If you’re planning a trip to Istanbul, Turkey, and are unsure about the tipping etiquette and whom to tip, you’re not alone. I was also initially unsure about this during my visit to the city.
Therefore, in this blog post, I will provide you with some useful tips (pun intended) on tipping in Istanbul.
In what currency should you tip in Turkey?
It is always better to give tips in the local currency: the Turkish Lira. However on the rare occasion where you might not have any local money on you and you want to give a tip, then use only bills as coins aren’t easy to exchange.
Even if you stick to local currency when tipping, do bear in mind that the Turkish coins (kurus) are of little value, so it may come off as a bit insulting if you use them to tip.
Tipping culture in Turkey
Tipping is customary in Turkey, particularly in restaurants and with couriers and it’s done to show appreciation for good service. Some people also tip to get better service in the future. This means that tips are not mandatory, but they are welcomed.
How much you should tip varies depending on the situation, but generally speaking, a tip between 5% and 10% of the bill should be sufficient in most cases.
Who and how much to tip in Istanbul?
In Istanbul as well as in other parts of Turkey, it’s common to tip 10% of the bill in restaurants. While this is the standard practice, you may of course tip more or less depending on the level of service you received (and yes, it’s also OK not to tip if the experience was really bad).
Also, you should check the bill first since some restaurants already include a service charge and in this case, there’s no need to tip. Unless of course you received amazing service and you want to additionally reward your server.
In addition, in some establishments, you might notice musicians that move from table to table, playing for tips. If you don’t want them to play for you then simply signal them a short “no” with your hand or head.
They’ll not take offense and simply move to another patron. However, if you have them play one or a few songs by your table, then you should tip them.
You should always make sure you have cash for tips since tipping by card is not common or even if the restaurant accepts it, the money may go directly to the owner, instead of the server.
You can either leave the tip inside the bill holder (if you received one) or you can give it directly to the server. I usually don’t really like leaving the tips on the table, but that’s just me.
Usually, after a tour ends, the guide will indicate how you can leave a tip (most likely they have a bucket of some sort to collect tips). On occasions, you might find that they can be a bit pushy regarding tips.
Taxis, Uber, and other transfers
When it comes to taxis, the usual practice is to round up the bill instead of tipping. In the case of Uber, you can leave a tip in the app if you want to.
In the case of a private transfer, you can tip the driver between 5% and 10% of the fare.
Turkish Baths (Hammam)
At the end of your bath, the attendees will come to waive you goodbye. This is your cue to tip. An acceptable amount is between 15% and 20% of the total cost of the services.
Extra thoughts on tipping
In Turkey and other parts of the world, tipping expectations can be higher for US tourists.
The reason for this is that they tend to tip as they do back home, where the income of the people in the service industry is directly dependent on tips and this is usually much more than the local norm.
While technically there’s nothing wrong with tipping better, you should also think about how this can affect locals: people in the service industry might be inclined to prioritize US tourists over them. But of course, how much to tip is ultimately your choice.
Now that you are somewhat familiar with the tipping culture in Istanbul, it’s time to plan your trip there. I recommend you read my other posts on Turkey for more travel tips and guides.