2022-12-22T17:20:31-05:00May 11, 2021|

Tipping in Canada: Things to know as a newcomer

Canada, like many other countries, has a prominent tipping culture. Tipping (also called, leaving gratuity) when receiving any services tells the staff how good you thought their service was. 

Even if you’re familiar with the practice of tipping, different countries have their own standards for gratuity. That’s why as a newcomer, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the tipping culture in Canada so you know exactly how much to pay in varied scenarios and avoid any surprises (or shocks) and cultural misunderstandings. Additionally, as a bonus, knowing how much to tip will also help you budget and plan your expenses better.

In this article:

Calculate your cost of living in Canada

Understanding the tipping culture in Canada

Tipping may not be common in your home country but is deeply ingrained in Canadian life. It is not mandatory but in certain situations, it is customary and expected. Not tipping for services is considered rude. With that said, if the service was not up to your expectation, you are free to decide how much you want to tip for it.

Tips Icon  Tip:
If your meal at a restaurant was not satisfactory, it might be better to speak with the manager instead of foregoing the tip; they may be able to offer a complimentary dish or discount.

Why do people tip?

In Canada, service and hospitality industry workers (such as bartenders, servers, hairdressers, drivers, food delivery persons, etc.) are generally paid only minimum wage. Some provinces have a separate (lower) minimum wage for the hospitality industry: the expectation is that tips earned will make up the difference for these workers. 

When and where to tip in Canada

It is common to tip when paying for services in the hospitality industry. This includes but isn’t limited to:

  • Restaurant wait staff; 
  • Food or grocery delivery personnel; 
  • Bartenders; 
  • Coat check personnel; 
  • Hotel staff (like housekeeping, maids, bellhop, valet, and room service); 
  • Hair stylists, beauticians and masseurs; 
  • Taxi drivers and ride-share (Uber/Lyft) drivers.
Note Icon  Note
You are not expected to tip for counter service (e.g. at coffee shops and cafes – where you place an order over the counter, food trucks, ice cream shops, bakeries, etc.). You’ll often see tip jars at these places. You can tip if you receive good or exceptional service, but it isn’t expected.
Tips Icon  Tip:
Sometimes the tip may be automatically added to the bill; be sure to check that so you don’t tip twice.

Average tips for various services in Canada

Type of service Average tip (before taxes)
Restaurant wait staff
  • For dine-in: 15 to 20 per cent; less for poor service, more for exceptional service. 
  • For takeout: No tips [Note: During the pandemic, many people have begun leaving tips for wait staff who prepare the takeout orders.]

Note: Many restaurants may charge an automatic 15-18 per cent gratuity for large groups. This is up to the individual restaurant but is usually applicable to groups of eight or more.

Food delivery person 10 per cent
Bartenders 15 to 20 per cent of total amount 
Coat check $1 to $2 CAD per coat
Hotel staff
  • Housekeeping staff and maids: $2 to $5 CAD per night
  • Concierge: $1 to $20 CAD, depending on the service provided
  • Bellhop: $1 to $2 CAD per bag
  • Valet: $2 to $5 CAD
  • Room service: 15 per cent of the bill (or $2 at a minimum)
Hair stylists, beauticians and masseurs 15 to 20 per cent
Taxi drivers or Uber/Lyft drivers 10 to 20 per cent, depending on the service offered. If the driver helps you with your luggage or guides you to different places, you should consider tipping on the higher side.
Tipping in Quebec:
18 to 20 per cent is the norm and for a really good service, customers tip as high as 25 per cent.

How to calculate tips and choose the right amount while paying tips

Standard tips or gratuity amounts vary from province to province, depending on the region’s minimum wage. For calculation purposes, generally, tips are applied to the amount before taxes. However, point-of-sale (card swipe) machines that automatically calculate tips/gratuity use the amount including taxes – which tends to slightly increase the percentage of your tip. For instance, if you intend to tip 15 per cent, you might end up paying between 16 to 17 per cent. 

Formula to calculate tips or gratuity:
Tip amount = Amount excluding sales tax x (tip rate / 100).

Here are a few scenarios for calculating tips: 

At a restaurant: 

  • Scenario: You dine in at a restaurant in downtown Toronto. The food and service were great. Your final bill is $30 CAD without taxes.
  • Calculating the tip: You decide to tip 20 per cent.
    Tip amount = 30 x (20/100) = $6 CAD.
    Total amount you pay = $30 CAD + $6 CAD + taxes (as outlined on the bill) = $36 CAD + taxes.

Tips Icon  Tip:
While paying at restaurants: Sometimes the tax percentage can help you figure out what the right restaurant tip should be. For example, in Nova Scotia, sales tax is 15 per cent, so be sure to tip at least as much as the tax amount. In Alberta, for instance, the sales tax is 5 per cent. In this case, you should multiply the tax by three to get the minimum tip amount.

For a cab ride: 

  • Scenario: You take a cab from Vancouver international airport to your residence downtown. The cab driver does not help you with your luggage. The fare comes up to $40 CAD when you reach your destination.
  • Calculating the tip: Since the cab driver wasn’t helpful, you decide to tip 15 per cent.
    Tip amount = 40 x (15/100) = $6 CAD.
    Total amount you pay = $40 CAD + $6 CAD = $46 CAD.
    In this case, there would be no additional taxes applied.

Note Icon  Note
In Canada, licensed taxis generally use the meter, however in some instances, like trips to and from the airport, flat rates apply based on the area you are driving to or from. A tip is expected regardless of whether you pay the metered fee or the flat fee.

At a hair salon: 

  • Scenario: You decide to get a haircut at a local salon in Calgary. The hairdresser suggests some recommendations for a new look and provides excellent service; you are very happy with the result. The salon charges you $85 CAD, pre-tax. 
  • Calculating the tip: To compensate for great service, you decide to tip 20 per cent.
    Tip amount = 85 x (20/100) = $17 CAD.
    Total amount you pay = $85 CAD + $17 CAD + taxes (as outlined on the bill) = $102 CAD + taxes.

Lastly, do keep in mind that the numbers provided in this article are all averages, and while you should tip based on the quality of service you receive, not tipping at all for a service is considered rude. At times, the Canadian city you live in may have slightly different standards or expectations for gratuity so be sure to read, observe and learn for a smooth transition into Canadian life.