How much should I tip serving staff in Abu Dhabi? Everyone I ask seems to have a different idea of what’s an appropriate amount and when to tip. I want to reward good service, but don’t want to waste my money, so how can I make sure my tip goes to the right person?
Tipping can be a bit of a minefield, and because Abu Dhabi’s residents hail from all over the world their expectations of what is appropriate vary massively. The first thing you need to know is that when you’re eating out in hotels, 10 per cent service charge is generally added to your bill, plus an additional six per cent tourism fee. Some venues claim the service charge is divided between staff, and, while this may be true most of the time, you can sometimes assume your waiter or waitress won’t see any of it. Although these charges can put a bit of a sting on your bill and put you off adding any extra, if you’ve had particularly attentive service and want to reward the staff, you will have to cough up again. We don’t want to lay a guilt trip on you, but it’s worth remembering at this point that some workers in the service industry here are paid pittance for working long hours, so if you can afford it and were pleased with the service, by all means dig deep. Around 10 per cent is the norm.
But also remember that restaurants and cafés operating outside hotels are forbidden by law from adding a service charge, so if you see this appearing on the bill you can refuse to pay it. This law was introduced
last year, because it was found that many service charges were finding their way into the pockets of restaurant owners, rather than the staff. But you should, of course, still feel free to leave some cash on the table when you leave in recognition of good service. If there is a tips jar, you can ask the manager how the money is divided and add to it if you feel comfortable doing so.
Elsewhere, tipping is at your discretion. Taxi drivers are not allowed to ask you for a tip, or assume they can keep your change, but most people round their fare up to the nearest Dhs5. Of course, if your driver was speeding or driving recklessly you can just pay your basic fare. We go by the rule of thumb that if the driver’s got us there without scaring us to death with his road maneuvers (a rare occurrence!), or has been particularly friendly, we’ll leave a bit more. Giving an extra Dhs10 to hairdressers and beauty therapists is customary, and keeping loose coins for petrol pump attendants, shopping packers, valet parkers and bellboys is always appreciated.
Overall, a tip will never be badly received, so if someone did a great job, give as much as you see fit. Just remember to use cash wherever possible, as adding a tip to a bill paid by card dramatically reduces the chances of the money getting to the person you want it to.