Many of our guests ask about tipping on safari. Views on tipping are typically shaped by many different factors, including the tipping culture you are used to in your own country, the culture you are visiting, your personal relationship with cash, your expectations of service levels etc. There is no need to tip out of a feeling of charity. The key is to tip if you get outstanding service, which we would like to think you will get on a safari we have helped plan for you.
1. Why give tips?
Tipping in Africa, while not compulsory, often contributes a substantial amount toward ensuring that those working in the service industry earn a living wage. It should, of course, be done on merit, for good service, and nobody should feel obliged at any point to hand out wads of cash for poor service.
2. Who to tip?
Generally, tips are given to workers who are not ‘professionals’. You would not normally tip lodge/camp managers and pilots, however you would tip back of lodge/camp staff such as cleaners, cooks, gardeners, maintenance workers, guards and anti-poaching units. And, front of lodge/camp staff: guides, spotters or trackers, waiters and waitresses, spa therapists and transfer drivers
3. How to hand over tips
This is where it gets tricky because there is no uniformity. Every camp or lodge has its own system and so we suggest if you are unsure to speak to the lodge/camp manager on arrival. However, as a general rule most lodges/camps have a communal tip box for staff, and your guide and tracker are tipped separately.
For a more personal experience, we suggest you take some envelopes with you. These can take away some of the awkwardness of handing over tips, and you can write names and/or a personal thank you note.
4. Should you tip?
Most guests travel to Africa knowing the will need to tip and make provision to do so in their budgets. However, we stress that tipping is completely at your own discretion for service you feel warrants it. A TIP is a TIP, given when someone goes out of their way to help you.
Some guests object to tipping on the grounds that the staff salaries should be enough to cover their living expenses and that lodge owners should pay more. This is a worthy idea, but your safari costs cover not only staff wages but also concession and park fees, fuel, insurance, security, maintenance, food, beverages … the list is endless. Do keep in mind that a major cost for lodge/camp and safari company owners is housing, feeding, clothing and medically looking after staff who must live on a remote property for weeks or months at a time.
Many camp/lodge staff and road-based guides spend long periods away from their children, families and friends. They are often on duty for weeks, sometimes months, at a time, depending on the time of year. There is reasonable expense incurred for them travelling home to rural areas. Hence, tipping has wide-ranging and positive ramifications. The vast majority of staff do not fritter their money away on luxuries but pay for school fees, doctor’s visits, groceries and so on.
5. How much to tip?
This is a tricky one to answer because there are so many factors: the service you received, your personal budget, your ideas around gratuities. The rule of thumb is, tip as much as you can when the moment comes.
No matter how much you tip, do not apologise for the amount. Simply hand it over in whatever form and say thank you sincerely. Gratitude, appreciation and recognition are always warmly received by staff.
For African Safaris Ltd guests who would like a guideline, please contact us.
6. Suggestions for easier tipping
- For a more personal experience, we suggest you take some envelopes with you. These can take away some of the awkwardness of handing over tips, and you can write names and/or a personal thank you note.
- Tip guides and trackers separately to camp staff. This is best done on your last day, before departing if they are taking you to the airstrip or onwards to the drop off point.
- General staff tipping is best done as one amount and either handed to the Camp Manager or placed in a staff tip box that is usually located in the central area or reception. This tip money is then divided among all lodge staff.
- If there is specific member of staff at a lodge/camp you would like to reward, a personal tip is also gratefully received; however please do check with the lodge/camp manager.
- If doing a multi-day scheduled safari/tour with the same guide and staff it is customary to tip at the end.
- Bring US$ cash with you. You will not be able to withdraw US$ from ATM’s in Africa.
- Make sure your US$ notes are small like US$ 5, US$ 10 and US$ 20. These are easier to hand over and few places will be able to break US$ 50 notes. We do not recommend taking US$ 100 notes as these can be hard to break and may leave you with a handful of local currency that you cannot use back home or elsewhere.
- Lastly, we recommend that you ensure your US$ notes are 2009 series and newer. These are the notes with larger heads/numbers and a bit of colour. Older notes can be very difficult, if not impossible for staff to change into local currency.