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Tipping in Costa Rica: How much you should Tip

Ok, so you planned and booked a vacation to Costa Rica. By now you should have your bucket list on everywhere in Costa Rica you want to visit.

Once you arrive, you realize that you are not sure whether or not you should be tipping.

Don’t stress. We are here to help you figure out how much you should be tipping in Costa Rica.

From your taxi driver to your bartender, we have you covered so you won’t over-tip or under-tip.

Tipping in Costa Rica

When it comes to tipping in Costa Rica, we are not only going to talk about dine-in restaurants but will we also cover every other person you should consider tipping while you are there.

Whether it is just a few colonies to add to your meal, a few dollars to give your bartender or a larger tip to leave your tour guide.

Before we get into tipping in Costa Rica, you should be aware that most purchases you make will automatically add 13% tax to your purchase.

This is a nationwide tax and it is added to everything, supermarkets, restaurants, gas, tours, hotels, and even car rentals.

This can come as a surprise if you weren’t expecting it.

Some restaurants and tours that mainly deal with tourists know that this comes as a shock to their customers and have started to include it in the price they display.

Be sure to look at the menu to see if this will be included or not. It is usually always listed at the bottom.

On top of the 13% restaurants might also add a 10% service charge to the meal, but we will cover that just below.

Picture of Chifrijo a typical Costa Rican dish

Tipping Guide for Restaurants in Costa Rica

As I mentioned above, when you are dining out in Costa Rica always check the menu to see what extra chargers they might charge.

They will also be printed on the menu.

Most restaurants will add an extra 10% or more to your bill, on top of the 13% national tax.

So your bill could be up at anywhere 23% higher than you are expecting.

This 10% goes to all the staff in the restaurant, not just your server.

It is split between the kitchen staff, bar staff, and your wait server. So if you are used to tipping 20% or more back home, you might want to add a little extra on top of that.

I normally tend to leave around another 10%, especially if the service didn’t suck.

Costa Rican wait staff make around $4 an hour in wages, which is not a lot. So they do heavily rely on tips to survive.

Tipping in Costa Rica is not mandatory, but it is nice to leave an extra 10% on top of the 10% that is already included.

This also depends on what kind of restaurant you are eating at. If you are eating at any sit-down restaurant, I would tip.

There are, however, “Sodas” in Costa Rica. These are mostly local establishments or fast food places. They serve great local food and can help you save loads of money while you are traveling.

If you are eating at a soda, you don’t really need to tip, maybe just leave an extra dollar or two or your change from the meal.

Also, be aware that when dining in Costa Rica you are not going to get the 5-star service you are used to in the States.

Everything moves at a slower pace in Costa Rica. So sit back and enjoy a few Pilsen’s while you wait and try not to let the slower service get to you.

Pilsen Beer with a view of the OCean

Costa Rica Tipping Guide: Bars

Now when you are out at the bar, the price listed for a beer is the price you will pay. So be sure to tip a little extra to keep your bartender happy.

When you are drinking at higher-end places and ordering fancy cocktails they will most likely add the 10 % service charge as well as the 13%, but you should also leave a little extra.

Always tip your bartender.

I think this is just a rule of thumb and should always be listened to.

Especially if you want to get your drinks fast and have them be stronger.

Normally leave $1 per drink as a tip, somewhat similar to the US. This ensures that the bartender will be your friend, which is always a good thing.

Also, over-tipping your bartender is a great way to hopefully score some free drinks.

Tipping Taxis in Costa Rica

There are different kinds of taxis and transportation in Costa Rica. Legal Taxis, Illegal Taxis, and thankfully Uber is becoming more and more popular.

Most likely you will be taking legal taxis that pay taxes and are legal. You will be able to tell because they will look like a taxi.

There are however illegal “taxis” in Costa Rica. These are usually old beat-down cars that are barely legal to be on the road and pay no taxes.

They tend to be cheaper, so if you are on a budget… They might be a good idea, otherwise, I would avoid them. “Collectivos” are a cheap way to travel around, it is a ride-share program that these illegal taxis run.

They stop along the side of the road and semi-operate as a bus, other people will also be in the car, but it is a good way to save money if you are backpacking through Costa Rica.

When taking a “legal” taxi or transport you will most likely notice a tax and even a service charge on the bill. If you book any transportation ahead of time or airport transports they will be legal.

However, some might include the tax in the price, it is always a good idea to ask a head of time.

Be sure to tip your drivers. All of them.  They work hard and are also paid a low minimum wage. You don’t have to overtip them, but an extra $5 or 2,000 colonies goes a long way.

Cars in Costa Rica are very expensive, which is why you normally won’t see expensive cars there.

On top of that, the roads are horrible. Your car gets beaten up, maintenance is not cheap, taxes on your car are expensive and fuel is not cheap.

Tipping Your HouseKeeper/Maid in Costa Rica

I was raised to always leave money behind for the housekeeper/maid.

No matter where in the world I travel to when I check out of a hotel, airbnb or homestay I always leave a little something behind for the housekeeper.

You don’t need to go above and beyond, but a few dollars goes a long way.

Your housekeeper in Costa Rica is probably earning somewhere around $400 a month for their total income.

Don’t go above and beyond what their weekly wage is, but leaving $5 – $20 dollars is perfectly fine.

Plan on leaving around $1-2 a night.

Girl Taking Surf Lesson

Costa Rica Tipping Guide: Tour Guides

What is a trip to Costa Rica without taking an excursion? There is so much to see and do there it is hard to sit still and do nothing. Be sure to check out these things to do in Arenal.

Even if you plan a sitting on the beach your whole vacation I am sure you will take at least one tour or excursion.

Please tip your guides. They work hard for your tips and it makes a big difference in their lives.

I normally go with the 10% rule here and tip them about 10% of the cost of the tour.

However, if you really like your guide and they were super friendly you can always tip more.

Tour guides will make your trip to Costa Rica truly unique and special.

Women giving another women a coffee scrub-min

Tipping in Costa Rica: Spa Treatments

Not everyone comes to Costa Rica to enjoy spa treatments, but when on vacation why not treat yourself?

There are plenty of massages you can get on the beach, but be aware you will be covered in sand and you will hear people yelling throughout the whole massage.

Pay the extra amount and get a proper massage.

I always apply the same tipping rules to my spa treatments in Costa Rica as I do to my spa treatments back home.

It is customary to leave from 10 -15 percent.

Of course like anywhere else in the world, tipping is not mandatory, but it is welcomed and greatly appreciated.

Costa Ricans are some of the friendliest people I have met in all my travels.

All they want is for you to love Costa Rica as much as they love it.

Do you have some other tipping in Costa Rica method that wasn’t mentioned on this list? Say so in the comments below.

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