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Leaving a Tip in Spain

You’re in a café in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Seville… it’s time to go, you ask for the check and the moment you’ve feared has come… How much do you leave for a tip?

You’re not the only one who has asked this question. Many tourists and students who come to our country don’t know how much money they should leave to show their gratitude for good service.

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Let’s break it down: in Spain, it is not mandatory to leave a tip. That doesn’t mean, as some people think, that Spaniards consider it an insult to our work to receive one. If you want to leave a tip, that’s great, but if you don’t want to, it’s not a problem either.

Now for the amount… Don’t get bent out of shape doing complicated calculations trying to figure out percentages. Most Spaniards calculate the tip “roughly,” meaning we leave the amount we think is appropriate based on the total price of the service. For example, if a restaurant check comes to €20, you could leave €0.60, no problem; and if the check is over €60, you could leave €2 or more if you think it is deserved based on the service you received.

The reason leaving a tip is not strictly necessary is because at some restaurants, a charge for “table service” is included, which can mean an extra €2.50 added to the bill. So there is no need to worry, because the charge is included in the check. That being said, if the service exceeded your expectations, you are always more than welcome to leave a tip.

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On other occasions, you can choose to “round up;” or in other words, ask that the service provider to charge you an amount that makes it easy for them (the taxi driver or pizza delivery person) to give you change, or you can tell them that they simply don’t need to give you back any change at all. For example, if your taxi ride costs €10.60, you can tell the driver to take €11 or simply give them €11 and tell them to quédese con el cambio” (“keep the change”).

Leaving a tip, as you can see, isn’t hard at all in Spain. It’s more or less a question of following your intuition. Now you can enjoy your coffee without worrying about what will happen when they bring “la dolorosa” (just another way of saying “the check,” but we’ll talk about that another day).

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