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How to go about tipping in Costa Rica

How to go about tipping in Costa RicaYou just arrived at the international airport in Costa Rica. As soon as you walk outside arrivals, 10 guys jump on you, trying to help you with your suitcases. Of course they want to get paid for their services, how much should you pay them?
You’re having a great lunch with friends in this fish restaurant in Jaco Beach and the service is outstanding. Should you tip at all and how much?
Propina is the right word for a tip in Costa Rica. A 10% service charge is customary in most parts of the world. Well, in Costa Rica, the 10% propina is not customary, its LAW.
In all restaurants and bars, the service charge of 10% will show on your invoice as Imp. Servicio and is charged over the total sum of the products consumed. The 13% sales tax (soon to be called IVA) is calculated after the 10% service tax is added. So you pay the sum of the products + 10% + 13%. If you are a real fanatic in finding out more, you can check the law in Spanish by clicking here  

Restaurant and bar employees

In Costa Rica, restaurant and bar employees are on a minimum salary, which includes their social security. Service charges or tip are ALWAYS included in your bill. Therefore there is no need to tip on top of the bill, unless the service was outstanding.  It is quite customary to leave any loose change as tip. Be aware that lots of smart waiters give you plenty of unnecessary loose change so you can leave a generous tip without noticing. 
I have also seen waiters not to return change if you pay them cash, just taking for granted that the difference is extra tip. Don’t fall for that story as it is unacceptable.
10% Tip in the restaurants is included in your bill
10% Tip in the restaurants is included in your bill

Taxi drivers

Tips to taxi drivers aren’t really necessary, unless you use the same driver all the time. Lots of expats ask a driver they feel comfortable with for their cellphone number so they can use him/her as a private driver. In that case, it’s a good habit to tip them without overdoing it. 10 – 15% should be sufficient when they’re nice to you, when they don’t take the long way to get you home or when they help you with your luggage.


In Costa Rica, when you park your car on the street, even when there is a parking meter, you will find someone watching over a bunch of cars. We call them a guachiman (Watchman). If you don’t give them any money, next time you go to that same place, they might scratch your car. 200 – 300 Colones should be sufficient to keep them happy and they will watch your car next time too.
Keep the guachiman happy and he will watch your car next time too
Keep the guachiman happy and he will watch your car next time too

Tour guides and dive masters

It is good practice to give your tour guide or dive master a tip of 10% of the cost of your tour.

Bellhops and skycaps 

Bellhops are covered by the service charges but they expect you to give them a tip when they help you with your luggage to your room. A couple of bucks should suffice. The skycaps at the airport expect you to give them $5 but if it’s only a couple of suitcases they take care of, don’t give them more than half that unless you have a truckload of luggage. 

Are you a good tipper?

North Americans are customarily good tippers, that’s because the system works basically on tipping. Europeans rarely tip well. If the job is done well, they should get get paid well, it’s a system that works based on performance. That’s how it is in Costa Rica (except in the bars and restaurants), but don’t let them take advantage of you because you’re a gringo but don’t over-tip either. Not always you will find the great service you would expect and you should feel free to say so.
Not always you will find the great service you would expect
Not always you will find the great service you would expect

No tips for real estate agents

There is no need to give our real estate agents any tips. We are not tour guides, we sell real estate for a commission paid by the seller. Just make sure that when you look at properties with any of our GoDutch Realty agents, you buy property from us and not from our competitors. We’ll appreciate your business and do more for you after the purchase than you could ever imagine. Check our testimonials and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.


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I DO want to remind our readers that we appreciate any referrals you can send us. I know you all meet people on the plane, in the supermarket, at yoga, at the gym, at the Blooms ladies club, at the potluck organized by your community. Please remember the GoDutch Realty agents when you talk about your home in Costa Rica, when you meet someone who wants to purchase one, we appreciate it.


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Ivo Henfling

If you are looking to buy a home in Costa Rica or invest in a condo anywhere in the central Valley, or looking for any property for sale in Escazu, you need to call me. I have been selling real estate in Escazu for over 20 years and can show you hundreds of happy buyers of real estate in Escazu and other areas. To me, a deal is not a good deal unless both buyer and seller are happy.

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