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Tipping in Dubai

There is certainly no set rule that says that you must tip in Dubai however the general consensus amongst expats seems to be a resounding you should indeed tip. Perhaps the happy residue of stringent tipping stipulations in many of our home countries. The expat voice of reason however is slightly more muffled when one posses the questions; how much should you tip, when and which services (if any) are excluded from our strongly held belief in tipping. So what on earth shall dictate our social and financial decorum in the absence of hard and fast rules to follow? Answer, majority rules, empathy and common sense of course. The team at Expat Echo Dubai summarizes…

Majority Rules
Most expats living in Dubai purport to tip. Some hold steadfast to the notion of basing how much they tip on a percentage of the final bill amount (usually between 10 – 15 %) whilst others prefer to round up to an even five dirhams (the smallest note denomination available in the UAE). Less clear is whether they choose to round to the nearest note or more – the more largely being determined by one’s degree of satisfaction with the level and quality of service received.
Interestingly it seems we expats are more compelled to round to the nearest 5 dirhams when tipping a taxi driver but opt for an impassioned more when tipping in a restaurant. Whilst it seems that services such as take away, store bought purchases and anywhere that clearly states on the bill that they have already included a service charge (rare as this is in Dubai) negates the impetus for us to tip at all.
There seems also to be noteworthy collective behavior when it comes to when to tip – at the end or throughout. It seems for instance that the majority of expats when staying in a hotel prefer to tip throughout their stay rather than at the end when settling the final bill. The guiding principle being that people feel that tipping at the end goes to the seemingly impersonal establishment whereas tipping as ‘n’ when goes directly to the deserving service-staff.

If you waited tables to pay your way through university you’ll recall how tough a gig customer service really is and if you didn’t you’ll just have to take our word for it, it’s tough and well worth keeping in mind when evaluating whether or not to tip and by how much.
It is also worth bearing in mind that Dubai is a fairly unique local in the sense that a) the hours, accommodation and wages of service-sector staff here no doubt differ substantially from that experienced in our home countries, and b) the fact that many workers not only earn minimal wages but you can almost guarantee that they are sending half or more of it back home to their relatives.

Common Sense
When in doubt it often helps to appeal to one’s common sense. Writer, Daisy Carrington, said it best “Is it really asking that much to hand over a few extra dirhams? And if you’re willing to drop Dhs60 on a cab ride from club A to club B, what’s an extra Dhs5 for the man who got you there? If you’ve got the cash to spend on a Dhs350 meal, you can afford to drop an extra 10 per cent. Remember, you probably make more money than they do, and here you’re not paying taxes that go to give workers health-care or social benefits, so you might as well give a tip.”
Common sense also suggests that life is simply easier if you round the bill up to a nice, round figure. It will save them time and you – you can skip the part where you fumble around in your wallet for the right change (coins I myself am still not totally familiar with) and go about your busy day. Besides, too many coins weigh you down.

Although it is by no means mandatory in Dubai, tipping certainly seems the norm amongst expats. By and large the majority subscribe to a mantra of Thou Shall Tip in Dubai! with rarer, personalized services tending to be tipped higher and the largest tips of all awarded to those individuals delivering extraordinary or extremely personalized service.

One Response to “Tipping in Dubai”

  1. Rob says:

    Regarding taxi drivers, I tip for one of 2 reasons
    1) The taxi driver has been a safe driver, and strikes up a nice conversation. Even as an introvert who hates small talk, I do hold respect for someone who’s English is not perfect, and has been driving people around all day but still makes the extra effort in their job.

    2) Because I am rounding up to the nearest whole figure, normally by 5AED.

    Most drivers in Dubai are terrible drivers, maniacs with bad tempers. Racing around beeping their horns and cutting infront of other drivers. So I have little to no interest in tipping them other than rounding up for my own convenience of not waiting for him to find change as I want out of that car ASAP.

    Restaurants I tip if (a) there is no service charge, and (b) there has been a better-than-good service.
    No one tips me for doing a good job, I don’t even get an end of year bonus. So for a restaurant personnel to earn a tip they need to be excellent. I’ve seen examples where staff help to entertain the young children our friends bring with them. This is tip-worthy! But just taking an order and walking the food to my table…. If I tip that it’s just encouraging the person to do nothing but the bare minimum and to expect more then they deserve.

    Hotels: I’ve only ever tipped when staying in a good hotel where the staff have taken individual notice of myself and the wife, gotten to know us and predicted our needs. shangri-la in A.D. is the perfect example of where we got this service. Otherwise again they are just doing the bare minimum of their job and normally already have additional fee’s beyond the room charge on the bill.

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