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Sydney Tipping Guide: To Tip or Not to Tip?

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by Rachel Wagers (subscribe)
I eat. I drink. I write. I travel.
Published November 13th 2014
If you're traveling to Sydney, you'll more than likely be eating at any number of the amazing restaurants and cafes the city has to offer and find yourself wondering if their tipping practices are the same as yours.

Your experience may end up something like this:

You've spent the night with dear friends laughing, enjoying food and drink and, quite frankly, thoroughly enjoyed every moment. Then, the bill arrives at the table. "Should I tip?" you ask yourself. The server did everything correctly, nothing necessarily over-the-top, but was welcoming and warm while maintaining efficiency. Seemingly, doing their job well.

A quick brief of Sydney tipping norms:

Restaurants This is tricky. Let's focus on sit-down dining as opposed to a take-out operation, where something like a tip jar is out and you can, basically, apply the same guidelines as cafes (see below). If you're dining in a three-Michelin starred restaurant and nothing terrible happened during your dinner, you should probably tip.

That being said, the confusion then lies at how much to write on that ominous line above the total (or god forbid you have to verbally say it to the server a completely different strife). A safe bet in Sydney is 10% across the board if you feel as if you've received good service. Again, it is by no means compulsory, but is getting to the point where something is expected.

Cafes If you want. Most cafes throughout Sydney have some sort of tip jar. If someone makes you an excellent coffee with personalized latte art, throw some change in there. By no means is this compulsory nor expected, but this is a service. They control your caffeine intake, so you decide.

Bars Bars are similar to cafes and take-out joints. However, as we all know, bartenders are those people behind a tall long surface that stand as sentinels between us and that which lines the shelves behind them. In a dive-y hotel, if you're ordering a vodka soda and a Bulmer's on ice, most would say tipping isn't really necessary. In a proper cocktail bar, where someone is taking up to five minutes to make a single cocktail, showing some appreciation for that in the form of a dollar or two (or more) wouldn't hurt.

Taxis Almost never. Aussies are pretty stern about tipping in taxis. A generally adamant "no" resonates with most, but in some situations who's to say?

Other services Hairdressers, laundry, delivery, etc. also garner tips other places. These are all extremely discretionary and situational in Sydney, though. I've tipped a stylist because I absolutely loved my hair, as opposed to my friend mentioned below who was almost annoyed that I did so.
Every day in Sydney, more people return from overseas travels. Someone once told me, "Aussies are the best travelers except in their own country."

Many travel to places like the United States, where tipping is borderline compulsory, and are shocked at things that they dole out some of our pocket change for. Tipping for haircuts, for instance, perplexes a friend of mine to this day. She cannot understand why someone who is making a decent wage garners the right to expect additional money out of her pocket on top of the fee already being charged.

Meanwhile, in the States, the hairdresser is making a wage, yes, but more than likely a minimal one. She is also paying fees to the salon owner to rent the chair similar fees are not paid in Australia which she uses to provide a service to clients that then pay a fee, which a portion of also goes to the salon owner. Politics aside, the culture is completely reverse.

Sydneysiders, as they call themselves, that support a tipping culture are increasing in numbers, and perhaps it's a sign of the changing times. Will they be the next United States of tipping? Probably not, but hopefully now it is clearer what to expect when traveling to Sydney.
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Where: Sydney
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