Tipping in Chile – Propinas
The Spanish word for Tip is Propina.
Good tipping is usually remembered and the service is often even better the next time you return to a place. What may be a small amount to you can make a huge difference to someone else.
Tipping in Restaurants
The general rule of thumb for giving tips at restaurants in Chile is to leave 10% of the bill. Obviously if you thought the service was outstanding, you can give more.
In Chile the livelihood of most waiters and waitresses depends almost entirely on tips. They may be lucky to have a base/minimum salary, though even this is usually only enough to cover the transport to and from work. So, if you can afford to travel around the world and eat out, you can afford to leave a tip.
However, having said this, you must be careful to check the bill before giving a tip because sometimes it is already included in it, though that is not the norm. Also they can be sneaky and have the tip included in the bill (hidden somewhere) and then try and get a cash tip (talking from personal experience and this happening to me twice. I may look like a foreigner but I have been around long enough to know – No soy weón!).
I once read that they were trying to pass a bill in congress to make the 10% tip for staff compulsory and that it was going to be added to each bill but I don’t know what happened to that process.
The young people that put your groceries in the plastic bags at the supermarket don’t get a salary. They depend entirely on tips so giving them a couple of coins is always appreciated. Some do it to help out their families and others for their own personal expenses like bus money, smoking addictions etc. What saddened me the other day was to see what appeared to be a normal 40-something year old packing groceries as the younger ones do to get some tips. Times are tough it seems.
Taxi drivers in Chile are not tipped. If you are feeling rich you can sometimes round their fare up a bit to avoid lots of loose change.
It’s always good to tip the local tour guides since in general they also get paid a very low salary. How much you should give depends on the type of tour and how long it went for though around 5-10% of the tour cost is appreciated.
Car Parking in Streets
These guys don’t have a salary at all so live on what people give them in tips. The truth is these car caretakers don’t do much but at least they are trying to make an honest living. Normally it’s only a couple or few coins depending on how long you were there for. In theory they help you park and warn oncoming cars as you come out of it. Again, it’s only in theory so you should still check to make sure nothing is coming.
Be Careful: If they ask for money up front, don’t give it. Usually only the unscrupulous ones ask up front and then they have the cheek to not even look after your car or anything of the sorts. There were two documentaries about this that appeared on National TV last year. They videoed this happening in areas with a lot of night-life activity going on and most times they would take off home early once all the car parks were full, even though they had promised to be there until the early hours of the morning.
Some people expect tips though if the service is terrible, don’t feel obliged to give one. If that happens I usually give an ‘oral tip’ and let the person know what I thought of their service. It can be a shock to them but it just may open their eyes a bit.
See more information about Money in Chile
Can anyone in other South American countries let us know the tipping customs in the country they are in?