Tipping people for services rendered is a practice that is deeply ingrained in Mexican culture. In Mexico, as in most countries, the people who work in leisure, tourism, and catering earn a basic wage and depend upon service tips to supplement their income.
Tipping in a variety of situations
The practice of tipping goes far beyond the restaurant table here. As our guide to tipping etiquette explains, there are many situations in Mexico where a small tip is appropriate, and keeping change on-hand, in the form of small denomination coins, is essential for this purpose when you are visiting or living in the country.
Key situations where a tip may be appropriate
There are three situations which are worth a particular mention as they are often overlooked by visitors and residents new to Mexican culture:
The first relates to the unsung heroines (they are invariably women) of the hotel industry: chamber maids. They will often travel a considerable distance to reach your hotel and spend the day cleaning and keeping guest rooms in good order, so that when you get back to your room, it’s waiting for you clean, fresh, and tidy.
It’s appropriate to leave a small tip and leave it each day because work schedules change, and the maid who cleaned your room initially may not be on duty the day you check-out.
The amount of the tip should vary depending upon the category of hotel: a sum in Mexican pesos, left in cash on the side table (next to the maid’s greeting card if one is present), equivalent to between US$1 (for economy hotels) and US$5 (for luxury hotels) per day is suggested and will be sincerely appreciated.
Supermarket bag packers and car park helpers
The second situation concerns students and retired folks working at supermarkets across the country to pack bags at the checkout counters. For students, the money they earn contributes to the funding of their education; for retired folks, the money they earn supplements their pension.
When you roll your shopping cart of out the store into the car park you might notice some people waiting and offering to help you. They will take your cart to your car (or hail a local cab, if you need one) and load your shopping bags into the car’s trunk. A small tip of $5-10 pesos is appropriate.
Bag packers and car park helpers are not salaried and work entirely on tips.
All-inclusive hotels and package tours
The third situation relates to “all inclusive” hotels and travel packages or tours. A small few packages stipulate that ‘tips are included’ and in this case no further tipping is required.
However in most cases, guides, porters, the concierge, meal table waiting staff, and the chamber maids (see above) will appreciate a tip—even if, for example, the price of your meals (or just breakfast) is included in the room rate.
For local guides and tour leaders: a reasonable tip commensurate with the amount of time and knowledge they shared with you is appropriate.
For hotel and waiting staff: one US dollar (equivalent in Mexican pesos) per bag for porters; a 10% tip of the bill (or what the bill would likely have been if the plan was a-la-carte instead of all inclusive) left on the table after each meal or round of drinks at the bar; and a tip for the chamber maids (see above) will be very much valued.
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.
Further insights on tipping culture
Mexperience offers more advice about local tipping etiquette: