Tipping is relatively simple in France. When ordering a café crème, keep these helpful hints in mind. When you’re out and about, keep a few euros on hand.

You have just finished lunch at a charming French café and have just received your bill. Your hand is resting on your wallet. In France, should you leave a tip? Yes, if you received good service. Because service is part of the country’s hospitality sector, tips are not expected in all French restaurants, taxis, and hotels. Unlike in some other countries, all employees, from waiters to bellhops, receive a fair monthly wage as well as paid holidays and other benefits.

Customers can, however, choose to show their appreciation for good service by leaving a gratuity, the amount of which varies depending on the type of establishment and service. When visiting France, follow these helpful tipping guidelines.

Tipping In Restaurants And Cafés

Let’s get one thing clear right away:

  • Tipping is not expected in restaurants.
  • Waiters and waitresses are not expected to be tipped.
  • ALL cafés, restaurants, and bars automatically include a 15% service fee in the price of each item (it is not on top of the total).
  • Servers in France are paid, have paid vacations, health insurance, and a living wage.

Don’t bring your ingrained tipping anxiety to France — “What percentage is polite?” — dealing with you. This is not the United States of America. Workers are not permitted to work for less than the minimum wage, as they are in the United States. If you pay the bill and leave a restaurant without tipping, no one will yell at you or avoid you.

However, it is always polite to tip when you have received good service (wow, what a novelty). The French have a habit of rounding up to the nearest euro or two. Even when dining at a Michelin-starred restaurant, my rather affluent French friend, who likes to eat out for every single meal (he is a bachelor), never tips less than €2 or more than €20. However, if you WANT to, you can leave more money, especially if you have been a particularly demanding client (for example, did you even try to order in French?)

Explanation Of The “15% Service Compris”

A lot of the misunderstanding stems from the terminology (and yes, even “expat tour guides” quoted in Travel + Leisure Magazine articles can be mistaken). If you inquire with the server if the tip is part of it, they will tell you that it is not. This is because, in France, a tip (or “pourboire”) is a tip, and “service” refers to the portion of the total bill that goes toward paying for the staff. Traditionally, the French would leave 15% for the service PLUS a tip.

The French government passed a law in 1985 requiring all employees to be paid the minimum wage (known as le SMIC in France), effectively abolishing the system of relying on clients to pay servers’ salaries. To ensure that the French customers understand, all menus must state “15% service included” (which also justifies restaurants raising their prices to cover that). So, this is the LAW in France (see the Ministry of Economy’s official statement here), and it clearly states that tips are optional, and the amount is up to the client. French people will still leave a small tip if they feel so inclined, but they are aware that it is “extra” for the server.

In the United States, what we really pay for is the service, not a tip. That’s probably why we feel bad when we do not leave the full recommended (or, let us be honest, mandatory) 20%. Leaving a tip should feel good, not confusing and unpleasant.

When using a credit card, there is usually no place to leave a tip (except in the most touristy restaurants). If you intend to tip, bring cash or ask the server to add it to the bill before you pay. Although if and when they actually see any of that tip is debatable.

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Important Note

The VAT (or the TVA en français) has been reduced to 5.5% for food but remains at 19.6% for wine and some luxury foods, both of which are itemized on your bill but are included in the menu item prices rather than being added on top at checkout as we do in the US.

Don’t Tip For Bad Service

Don’t let them guilt you into tipping if you received poor service. Don’t feel obligated to tip for poor service. It reduces the quality of service. That is not what we need in France!

Tipping Is Not Expected In French Restaurants And Cafés

Whether you are at a Michelin-starred restaurant or a neighborhood café, 15 percent is automatically included in French restaurant service by law. The phrase “service compris” appears on the menu or on the bill to indicate this. However, if your waiter is friendly or efficient, you can leave a small gratuity (known as un pourboire), but this is not required.

In more touristy restaurants, you may encounter bold waiters who try to convince you that a gratuity is not included. They are technically correct; service is included, but a gratuity is not. You are not supposed to leave them anything. You can round up the value to the nearest euro or just leave about 20 to 50 centimes per drink for a simple beverage. You could tip one to two euros per person for a meal at a casual café or restaurant. You may want to tip 5 to 10% for a fine dining establishment with service that is comparatively more attentive.

Because there is no option to leave a tip on French credit card slips, it is great to have some change or small bills on hand for tipping (service is included in the price). You can request that the waiter add a tip before entering the total amount on the credit card terminal; however, you can’t be certain that this is actually paid to staff.

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Tipping Taxi Drivers And Private Chauffeurs

Taxi drivers are not expected to be tipped; however, locals frequently round up to the nearest euro or leave up to 5%. If the driver assists you with your luggage (especially if it is large), it is customary to tip one or two euros per luggage bag.

You could tip 5 to 10% for a private car service, such as an airport transfer or a full-day car tour.

Tipping At Hotels

Depending on your hotel, you may wish to leave a gratuity for a variety of services.

One Or Two Euros Per Bag For Luggage Handlers

So, a couple of euros is a small price to pay for assistance with your luggage through lobbies, elevators, and corridors.

Doormen: One Or Two Euros

Send a few notes to those who are hailing cabs or providing valet service.

Room Service Waiters: A Few Euros

It is customary to tip the wait staff with a couple of notes or coins. When you check-in, ask for a change or directions to the nearest ATM.

Housekeeping Staff: Two To Four Euros Per Day

More unsung heroes who make our journeys run smoothly. You can give the money directly or leave it in an envelope.

Concierge: Five To 20 Euros

If you’ve asked your concierge to make a restaurant reservation or arrange for other services, you should tip between five and twenty euros, depending on what they’ve done for you.

Tipping In Spas Or Beauty Salons

In France, you should tip hairdressers, beauticians, massage therapists, and other wellness professionals 5 to 10%, so put this money aside ahead of time.

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Gratuities For Theater Ushers

Although ushers should be paid a salary, it is customary to tip a euro or two in private theatres. If you’re going to the opera, a classical concert, or a play, bring some coins with you.

Final Words

Tipping in France can be a little murky here. Tipping is not expected if you book a private tour, class, or excursion directly with a guide or instructor. If you book through an online booking platform, a tour company, or your concierge, you may wish to leave a 10-20% gratuity if you are pleased with your experience. If you have any doubts, double-check your booking confirmation; tipping information is usually included in the fine print.

In the few years behind us, there has been a rise in the amount of “free tours” in major cities. Although the tour is advertised as “free,” the guides must pay a set fee (around two euros) to the tour company for each person who shows up at the start of the tour—even if some drop off along the way. If you take one of these tours and enjoy your guide, consider leaving at least five to seven euros per person so that the guide can tip the waiter at his favorite café.