To tip or not to tip? That is the question. Especially so in Mumbai, the land of solicited and unsolicited services, of beggars and billionaires, where it’s hard to tell how much you should give – and to whom.
How much you tip can boil down to how generous you feel like being. If the average daily income in India is one U.S. dollar, and if you leave five rupees ($0.10), you may have increased someone’s salary that day by 10% or more. Small amounts of 5-10 ruppees are usually plenty for tipping people such as the food delivery boys. However, 100 rupees ($2.00) means a lot more to a local Indian than it does to you, so if you feel generous, then tip generously. The tip you leave should also reflect the level of service you’ve received, of course.
NB: If you are emotionally affected by the obvious poverty in Mumbai, it would be worthwhile to volunteer or to donate to a charity rather than to give out wads of cash at random. If the idea of opening your wallet bothers you, you could choose not to tip at all – though the smile and extra service you’ll get is usually a good return on your small investment.
Below is a list of common service workers and tip expectations:
Bellboys and Doormen – Rs 20
Bellboys will graciously carry your bags to your room, expecting you to tip about Rs 20, and may hover until you reach into your pocket. Doormen don’t expect money every time they open the door for you, though they wouldn’t mind a tip of about Rs 20 for good service at least once during your hotel stay.
Taxi drivers – Optional
Locals do not tip taxi drivers, so tips are not expected. If your taxi driver was exceptional, consider leaving about Rs 20.
Rickshaw drivers – Optional
Rickshaw drivers do not expect tips. As a side note, remember that meters start at 10 rupees, not 100 rupees, as some deceitful drivers may say. For a fair fare, you may consider tipping to show appreciation for honesty. Rs 10 – Rs 20 is enough.
Waiters – Gratuity usually included; Optional 5-10%
In touristy restaurants and hotels, service charges are typically included in the bill. If gratuity is not included, a 5-10% tip is much appreciated, not expected.
Hairdresser – 10%
To keep up relations with your hairdresser, give about a 10% tip. Tip more, if you like, for an excellent job.
Domestic Staff and Guards – Recommended to tip for extra work
- Maids, Nannies, and Drivers – For work above and beyond normal, your staff will appreciate a tip. Just be careful it doesn’t become an expectation.
- Security guards – If the security guards help you carry groceries or lend you an extra hand in any way, they will probably expect a tip. Rs 20 is acceptable.
Diwali – Give to important “helpers”
Diwali is the Hindu festival of lights, a favorite annual holiday in Mumbai featuring two or more days of celebration, sales, lots of noisy fireworks, Indian sweets, and best of all, monetary gifts. You may be approached by the postman, the garbage man, the cable guy, the internet guy, the building cleaning lady, the security guards, your staff, or complete strangers asking for money on or around Diwali. Receiving money is a tradition and the people who do chores for you throughout the year will expect something for their work.
You can choose who you feel deserves a gift, though “forgetting” can sometimes mean an interruption of service until you “remember.” The money is presented in an envelope, and you can buy special colored envelopes for the occasion. Denominations are up to you, but, due to superstitions, make sure the amount is an odd number. Examples are Rs 101, Rs 333, or Rs 555. Acceptable Diwali gifts are about Rs 100. Rs 500 is a grand gift which will probably be remembered and visibly appreciated for at least a month.
Porters in the Airport – Expect tips and can be pushy
In Mumbai airports, there are dozens of men waiting at the luggage carousels to help you lift, load, and cart your luggage. By the time you reach your car or taxi, they will be tapping their feet for a tip. Rs 50 is plenty, Rs 100 is definitely more than enough, and those who get irritated and ask for more are just pushing their luck.
Baksheesh – From alms to bribes
“Baksheesh” is an umbrella term for tipping, bribery, alms, or service charges. A police officer may want baksheesh of about Rs 100 for “ignoring” a traffic violation. Giving directions, helping you carry your bags, polishing your shoes on the sidewalk – whether you wanted it or not – are all services which may warrant a request for baksheesh. And beggars naturally want their share of baksheesh, too. Giving money is your decision in these cases. If if you are being pressed relentlessly, a firm “Bas!” (Enough!) may help. Be aware that openly giving money to a beggar is frowned upon by locals and runs the risk of causing you to be swarmed by other beggars in the vicinity.