A guide to tipping on holiday

The art of tipping can be a minefield on holiday: it can be hard to know when, where and how much you should tip the people you come across from day to day.

While some people may travel abroad and choose to tip the same amount no matter which country or type of establishment they are in, others may choose to avoid tipping at all...and both have their pitfalls.

Some countries do not recognise the practice of tipping, while others expect tips to boost employees' wages, which can cause embarrassment when local customs are not taken into account.

The custom of tipping is based on the customer's perceptions of the service that they have received: if service is worthy of a tip then go ahead, if service is poor then it is justifiable to leave no tip whatsoever. This, however, varies from country to country.

Generally, if you are in a country where tipping is the norm, then this practice should apply to all service staff: taxi drivers, waiting staff, bellboys and more.

Some countries such as the USA will even be surprised if staff working in bars and pubs do not receive tips: it is a country where service staff have low salaries as they are expected to make up the difference in tips. Tips in the States generally hit the 15% mark - higher than the UK's 10-12.5%.

Conversely, the French only tend to tip when service really is excellent, with restaurants the only establishments where tipping is the norm - and with service included in most bills, 5% is normally the maximum tipping amount.

Some countries actively discourage tipping - in China, for example, tour guides make commissions from tourist establishments, and hotel employees should be tipped discreetly, if at all.

Cruise ships are a different matter, with most cruise companies choosing to charge customers a day rate for tips, starting at around £3 per day. This can be altered to suit your needs, and individual staff can still be tipped if you deem the service to be exceptional.

Guide books will help you to understand local tipping customs, as will online travel sites. The important thing to remember is to do your research in advance, and factor tips into your holiday budget.

When it comes to cash vs. credit card, many servers will prefer the former - they will be guaranteed to get the tips, won't have to wait till the end of the month, and generally won't have to declare it as income. Ultimately, however, it is up to you: if you prefer the safety of card payments, then this is a perfectly reasonable option.