This topic seems to be popping up more and more as more Americans are visiting France because the dollar is stronger. Friends are always asking me, how should I tip?. So, I’ve decided to write specifically about tipping in France, based on what I know and from my own personal experiences.
First let me start by saying that “Service” and “Tipping” are basically the same. It’s semantics.
In France all prices include service and taxes, and taxes are itemized on your bill under TVA (European Value Added Tax). Approximately 15% of that price corresponds to the service. And, since 2008 a law was passed to ensure that this is passed onto the service staff in addition to their salary. That is why when you get your bill, whether it be for a restaurant, hairdresser, cab etc. it’s all inclusive. While service may not be itemized on the bill it is already built in. Some restaurants may state on the menu that "service inclus" (service included), but that is only a nicety; it always is included by law.
So, net-net service is always included as mandated by French law. But that doesn’t mean you can’t tip. So for example, tipping in Japan would be considered extremely rude (cultural differences), whereas tipping in France is considered more a “gesture” of kindness and appreciation, since wait staff do not depend on tips for their livelihood as they do in the U.S.
Keep in mind it is NOT necessary to tip. But here are some of my guidelines.
Cafés, Bistros and and/or brasseries.
Typically, if we stop for a quick café or drink we will round up our bill. So for example, if our bill comes to 5.20€ we will leave 6€. This is true for a quick meal, e.g., at a lunch at bistros and/or brasseries. And, if you go to a take out service, you won't see tip jars as you would in US. The exception to this would be at places frequented by Americans, but this is rare. And, tipping at these places is a personal choice.
When I speak about restaurants, I'm referring to higher end restaurants. Again, tips are never expected, but for EXCEPTIONAL service, you leave a few Euros. For example, we recently went to dinner and the service staff was just incredible, attentive and super nice. Our bill came to over 220€ for 2-people, we left a 5€ tip. Again, it's a gesture to show appreciation rather than supplement their livelihood. We leave cash, rather than upping the credit charge, because #1 there is no place on the credit card slip for a tip, and #2 if you up the charge, the house gets the tip and it does not necessarily go to the wait person.
Taxis, Uber, Shuttle Service.
Some taxis will charge extra for large bulky suitcases, and there is always a charge for more than 1 suitcase, but they will let you know up front. And, taxis rates depend on time of day, e.g., day charge, night charge and overnight charge. Leaving a tip is personal. If you felt the taxi driver did extra by helping you with your luggage, then a few Euros (2-5€), is appreciated. But typically in Paris proper, rounding up is always good.
Additionally, as a general rule if a shuttle service helps you with your bulky luggage leaving a Euro or two per bag is much appreciated. As for Uber, typically no money is exchanged and they often do not accept additional tips. I have my Uber account set up to leave a 5% tip if I use the to go to the airport because oftentimes I will have bulky luggages, but this is a personal choice.
Personal services, e.g., hairdresser, manicurist.
Again, tips are not necessary, but if you have a close relationship a few Euros never hurts.
My general rule of thumb with hotel concierges is if you had them do some research or they were able to get a much sought after reservations for a restaurant you want to go to, in other words any "herculean" effort on their part, then I would leave a minimum of 5€ and higher, depending on the caliber of hotel you're staying at.
I would say a Euro or two a bag, depending on how heavy and bulky it is.
Many bathrooms at e.g., Carrousel du Louvre have a charge for using their restrooms. Some may not, but will have a tip plate for the attendant. Usually some change is much appreciated, but no more than a Euro.
In any large city, there will always be people who will try to cheat you. For example, if you get a bill and the bill says, “Tip not included”, it's semantics. Some restaurants do this to get additional revenue. As I mentioned, by French law service is always included! You do not need to tip unless the food and service was exceptional. I once got such a bill and I decided to peek at the bills of local French people versus the Americans at this restaurant. What I discovered did not make me a happy camper. Only the Americans got "Tip not included" on their bill. Needless to say I was not pleased and complained to management, and never went back!
Always, always check your bill, especially at tourists areas. When I first moved here, I once had a guy try to cheat me by saying 3-drinks was 50€, really? Once I questioned this, he apologized, but I knew exactly what he was trying to do. Forewarning, this happens a lot around the Notre Dame, and even happens to French speaking tourist from e.g., Canada.
My current observations.
We've been here since 2008, and I have to say the French attitude on tipping has changed. The French for many years felt adamant about not leaving any money at all e.g., restaurants. But this is changing. From my observation more and more people are leaving a few Euros after a nice meal. Or if they have a close relationship with their e.g., neighborhood restaurant they will leave some money (change). I always leave a few Euros at my favorite cafés since I go there often and am known by the wait staff. Again, it's not much, but it's to show appreciation. And, as a result of this small gesture they treat me special and I consider them more my friends than the wait-staff.
There are varied opinions on tipping from various magazines to bloggers. I recently read a very well known travel magazine on "tipping guides in France", and said, e.g., you should tip 10% for taxis, 5% for restaurants, 10% for tour guides, and the list went on-and-on. All based on percentages, REALLY? This is an American custom, not French. I realize tipping is a personal matter. Again, I want to stress it's not obligatory in France, but more a gesture of appreciation.
NOTE: This is from my personal experience and from what I know.