Conscientious Traveler Knows How to Tip

The Conscientious Traveler/Retired Person Knows When and How Much to Tip

When you retire in Mexico, or are traveling, there can be a lot of angst around tipping, especially if you don’t really know which people to tip and how much. When you arrive in Mexico you see so many people who obviously don’t earn very much money. There is an expectation that money will be flowing from your pocket to theirs, but what exactly are the rules for this process? When you first retire in Mexico you want to be conscientious and not go around insulting people by tipping them when you shouldn’t… but what if they are calling you “cheapskate” as you walk away?

The conscientious traveler/retired person knows that there are people who work for tips only, like airport porters. Others, like taxi drivers set their price for the trip, but then might help you with your bags and you wonder if you should tip them or not.

The following is a list of jobs, whether or not you should tip, and how much. Practice being a well-informed conscientious traveler and just for fun, hold a piece of paper up over the right hand columns and think of your own answer before checking to see if you are correct.

Tipping Guidelines for Those Who Retire in Mexico or are Conscientious Travelers

location/person tip? comments
restaurant (formal) yes 10-15%, minimum 5 pesos
comida corrida optional 5 peso minimum for 1 person.10 peso minimum for 2 people.
small business proprieter no Imagine you are at work or selling your product and one of your customers just comes up and gives you 2 dollars. How would you feel?
grocery packer yes Since they don’t receive a salary, they work for tips. 2-5 pesos.
cleaning staff in hotel optional 10 pesos and up. This varies by the service you receive and the number of days you stay. (If the hotel costs 1000 pesos a day you may want to start at 30 pesos.)
bell boy at expensive hotel yes 20 peso minimum.
service personnel (e.g. cable TV installer) no Imagine you are at work and one of your customers just comes up and gives you 2 dollars. How would you feel? If you ever do want to tip someone like this, you have to give at least enough for a meal.
gas station attendant optional If you are feeling really generous, 5-10 pesos. 3 pesos for a window wash is OK.
taxi drivers no If they load and unload a lot of packages for you, you can tip 5 pesos (10 would be more appreciated).
porter at the airport yes These men don’t have a salary and work for tips. Tip 20-50 pesos. Give the higher amount if they have loaded your luggage on the hand cart and wait for you to exchange money, etc.
parking lot attendants (help you back out of your parking space) optional 2-3 pesos
mariachi bands yes Mariachis work by the song. A set of 3 songs will cost a minimum of 150 pesos. There’s two ways to hear them. One, you find them in the zocalo and ask them to come to play for you. Two, they come into a restaurant and start playing. It’s best to give at least 5 pesos if they come by with a hat afterwards.
roving musicians optional 3-10 pesos

So, if you didn’t get the answers right, but intend to retire in Mexico, or worse, are already retired in Mexico, you might want to print out the chart and hang it on your fridge. You can refer to it before you go out and about.

If you are a conscientious traveler, you will feel more relaxed knowing that you are neither insulting people, nor making yourself look cheap. Ahhhh. What a relief.

Back to Equity Issues for Those Retired in Mexico and Conscientious Travelers

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image of cover of e-book: Mexico The Trick is Living HereBefore you live or retire in Mexico read this unique, humorous e-book.

Hi Julia,

Hope you and your family are all in good health! Thank you very much for the e-book and companions. They are, as ever, extremely informative.

Your empathy with the Mexican culture shines through and the book offers an insight into living in Mexico that I haven’t found in other books about living or travelling in Mexico.

I particularly liked the cultural differences and how not to upset people and what to expect from the beaurocracy out there. I had also paid particular close attention to you article about the cost of living for the three lifestyles you showed. I had seen this article previously on your website and I have used it as a gauge for the lifestyle my family and I might expect to have in Mexico.

With your article and other information I’ve researched on the internet I’ve come up with a figure of….

Thanks once again for all your help and the really useful books. I hope you are managing to sell plenty to help out with your family finances. I will stay in touch and I look forward to your next article on your website.

Kind Regards

Edward Shields

7 comments

  1. Laurie Nov 24

    Hi Julia,

    Thank you for all of your thoughtful perceptions about Mexico on your website and your e-book that I have just downloaded. I have been doing a LOT of research about Mexico as retirement is approaching and we will need to leave the beautiful, but expensive, San Francisco Bay area.

    It is a real relief to finally find a site that is honest and real and that is not full of fluff written by people who have economic interests in getting American retirerees to move to Mexico and give them business. I have been trying to find information that portrays the real Mexico, under the “utopian gloss”, and I finally feel that I am making some progress.

    I have seen hints of an undercurrent of resentment, etc., against Americans and that is at odds with the opinions stating that the Mexican are so friendly and welcoming. What is the real truth? Are we being “loved” only for what we can provide, monetarily? What are your thoughts on this important issue?

    Regarding

  2. Laurie Nov 24

    Hi Julia,

    I just wanted to finish my last comment but was unable to do so, so I will continue here with my comment on tipping.

    I have found many wonderful photos of Mexico, particularly San Miguel de Allende which is the town we are most interested in at the moment. I find the architecture and gardens enchanting, like many before me and photography is one of my main interests. In many of the photos I often see images of Mexican children and particularly, the lovely old and wrinkled faces of Mexican women. In these images the women often are not smiling, and in fact, many appear to be scowling at the camera. It would not be surprising that they would resent the constant clicking of the camera lens as if they were a prize exhibit at a zoo! As a photographer who enjoys taking travel shots I have always felt as if I was intruding on their privacy so I generally limit my photos to architecture and landscapes… What is the correct way to handle such situations in a gracious and thoughtful way? Would it be acceptable to offer a tip for each photo taken? How much would be appropriate?

    Thank you!
    Laurie

  3. Julia Taylor Nov 24

    Laurie,

    Good question — and an important one. I too avoid photographing people. My recommendation is to step up to the person and quietly ask if you may take their photo. If they say yes, then go ahead and don’t offer a tip. Of course, you’ll also have to be prepared to accept “no” for an answer.

    Imagine you are standing at the bus stop and someone snaps a photo of you. If they walked up and handed you a few coins, would you feel that it somehow made it worth it to you to let them reproduce and show others an image of your face?

    It sounds like you are asking yourself the right questions and also observing the responses of others (for example, noticing that the women in the photos don’t look very happy to be in them) so you will be able to get along just fine with others.

    Enjoy being in Mexico. You are sure to really, really enjoy your photography while you are there!

    Kindest Regards, Julia C Taylor

  4. Julia Taylor Nov 24

    Laurie,

    Thank you for your kind comments. I have worked very hard to do just what you mentioned.

    Yes, there is a strong undercurrent of resentment toward Americans. Many Mexicans have been up to the US and they have therefore experienced both kind and accepting Americans as well as those other ones that are all too common. They have also faced what the Mexican media called “the wall of shame” when it was being expanded along our border. Most middle class and wealthy Mexicans, who have attended college, are very well-informed about the hypocritical policies the US maintains regarding Mexico. Let’s face it, from the outside looking in, the US is not a nice neighbor.

    I would say that in really touristy areas, in the expensive hotels, people are being loved as wealthy clients — like any time you go to get an expensive hair cut or go to a day spa. BUT most of the time, you are being loved IN SPITE OF being American. Mexican culture embodies hospitality and neighborliness in so many ways. Welcoming visitors, being interested in who they are, enjoying sharing the best Mexico has to offer — all of these things come naturally to most Mexicans. The best way to help Mexicans to “love” you in spite of your unfortunate nationality is to avoid being an ugly American. Don’t ever fall into telling anyone how things are done in the US, keep your voice quiet, remember to say hello, goodbye, and thank you, and you’ll avoid putting your foot in your mouth.

    Good luck! I’m sure you will do fine.

    Kindest Regards,

    Julia C Taylor

  5. Laurie Nov 26

    Hi Julia,

    Thanks for your replies. As an American- born woman who also holds a British passport (and married to a Brit), I have traveled extensively in Europe and have actually lived in France for three years. We have tried very hard to blend in with our neighbors and approach situations with a low-key, friendly approach, as you have suggested, and I would like to say how successful that has been for us. It is all a matter of showing respect to our new “hosts” and trying to learn about their culture and ways in a non- judgmental way. I was very pleased to accept a compliment from a vendor in our local rural French market who said that I was a gracious example

  6. Laurie Nov 26

    Hi Julia,

    Thanks for your thoughtful replies. As an American- born woman who also holds a British passport (and married to a Brit), I have traveled extensively in Europe and have actually lived in France for three years. We tried very hard to blend in with our neighbors and approach situations with a low-key, friendly approach, as you have suggested, and I would like to say how successful that has been for us. It is all a matter of showing respect to our new “hosts” and trying to learn about their culture and ways in a non- judgmental way. After all, isn’t that what travel is supposed to be about? I was very pleased to accept a compliment from a vendor in our local rural French market who said that I was a gracious example of an American and that I represented my country well. That one statement filled me with such joy! I was not an “ugly American”!

    I believe I read your advice that stated if we are not American we should let it be known as soon as possible as there would be less initial resentment. Perhaps I should focus on the British half of my dual citizenship while travelling/living in Mexico…?

    Thank you again for your insightful and thought-provoking website.

    Warm regards,

    Laurie

  7. Julia Taylor Nov 29

    Hi Laurie,

    What a good compliment you received. I’m sure you will fit in very well in Mexico, too.

    Yes, if people ask where you are from, you can tell them you are British. You certainly don’t need to hide your full (and interesting) history, but you can save it for friends.

    Warm regards,

    Julia C Taylor

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