a VirtualTourist member from Little Rock
From what I'm reading online, tips are almost demand for everything. I have no problem with this... it's culture.
However, would like some guide lines on how much to tip: rest rooms, photos and all those little things.
People who tell you one has to tip all the time in Egypt are packahe tourists who have no idea about the country and its culture.
Tipping is NOT in the Egyptian culture. This is a belief of tourists who do not know the Middle East.
Tipping is something which is done on an exceptionnal basis, to someone who provides you with an extra service. For instance, if you visit a mosque, it's customary to give a small tip to the guard in exchange for hi letting you climb up the minaret tower. You also give a small tip to the guy who keeps your shoes at the mosque entrance. You give a small tip to the family who has invited you for dinner if you want to pay for your meal, which is customary in some circumstances, but usually they won't ask. You give a small tip to the guy who carries your heavy luggage if you have aksed him to before.
Westerners who tip all the time or who are asked to tip all the time are people looking like obvious tourists. I do live in Cairo and I must tip maximum once a month... which gives you an idea of how unusual this is.
By the way, a tip never exceeds 5 EGP and is always paid in Egyptian money.
I think Catw. is giving excellent advice... as an expat!
Maybe tipping is not in the Egyptian culture: Baksheesh is!! It doesn't matter how you call it!
But I do agree that the art of Baksheesh is something many tourists have no idea about! Handing out 1$ bills in abundance. This mind of tipping seems to be a habit of a lot of tourists and Egyptian people are getting used to it and expecting it. Or are out for it by giving you services you didn't ask for and helding their hand out for a baksheesh after that. You will find a lot of them around the airport and touristic sites. Refuse their services if you do not want them and if they force them on to you refuse to pay!
I like to see things in perspective. The average income in Egypt is about 350LE a month for a teacher. A simple police man earns about 250LE a month. So let us say 300LE a month on average. About 20 working days a month = 15LE a day!!! That is 3$!!!
Tipping 5LE or 1$ is a third days wages!!!!! Would you tip that much at home compared to your average daily income?? For carrying your luggage??
No wonder tourists are harassed at airports by young men who want to carry their luggage. Only 10 of those pick ups a day will give them 50LE, but often much more! Why going to school or looking for a poor payed job if you can earn that much money by just carrying some suitcases?
These practises are bad for the economy and professional needs of Egypt! More and more people are looking for a job in tourism, while there are not enough teachers and other professional people.
People in restrooms will probably have no income at all for their services so they are in need of a baksheesh, but 1 or 2 LE will be enough. Having your picture taken: 1 or 2 LE. Tipping your chamber maid in your hotel: 5 to 10 LE.
Collect ballpoints!!!! Specially ones with advertisings on them or with bright colors. These things are most wanted items in Egypt and will honour you with a big smile from the children!
Tipping in restaurants? Mostly service is included in the price, but a tip of 10 to 12% is expected. Problem is that you will be served by young waitors but you will have to pay the bill with the surveyor. He will take the tips and I am not sure that the addition of tips is shared equaly.... Don't be surprised to be aproached by a waitor who sneaky asks you to tip him under the table. He takes a risk: if he is catched he will loose his job.
Hope this helps, Dora.
One of the things that separate the 'traveler' from the 'tourist'... we do our homework. ;-)
If you don't ask questions, you won't learn.
OK understand the tipping or should I say 'Baksheesh'.
Dora, great tip on the pens. I've been to other counties where pens were a very welcomed item. I've also found that 'sweets' were in other countries. BTW love your country, been there several times for a total time of about 10 months worth. As matter of fact I'll be flying through there on this trip, don't like the airport prices, but will pay them for a couple of boxes of stoopwafel.
I do like Schiphol Airport, service is great. But I agree with you that prices are way over the limit.
As baksheesh....???? Some people around here seem to think that pens are not apropriate as well. But I think pens are a good baksheesh. Children will have some wriring equipment that will help them at school.
I am not so sure about the sweets. I have made a travelogue about the use of sweets by tourists (and travel agents!) in Egypt. It learns the kids to hold up their hands from a very early age.
On the other hand..... I have my doubts about the advice of Catw to give money when invited by an Egyptian family for diner. To be invited by an Egyptian family is their way to show their hospitality. They do not expect money, they might even be offended by it. But to bring sweets as a desert is very well accepted and appreciated.
Great to hear you like my country! I like it as well, but I hate the winter. Autumn makes me long for warm countries... We have planned a week in Turkey from the 9th of december, Insh Allah, Deo vollento, God willing........
many of the real local business owners will fire anybody taking a tip when caught. even the largest shopping center now has signs that request you not to tip the workers as they are paid a salary and will be fired for taking a tip if caught.
with that said I tip all delivery persons and a pound or two is good for that type of service.
as a long term expat of fifteen years whom lives here i do tip much more often then many others but normaly not when asked for money directly.
only because i understand when its the correct thing to do for another humane being.
many of the young people working in the hotels are not paid very much at all when first starting and may even have to pay the first few months salary to some type of a job finding service and then work for next to nothing in many cases. with that said...what monies they do earn is often used to help support the larger family unit while they try to save what ever then can toward a future wedding day. so Imho its ok to tip the younger hotel staff workers that really do go out of the way for you.
the other real locals never tip restrooms at hotels, but away from those places many of the public areas also have rest rooms where the cleaning etc are done by grossly underpaid people.
when doing the tourist stuff look for a local family that may be doing exactly what you are,try to have them click your pictures and you could even offer to take one for them with their camera as somebody is always left out of the good shots.
Re tipping as gratitude for an invitation to dinner, I'm going to have to go with a NO on that one. The customary practice is that you either carry a dessert tray or small presents for the hosts. In Luxor, I purchase a tray of sweet pastries from the renowned local bakery, Twinkies. Egyptians are well known for their sweet tooth and it is always very appreciated. Apart from that, Twinkies is expensive by local standards so it's a treat in more ways than one.
Whether you give pens or sweets, you run the risk of having your good intention go amiss. You do what you can. Kids sometimes sell the pens so there's that. I don't really give pens to kids on the street. I prefer to go into the villages and give the pens and coloring books to the kids. They sometimes start using them right there. This works especially well for the Nubian villages in Aswan. In terms of sweets, pls make sure they don't have gelatin as this is 'haram' in the Muslim faith.
In terms of tipping, I fully agree that we should consider the pay scale of the country and not overtip, but also think we should realize that there are millions of people living below the poverty line because of what they are paid. It's a balancing act and again, we do our research and then do the best we can. Sometimes I am slightly more generous than I should be but I definitely try to keep things in perspective. Baksheesh is a very big part of the culture and it makes me feel better to see that even Egyptians tip each other just in everyday life. The key is to understanding when and why they do. They don't just tip someone because the person intimidates them into doing so. An Egyptian friend once told me that tourists think about baksheesh too much. LOL Almost made me choke on my karkade.
Good advice, Nile Princess!!!
I think a lot of the problems are caused by what the several tourists are used to at home about the tipping process.
I have learned that in the USA tipping is a common practice, while in Far Eastern countries like Japan it is not. Where I live (Holland) it is only done when good services are rendered; you will tip the change money to a good waitor or something like that.
When I am in Egypt I make sure that I have a lot of small LE notes as soon as I can: 1 LE notes and piaster notes. At my Egypt pages I wrote a travelogue about the use of money in Egypt and some tips about tipping and how to get those small notes. Sometimes they are hard to get by tourists...
During our second trip to Egypt we had a very embarrassing experience. Our friend in Cairo (we just met him then) took us to the Khan to eat some Hamam Mashy (stuffed pigeon). It was to much for us and our 2 sons began to give the left overs to the alley cats that were abundant there. Our Egyptian friend stopped them and wrapped the left overs in some alu foil which he gave to a very tired looking woman with a small baby just outside selling combs and hairpins and such.
Since than I do buy paper hankies at a far to much price from the women in the streets. They want to earn some money with some dignity.
When we are on our last day in Egypt and left with some amount of LE's we go around in the streets of Cairo. For sure you will find people that are in need and very gratefull for a few piasters!!
I gave baksheesh to women and men that are sweeping the streets. I rather give my money to them than to the "magpies" that are overcrowding the airport!
Giving a small amount of money after having been invited to lunhc or dinner is actually a local custom, though it has to be practiced with great care.
it's something you do if you're invited to share a meal with strangers, people you've never met before. For instance, I went once to the Dashur pyramids during lunch time and was invited by some local people to share their meal. I did and at the end of the lunch, the Egyptian friend who was with me told me to give a few pounds, in a very discreet manner, as it was polite to pay for my meal. It's something Egyptians do, though I acknowlege it can be tricky for us expats to guess wether we should do it or not.
If you're invited to someone's home in a more ceremonious manner, then it's of course a no-no to bring money, some pastries indeed should do.
in my daily work and life within the army here over the years has allowed me to share the daily meals with a group of "working friends" and everybody would pay for some part of the meal.often with one person picking it up on the way to work for breakfeast. its a pretty common practice here, with the working class folks to share the cost on meals.I agree with the concept completely in this case..
true story a few months back (last winter) we were finnishing up spraypainting the interior of our new home and one of my painters. invited one of the builders workers which slept on site to share a hot meal and drink with my team. the builders worker offered to share the cost it actually insulted my team leader. he told me the story later in the day.
I have had a few people get upset over the years here when I went to pay for something small while traveling around with a small group and was told flat out were better friends then that.
when invited for a meal at a persons home for the first time we visit, we always take something sweet and or fresh fruits for the kids. based on what we know about the family. as its custom here. we also always ask what can or should we bring.
even when we invite people to our home we try to tell them in a polite fashion they don't need to bring sweets flowers candy etc. just show up, it almost never works as it would not be the polite thing to do.
Some of our other friends, that we know very well and eat with often just for the sake of visiting with good friends plan regular group meals at each others homes just to get together while having a bit of fun. we treat each other pretty much like family.which is pretty normal around the world.its always a homemade buffet type meal which is planed mostly around our children and what we understand collectively they like to eat.
I guess that also happen in most countries and should come at no surprise. People of equal social standing would feel offended if offered money for meals or service etc.. by their guests.. a present of equavalent value would do .. one wouldn't get invited for a meal at his neigbours'in the UK for example and then offer to pay them money .. imagine how that feels ! if someone is working at your home, however, a painter or a carpenter for example and is around at meal time then he would expect you to feed them or at least pay for their meal (in addition to their agreed pay).
Tipping , however, IS part of the fabric egyptian culture and you would see it and understand it at its best in places where no tourists visit .. in fact many business owners do not pay their workers any wages and still consider it a privalege to work there because they would get a steady flow of cash in the form of tips .. That is why these workers would get very angry with you if you don't pay a tip as that, to them , equals a pay cut .. Examples of these places are petrol stations & car service centres etc.. also some workers at hair dressers etc.. This summer, I witnessed a very loud argument on one of the beaches in Alexandia that almost ended in a punch up , because the worker didn't receive a tip that he feels appropriate .. a crisis was averted only when the value of that tip was increased .. Tips are also used as a means of social control "I will pay you if you do as I say" or as a means of social support by which the rich give money to the poor.
Egyptian Social behaviour is very complex and has developed over thosands of years in response to the many adversities faced by these people . I guess it takes many years of living there and actually being "one of them" before one begins to understand how things really work in Egypt .. One of the many attraction of Egypt indeed !