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Tipping Etiquette in Scandinavia – Tips on Tips

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by Marcelo Guimaraes – Founder & Owner of Discover Scandinavia Tours

  1. Introduction

Vacationing here, in the USA, generally involves a lot of tipping. Depending on where you stay and what you do, you are expected to tip your waiters, guides, drivers… the list goes on and on. In fact, preparing a gratuity budget is not a bad idea.

That is different when you vacation in Scandinavia, though. Let’s take a look into the expectations and etiquette for tipping in Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland, for various services.


  1. Gratuity in Scandinavia – Travel and Hospitality in General

Tipping is a concept designed to supplement one’s (generally low) income. That is particularly important in certain sectors of the travel and hospitality industries in North America, where workers are paid a low wage by their employers and are expected to make up for the difference in gratuity from patrons. In Scandinavia the situation is different: local law ensures that, as a rule, waiters and waitresses, for instance, are paid well. That is particularly true in Iceland and Norway, but also applies to Denmark, Sweden and Finland. Therefore, the expectation for tipping in the Nordic Countries does not exist.

However, the last decade has brought to Scandinavia a large increase in the number of tourists from the United States and Canada. With that, Scandinavian workers have enjoyed an higher level of gratuity for their services and, let’s face it, who doesn’t enjoy a little extra cash?

But the question remains for the North American traveler: how much should I tip on my Scandinavian vacation? To answer that, we will breakdown the topic according to the many services you will be using throughout your travels.

  1. How Much Should I Tip at RESTAURANTS in Scandinavia?

Once again, feel free assume that no one will give you a dirty look if you decide not to leave a tip. This means: leave a tip if you are truly satisfied with your experience. As a rule, I personally leave the following:

  • 5% tip if I feel that the staff did a good job;
  • 10% tip if I feel that the staff did an excellent job.

Can you leave more than that? Certainly no one will complain, but keep in mind that there really is no need. If you feel the need to express your gratitude even more, perhaps a more meaningful way to do so is via an awesome online review on Google or on the restaurant’s social media pages. That is gold for any restaurant and, indirectly, for the ones who provided you that awesome dining experience.

TIP: I have seen North American travelers express dissatisfaction regarding waiters and waitresses because they did not “smile enough” or did not come back to the table often enough to check on the patrons. When compelled to complain to a manager (or online), please consider the cultural differences between North Americans and Europeans first. For instance, it is common for the waiting staff to assume that you may not want to be disturbed while enjoying your meal and your company, which means that they will not stop by to check on you very often.

  1. How Much Should I Tip my GUIDES in Scandinavia?

Ask yourself: “did I finish the tour feeling like the guide went out of their way to make the experience really unique?” If the answer is “yes,” then why not express your gratitude with a little extra? Guides often will give you excellent restaurant recommendations, draw maps for you or even alter the itinerary of a tour just to ensure that you see a certain monument or that you are close to a certain location at the end of the tour. It’s that kind of thing that I use to, in a way, assess the guide’s performance. As for how much I leave, one simple rule:

  • The equivalent of $5USD (in their local currency) per person in my party.

So, if I were traveling with my wife and another couple, for instance, they would get the equivalent of $20 USD.

Tip: before any tour, make sure you have some local cash on you. I recommend stopping by one of the many ATMs available and getting some there. Yes, you can tip in dollars, too, but it is much more meaningful if you do it in the guide’s currency.

  1. How Much Should I Tip my DRIVERS in Scandinavia?

There are a few scenarios for us to discuss:

  • If you are on a private transfer (from an airport to your hotel, for example), there is absolutely no need to tip the driver. These are luxury services where the drivers are well paid by the companies who subcontract them.
  • If you are taking a taxi, I recommend the following:
    • If it is a short ride with no luggage involved, no tipping is needed.
    • If it is a long ride or luggage is involved, I generally offer the equivalent of $5 USD, depending on how I assess the experience and the driver’s willingness to assist me.
    • If it is a driver & guide team on a group tour, you can simply double the tip you offer your guide (if any) and inform the guide that what you are offering is for the two of them.
  1. How Much Should I Tip at HOTELS in Scandinavia?

True to the general theme here, hotel staff is adequately compensated for their services. In my view, when a staff member at the concierge desk is being very helpful to me, that is a sign that they feel pride in their work. They are trying to be the best they can be at what they do. It is not a favor; it is high-quality work for which the hotel will pay (and I will pay the hotel). The same applies to porter services and all other services I will receive at the property. As a way of thanking a particular staff member for their outstanding services, I do the following:

  • I get their name and inform the front desk manager of how impressed I was by that person’s performance. I let the manager know that what they did enhanced my experience at the hotel. They take that seriously in Scandinavia.
  • I leave a great online review (with mention of the employee’s name) for the hotel.

If things are done correctly, there is a good chance that the hotel will compensate that person with a compliment, a good performance review or even a raise, all of which are much more meaningful than a small tip.

I hope you found this short guide helpful. My team and I, here at Discover Scandinavia Tours, look forward to sending you on beautiful adventures all over Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark & Finland!

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