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Tipping is (of course!) not compulsory on any of our tours, but most tour participants do tip guides and other ground staff members if they feel they’ve worked hard and done a great job. Please don’t feel obliged to tip, but if you do, it’s much appreciated as the staff invariably give 110 percent and work hard and skillfully.
The number of ground staff (and hence the potential number of people to tip) varies considerably. There are some places, such as Australia, South Africa, and Namibia, in which there are not very many staff members. But then there are other countries, such as Cuba, Bhutan, and Madagascar, in which our trips can seem “over-staffed” because of these countries’ laws and regulations. In countries such as this it’s the law that there has to be a driver and a local cultural or nature guide accompanying the whole tour, and it’s also compulsory to use park guides at all reserves and national parks, and then of course there’s our international birding tour leader/full time staff member.
A global standard for tips on birding safaris is generally US$10 (or the equivalent) per client per day to our tour leader and other guides. Some folks only pay half that, others pay double or more. Again, tipping certainly isn’t compulsory, so please don’t feel obliged or pressurized. Drivers often get US$5 per participant per day, but some of the amazing drivers we employ also do a lot more, for example they are often responsible for helping with logistics, luggage, etc. during the course of the tour. If you find these folks helpful you might want to consider more than this standard. No problem if you pay less; it’s highly unlikely anyone will feel insulted and will instead just be thankful for getting a little extra in addition to what these folks are paid anyway to staff our tours. If you pay more than the standard as per these guidelines, we also don’t see that as a problem.
You can use these same rules of thumb for national park and site guides – they know where to find the birds and other fauna better than anyone at their sites, and if for example they’re with you for half a day we might suggest half of the daily amounts indicated above (for the other guides who stay with you during the whole trip).
Drivers of safari vehicles or jeeps, boat drivers (some of whom are very knowledgeable about where some of the water-associated birds hang out), and cleaning staff in rooms can be tipped in line with the above recommendations as well.
Basically (as a summary), US$5 or US$10 per trip participant per day is the standard throughout for tipping on wildlife safaris, erring on the higher side for more senior staff members. But less, or more, is OK!
Hard currencies such as US dollars, pounds sterling, and euros can usually be accepted by the more senior staff members and quite often by less senior staff members – but local currency is generally better, if possible, in the latter case. Local currency can easily be drawn from ATMs in almost every country in the world, using any of the major credit cards. Or you can exchange currencies on arrival at the airport or land border. Our guides will advise and help you when you tell them you need to go to an ATM or to change money. Just let the guide know a few days in advance of you running out of local currency, and they will plan a stop at the next town or village where there’s an ATM (most folks draw an initial amount of local currency for gifts, gratuities, drinks, etc. during the course of the birding safari on arrival at the airport and then top this up along the way every few days when needed).
In almost all of our tours meals are already included, as are tips to servers at restaurants and at lodges/hotels. So don’t worry about tipping at meal times, except for drinks (which are usually for your account unless we make an exception and clearly state that) or if we’ve told you that meals are not included on your tour (which is rare, but there are exceptions; this would usually apply to private tours).
We hope these guidelines will be of some use to you. Please, of course, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions!
You’re also very welcome to speak to the guide at the start of your tour if you want him/her to deal with your tips – just give him/her money for distribution to local staff on the ground.