Tipping in Costa Rica: Complete Guide on Tipping Customs

With coastlines in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, Costa Rica is an idyllic island filled with white, sandy beaches and lush rainforests.

Given its location, climate, and environment, it’s no surprise that Costa Rica is a dream travel destination for so many people.

When you’re traveling the country, the last thing you want to worry about how to correctly tip staff and service providers.

Fortunately, this handy guide to tipping in Costa Rica will tell you everything you need to know about the custom.

Do you tip in Costa Rica?

It’s customary for tourists to provide tips and they’re gratefully appreciate by the hospitality sector. Tip in the local currency where possible but you can also use U.S. dollars in more popular destinations.

It depends. If you live in the country, then it is not customary to leave a tip in most situations as a service charge is often included in the bill.

However, it’s customary amongst tourists to leave an additional tip when you receive good service.

Although tips aren’t widely relied on to supplement wages, many people in the hospitality industry are on a low basic salary. As such, any gratuities are used informally to boost salaries.

The national currency in Costa Rica is the colón, so tipping in colones is always appreciated.

However, U.S. dollars are widely accepted in the country, particularly in tourist destinations, such as Monteverde and San Jose.

Tipping customs to keep in mind

  • Locals don’t usually tip in Costa Rica, so if you’re visiting for an extended period of time you won’t be expected to leave a gratuity
  • A service charge of 10% is often applied in restaurants, while a sales tax of 13% is also widely applicable when buying goods
  • Handing your tip to individual staff members ensure it goes to the person, rather than the business

Useful phrases to know

  • Please may I have the bill? – La cuenta, por favour
  • How much? –  ¿Cuánto vale?
  • Thank you – Gracias
  • Bye – Adiós
Tipping in Costa Rica

Tipping Restaurants in Costa Rica

Almost all restaurants in Costa Rica add a gratuity to your bill in the form of a service charge. This is essentially a tip and is usually amounts to 10% of your total bill.

This is in addition to the 13% tax that restaurant patrons pay. While this may sound steep, it’s actually far less than the customary gratuity amounts in other countries.

Before you place an order, take a look at the menu and confirm whether a tax and gratuity are included, as this will give you an idea of the overall cost of your meal.

Even when a gratuity is included in your bill, you may choose to add an extra tip for your server when you eat out.

If you receive exceptional service, for example, it would be usual for tourists to hand a few extra colones to their waiter in cash. This should go directly to the individual and may be used to boost their wages.

Tipping tour guides in Costa Rica

Tip 2500 colón per person in your group. For longer tours tip 5000 colón per person.

Tours and excursions are a great way to explore Costa Rica. Visiting Tortuguero National Park or exploring the water on a catamaran can be enhanced with the knowledge and experience of a local tour guide.

If you’re taking part in a standard tour with lots of other people, the average amount to tip in Costa Rica is around 2500 colón per person.

For mid-size tours or longer expeditions, increasing your tip to around 5000 colón per person is appreciated. If you book a private tour or a specialist experience, tipping between 7500 – 10000 colón per person is customary amongst tourists.

If you choose to leave a tip, hand it to your guide at the end of the excursion.

If more than one guide is present, you can split the tip and hand it to them individually or tip the main guide the full amount you want to leave.

Tipping in hotels or guest houses in Costa Rica

Tip 1000 colón per day for housekeeping services. Depending on the service you receive, you may choose to leave more. Tip at the start of your stay to ensure you receive outstanding service.

Housekeepers don’t tend to earn a particularly high salary on the island, so expressing your gratitude for their service by way of a tip is welcomed.

A tip of around 1000 colón per day for housekeeping services is average but you may prefer to tip more.

However, don’t wait until the end of your stay to leave your tip.

Tipping at the start of your vacation or every night may ensure you receive exceptional service throughout your stay but leaving a tip every day means it’s more likely to go to the individual that has served you.

Tipping Restaurants in Costa Rica

Concierge staff don’t expect tips but a tip of 500 – 1000 colón for attentive service is customary amongst tourists. Similarly, you may choose to tip the doorman when he hails you a cab and, if so, a tip of around 500 colón is sufficient. Upon your arrival, a bellhop may assist you with your luggage. If so, it is usual to tip them around 500 colón per bag, depending on the size of your luggage.

Tipping taxis, coaches and cabs in Costa Rica

Round up your fare to the nearest 500 for an easy way to tip. Coach drivers aren’t usually tipped, however, if they help you with your bags, you should offer a 500 – 1000 colón tip.

Having good transport is essential if you want to get around easily. In addition to using public transport services, you may want to jump in a cab when you’re out and about.

If you choose to tip your taxi driver, the amount you offer will usually depend on the length of your journey.

For shorter journeys, many people ‘round-up’ and advise the driver to, ‘keep the change’. Even local residents tend to do this, so it is expected by most drivers.

As a general rule, tipping between 500 – 2500 colón is sufficient, depending on the distance you’ve traveled and the service you’ve received. For planned excursions via coach, tipping the driver is less common.

If they assist you with your bags, however, it is customary for tourists to offer them a tip.

Tipping in Bars & Pubs in Costa Rica

Tipping in bars is optional and not expected. You can choose to tip 500 colón per drink if you’re happy with the service.

Locals don’t generally tip in these situations, but tourists often choose to. In cafes, there is usually a tip jar near the counter, and it’s appreciated if you add a colones or two. When you’re purchasing a drink in a bar, pub or club, the usual amount to tip is 500 colón per drink every time you visit the bar.

However, tipping in Costa Rica is optional in bars and pubs, so you won’t be judged if you choose not to leave a tip every time.

Tipping in Bars & Pubs in Costa Rica

Tipping barbers and in hair salons in Costa Rica

If you enjoy your experience, a 10% tip is customary.

If you receive great service, tipping in barbers and in hair salons is customary but not expected.

It’s rare for a service charge or gratuity to be included, so leaving a tip is common amongst tourists.

If you choose to leave a tip in a spa or hair salon, a gratuity of around 10% of the cost of your treatment is the average amount and can be handed directly to your stylist or given to the front desk staff.