Tipping, it appears, is a hot-potato issue like no other. How much should you tip your server? Your taxi driver? How about your hairdresser?
The answer very much depends on cultural and local norms. A quick survey among the ISRAEL21c editorial team revealed our suspicion that Israel is a unique case, so to save you any future confusion and embarrassment, we’ve compiled the most comprehensive guide we could think of.
Of course, it’s not written in stone, so we recommend that you use your discretion at all times. If in doubt, err on the generous side. And let us know if we’ve missed someone.
Taxi drivers – absolutely no need
Unlike in the US and elsewhere, you are not required to tip your taxi driver in Israel. If your driver was particularly helpful or your luggage very heavy you might feel otherwise, but this would be a nice and welcome gesture that is in no way mandatory.
Hairdressers – it depends
In Israel, it’s customary not to tip hairdressers who own the salon. However, the person washing your hair, doing your color or a junior hairdresser working in the salon would all welcome a tip. It doesn’t have to be particularly large – in most cases, a 20-shekel note would do. This applies in hotels as well.
Bellboys – yes, if you’re from abroad
Israeli hotel-goers would probably not tip bellboys in local establishments, but the influx of visitors from abroad and international tipping customs mean that bellboys do expect tips. Again, it doesn’t have to be large, but it’s definitely nice, and should be in cash.
Hotel housekeeping – a good idea
Usually, housekeeping workers are among the lowest-paid in hotels, meaning that a generous tip will likely be very welcome. But it’s not the custom here, so hand the tip personally to your room cleaner lest he or she think that it’s just cash you left lying around.
Gas jockey – it depends
The guy or girl at the gas station don’t usually elicit a tip unless offering a service other than filling up your car – for example, cleaning your windshield or checking your oil or water levels. In that case, a tip is pretty much expected. Again, cash is a must.
Servers – yes, and lots
It used to be that the standard tip for a restaurant server would be 10 percent of the total cost of the meal. Recent years have seen it rise to about 12%, and in Tel Aviv it’s gone up to 15. Exceptional service means around 20.
We should emphasize that in many restaurants the servers’ salary is to a large extent comprised of tips, and while that’s not your problem, the Israeli way is to be generous about it. Also, not every Israeli eatery allows you to add the sum of the tip to the check, so be prepared to put the cash on the table.
Tour guides – yes, generously
Tour guides usually offer a very extensive service and many hours of work. We’d recommend giving a tip of 50 shekels per person in your party, or even 100 if you’re very pleased with the guide. Give the tip at the end of your tour but it’s nice to have it prepared beforehand.
Housekeepers – yes, twice a year
If you have a home in Israel and employ a cleaner, it’s standard to tip them for the holidays – for the Jewish New Year and Passover if they’re Jewish, ahead of Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha if they’re Muslim, and before Christmas and Easter if they’re Christian. Many households just pay double the usual sum, and it’s a lovely gesture to accompany the payment with a holiday greeting card.
Bartenders – yes, especially if you get free drinks
One of the best things about having drinks or even dinner while sitting at the bar means that you’ll likely be getting on-the-house treats, called pinukim in Hebrew. This usually takes place in the form of free shots, an extra pour of wine or an extra appetizer. All these should elicit a generous tip, but your basic guideline is like that of servers above.
Wedding hall servers – yes, collectively
At Israeli weddings, you’ll likely be allocated a server or two who will tend to your table throughout the evening. It’s common practice to leave them a tip, at least 20 shekels per person or 50 per couple. Or, you could do like Israelis and place a wine glass in the middle of the table and fill it up collectively with your neighbors. You can hand it over anytime during the wedding, but make sure to catch your servers before they go on their break and you take to the dance floor.
Takeout delivery people – it depends
When ordering takeout to your home or hotel, check whether delivery is included. If not, tip them 10 to 20 shekels upon arrival. If weather or geographical conditions are extreme – think heavy rain or a flight of stairs — tip more generously.
Grocery/general deliveries – usually not
It’s not common to tip the people delivering your groceries or packages here. But again, if they’ve just climbed up five flights to deliver your shopping, give a small tip and offer a glass of water. Both will be appreciated.