Tipping in Costa Rica: When traveling internationally, it is important to know the culture and customs of the place you are visiting. Besides understanding currency and exchange rates, you should be familiar with customs of tipping in Costa Rica. Here are the practices and what to leave in the way of a gratuity. The Spanish word for a tip is propina.




In some cultures, tipping is neither acceptable nor necessary in relation to wages paid. Generally, however, the relatively low wages paid to service industry employees are augmented by tips for good customer service.

Tips for good service are acceptable and encouraged in Costa Rica, but some of the circumstances and expectations are different than in North America. Restaurants are a notable example. Some visitors who have not done their research might leave a 15 to 20 percent tip for their restaurant server, not realizing the total amount being rewarded for service is actually 25 to 30 percent. That’s because Costa Rican restaurants are required by law to add 13 percent tax AND a 10 percent gratuity to the bill.


Some customers angrily object to being forcibly charged extra for good (or possibly bad) service, but it’s the law here. Gratuities are generally split among all restaurant workers. Please feel free to top up the mandatory 10 percent tip as you wish for good service, in cash or on your credit card. On the other hand, never feel obligated or bad about declining to leave a tip over and above the billed amount.

Tipping should also be factored into your Costa Rican tour and adventure budget. Guides and others make an important contribution to your enjoyment of memorable excursions. Not only do they make sure you are safe and comfortable, but they also impart their knowledge about the wildlife, environment and history of the area you are visiting.

Please remember those who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make your stay in Costa Rica as comfortable and relaxing as possible. That includes hotel housekeeping staff, whose efforts may not be seen or heard but should not be overlooked. Consider leaving something for them as a gesture of appreciation.

Someone else who provides a valuable service in Costa Rica, even if it’s not an official job, is the parking attendant. Known as guachimán (pronounced “watcheyman”), this is the person who guards your vehicle when you leave it in a parking space on a lot or the street. Whether it’s someone guiding me into a parking spot or sitting nearby in a chair, I always tip that person — a dollar will do — to keep an eye on my vehicle, which I also always park in the most visible location available. Even if not actual “employees” per se, these attendants serve an important purpose. I’ve witnessed them firsthand protecting a vehicle from being broken into at the beach.