Tipping in France: When to do it (and when not to do it)

If you’re planning a trip to Paris or to France – or if you’re already here and making plans for the day – you may be wondering how big a tip you’ll need to leave your waiter, taxi driver, or tour guide.

The answer is that you don’t have to tip in France, at least not in most places. And when you do tip, the way to do it may surprise you.

Here’s what you need to know about tipping in France.

A cafe terrace with gray tables, sitting on gray cobblestones, and brightly colored red metal chairs.

Here’s what you need to know about tipping in France, in ten essential facts:

Tipping is not required in France (although there are a few exceptions).

As a general rule, tipping is neither expected nor required in France.

There are some exceptions. Tipping is expected in hair and nail salons, spas, when ordering room service or having a porter bring your bags to your hotel room, and for tour guides. You can find out more about tipping in these situations a little further on in the article.

But in general, leaving a tip is not required or expected in France. This includes tipping for deliveries, taxis, and restaurants.

You don’t need to tip French waitstaff because they get a living wage and benefits.

Unless a restaurant is hiring workers illegally, its waitstaff is being paid a living wage and has benefits, as well. So tips aren’t a crucial part of a server’s income in France. Plus, if you look at your receipt after a meal, you’ll see that a 15% service charge (service compris) was automatically added.

This is good for you if you’re on a budget, but on the other hand, it explains why French servers tend to be less attentive to diners than their counterparts in tipping countries like the United States.

That said…

It is NOT considered rude to tip in France.

I’ve occasionally come across people who worry that since tipping isn’t expected in France, it’s considered rude. Not so! After all, who doesn’t like getting extra money?

In fact….

It’s common (but not required) to leave a small tip at French restaurants

Although tipping isn’t required or expected, customers often leave a tip of a few coins after they have a drink, or a few euros after a meal. This is usually done if they feel the service was good, but it may even be systematic.

For instance, if my husband and I go out for dinner at a typical brasserie here in Paris, we’ll usually leave a euro or two as a tip, unless the service was really terrible. And if I have a coffee at a cafe, I’ll leave a few coins behind as a tip.

Although most people do this in France, it’s absolutely not the expectation or required in any way. But I’m sure the server appreciates a little extra something.

There is no standard percentage for tips in France.

If you do want to leave a tip in France, there’s no hard and fast rule about how much you should leave.

As I wrote previously, for instance, when dining out, people often tip with some change for a small order like a coffee, or a few euros for a meal.

So, if my coffee costs 2 euros and 70 centimes, I might leave 30 centimes as a tip.  

But since tipping isn’t required at all, you don’t have to follow any particular rules – or leave anything.

The same rule goes for taxi rides. You are not expected or required to tip a taxi driver in France, and to be honest, most of the time I don’t. But if you do, just a few euros should do the trick.

Closeup of a tipped over glass jar with centimes coming out of it.
Take some of these with you if you plan to leave a tip in France.

Big tips are considered strange or flashy in France

Barring some exceptions – like, say that taxi driver drove you through the night from Paris to Nice — if you do leave a tip in France, it should generally be a small amount.

I’m sure anyone would be thrilled to get a big tip, but it could come off as  a flashy display of wealth, which is a huge etiquette no-no in France, so it’s common to keep tips on the low end.

You usually can’t include the tip when paying with your credit card in France.

In some places, including the US, when you get your bill, there’s a separate line that lets you write in an amount you’d like charged to your card to cover a tip.  Although there may be some exceptions, as a general rule, this is not how it’s done in France.

In general, tipping in France is always done with cash. For instance, in a restaurant, you pay your bill (this will either be when the server brings you the credit card reader or tray where you can leave money, or you’ll go up to the counter to settle the bill) and leave the tip on the table, in the form of cash.

The one exception to the tipping-in-cash rule is taxis. If the taxi company lets you pay by credit card, you could tell them the amount you’d like to pay, adding the tip to your total.

So for instance, if a taxi ride comes to 43 euros, I could give the driver my card and tell him, Mettez 45 euros et gardez la monnaie. (Put 45 euros on the card and keep the change.)

If you don’t want to do math, though, you could just as easily hand the driver a tip in cash. And again, this is not required!

So, as a general rule, make sure you have some change on you, if you’re planning to tip in France!

In restaurants, leave your tip on the table

In restaurants in France, you’ll usually leave your tip on the table. This may mean you have to hurry back from the register to the table you just left, if you needed change. But it’s how it’s done.

You can leave the coins discreetly tucked beneath the saucer of your coffee or tea, or openly on the table (although it’s more common to place it in a spot that’s easy for the server to notice but still somewhat discreet). People often leave the tip on the tray where the server placed their bill and receipt.

Exceptions to French tipping rules

There are some exceptions to the French rule of “no tips required”.

The places and situations where you should expect to tip in France include:

  • Hair and nail salons
  • When ordering room service
  • Having a porter bring your bags to your hotel room
  • The valet who parks your car
  • Theater ushers (although this one isn’t technically required, it’s generally expected)
  • Tour guides
  • Fine dining establishments with attentive waitstaff.

As a general rule, you could tip anywhere from a euro or two to the usher who seats you at the theater, to 5-10% for a meal or service like hair or nail care. But there are no set rules regarding tip percentage in France the way there are in places like the US.

You can learn more about these exceptions to the French tipping rules in this interesting blog post about tipping in France — although I will say that none of the French people I know tip housekeeping staff at a hotel.That’s just a nice thing to do if you feel like they’ve done a great job, and if you can afford it, I’m sure it would be appreciated.

This article also has some good advice about tipping in France, including in some of these exceptional situations.

Some useful French tip-related vocabulary

Here are a few words related to tipping in French:

  • un pourboire – a tip
  • donner un pourboire/laisser un pourboire – to leave a tip
  • service compris – a fee charged to diners that covers what would have been the tip
  • Vous pouvez garder la monnaie. – You can keep the change.
  • C’est pour vous. – This is for you. Use this if a server or someone else who normally wouldn’t see you leave a tip, sees you, or if you give them back change as a tip.

Have you ever left a tip – or not left one – when traveling in France? Do you like the French rules about tipping? Feel free to share in the comments!

Alysa Salzberg

Alysa Salzberg is an American writer, worrier, teacher, and cookie enthusiast who has lived in Paris, France, for more than a decade. She has taught English and French for more than ten years, most notably as an assistante de langue vivante for L'Education Nationale. She recently published her first novel, Hearts at Dawn, a "Beauty and the Beast" retelling that takes place during the 1870 Siege of Paris. You can read about her adventures here, or feel free to stop by her website.

6 thoughts on “Tipping in France: When to do it (and when not to do it)”

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  1. I would like to know if tipping with US currency is acceptable. Also I don’t know the cost of our multiple tours since they are included in the total tour price. Will I need to figure out the tour price and tip a percentage of the tour price?

    Reply
    • No, tipping with US currency would not be acceptable. It would be the equivalent of tipping a waiter in the US with euros or other international currency, it’s only useful if they’re travelling soon to that country.

      Reply
  2. very useful article – my experience in Paris has been consistent. Restaurant staff expect US sized tips from non french speaking diners – if you dont meet their expectation they unfailingly show their displeasure

    Reply
  3. Great advice. This is always something that worried me when traveling in France, and I would usually leave too much, not knowing the etiquette regarding leaving large tips. Thanks so much for the advice.

    Reply

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