” policy. In these types of resorts, NO TIPPING WHATSOEVER is allowed. In fact, if a server / bartender / housekeeper is caught accepting tips, they will be immediately fired.

      In these types of resorts, the “all inclusive” part of the name is taken literally – everything, including tips, is included.

      My best advice for you would be to ask someone at the resort. However, don’t ask one of the entry-level workers. When you first check in, ask to talk to a manager.

      “What is your tipping policy at this resort?” should clear up any questions about their tipping policies.

      They will be able to tell you. And whatever they tell you, I would recommend following it – unless, of course, it conflicts with the information I have provided above.

      Enjoy your vacation here, Robyn, and the same goes for your family.

      And if you want to save some money when you come into town, don’t forget to take a look at my Playa Del Carmen Events Calendar. It features some of the daily / weekly discounts that several of the establishments here offer.

      And if you see some half-intoxicated guy banging away on his keyboard while drinking a beer at a bar, it’s probably your faithful servant (me) responding to visitor comments.

      Don’t hesitate to say hello!

      Lots of love,

      Rufus

  5. Disclaimer: I do not live in Mexico (but I am planning on making the move with my family within the next year or two!)

    My husband and I own a Mexican restaurant in Phoenix, Arizona. We have found that our Mexican customers tip significantly less, if at all. However, they tend to spend much more on their bill. The American customers try and watch their bill total, but tip very well. Your observations even cross country lines!

    • Memorable Megan,

      Thank you so much for the comment. It means a lot to readers of this page who simply want to know the truth about tipping in Mexico and are more likely to believe it when it is concurred through a second source.

      Moreover, your opinion is especially valuable because you are a restaurant owner who has experience in this sort of environment. Thank you for your insight.

      I’m sure you’ll have a great time when you come to Mexico and live here permanently!

      Good luck with your Mexican restaurant and be sure to come and visit Playa Del Carmen when you get a chance.

      Thanks again for the comment…

      Lots of love,

      Rufus

  6. Hi Rufus! Nice article. We are actually in Playa del Carmen at the moment.. and as we’ve been to a few restaurants, the tip has been added after the total amount by a pen and made a new total amount.. do we have to pay the handwritten total amount or the total amount originally on the bill (and tip as much we want)? Came here from Cancun and there the tip was not added to the bill and be “forced” to pay..

    • Princess Janice,

      Rufus, the Prince of Playa, at your service.

      Allow me to answer your question, my rose petal, but before I do, let me have a quick chat with the server who attempted to disgrace you, my dearest.

      “Hey, you filthy flamer!”

      “How dare you mess with and make my magnificent visitors melancholy, you maggot-mouthed milf molester?

      “I’ll throw rotten celery at your cell phone and put pepper paste on your pecker prior to pile-driving you at your parolee party, you pulsating pipsqueak.

      “Try to tabulate a false tab with your tedious table tactics? You’ll pay a proportionate penalty in purgatory, you pig-headed pigeon.

      “You’re a sick and antisocial psycho who should swallow several shots of strong cyanide or sail off the seventieth story of the Sears tower.

      “I’ll desert you in the desert where your daily dessert will be deep-fried donkey dung, you do-no-good draft dodger.

      “May you (and the many men who your mother mentioned “might” be your father) kindly kiss my ass!!!

      “You jaundiced jerk.”

      And back to you, my dear Janice.

      No, they should not be adding tip amounts to your bill. It’s an abuse, my princess.

      Tipping is (and always has been) an optional decision on the part of the service recipient – in this case, you, my dear.

      Thus, if you receive another unwanted offer for tipping, don’t hesitate to ignore it as you would a suitor other than I.

      In fact, don’t simply ignore it – refuse to give the server any tip whatsoever, for being so audacious as to DEMAND a tip in the first place. Don’t let them mock you, my mistress.

      I repeat: do not ever tip people who DEMAND tips!

      If you want to see how I deal with these people, my love, scroll down to the comments section of the following page and take a look at how I dealt with a bartender who shoved a tip jar in my face after ordering a drink.

      https://www.playadelcarmen.org/playa-del-carmen-bars/

      Two weeks suspension, my Janice, is what she received.

      I must leave now, my sweetheart, and never forget that my words are forever yours.

      Lots of love,

      Don Juan de Rufus
      Don Rufus de Playa

    • Janice – Adding a tip to a bill is illegal in Mexico. Tell the restaurant you won’t pay it and that you will go to PROFECO. They will give in.

  7. Hello Rufus,

    Great site/ blog post!

    We’re going to travel to Playa with my wife during the last week of September & first week of October (we’re staying in an all-inclusive resort around 10miles from Playa), and I’d have a couple of questions;

    1. What’s the weather like during that time (we’re arriving 23rd of September)
    2. We’re Europeans (coming from Finland) and have EUROS. Are they a good form of currency, or should we change money for there? If we should, what should we get – pesos or dollars? (Pesos are really hard to find here, and the places we did find have a ridiculously bad rate)
    3. We really are not-accustomed to tipping here in Finland – hence why this seems a bit weird. We’re going to pay an amazingly huge amount of money for an all-inclusive resort – but at the same time we also need to tip to make sure we’ll get a good table or drink over the bar?!?! Is this really the case?

    I’m also semi worried that my bank card might not work in Mexico (it’s a standard Master Card – but you never know) – hence should I stack up on cash or?

    Thanks in advance,
    Dinko & Anna

    • Dinko and Anna,

      First of all, thanks for the questions. It’s always nice to hear from people from your area.

      Second, I don’t think you should overthink your vacation too much. Some things (like weather) can change very quickly, so you have to “go with the flow” sometimes. There are many alternative things to do that are lots and lots of fun even if it is rainy here.

      Finally, I am going to answer your questions:

      1. The weather in September is HOT and HUMID. It is the slowest time of the year because it is also warm in the US and Canada, so many travelers choose to simply stay home. In addition, that is when school starts, so usually vacations are planned before school starts or later in the year.

      2. Euros are NOT an acceptable form of currency here. Both MX pesos and US Dollars are accepted everywhere. However, you should always use MX pesos because businesses here will charge exorbitant prices (hidden in horrible exchange rates) if you use US Dollars. Thus, you will need to change your Euros to MX pesos upon arrival. Only change as much money as you will use or you will get hit with fees both ways (buying pesos AND selling pesos).

      In regard to getting pesos, it is very easy to exchange Euros to pesos here. I am not as familiar with the rates as I don’t generally track the Euro exchange rate, but I believe it is reasonable. WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT EXCHANGE EUROS FOR PESOS AT THE AIRPORT; YOU WILL GET A RIDICULOUS EXCHANGE RATE!!!! Wait until you get here.

      3. Even though you don’t tip in Finland, that does not mean you don’t have to tip here. You can do whatever you want, but 10% is probably a good balance for both you and the people you will meet at restaurants and bars. ASK A MANAGER AT THE HOTEL WHAT YOUR RESORT’S TIPPING POLICIES ARE AND WHAT THE NORM IS. They will be honest with you whereas a low-level worker will lie to you in hope that s/he can get more tips from you. ASK FOR A MANAGER!!! “What is the tipping policy at this resort?” “What is the average percent that people here tip servers, bartenders, housekeepers, etc?” A few questions like this TO A MANAGER should clear everything up quickly.

      4. Despite the geographical proximity, even Americans usually let their banks know that they are traveling to Mexico–and on what dates. You should do the same. And have a backup plan (i.e. a way to get cash) if you happen to have problems. This might include a second or third credit card, a relative who can send you money via Western Union if necessary, etc….

      It sounds like you’re thinking ahead, which is great, but don’t forget to relax, take a deep breath, and enjoy the whole process.

      Take care, and I hope to see you here in paradise soon…..

      Rufus

  8. I am fascinated by this. I sometime get a massage in mexico. What %, if any, do Mexicans tip for a massage? I would like to tip the same. Thanks.

    • John,

      There is no need to tip your masseuse. They work for commission and usually receive ~50% of the price of the massage.

      Of course, you can do what you want, but the tip is simply not necessary because the massage therapists are already commission-based workers.

      Hope this helps….

      Rufus

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