Tipping – The Ultimate Guide!

Probably one of the most frequently asked questions we get asked is about tipping. More often than not our clients do not want to offend or to be seen to do the wrong thing and are understandably anxious about getting it right. Fortunately, we have been planning gorilla treks and safaris for many years so are in a good position to help. For anyone though who is considering a visit to Africa for the very first time, here are our recommendations and top tips.

Unlike some other countries we may all be more used to, in Africa it is the custom to tip staff as a sign of appreciation for the service that they have given. It is by no means an obligation though and of course the tip may be flexed up or down depending on the level of service that you receive.

Staff in the lodges and camps and your guides will go that extra mile as a matter of course. It is always so impressive how they address you by name from the moment you arrive and do everything they can to make your experience a truly memorable one. From remembering your favourite drink, to cleaning your muddy boots after a gorilla trek, nothing is too much trouble. They are awake long before your morning wakeup call and are there long after your night cap by the campfire. Most of the staff live and work at the camp or lodge for extended periods of time, away from family and friends and your tips make a huge difference to them travelling home and supporting their families too.

Our Top Tips for Tipping

  • US Dollars are widely accepted as the standard for tipping, so take plenty with you as there may well not be the opportunity to get more whilst in Africa.
  • Take small cash bills with you so it’s easier to pay one off tips (USD5/10/20).
  • Take clean and undamaged bills (post 2013) as these are easier for staff on the ground to exchange for local currency.
  • Look at your itinerary and use this as a basis to calculate how much money to take for tipping, i.e. how many nights in each lodge, how many days with each guide and any particular activities like gorilla treks.
  • Use our guidelines below to help with calculating the amount to take and a great idea is to divide each tip into a separate envelope. You can always then add to this or take away when you are on the ground, but you have all bases covered from the off.
  • Always store your money securely in any safe provided in your room or the main lodge.

Who to tip?

While a number of people work to make your trip or safari an unforgettable one, the question is, who should you tip?

  • “Professionals” are usually not tipped. These include pilots, cabin crew, managers, sales assistants, property owners, and medical workers.
  • Tip the front-liners. Safari guides, trackers and porters are normally tipped directly at the end of their time with you.
  • Don’t forget the lodge front of house and behind-the-scenes staff. Remember those who work both front of house and behind the scenes to make your experience truly memorable. Think housekeepers, receptionists, chefs, kitchen staff, waiters, gardeners and maintenance workers. At the end of your stay please use the lodge tipping box for one communal tip to cover everyone.

How much to tip?

For budgeting purposes, we suggest you plan around USD20 – USD40 per couple per day as a rough guide. When travelling as a family or for a longer stay it is reasonable to reduce the tip rate paid per person. Parents should consider tipping 50% of the suggested rates on behalf of their children.

The amount of tip will really depend on you and your experience. Below is a guideline:

  • General staff at a safari lodge or camp 10-15 USD per couple per night as a communal tip (tip at the end of your stay).
  • Safari Guide: 30 USD per couple per day – tip at the end of your stay rather than after each activity.
  • National Park Guide: 20-30 USD per couple per day.
  • Tracker/Spotter: 15 USD per couple a day.
  • Boat Guides / Walking Guides: 10 USD per couple
  • Gorilla trekking, please allow an extra 50 USD per couple per day to include 30 USD to the head ranger, 10 USD for any back up guide/armed guards and 10 USD for the tracking team. If you hire a porter, which is a great way to help promote conservation in the local villages, they are paid 20 USD in Uganda and 10 USD in Rwanda per person. A tip of around 5 USD may be added if you wish.
  • Chimp/golden monkey trekking, please allow an extra 20 USD per couple per day for the head ranger.
  • Village Tours/Maasai Villages – we would recommend purchasing items made by the village to show your support this way instead of leaving cash donations (try and take small bills for village purchases).
  • City Hotels and Restaurants add 10% of the total bill and round up.

Suggested ways to give tips

  • Placing cash in a communal tip box. Most hotels, camps, etc. have a tip box in the main area or lounge. This system can take away any awkwardness. If you cannot see a box please ask at reception. Please leave your tip here when you check out.
  • Put in an envelope via the manager. If there is no box, you can place your tip inside an envelope and hand it to the camp/hotel manager.
  • Tip your safari guide on your final day when you say goodbye, you can hand this directly to your guide.

Is there any other way to show my gratitude?

Tipping is always as per your discretion. Aside from cash, material gifts are highly appreciated and if you have any extra space for stationery items, footballs (take a pump with you to inflate them when you are there) or clothing either new or second hand, this will all be very gratefully received. 

Finally, as with any vacation planning the key thing is to be prepared ahead of your trip as this will then mean you can relax and completely immerse yourself in the experience when you are there. Always tip what you feel comfortable giving and remember that a heartfelt thank you and a mutual respect are just as welcome.

To further discuss holiday plans and ideas please do get in touch to chat through options with our passionate African experts. Get in touch