Tipping can be a slightly confusing and sometimes uncomfortable process in a foreign country. Knowing when and how much to tip isn't always clear, especially in a nation like Peru where tipping is not a big part of the culture.
Tipping in Peru: Hostels and Hotels
Backpacker hostels tend to be tip-free establishments, but hotels follow the same tipping customs as found in many parts of the world. Tip porters S/.1 per bag (or US$1 in top-end hotels) and feel free to leave the cleaning staff an occasional tip for keeping your room in good order. If the hotel concierge is particularly helpful, a tip is always a nice gesture.
Peruvians aren't big tippers in restaurants, apart from in upscale establishments where a 10% tip is customary (a service charge is sometimes included in the bill). Waiters in midrange restaurants might receive a few soles for good service, but it's certainly not a hard and fast rule.
Tips are rare indeed in cheap, family-run restaurants serving set lunchtime menús. That said, Peruvian waiters don't earn much, so all tips are more than welcome.
Public Transport and Private Drivers
As a rule, you don't need to tip when traveling by public transport in Peru. Taxi drivers and mototaxi drivers do not expect a tip -- arrange the price in advance and stick to it (taxi drivers tend to overcharge tourists anyway). If your driver is particularly friendly or informative, or if he carries your bags into your hotel or hostel, feel free to give him a one-or two-sol tip, but it's certainly not obligatory.
You never need to tip bus drivers or bus baggage handlers. Baggage handlers sometimes try their luck with foreign tourists, asking for (or demanding) a tip. Feel free to say no, or ignore them completely if they become overly insistent.
With private-hire drivers (including river travel), consider tipping anywhere between US$5 to $10 (about S/.13 to S/.27) per day for good service. If you pay for your driver's meals, drinks etc. during a long trip, you might want to tip on the lower end of the scale.
Tipping for Peru Tours: Guides, Porters and Cooks
When you take a tour, always take nuevo sol coins and low-denomination notes for tipping your guide. Deciding how much to tip is tricky. Much depends on the type of tour: a one-hour guided tour in a museum is a far different prospect than a multiday hike, with tips varying accordingly.
For short tours of an hour or two, be they inside or outdoors, your guide should be happy with a couple of dollars (roughly S/.5). Again, it all depends on the level of service your guide provides.
Multiday tours are more complex, especially when they involve tour guides, cooks, drivers and porters. For good service, a typical tipping rate could be anywhere between US$10 to $30 per day, to be shared out between the various tour personnel.
The four-day Inca Trail trek is a true classic among Peruvian tours and serves as a good example of trekking tipping rates in Peru (albeit at a higher, more touristy level). For recommendations about how much to tip Inca Trail guides, porters and cooks, read How Much to Tip on the Inca Trail.
Random Tipping Requests in Peru
A tip request will sometimes come when you're not quite expecting it. This happens quite often in tourist hotspots such as Cusco, Arequipa and Lima, where foreign tourists have a reputation for tipping beyond the norm.
- Photos: Some photo opportunities come at a price, especially in Cusco where women in traditional dress (often leading a lavishly adorned llama or alpaca) charge one or two soles for a picture. Always ask before taking someone's photo, and bear in mind that a service charge/tip may be necessary.
- Directions: If you ask for directions while strolling around a town or city, a friendly local may offer to show you to your destination. There's always a chance that your informal guide will expect a tip (propina) upon arrival, so politely turn down the offer if you don't want (or need) the extra assistance.