Tipping in Egypt

[February 2015]

This TripAdvisor article gives you an idea what you should tip when you’re in Egypt. We had not read this before we traveled there, but I’d like to emphasize two points:

  • Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty.
  • The tip suggestions are by couples, not by individuals.

Study up before you go!

* * *

While we were in Egypt, our tour guides constantly told us to tell everyone back home that we had a pleasant experience and that we felt safe in Egypt. Both are true, but they made a point of saying this because their economy took a dive following their revolution, which frightened potential tourists from visiting. Since tourism is a large part of their economy, many guides are without work.

At the end of our tours, we were expected to tip our guide and tip our driver. Okay, fine, but we were never told how much we had already paid to have a guide in the first place. Additionally, having a guide did not include our entrance fees to each site. We had no idea what an acceptable tip was in Egypt since in America we usually tip by percentages.

At the end of one tour, we each tipped 50 EP. We weren’t sure if that was enough or not, but he was with us the entire day and really did go out of his way. We figured, well, if our breakfast cost us under 5 EP, 50 EP [each] is pretty generous.

At the end of another tour, our guide TOLD us to tip him 45 EP each… He only went to two sites with us, was less engaging, and spent a large part of the day relaxing on the boat as we were doing between sites. Tipping him 45 EP each seemed over the top compared to the 50 EP we gave the other guy. Is this guy asking too much or did we give the other guy too little?

Someone told us later that tour guides make approximately 75 EP a day and because they often receive tips, the agency might not even give them the full 75, much like being a restaurant server in the States. Servers make a lower hourly wage than the state minimum because they know you will collect tips, but if you don’t make enough in tips by the end of your shift, the restaurant is required to make up the difference so that you collect the true state minimum.

As an American, I am accustomed to tipping… But I was really thrown by the second guide mentioned above because I’ve never had someone directly tell me how much to put in their pocket. Maybe he thought we didn’t know to tip? Maybe he thought he could get more out of us? Our unknowing tourist brains were exploding.

Now, I’m no economist… But here’s what I started to think:

  • Let’s say you’re making 75 EP a day…
  • Breakfast is less than 5 EP per day, so your cost of living is not very high.
  • You guide a group of five people, each tipping you 50 EP, totaling 250 EP.
  • If your cost of living is that low, even if your agency didn’t pay you the 75 EP you were supposed to get, you made decent money that day.

Now, if you convert it to USD, they’re not making a lot of money by Western standards, but remember you should not be tipping or purchasing goods according to what is standard in your own currency. You are using THEIR currency.

The point that guides continued to drive home, however, was that they don’t have enough tours booked anymore, especially not by Westerners [specifically Americans and British] who spend more money. There aren’t enough tourists visiting for the number of guides available. That means they could be waiting a month or more for a call saying it is their turn. Unfortunately, many of the guides are not taking on additional employment to fill their unused time. Maybe they’ve tried, maybe they haven’t. That’s not my business.

EVERY guide we had talked about how they need more work. We started to feel guilty like we were supposed to somehow single handedly fix their personal situation, if not the entire Egyptian economy. They talked about money so often that I became uncomfortable.

Is it our job as tourists to tip more to make up for the tourism crash? Will this lead to inflation and unrealistic expectations as their economy heals?

What are your thoughts and experiences with tipping, especially tipping overseas?

I personally find it exhausting. It’s supposed to improve your experience, but for me, it never does. It stresses me out. Is that too much? Is that too little? Have I offended someone? I think tipping has become outrageous. I feel like the more I travel, the more I learn about all the different people I am supposed to tip. It adds up quickly. It’s unfortunate that people in some fields really depend on tips. I wish companies would pay their employees a liveable wage so that tipping culture would disappear, but I don’t see that happening…Ever…

I have an Aussie friend that says, “I don’t get tipped for doing my job. If I don’t do my job, I lose my job, not a tip. Why should I tip someone for doing what they’re supposed to do? “

Thoughts?

One comment

  1. […] Following the path along the water to the bay you’ll notice the hotel ruins from Dahab’s glory days that are now the playground for young Russian and Bedouin children. After the revolution in 2011, the Egyptian pound has lost a great deal of value and tourists have stopped visiting, a story we heard often during our trip through Egypt in 2015. […]

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