Markets and Trade, Money

Mexico’s Tipping Culture

Tipping is woven into the fabric of Mexican trading culture. "La Propina" is appropriate in many everyday situations and this article helps you get acquainted with them

Tip money in a basket

Tipping is woven into the fabric of Mexican social and trading culture.  The tipping ritual is so commonplace that it is also plays a significant role in Mexico’s informal, cash-driven economy.

Mexico’s tipping culture is impromptu and often spontaneous.  Tipping is always optional although the people serving you will appreciate the small token of your appreciation in exchange for good service.

Frequent tipping is a routine that takes getting used to, especially if you come from a place where tipping is not commonplace, or where tipping is practiced but only in certain, specific circumstances.

Why you need to tip in Mexican pesos, and not in foreign currency

The rules and regulations for exchanging foreign currency have been tightened up. For example, currency exchange houses now routinely demand to see a passport to change even small amounts of money, and not everyone here has a passport. Foreign coins are non-exchangeable and should never be left as tips. Always tip in cash, using Mexican pesos.

In Mexico, la propina is employed in all kinds of everyday situations. Here are some examples, followed by a link to our guide that gives a more comprehensive list of situations where you should consider tipping:

Waiters working at restaurants and bars should always be tipped for good service; a sum equivalent to 10-15% of the total bill is appropriate.

Local cabbies and App Cab drivers (e.g. Uber) appreciate a tip. Consider rounding-up the fare on the meter from a street cab to the nearest $5 or $10 pesos; app-cab apps now allow you to add a tip at the end of your journey, or you can pay the driver a tip in cash.

When you stay at a hotel in Mexico it’s customary in Mexico to leave a tip for your hotel room chambermaid, a sum between US$1 and US$5 (equivalent in Mexican pesos), for each night’s stay spent at the hotel. If you’re staying more than one night, it’s a good idea to leave the tip daily as chamber maids work on a rota.

Car parks in Mexico’s bigger towns and cities are oftentimes kept under vigil by men (and occasionally women) who ‘patrol’ the car park, helping drivers to find a free space, keeping an eye on the cars, and helping drivers to reverse out when they leave.   It’s optional, but customary, to pay $2-$5 pesos as you depart.

Other ‘informal’ situations where a tip is customary include the porter at the hotel who carried your bags; the concierge for booking a table at a local restaurant or who arranged a taxi for you; the person who washed your windscreen at the stop-light; the attendant at a gasoline station; the person (usually a student or retiree) packing your groceries at the local supermarket; and attendants keeping washrooms/restrooms clean (provided you did not pay to enter the facility.)

Learn more by reading our guide to Tipping and Bargaining in Mexico for guidance about who, where, when, and how much to tip in Mexico.

A note about small change

Ironically, despite the constant need to pay tips small change can sometimes be difficult to get hold of in Mexico when you need it most, and appears in abundance when you don’t need any.  It’s good practice to build-up a cache of small change as you shop. If you’re staying at a hotel or resort, the front desk can break larger notes into small bills and coins for you: the $20 peso bill is popular for tipping at hotel resorts.

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  1. Transplanted TexAfrican says

    I am living in the Lake Chapala area, having lived in Texas for 40 years before that, and Africa for 25 years before that. I see what is being stated as “appropriate” tipping amounts and I am stunned by how low they are. These should be minimum amounts. People!!! We are not starving if we have the money to retire to Mexico. A lot of service oriented jobs are very hard work and low paid. Will it bankrupt us to be a little more generous? Americans ususally tip well in the USA, 20% for a meal. And that’s on food that is very much more expensive than in Mexico and often not as good. Be generous whenever you can. And PUT THE TIP IN YOUR WAITER’S HAND, not with the payment going back to the cash register. I will continue to do so.

  2. Trim says

    So if you tip at a busy restaurant, do they share tips amongst staff…i.e. cleaning, waiters, table clearing staff chefs etc.? Reading this, I am sure I have been over-tipping (even though for a Canadian it seems minimal).

    • Mexperience says

      Hi Trim, it depends on the policy of the establishment but in most cases the tips are shared so that the front of house and back of house staff also benefit from the tips, not just the person waiting the table.

  3. Kimberly Miles says

    Very helpful article. In a recent trip to Mexico, I tipped the bathroom attendant at a nightclub $100 MXN, which is a little over $5 USD. She gave me an “are you serious” look, and the next time I walked into the bathroom I noticed she had removed it from the tip jar. I didn’t think much of it– back at home I’d probably do the same, especially if I’m somewhere that I know I’d be visiting the restroom often. Not to mention it’s not exactly the best job in the world to have– they deserve to be tipped well! Apparently I had tipped her waaaay too well and had probably made her night. Oops? This is definitely going to take some getting used to. LOL.

  4. Steve Sims says

    I’m always unsure of how to tip at the gas stations. The attendant does (must) pump the gas, and a propina is in order. But I don’t know what’s appropriate. Then it gets more complicated because some wash the windshield and others don’t. Some offer to check oil and tires; others don’t.
    This is always awkward for me because I don’t know of any custom or basis for how much to tip.
    What do others do?

    • Mexperience says

      Hi Steve, check the guide to tipping (link above in the article) which has a section about how much to tip at gasoline stations.

  5. Mary says

    Do the wait staff always get the “propina”? We had almost MXN$ 200 added as propina in a restaurant but the waiter said he does not get the money and that it goes to the restaurant. We added another MXN$ 200 for him. Is that correct?

    • Mexperience says

      Hi Mary,

      It’s unusual for restaurants in Mexico to add the tip automatically to a bill except for large groups and the automatic group service charge is usually stated somewhere on the menu; however, sometimes this does happen and if you received poor service or the tip added to the bill is more than you intended to pay, you should ask to talk with the manager and have the amount altered or removed.

      Further, you should not add more (unless you intended to pay more than what was automatically added). Anything that is labelled as a tip, in Spanish, “propina” or “servicio”, is just that and you should not be coaxed into paying double.

  6. Barbara Macintire says

    When we vacationed in Puerto Vallarta recently we were told not to tip the taxi drivers. I sometimes did anyway. I probably over tipped in general but I always tip 20% in restaurants here and figured they make less in Mexico.

  7. Mexperience says

    Hi First Last and B. Buckman — thank you for comments. The 10 pesos per bag should have read ‘up to 10 pesos’ — we have updated that. As with all tipping situations, the precise amount you tip may also depend on other factors such as whether you were exceptionally well served at a restaurant or the porter went beyond the call of duty to help in some way, etc. Over time living in Mexico you can begin to gauge these elastic situations and get a natural feel for the right level of tip to offer — as demonstrated by the comments left here by people with experience in this area. Thank you again for sharing your insights.

  8. B.Buckman says

    I agree with John’s wife. A ten percent tip in a restaurant is normal. However, my wife, also a Mexican national, gives me ‘the look’ if I don’t up it closer to fifteen percent. As far as the “pase, pases” in the parking lots go a peso is acceptable. Windshield cleaners are paid by some and not by others. I usually give a couple of pesos.

    Also, First Last Word is correct, ten pesos per bag would be excessive although I cannot speak for D.F. it being the NYC of Mexico.

  9. First Last says

    “Arriving at one of the four intercity bus stations in Mexico’s capital and proceeding – as many passengers do – to the taxi kiosk for an authorized taxi fare, a line of waiting ‘porters’ will offer to carry your luggage, walk you to the rank, and hail the next cab for you. They will open the taxi’s door and place your luggage in the car’s trunk. It’s customary to tip the porter about 10 pesos per bag.”

    I certainly would not tip 10 pesos per bag!! Ten pesos total. But I always tip cab drivers 5 pesos if they have not tried to overcharge me.

  10. john says

    My Mexican wife says a tip in a restaurant should not be more than 10%. Many do not tip at all even with a group.
    For just about any other type of tip, from the baggers in a grocery store to the guy in a parking lot that ‘helps’ you back out to the guys that wash your windshield at traffic lights. A 5 peso tip is generous.
    Of course we gringos usually over tip.

    • Crystal says

      5 pesos is less than $1 US dollar people.
      If there is no service charge already added to the bill, standard gratuity is at the very least 15%.
      Unless your total meal equals less than $6 US dollars, you should not be tipping that low.
      Keep in mind the work & time required to serve you and the minimum daily wage they make.
      Also please educate yourself with currency exchange rates before you travel. It will make your stay much more enjoyable when you tip accordingly!

  11. Rachel says

    very helpful, thank you! I hired a shuttle service to drive us from the airport to our room, do I tip the driver and if so how much?

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