When travelling it’s always advisable to do some research about the culture and customs of your destination. Getting to know the basics can help you avoid embarrassing or offensive moments abroad. One of the most common questions I get from travellers planning their first visit to the small island nation of Iceland is about tipping. While tipping in Iceland isn’t common, I’ll give you the rundown from my experiences below.
Tipping in Iceland
There is a lot of contradictory advice about tipping in Iceland out there on the web. Tipping is not common in Icelandic culture. Typically workers in Iceland are paid a livable wage and a small gratuity fee is included on your bill. While this tends to add to Iceland’s expensive reputation, people are not surviving on tips like in much of North America’s service industries.
Is Tipping Expected in Iceland?
No, tipping in Iceland is not expected, at least not by the common Icelander. Tips, as always, are always appreciated when great service or attention to detail is noticed. Workers who deal with tourists full time may have become used to tips but still dont seem to expect them. In fact, in my experience the Icelanders I tipped were quite bashful. Simply do as the locals do and you’ll be fine!
Is it an Insult to Tip in Iceland?
There’s a rumor floating around that tipping is considered rude or insulting by the locals. Tipping is neither rude, insulting or illegal as many may have been told. While some Icelandic people and establishments will refuse tips its more than likely rooted in their inherent level of hospitality—something of national pride—as opposed to being offended by the offer.
Locals will often, given the chance, sit down with you over a coffee and discuss the local history and sights you should see. They’re genuinely excited for you to discover their country and customs and dont want to be made feel cheep as if they’re only being nice to you for the money. Tipping in Iceland is all about time and place, tipping the right people at the right time. We’ll discuss this in more detail below.
Who to Tip In Iceland?
In Iceland the service industry is the only place tips should be offered. However this comes with some exceptions. In general, fast food services, small cafe’s & bars and hotel or spa staff (like those at the Blue Lagoon)are not tipped. Fine dining establishments will charge a gratuity on the bill but a small token of appreciation left on the table is always appreciated for impeccable service or perfect food.
Nothing should hold you back you from tipping service workers in Iceland a few Krona for remarkable service. As mentioned earlier, its neither offensive or illegal. Icelanders are familiar with the custom because of the influx of tourists in their country, and understand that tips are a token of appreciation.
Fast Food Services
How Much Do you Tip a Tour Guide?
Again, while tipping is not expected in Iceland, you may wish to offer your tour guide a small gratuity for his/her service. For day trips this isn’t typical but for longer multi-day trips through Iceland or expeditions into the highlands a small tip is appropriate. Consider an amount in the range of 1000ISK/Person/Day or slightly less than $10/person per day of guiding, this is what we did when snorkeling the Silfra Fissure.
How Much Should You Tip a server?
Like in a ton of other European nations the standard method of tipping is to simply round the bill up to the next even amount or add an additional 10% of the total bill amount. This will vary depending on the establishment you’re visiting. Some upscale restaurants will warrant a larger tip than you might leave at a more budget friendly establishment.
No matter where you eat in Iceland, dont be thought a fool by leaving too much of a tip. Unlike North America it doesn’t make you look more generous, rather you end up looking foolish or ignorant.
In most Icelandic restaurants you’ll find a gratuity built into the bill, tipping 10-15% on top of this is excessive. If you want to tip over and above the gratuity charge, instead leave 500-1000ISK for your server. Just enough to buy a couple cups of coffee!
The Take Away for Tipping in Iceland
All things considered, though tipping isn’t outright expected like it can be in North America it’s always appreciated by the hardworking locals. By exercising a little class and humility when you tip you’ll be sure not to offend the sensibilities of the locals while still demonstrating that you appreciate their service. If in doubt, dont tip. When you visit Iceland you wont be looked down upon for not putting a few coins in the tip jar or a bill in the hand of a guide. Until then, keep on planning!