Visiting Croatia means you’ll probably frequent some of the local bars and restaurants, maybe even a festival or two. Prices for drinks and food are fixed and noted on the menus, but there’s always that crucial question without an official answer: do you leave a tip, and if yes, how much? This article is an attempt to provide some insight into the tipping etiquette in Croatia from a local’s perspective.
So, should you leave a tip?
Let’s back up a bit for some context. (If you’re not here for context but for some guidelines on tipping, feel free to scroll down to the second part of the article.)
Storytime: it’s August 2014, and I’m at a music festival somewhere on the coast. It’s 5 AM, almost the end of a 12-hour shift that had me working the bar alongside of a friend of mine. Almost, as we’re still an hour away from closing the bar, and are then facing the dreary process of disassembling the whole structure and checking if the receipts match the total revenue for all three days. Both of us want to crawl into a hole somewhere and sleep for a week. Alas, the last customers standing show no intention of leaving, even though the 98% of the festival crowd had already left the site and headed straight for their tents.
There’s a guy with a couple of friends, all of them regulars at our register throughout the festival, and so far, we haven’t seen a single tip from them. They’ve been racking up orders amounting to a couple of thousand kuna daily, returning to the bar up to ten times every night. Good for us, good for them – except, they’ve been a real nuisance when it came to actually paying. Bad jokes, big bills that we had no change for, accusations that we were pretending not to have any change to force a tip out of them. Trust me, when you run out of small bills and coins around 11 PM and see none until 3 AM, nobody’s pretending – you’ll either have to wait for 10 minutes until I manage to borrow a couple of kuna from another register, or you can be a nice person (and a great customer!) and leave a small tip. Not even to “unnecessarily reward us for doing our job” (nicely put, thank you), but to avoid frustration on our part, your part, and the part of dozens of people waiting in line behind you. When you order a round of whiskey for your entourage for a total of 298 kuna and hand me 300, every now and then, try saying ‘keep the change’ instead of showering your bartenders with insults because they only managed to scrape those two remaining kuna in really small change.
So, it’s 5 AM, he orders the last beer, and says… “Girls, you’ve been really great these three days, the fastest ones at the bar and I’ve enjoyed spending my time here. So, to reward you…” oh my God, is that an actual tip coming? – “…here’s some advice: don’t put that last one into the register, keep what I gave you, heh heh.” Advising us to cheat our employers so we could keep your 15 kuna? How about paying for the beer and topping that with another 15? Jesus. And there I was, tired and annoyed, serving that last beer with a smile and fake-laughing at his shitty remark, thinking how some people do this job all year round. I barely made it for three days. This article is dedicated to all bartenders, servers, cleaning staff, and all other workers in tourism that will spend the whole summer on their feet, making sure you’re happy with the service provided. If you wonder about the need to tip, apart from the rare cases when the staff has treated you poorly, the answer is always yes: leave a tip!
You might have heard stories about the tourist staff coming from all parts of Croatia (and from some Eastern European countries lately) to work on the coast during summer because they’re getting good money for a couple of months spent working in bars and restaurants. Accurate in general, but keep in mind that things don’t always end up being so rosy. Those people serving your drinks are 80% college students trying to make some money for their tuition, and 20% other young people trying to make a living or support their families. While the summer season salaries tend to be higher than average, the majority of seasonal workers aren’t locals and need to find a place to stay. Accommodation doesn’t always come as a part of the deal, as the employers often end up not staying true to their word, so people need to manage on their own. Rent in Dubrovnik, Split and Hvar doesn’t come cheap, especially in summer months, which sometimes means the person serving your meal spends two weeks working only to cover their rent for the month. When it comes to lower-ranking staff, nobody gets rich off the summer season, and here’s where those tips come in to save the day. Those 3, 5 or 10 kuna, depending on your total order, probably won’t mean a lot to you personally, but make a big difference for a local waiter. We’re young, we want to work, our country unfortunately doesn’t provide us with many opportunities lately, so we manage however we can. Help the hard-working locals to scrape some savings together for the winter months – they will appreciate it.
How much, though?
Bars, coffee shops, festivals etc – round it up
When it comes to tipping in bars, there’s no rule. The best route to take is to round up the total: if it’s 27 kuna, make it 30. If it’s 91, make it 95 or even a 100. Of course, provided the service was acceptable and the waiters were polite and friendly. You’re not actually expected to leave a tip in bars and cafes, as most locals will also often skip the tip. That decision comes down to individual customers, and you won’t be met with scorn and annoyed huffs and puffs when you ask for the change. However, if you’re satisfied in general, be kind and leave something extra – a couple of kuna will suffice.
Restaurants – 10%
Restaurants as establishments are a bit more serious than bars and require a more thorough service on the waiters’ part, so the etiquette says you should leave a tip of 10%. If the service was extremely good, the staff helpful and friendly, and you found everything to your liking, you can raise those 10% to a higher percentage of your choice. That applies both to smaller taverns and finer restaurants.
Also, we hope it won’t come to that, but in case the service was horrible, nobody will blame you if you don’t leave a tip. What makes for horrible service? Not getting the basics and being treated rudely. I once went to a well-known restaurant in the centre of Zagreb where the utensils were missing, I got a really annoyed sigh from a waiter when I asked for a fork so I could eat my lunch, and I had to wait fifteen more minutes to get the actual fork. Didn’t feel bad for paying the exact amount printed on my receipt. I’m a very pleasant and polite person in general and I don’t expect to be treated like a princess in a local restaurant mostly frequented by tourists in summer months, but come on – learn some manners. Never got the second drink I ordered, by the way.
Wellness, spa, beauty centres – no need, 10% recommended
Also an unwritten rule and nobody will think of you as cheap if you don’t tip, but you’re advised to leave an extra 10% or even 15% for beauty services and spa treatments provided. That goes for masseuses, hairdressers, beauticians and other staff that’s there to make you look and feel your best.
Hotel staff – no need, but recommended
There’s no tipping etiquette when it comes to hotels, such as cleaning staff and porters. Nobody will expect a tip, but if you’re happy with the service, you can leave 10-20 kuna for the people carrying your luggage and the maids cleaning your room, especially at the end of your stay.
Taxis – no need / round up
You’re definitely not required to tip the taxi drivers as it isn’t even a local practice. However, if you found the ride comfortable and the driver professional, we suggest rounding up the fee. They work long hours and are often met with unpleasant customers, so you’ll probably brighten their day. If it’s a private taxi, don’t be surprised if the driver leaves you his business card to give him a call if you find yourself in need of a taxi again.
Window cleaners at gas stations – small tip
A cute one to conclude the article: if you’re travelling by car and stop at a gas station, you might notice one or two high school students washing car windows. I’ve tried my hand at that particular summer job a long time ago, and I’ve noticed a lot of tourists thought we were paid by the company and that the service was provided free of charge. While there is no official fee for the window-cleaning, those kids are working for tips only to make some pocket money on their summer break, so if they clean your car, make sure to leave a couple of kuna. They’re missing the fun with their friends at the beach after all – at least help them get some ice cream!
One last thing to keep in mind: most establishments take credit cards, but it’s customary to pay in cash in bars and cafes. Service staff in restaurants will always check what’s your preferred method of paying before printing the receipt, but if you want to pay by card in bars, make sure to ask the waiter before you order. If you use your credit card to pay, you can leave the tip in cash because most often there’s no option to round up the bill for cards.
So there you have it, how to tip in Croatia. Apart from 10% in restaurants and wellness, most of the other situations fall in the ’round it up if you’re satisfied’ category. You’ll get the hang of it quickly, and the staff will remember you with fondness. Have a nice stay!