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If you’re headed to New Zealand – either to travel or to live – you may be wondering about tipping in New Zealand.
Coming from North America, it’s been ingrained in me since birth to leave a tip for almost every service provider in the country. When I go to restaurants, I know to budget 20% more for my meal for the tip. When I get a taxi, I plan how much cash I’ll have so I can leave a decent tip.
In New Zealand, tipping is very different.
Since people get paid a living wage – even servers – tipping isn’t commonplace in Kiwi culture.
In fact, it’s basically only tourists who tip down under.
Read on to find out when you can tip, how much to tip, and what to do if your tip is rejected in New Zealand.
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Do You Tip in New Zealand?
Short answer: no.
In New Zealand, tipping is not part of the service industry’s wage. This means that tipping isn’t considered rude, but it isn’t necessary either.
Unlike in North America, where staff will actively blackball you if you leave without tipping, in New Zealand that’s not the case.
In fact, almost all of my coworkers in New Zealand never tipped. The ones who did were expats, like me. And even then it was only for exceptional service.
However, with the tourists that pour in from America, Kiwis have come to accept tipping. They won’t be put off if you offer them a few extra gold coins to say thank you for an exceptional job. But they almost always comment on it or remind you that it’s not necessary.
Why is Tipping Not Common in NZ?
New Zealand is at the forefront of global development in many ways. One of those ways is with their service staff: they pay them a living wage so they don’t need to rely on tips.
That means that you can work as a barista, taxi driver, bartender, or waiter and get paid a wage that you can reasonably live on.
Sure, in Auckland you might need to have some roommates to help make ends meet since it’s the most expensive city in New Zealand. But you won’t be unable to get groceries because you didn’t get good tips that day.
So tipping isn’t common, because everyone knows that people don’t rely on it.
Because of this, prices for food are also slightly higher.
A meal in Canada might cost you $25 CAD for a nice main. In New Zealand, it’ll cost you $35 NZD. $5 of that is probably a difference in the currency, but the other $5 is essentially a built-in tip to ensure the staff are making wages they can live on.
By the time I tip and pay tax in Canada, my meal is likely the same price as it would have been in New Zealand.
Tipping in New Zealand: A Guide
To help you figure out who to tip and how much to give them, read this guide.
|Industry||Minimum Tip||Excellent Service|
|Hair Dresser||$0||Round up|
|Masseuse or Esthetician||$0||Round up|
The most common place to tip people in North America is restaurants. That’s because servers make what is called a “server wage”. This is legally allowed to be below minimum wage, since they are expected to get tips.
In New Zealand, servers are paid a living wage. This is at or above minimum wage. So they don’t need your tips to be able to bring home dinner to their families.
If your server did an exceptional job, you can offer them a tip for your gratitude. It’s seen as a way of saying thank you for their superior service.
For example, I went to dinner with some friends from the office a few times. Only on one occasion did my Kiwi friends tip. They gave a maximum of 10% because the staff went out of their way to accommodate a larger group of people and provided stellar service.
Typically, they would not tip. Even at a nice restaurant.
It’s not about the cost of your meal: it’s about the service you get.
The maximum Kiwis would tip is 10%, but typically they’ll just round up the bill by a couple of dollars to say thank you. If the meal was standard, they won’t tip at all.
My work crowd in New Zealand loved to party, so we went out a lot.
When I went out with my tour group before I started working in New Zealand, I noticed that a lot of people would slide over a few extra gold coins ($1 or $2 coins) to the bartender after purchasing a large round for the table or at the end of the night after they had ordered their last beverage.
With my Kiwi friends, no one did this.
Even when my friend sat and chatted with the bartender at a pub for a while – and my friend had previously been a bartender – they did not tip.
Again, they get paid a living wage so they don’t rely on it.
Still, it was so ingrained in me that I’d always drop a coin or two into their hands at the end of the night if we’d been rowdy (which we always were).
Of all the service providers I tipped, the bartenders were the most shocked and often tried to return the tip.
If you get a delivery meal in New Zealand, even from Uber Eats, it is not required that you tip.
Your server will appreciate it, but they won’t expect it.
I only tipped when it was a particularly gross night out and I wouldn’t want to venture out myself, like during the torrential downpours of Auckland’s winter.
In this case, I would round my bill up by a dollar or two.
My Kiwi coworkers didn’t tip, even in a downpour.
If you get a takeaway in North America, you don’t need to tip.
The same applies in New Zealand.
I never saw anyone tip for a takeaway, no matter how much they got or where it was from.
I’m sure the servers would have accepted it, but they definitely never made me feel odd for not offering a tip.
Cafe Server or Barista
New Zealand loves their coffee, so you’ll likely end up spending a lot of time in cafes when you visit.
Much like in North America, cafes have a little tip jar at the cash. It’s mostly a place for people to discard change that they don’t want, rather than as a system to tip the workers.
Two of my roommates worked at cafes, and both said that they never got tips unless an unwitting American tourist dropped in. Even then, it was only if they served them a meal at the cafe.
No one tipped more than a few cents at a coffee shop.
Since New Zealand is moving to be cashless, it’s uncommon for anyone to even have coins to leave anymore.
Tour guides expect a tip in New Zealand. They are one of the only professions that do.
Since they are used to dealing with foreign travellers, especially Americans, they have adopted a policy of expecting tips.
When I did a bus tour of the country with Kiwi Experience, we didn’t tip our driver, as we got different ones every few days. If we particularly liked one, we’d take them out for a drink in the evening and buy them a round or two.
However, more formal tour guide experiences, where you are with a single tour guide for the duration of your visit, will expect a tip. A base tip is usually 5% of the cost of your trip, per person.
If they offered exceptional service, you can go up to 10% or even 15%.
On a day tour, like the free walking tour I did in Auckland, you would tip a few coins or a fiver. If you really loved the tour you may tip up to $10.
Excursions and activities with guides do not expect a tip. For example, if you do a skydive or take a tour of some hot springs, those service providers will not expect a tip of any sort.
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Tour Bus Driver
If your tour has a driver separate from your guide, you will be expected to tip them. You’d typically tip them 2% of the cost of your tour.
This tip would be combined with your tip to the guide, and they would split it later.
But, like I said, my driver changed a lot and never sought a tip of any sort. This is only if you have a formal guided tour. The hop-on-hop-off style I was on didn’t warrant a tip.
Taxi Drivers / Ubers
To get around New Zealand as a tourist, you’re going to need to take a car. Whether you use taxis or Ubers, you’ll wonder if you should be tipping them.
Typically, no you would not tip these drivers.
If you pay in cash, it’s common to round up to the nearest dollar or even add on an additional dollar.
With card, you would often skip the tipping process, as everyone I knew did.
If it’s a longer journey or the weather is terrible, I would recommend adding on up to $5 to say thank you for their service.
There are a lot of potential people to tip in hotels in New Zealand, so I’m going to break this down by service provider to help you figure out who you may want to tip.
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The people who clean your room do a great service, so many Americans leave a dollar or two for them in the USA.
In New Zealand, this is an uncommon practice. Unless you leave a note, they will not accept your cash (I tried. They just moved it to the nightstand for me).
If you are really appreciative of their stellar service, offer them up to $5 a night. But again, you’ll need to leave a note expressing that this is meant for them.
I only stayed in a hotel for two nights in New Zealand, so after my first failed foray into tipping, I didn’t bother the second day. They went about their business as usual and no one gave me the stink eye for not tipping.
When my friends stayed at a hotel for work, none of them even considered tipping. I asked about it afterward and they said it’s just not the way Kiwis do things.
If your concierge is really helpful, say thank you.
If they are outstanding, give them a tip of up to $5.
But they don’t expect it. So if it’s not in your budget, don’t worry!
These are the people who bring your bag up to your room or help you take your luggage back to the lobby.
It’s been ingrained in me since childhood not to use this service because you’ll have to tip.
That’s not the case in New Zealand.
It’s nice to offer them a gold coin if you have a lot of luggage, but otherwise, they are happy to provide the service.
I love getting room service in hotels. What I don’t love is figuring out how much to tip them.
In New Zealand, you don’t need to tip for room service. At most, you’d add on a dollar or two to the charge when you sign.
But it’s very unusual to do this.
I’m always so nervous to get my hair cut in different countries. Not only do you have to figure out who is a trustworthy stylist, but you also have to figure out how much to tip them.
In Canada, I still ask my mom almost every time how much I’m supposed to tip.
When I got my haircut in New Zealand, I asked a coworker how much cash I should bring for a tip, since I didn’t regularly carry cash.
She looked at me like I had a second head.
You just don’t tip for this kind of service in New Zealand.
If you really love your stylist and go to them religiously, you may want to round up the price to the nearest dollar, but that’s not even expected.
I didn’t use valet services in New Zealand, since I didn’t have a car.
You should probably tip the valet at least a dollar. If you’re staying somewhere nice enough to warrant a valet, then you can definitely afford to $1-5 tip that you can provide for excellent service.
Masseuse or Esthetician
If you get your make-up done, go to a spa, have a manicure, or get a massage, don’t expect to bring wads of cash to tip every person who worked on you.
It’s built into the price!
When I got massages or a manicure, they didn’t even give me the option to tip. They clicked past that button for me on the machine before I could even add on a dollar or two.
Maori Tipping Culture in New Zealand
Maori culture is different from New Zealand culture. When you visit NZ, you should definitely check out local Maori tours and cultural events to learn more about these native peoples.
If you do attend a Maori cultural centre, you may be expected to provide a koha.
Koha is a donation, kind of like the basket that gets passed around at Catholic mass or the tip jar at many churches around the world. It’s not a requirement, but if you can afford it then you should spare some money.
The donation isn’t mandatory nor is there a specific amount that you have to give. Much like when people donate to the upkeep of global churches or museums, it’s a “give what you feel this is worth” vibe.
I only attended a traditional Marae once with my work, so we weren’t asked to give koha since they had already paid a fee for us to do some team building there.
At tourist centres, like the Tamaki Maori Village, you will not be expected to give koha as you have already paid a price for the experience.
When in doubt, ask! People, especially the Maori people, are happy to help tourists figure out how to navigate tipping culture.
But if someone tells you to tip more than 5% on anything but tours, you’re being taken advantage of. I never had anyone be dishonest to me about how to tip, but it’s better to know that you should never be leaving 20%+ tips anywhere just in case.
How to Give a Tip in New Zealand
Since New Zealand doesn’t have a tipping culture like North America, it can be confusing to figure out how to tip someone.
For the most part, you can offer tips on your bill. When you get the card machine at a restaurant, there is always the option to tip built into the machines.
In other scenarios that are cash-based, you can smile and say thank you, then extend your hand with the tip. The person will likely tell you that it’s not necessary, as they don’t want to be taking your money if you don’t understand the customs.
Tell them that they did an amazing job and you want to say thank you, then offer the money again.
Or you can drop the money on top of your bill at a restaurant or into the tip jar, if there is one.
If you are tipping a tour guide or tour driver, it is common to put your money in an envelope before you give it to them. Then as you depart, you can hand them the envelope and say thank you without leaving them holding a wad of cash.
This allows you to be more discrete, especially since it is likely to be a larger sum of money.
What if Someone Denies Your Tip
Since tipping isn’t the standard in New Zealand, you may have some people turn down your tip.
If they are politely saying no, you can try again to ensure they understand that you mean it as a thank you and not as a social requirement.
But if they continue to deny your tip, don’t push it. This person clearly does not want to accept the money. They may feel like it is rude to tip, as it can bring a connotation that they are not paid enough at their job (an issue many older Kiwis feel is taboo) or that you are trying to impart your customs on them.
Don’t be embarrassed if you make a faux pas when tipping in New Zealand. Kiwis have a great sense of humour and will happily laugh it off with you. Most of them understand that you mean well by tipping and won’t take offense.
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Wrap Up: Tipping in New Zealand
The general rule of thumb for tipping in New Zealand is don’t bother unless the service was truly spectacular.
If you are unsure if it’s acceptable or not, you can ask. But if you don’t feel comfortable, just don’t do it. Since Kiwis never tip in their homeland (unless there are extreme circumstances), you won’t stand out.
I hope this makes it easier for you to navigate New Zealand’s tipping culture so your experience can be as smooth as possible! So let go of the tipping stress so you can enjoy all of the magical experiences NZ has to offer.
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