7 min read

Tipping in South Africa - When and how much

In a country where tips can make a big difference in someone's take-home salary, you want to make sure you know when to give and how much.
Nick Pawson
· July 9, 2024
Tipping in South Africa - When and how much

South Africa has a deeply-ingrained tipping culture. With the minimum wage in 2024 set at R27.58 per hour ($1.50*), many people working in the service industry rely on tips to make a living.

While most South Africans have a fairly good idea of the tipping etiquette (and percentages) local service professionals might expect, it can be confusing for tourists.

This is especially true if one comes from a country with a much higher minimum/ hourly wage, where receiving a few extra bucks from customers might not be customary. On the other end of the scale, etiquette in the US for example dictates that one should tip waiters at least 20% of the total bill.

Whether you're a local or a visitor, the below guide should help you navigate the tipping landscape in South Africa across the different service industries (especially those services that are unique to SA.)

Some basic rules for tipping

In South Africa, as a general rule of thumb, start at 10% across the board and preferably tip with cash. While card tips are appreciated, service staff members may only get these tips at the end of the week, or month.

And remember, you're not obliged to tip, especially if a service provider is rude, unprofessional (or intoxicated.) Etiquette consultants in South Africa also advise that if you did not receive what you were promised in a reasonable time frame – and no effort was made to rectify the situation beforehand – you do not need to leave a tip.


Tipping at Bars
As in many countries around the world, it is customary to leave a cash tip for the bartender on the bar counter. Adding gratuity to card taps however is becoming more commonplace as countries become cashless, and South Africa is no different.

Either way, 10% of the cost of the drink (or total bill) is considered an average tip, while a larger tip can be given if the bartender makes you a cocktail.

It's also worth remembering that if you tip generously at the bar the first time around, you're more likely to get noticed by bartenders and receive quicker service on the next round.


Tipping at restaurants in South Africa
The exact tip amount when eating out in South Africa varies depending on the venue, occasion and portion size, but 10% of the total bill should be the minimum gratuity.

Most waitstaff at higher-end restaurants are paid a minimum hourly wage, but still rely on tips to boost their income. Some restaurants - especially in fine dining - may even automatically add a tip between 10% - 12.5% to the bill. In these instances, it's not necessary to add a tip, unless the food and/or service was exceptional, but this is up to you.

Therefore, staying within a 10% - 20% range is safe and recommendable at South African restaurants. And remember, don't penalise waitrons for poor food quality (unless the complaint is handled poorly.) Rather direct these sorts of complaints to the manager.

Did you know that in some restaurants only permanent staff receive a minimum wage in addition to their tips. Any casual staff who work a few times a week (especially students), may only work for tips.

Petrol attendants

In South Africa, you don't have to get out of the car to fill up your tank with petrol (gas). In fact, in many ways, it's frowned upon! Thanks to this decidedly South African service, you will find several petrol attendants at petrol/ gas stations that will take care of this job for you.

Petrol attendants also offer to check your oil, water, and tyre pressure, and usually wash your back and front windows (unless you're in a hurry.)

While car guards do earn a salary (typically between R6000 and R10000 per month), tipping of course comes standard with any extra services, and the amount can range from R5 - R20 depending on whether or not you take the full package.

Car guards

In another uniquely South African act of assistance, you will often find informal car guards on public streets offering to keep an eye on your car in your absence. With South Africa's petty crimes rates, these guards want to make sure nothing happens to your car.

It can be tough to differentiate between self-appointed and official car guards, so here are a few...tips.

The former, informal guards usually wear a neon-yellow security vest, trying to eke out a living. On top of guarding your car, they may also direct you to free parking spots, while helping you reverse out of the tighter ones. Their services can be a real asset.

Then you get the chancers, often vestless, who might pop up out of nowhere and pretend that they've been keeping an eye out. Given South Africa's high unemployment rates, it can become a bit of a moral dilemma about whether or not to tip, so this is at your discretion.

Also, you should only tip informal car guards when you leave and never upfront.

Mandated guards on the other hand, like those that work at open parking lots of shopping centres, have a uniform and code of conduct. Some of these guards pay a fee for their spot and rely on tips to cover that cost (and only then make a living).

Depending on your length of stay, and whether you feel the car guard has been attentive, a R5 - R10 cash tip is generally the standard.

Taxi drivers

Tipping taxi drivers in South Africa
There are three main types of taxi services in South Africa - minibus taxis (the cheapest option), metered cabs, and e-hailing services such as Uber and Bolt.

Tips are not expected in minibus taxis, but drivers of metered cabs and those on ride-hailing apps do appreciate a bit of gratuity. Generally, 10% - 20% of the total fare is seen as a good tip from a rider and this can be easily applied on an app like Uber.

Things to consider when deciding on an appropriate tip for a taxi driver are punctuality, the distance travelled, friendliness of the driver, safety, and roadworthiness of the car. Taxi drivers may also help you with your luggage.

Tour guides and safari staff

Tipping Safari Tour Guides in South Africa
A tour guide can make or break an experience when travelling. Luckily, South African tour guides have an excellent reputation. Whether you're taking a private, multi-day or walking tour, a 10% tip usually goes down well.

If you're visiting South Africa for its world-renowned safaris, the game-viewing experience is made all the more special by the guidance of rangers and the service of staff members at your lodge.

Guides and rangers will keep you safe on your game drives, point out the elusive animals and impress with their tracking skills and overall local knowledge. It’s worth noting that rangers often rotate (and should be tipped separately.) Here, a R100 tip is a respectable way of saying thank you for their services.

When it comes to your lodge stay on safari, South Africa's porters, housekeeping and kitchen staff are famously friendly and hospitable. As such, a pooled tip for lodge staff is a convenient way for you to reach housekeeping, front of house, and general staff all at once.

For a three-day safari, R100 – R250 per couple per night is a worthy tip for these services.

Last, but not least... your Checkers Sixty60 Driver

South Africa has had a delivery revolution and the Checkers Sixty60 team are the homegrown celebrities. These guys will deliver your groceries come rain or shine – and while they will do it, maybe save your grocery shopping for a non-rainy day if you can wait a bit! If you can't wait, maybe consider adding an even bigger tip.

Save up your shopping for one or two deliveries a week and make sure you give your Checkers Sixty60, Mr D, Woolworths or Spar delivery guy a worthwhile thank you for saving you the time in the traffic and aisles– anything between R15 and R50 depending on the distance, order size and, of course, the weather conditions!

*ZAR - USD exchange rate as at 3 July 2024

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