TIPPING....Reality vs Tradition?

Old Aug 1st, 2008, 10:27 AM
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TIPPING....Reality vs Tradition?

In preparation for our safari departure next week, I went to the bank yesterday and came home with more cash than I even like to look at! The tipping fund is huge, especially in small bills!

I want to be generous with tips, but have concerns about the suggested amounts,like giving guides/drivers $10ppd. On only one vehicle, that driver/guide will make more that a year's average income in just two days. Yes, I gather that they really "make" our safari,and are "invaluable",but still, doesn't that seem out of wack to anyone else?

Are these guidelines in existence because of tradition? In the early days when only the "overprivileged" went "on safari". I'm sure they gave generously when they saw such poverty, both for altruistic reasons and because it probably relieved any feelings of guilt they had for their own privilege.

But is it really the right thing to do when you consider that the average Tanzanian annual income is $100? (Info. from a TZ informational site)

Just think if we were to tip the same way in the US...a scale in which one worker's tips provided a year's average annual salary in a 2 day period! Can you think of a profession that deserves THAT MUCH from us? Think about that! (And yes, many who wait on us in the US are not making enough for food and housing,even if they work 2 jobs.)

By my calculations,one vehicle of 5-6 passengers, each giving $10pppd for one day=$50-$60/day.) And remember, these same guides receive these amounts repeatedly. OAT alone seems to have trips every few days. They must accumulate huge sums by their standards.

I just don't understand the reasoning. There seems to be no rational way of calculating this tipping practice. I do read that Americans are known for their overtipping, which is resented by travelers from other countries where tipping is not practiced at all...(only coins of appreciation are left.)

I do think that those of us who can afford to travel should be very generous in our annual donations, and we try to be. There is so much poverty and need in the world, even in the USA. But to over-tip in such a poor country seems oddly unbalanced.

On the related subject of bring gifts,we plan to make a nice donation to the Nothing but Nets program, where I think it will really do some important good. Donations go 100% to buying treated bed nets for children under 5yrs and families are instructed in their use. I believe it was Patty or Lynn who suggested this organization. I thank you for the great suggestion.

For me, giving to vastly improve or even save a life feels good. Overtipping a person who probably has one of the best jobs in Tanzania, does not...it just serves to make me feel socially accepted.

What if each of us chose to tip appropriately, then gave the money saved to help eradicate an illness instead? (Only $10 buys a net.) What an enormous difference we could make in conjunction with our safari experience!

It wouldn't surprise me to get "O" response from the forum. I know that it is normally a very positive, "feel good" site, as it should be. But I can't help thinking the many others feel as I do, and are merely going along with the crowd against their true feelings.

I hope I do get a response, even if negative. I am a critical thinker and ofter march to a different drummer, so I can take some good discussion and criticism well-meant.
makinghay is offline  
Old Aug 1st, 2008, 11:39 AM
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when you consider that the average Tanzanian annual income is $100?

I believe the "average per capita income" in Tanzania is $800/year, not $100.

I want to be generous with tips

Definitely fooled me, based on the rest of your post.

have concerns about the suggested amounts,like giving guides/drivers $10ppd

Most of the tipping guide lines put out by the safari companies in Kenya and Tanzania suggest $10 to $30 for the driver/guide per vehicle, split between the occupants. Some of the tour companies suggest the $10/day/person and I know the guides would appreciate this sum, but they almost never seem to get it.

I think the tipping structure is different in SA and Bots, but in Kenya and Tz the $10-30/day total is pretty typical, at least for the companies that publish suggested guidelines.

On only one vehicle, that driver/guide will make more that a year's average income in just two days.

The reality is that for maybe 3-4 months per year the driver doesn't work much (in Tz and Kenya, where April and May and November are pretty much off-season). Many of the guests he has when he DOES work don't tip at all, and many others tip less than the suggested tip, often a lot less. As one example I pointed to a group of 8 in a van once and joked to my driver that if all of them paid $10/day the driver would be rich. He replied "Last time I drove people of that nationality they tipped me $2 for one week". This is pretty common.

So don't worry, the guides aren't getting rich off tips, for the most part.

doesn't that seem out of wack to anyone else?

My advice is to tip what you are comfortable with tipping and don't worry about it. You are probably paying $400 - $600 per day for your safari and if an extra $10 for the driver tip and $10 for the waiters and room staff is too high then keep in mind it's only 5-8% of your tab.

The company we use suggests $10/day and we usually tip the guy $40/day (2 people in the jeep) and figure it's a bargain. We tip higher because we are pushing him to go out early every day and to jam in game drives on moving days, unlike what he has to do on most trips. YMMV ... tip what you are comfortable with, but trust me, the guides are not getting rich.

Just my 2 cents worth.

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Old Aug 1st, 2008, 11:54 AM
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Unless tipping is frowned upon by a culture (Asian), I always tip regardless the destination. My tipping also has nothing to do with whether the individual providing the service is paid a salary of $0/day, $10/day or $100/day. It's based on the service I received.

Whether you feel the guide is making more money in tips than salary, be aware that this individual is supporting an extended family which can be from 10-20+ people.

You are under no obligation to tip, whether $5/ppd, $10/ppd (more or less), so do what you are most comfortable and feel is appropriate in your situation. Remember: your guide makes the trip and if he has done so; even gone over and above, a tip will be most appreciated.

Can't imagine how many bills you've collected, but all of mine fit in a #10 envelope.

sandi is offline  
Old Aug 1st, 2008, 12:38 PM
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Makinghay: this is a good topic and well worth taking a look at since tipping should really be a personal decision.

I see things quite differently and believe compensating the guides is critical if we want lasting conservation and community uplifting.

Guiding seems like a sexy job to us here, and in many ways it is but you have to realize these people are away from their families for long periods of time, work enormous hours of 17 to 18 hours a day, often months at a time with little downtime, and good ones are far more educated in a specialty area than the average citizen. All of those factors mean to me that it should be one of the higher paying jobs.

I can understand why you think putting money to health issues would benefit the people more than tipping an individual but there have been many studies on this and if I recall correctly the typical employee in the safari industry usually provides financial support for about 30 additional people (varies by area of course but is always significant). Thus, in general when you tip your safari guide and staff you are supporting many more people than those you hand the money to. I'm one who subscribes to the point of view promoted by many successful Aficans that what is most needed is to develop the capacity of local people to succeed and care for themselves instead of a perpetual cycle of international aid. When guides make a relatively high income they are able to send their family members to school and some eventually to University, building the capacity for themselves rather than just receive what outsiders think they need.

It is well established now that lasting wildlife conservation cannot happen without passing on significant benefits to the communities surrounding protected areas. The exponential impact of good employment for safari industry workers, especially guides, spreading money into their communities is one of the big factors in protecting parks like the Serengeti. If the community is not benefiting they will take what they need from the land, where as areas with significant community benefits they often police their own and help protect these critical areas. The latest Africa Geographic has an excellent example of this with the Grumeti Reserve in the Serengeti area that was rife with poaching until significant tourist lodges brought large benefits to the community and subsequently animals numbers are rebounding strongly.

My last view point is a simple one of dignity. There is certainly a different feeling when one earns their own keep and can provide for the needs of their community vs. having an aid worker show up and give you something. If you become accustomed to aid it may be so disheartening that you simply accept that and no longer strive to provide a life for yourself.

I'm not suggesting that aid is not needed or should cease but rather that wherever possible it would be preferred to provide economic growth opportunities to where local people can create their own capacity and as many as possible can be self-supporting citizens.

Based on this I am very satisfied to tip and feel like money going directly to a hardworking community member is one of the best places to put it.

PredatorBiologist is offline  
Old Aug 1st, 2008, 12:43 PM
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Although my experience is limited, I observed that there are plenty of people that tip little or nothing. If some of us choose to err on the generous side, it all evens out in the end. And the amount I might "overtip" over the course of a nine or ten day safari amounts to very little in my world, and might make a big difference for someone that has provided me excellent service, large or small.

One comment on your post regarding the "best jobs in Tanzania": are you talking about the driver/guides who are driving all day and living in who knows what conditions on the road, or the people that serve us at the camps, living in like conditions. All away from wherever home and family might be? If they earn well, I think its likely they earn every cent, including the "coins of appreciation".

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Old Aug 1st, 2008, 01:05 PM
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previous posters already captured most of my comments so will not repeat. Given that the guide/driver let alone the rest of the staff work very hard so that we have the time of our life, tipping is but a very small portion of the cost of our trip. I am also aware of guides/drivers being away from their homes for sometimes months at a time so tipping in a small way makes it worth for them to incur costs related to travel and the like. I think many of us are rather ignorant of cost of living for guides/driver/staff not only at camps but permanent homes as well.
And, yes, some safari goers, don't tip at all. On our last trip during an optional guided walk at a lodge near the N C Conservation area, one travler skipped out just before the walk ended simply to avoid tipping the Maasai guide! While not the same as on a game drive, this man was giving us a very informative talk.

I also think the multiplier effect (how a dollar is circulated thru a population)is tremendous for the local community besides the one blessed to get a tip. And, we still have plenty to give to local efforts including firewood reforestation, well drilling, kids orphanage, and even a church at a safari lodge. Sorry if I digressed. I suggest not over analyzing the tipping part. Let it be a personal thing relative to enjoyment of the trip, contribution of guide/driver/staff, and an appreciation of what these people could be doing. It was just a few years ago some parks in Africa had practically no big game due to poaching simply as the locals had no sustained way to earn a living.
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Old Aug 1st, 2008, 01:35 PM
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I hate to say this, but many of the smaller/less expensive safari companies have employees that aren't on salary at all. These folks get the opportunity to work for tips. The better companies do have salaries, but they are not always what you might expect. Yes, they are better than the national average, but you might be more sensitive with your tipping next time you are on safari.

Safari guides represent status to their fellow countrymen. They have a higher average education level, they have spent time working in camps as cooks, managers and the like. Many have been to college and wildlife guiding school. So the national average wage should not apply to them. If you had one of the highest status jobs in your own country how would you feel if all visitors thought you made minimum wage or less?

Tip with your heart, and try not to be stingy. If you have had poor service, you should let the person know so they can provide better service to the next person. If they were excellent, please tell them so as they will love to hear it. Their days are long, they spend much of the year away from their family, and work hard while trying to put a smile on their faces.

As much as you might think, your gratuities really do make a difference.
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Old Aug 1st, 2008, 03:44 PM
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that topic has been bespoken a lot of times. but always it's very interesting to read the posts.

of course a guide/driver/tracker should get a tip at the end of the service to show appreciation of his service.

but i cannot follow the argument that camps don't have them on their payroll at all and they just work for tips!

i don't think a guest is oblidged to step in if the camp owner just is about his very own greedyness and don't pay the employees.

i won't eben consider doing this!

i would rather support the idea of making the guide/driver/tracker aware of their rights and support the idea of creating an union.........

if i get aware that a camp doesn't pay their staff i would definately not encourage others to go there.

as we always hire our vehicle on sole use basis we have long conversations with our guides as we are always interested to learn about their culture, families etc.
so far we have never encountered an individual who was not paid a salary.

regarding tipping:
we tip our driver/guide/tracker 10$pppd plus half of it for the staff at the end of stay.

once we went to jack's camp and after a 3 days stay we handed out 300 rand to our driver. based on her reaction we could realise that she was extrenly happy with that tip. that was in 2002.

so i think 10 pppd is quite fair and okay with the personnel.

divine54 is offline  
Old Aug 1st, 2008, 09:15 PM
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I have not entirely been put off by the experience of my initial post!
In my opinion tip what you think it is worth, why should you worry if you are giving too much?
I am interested in Andy's comments as I find it hard to believe that companies give no wages at all. I think Andy should tell us who these are so they can be boycotted!
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Old Aug 1st, 2008, 09:28 PM
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Well now, lucky for us you're still with us!!! And I don't think he should tell us.

regards - tom
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Old Aug 2nd, 2008, 01:28 AM
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Can I make things a bit more complicated here?

There's all kinds of safaris out there. My next one is a private camping safari. The guide is white. There'll probably be some (black?) helpers that accompany us (a cook, someone to set up the tents, ...).

So how do you calculate the tipping amount for THAT?

You see, on one hand, the guide is white and it's his own business so I assume he has set a correct price to start with. I assume he'd rather not depend on tips to have a profitable business.

On the other hand, here we'll have some other people that follow you around for 14 days (ic that you'll get to know fairly good). While normally you would not give those kind of people (cleaning personnel, cook) any tip at all, because you do not even see them at the lodge (well, maybe a hew dollars for the chamber maid), in this case I guess it will be fairly different. It kinda feels like those people will need (and appreciate) a good tip even more than the guide himself.

Now, if we were to tip the white guide those 10$ a day (per person in the jeep), and the other people 5$ a day (again per person, and even though I feel I'd rather give more rto them), then... get this...


OK, in percentages it maybe doesn't look that much. I'll put it differently:

Considering there's two of us (me & my wife) and considering this safari is far longer than the average 10 days; never before have I had that amount of cash in my hand, let alone taken it with me on holiday.

Anyone care to share his/her experience?


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Old Aug 2nd, 2008, 04:56 AM
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All I can say is that some employers just aren't very good employers. Many of these safari companies are in business one year and out of business two years later. They aren't very reputable, and you will likely never hear there names on this board.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2008, 05:39 AM
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Jgardner, you heard the same thing that I have known for a while. I read back through some of your posts, and it appears you went with Roy Safaris, and they are not one of those types of companies. They are reputable and have a good relationship with their employees. So I hear.

Anyway, I have also heard that some of the smaller companies don't really pay salaries, as they anticipate above average wages through tips alone for their guides. Not a great business model, if you ask me.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2008, 06:31 AM
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You see, on one hand, the guide is white and it's his own business so I assume he has set a correct price to start with. I assume he'd rather not depend on tips to have a profitable business.

I wouldn't tip an owner and would be surprised if he accepts a tip. I would definitely tip the crew, probably more than $5pppd since this is a private camping safari and the crew are just there for the two of you with no other guests around.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2008, 07:51 AM
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Like makinghay, the first time I went on safari I was amazed at the stack of bills I had. I took the number of days on safari, multiplied it, and took alot of $5 and $10 bills. What I failed to factor into that calculation before I went to the bank was the fact that most people tip at the end of each camp stay. You can easily get away with more $20 bills than 5s or 10s, which reduces the size of the stack tremendously.

Makinghay, I think assuming that each vehicle will be full, and worse yet that it is full most days (hence a guide making $50-$60/day) is a miscalculation. And, as others mentioned, many people do not tip at all, so even if the vehicle is full, rarely would a guide make that amount of money. Factoring in vehicles that aren't full, people that don't tip, and seasonality, I bet a guide would be lucky to make half as much as you think he is making. I could be way off base, but I'd be surprised if I am.

I agree wholeheartedly with the comments above related to the extended families supported by the guides and safari camp staff, and even more so about the trickle down effects (both monetary and otherwise). I think we can most help the wonderful African people by helping them help themselves. Moreover, for purely selfish reasons, I want to see guiding remain one of the more prestigious and higher paid jobs because I hope that means more competition for those positions, hence better quality.

Tipping is a personal matter and you should do what you think is right. When on safari I travel alone. I am cognizant of the fact that I am reducing the possible number of guests in camp and tip accordingly. This is my own personal decision, and I mention it only as an example of how personal a matter tipping should be.

You mention you are a critical thinker and want to have a good discussion, whether the comments are positive or negative. Thank you for being so open with your question and welcoming comments on both sides of the issue. I hope this thread is giving you some food for thought, and that others will continue to chime in. There are some great thoughts/reasoning on this thread.

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Old Aug 2nd, 2008, 07:59 AM
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camp managers and owners don't get tipped - general policy as far as i know unless the camp manager is also the driver/guide.
i never tip the owner of a business (neither hairdressers in europe nor camp owners in africa).

10 days on safari with a driver guide (not owner!) and let's 2 "handymen" comes up to

200 for the guide and 100 for the staff.

to me that sounds reasonable.

and from what i have read on fodors that is average not outragously much.


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Old Aug 2nd, 2008, 09:40 AM
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You are truly a class group, taking time to educate and inform me. I could just give you my conclusion, but wish to make some individual comments first,sort of in order received,as I took notes.

First of all, my tirade was inspired by the amount of cash I found I needed to take on my person...and on my DH. I've never actually dealt with this problem before, instead depending on ATMs. The expectation that we were to do this just amazed me.

I would be much more comfortable just having the tour company be sure that each person (yes,even the kitchen help and the like) was properly compensated (as Rick Steves does) and let us just take care of special situations.

Sandi (whom I find I can properly credit with the net program info):
My pile is huge, because I haven't done this before and took to heart the suggestion to bring lots of 1's and 5's. The 100 1's are bad enough, then add the rest of the denominations,mostly small, plus our own spending $ (though we seldom buy much at all,I'm prepared for the unexpected!) and it is, indeed,a fat stack that we will divide into our little hidden vaults.

Maybe with more specific details from you I can head back to the bank and make some changes! For instance, how easy is it to change a $20 at a camp? a lodge? I wasn't sure,so got few of them.

Please help if you can...Dana suggested larger bills to pay tip all at once at the end, but that doesn't seem feasible with our trip...frequent moves (and I really want to tip the lower level staff people)and three alternating driver/guides. Our trip leader will be the only one who remains with us the whole trip.

Another related question. If I change $100 into TZS as suggested in a thread, is this a huge wad? I have no idea what this would look like! I'd like to use some local currency,if feasible.

Bill H: My $100/year per capita is a direct quote from the OAT "Tanzania Today" page. I've done a brief search now, and am totally confused, but convinced that their article is way off base. I came up with figures anywhere from $290 to $610 (2003) and no up to date statistics.

One statistic though,gives one pause. It was an article from 3/08 that stated that Tanzania's inflation rate was up 9%,largely due to $122/barrel oil. Was it really that cheap in March? Can you imagine how the current prices are eating into the profits? I guess it's most likely that the tour company or vehicle owner pays for the gas,but still....

Predator Biologist:

You,and others, made so many astute points that have influenced me. I had not thought of the extended family (my thoughts are of our own materialistic youth I guess) nor of the impact of the "multiplier effect" pointed out by Jim Otis.
You also pointed out that the success of the jobs related to safaris has a very direct relationship to the animal and environmental protection that results. I've known this, but had not related it to tips. It is a big picture,isn't it? We have to look at the whole package.

I could go on, but must get on with my final packing,yard care, house plant plans,cat sitter education (!) and all the etc.(not to mention money-stuffing) that comes with the fun we have.

The bottom line now,for me,is to look at this as a very special opportunity to give directly to the intended, not into the coffers of a big organization where the amount would dwindle away before reaching it's goal.

Whatever we give will help many in the long run. It will be money that will be spent in the markets,possibly on health or education,and just generally stimulate the local economy in a variety of ways. See what a good job you've all done? So powerful to discuss and share perspectives!

My sincere thanks. Travel does make us grow.

makinghay is offline  
Old Aug 2nd, 2008, 11:17 AM
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Nice rally Makinghay!!

Safari Njema!

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Old Aug 2nd, 2008, 11:29 AM
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I'll chime in on a suggestion on 'how' to tip not 'how much to tip'.

Since you are leaving next week, and I don't know what specific camps you are staying at can you find out if you can tip via your credit card when you checking out of the Camp?

I can do that at the Camp I stay at in the Mara. The guides tip (which is the largest part) can be charged on your credit card and the Camp then takes that amount of money and pays it to the Guide. The amount is in Kenyan shillings so with whatever the exchange rate is could be a little less than say in American dollars that you would actually give your Guide.

Just a thought. That way you wouldn't have to carry as much 'cash'.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2008, 12:04 PM
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Reminder - If you choose to use your credit card, be sure to ascertain from the establishment (shop, lodge, camp, etc.) if they assess a fee for cc use. That's besides the % for Foreign Currency Exchange that most cc tack on.

You'll have to report back on that stick of bills and what worked best

Safari njema!
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