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Tipping In South Africa

With salary increases curbed and the cost of living on the rise, any perk or incentive to service customers a little quicker and with a smile, is always welcome. Handing over a minimum tip for good service and a generous tip for great service, encourages attendants to work harder for the next tip and fosters a culture of service excellence across South African sectors. This guide to tipping, brought to you by Wonga will keep you in the right while you’re staying there.

Tipping In South Africa


Tipping does matter

Many of the people doing the sort of tasks most often tipped in South Africa, can be found in industries that employ people from previously disadvantaged communities. Workers who often make a very low basic wage and need tips from customers in order to survive financially. For this reason, tipping in South Africa is not only the polite thing to do in exchange for good service, it is also community-minded.


An acceptable tip for restaurant waitrons is 10%. Of course, you can reward excellent service with up to 20%. It should be kept in mind that certain restaurants add a standard service charge to tables with over a certain number of diners. You can check this when making a reservation or when arriving at the restaurant. If such a charge does exist, it is acceptable to pay an additional tip for truly exceptional service.

Petrol Station Attendants

It is customary to pay petrol station attendants in silver change – R1, R2 or R5. You can decide the right amount depending on how much they do for you: putting in petrol, cleaning your windscreen and offering to check your oil, water and tyre pressure. Often, these attendants go out of their way to be helpful and friendly and a tip is always welcome.

Car Guards

It seems these days that wherever you go, a friendly ‘car guard’ (some officials, others unofficial) appears at your elbow, offering to help you push your trolley, pack shopping into your car and remind you that they’ve kept an eye on your vehicle while you went about your business. You do not need to tip these individuals unless you feel they have offered you some service, and never tip in response to aggressive or intimidating behaviour. Some shopping centres and amenities pay guards to look after cars outside their premises so tip at your discretion. As with petrol station attendants, tip in silver – R1, R2 or R5 is acceptable. The amount you pay should also take into account the amount of time you were away from your vehicle.

Most of South Africa’s Central Business Districts have metered bays, monitored by parking marshals wearing luminous bibs. They will approach your car and ask you how long you intend to stay. Standard practice is to pay for the half-hour of parking in advance, then the balance upon your return if necessary. Ignore a parking marshal at your own peril – they have the power to write out fines for motorists who refuse to pay for their parking.

Hairstylists and Beauty Therapists

Whether necessity or a pampering treatment, tip 10% to 15% of your bill for the stylist or beauty therapist and between R5 and R20 for the person who washed your hair. If you visit a salon often throughout the year, it is customary to take a small gift to your last appointment of the year. These gifts are sometimes pooled and divided among staff members.


When staying in a hotel or B&B, you can pay 10% of your total bill to be distributed among cleaners, waitrons, porters, kitchen and garden staff and in some cases reception and management. First speak to management about any in-house policy they may have concerning tipping. You can pay directly any individual who has gone out of his or her to be helpful. Game reserve rangers and trackers, who are most often highly knowledgeable about local wildlife and terrain, can be tipped individually. Again, it is advisable to ask management about tipping policies at their establishment.

Drivers and Tour Guides

Tour guides and drivers can be tipped at the end of the day. R10 to R20 is customary on a day tour but the length of the excursion and size of the tour group should determine the amount.

Train, Airport and Hotel Porters

A tip of around R5 per item of luggage can be paid directly to porters at the time of checking in or out.

Newspaper Vendors

Vendors selling newspapers at the roadside is something of a South African institution. Giving them a few extra cents is not only community-minded but by rounding off the price of your newspaper you won’t have to wait for your small change when the traffic light changes.

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