Tipping Culture in Cape Town: What You Need to Know

Last Updated on July 12, 2024 by Hannah Stephenson

One thing that you should know about South Africa is that there’s a strong tipping culture. However, tipping here is often done quite differently than in other countries. 

The way they tip with cards here is definitely a bit weird! And when I first got here, there were quite a few instances when I should have tipped, but didn’t know that I was supposed to. But a few years later, I’m an old hat at the tipping game.

For that reason, I’ve written this guide to help you avoid any potential faux pas. Let’s get into it! 

How Much to Tip 

As a general rule, it’s customary to tip 10% in South Africa. If you remember this, you won’t go far wrong. 

Of course, there are some exceptions, but in restaurants, bars, and at beauty salons or on tours, I tend to tip around 10%. 

However, if I get excellent service in a restaurant or my lash technician does a fantastic job, I will happily tip up to 20%.

Car guards are a slightly different kettle of fish, since you don’t ask for their services. They just sort of pop up! Most people keep small change and tip them R5 – R10 when they return to their car. I sometimes tip them a bit more if they help me out. 

Why Tip?

Workers in the service industry rely heavily on tips to make their money. Basic wages among waiters and bartenders are typically very low, so if customers don’t tip, these workers struggle to support themselves. 

Selfishly, it’s also a good idea to tip well at a bar as the bartenders will usually give you preferential treatment over stingier customers. 

Since the pound, euro, and dollar are so strong against the South African rand, a 10% tip usually doesn’t make a huge difference for a tourist. It will mean a lot more to the person you’re tipping! 

Who to Tip

Here’s a list of the workers I usually tip in Cape Town:

  • Waiters
  • Bartenders
  • Uber drivers (this can be done via the app or in cash)
  • Petrol attendants
  • Car guards
  • Tour guides (especially on free tours)
  • Beauty professionals, such as hairdressers, manicurists, and lash technicians 

How to Tip 

Obviously, tipping in cash is always welcome. However, I rarely carry cash with me in Cape Town! 

If you tip on a card, it’s done in a slightly different way to lots of other countries. Instead of adding the amount after your bill, you add it to your bill and pay it all in one.

So if my bill at a restaurant is R200, I would ask my waiter to round it up to R220. 

At first, I was worried that this meant the money would go to the restaurant, not the staff. However, the servers assured me that they still get their share of the tips. 

And for car guards, it’s best to keep some small change handy, as they don’t have card machines. 

When Not to Tip 

As you may be able to gather, exploring Cape Town involves quite a lot of tipping! However, there are a few instances where you really don’t need to tip. 

Parking attendants: parking attendants in the city center look a lot like car guards sometimes, but they’re actually employed by the city. They have card machines and will charge you for parking. These guys aren’t the same as car guards and they don’t work off of tips. 

When service charge has already been added to your bill: sometimes, restaurants will add service charge to your bill, so double check this before you tip twice! I always check to make sure. 

When car guards are rude or threatening: this is rare, but occasionally car guards can get a little aggressive. If they try to intimidate you, don’t give them anything as this just encourages this kind of behaviour. Don’t tip them when you first park up, either – wait until you come back to the car. 

Thanks so much for reading this article. I hope it gave you a better idea of how tipping works in Cape Town! For more guides and resources to help you plan your trip, make sure to check out the following…

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