Iceland

Making ¢ents Of Tipping In Iceland

Who To Tip & When, Getting Acquainted With An Unfamiliar System

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 is quite limited
Tipping in Iceland is quite limited, you’d never offer a tip at an Icelandic hotdog stand…

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 the already high prices in Iceland, 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 appreciated in the establishments that allow them when great service or attention to detail is noticed. Workers who deal with tourists full time may have become accustomed 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.

Related: 9 SECRET Hotsprings In Iceland You Have To See To Believe!

Who to Tip In Iceland?

Tipping in Iceland isn’t expected, however there are certain industries that you should avoid tipping all together. If the Icelanders wouldn’t consider tipping then neither should you, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about that!

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.

Okay To Tip:
Tour Guides
Restaurant/Servers
Expedition Guides

Avoid Tips:
Non-Service Jobs
Fast Food Services
Taxi Services
Hotel/Spa Staff

tipping in iceland is done with either US dollars or Icelandic Krona

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 short tours this isn’t typical but for longer day & 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 many 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 but again, these are typically built into your bill.

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!

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.

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 Icelanders 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. When you get here you’ll understand. Until then, keep on planning, keep saving and keep dreaming!

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Patrick Horsfield

I’m Patrick, traveller, explorer, writer and photographer in chief here at Adventographer. Growing up with a healthy appetite for adventure on the west coast of Canada helped me shake the mindset that I needed material things and encouraged me to make travel a priority in my life. I write from a wealth of travel experiences both good and bad and endeavor to create & share amazing, inspiring content from around the world as a catalyst for change. Come along with me as I Explore/Create/Educate!

8 Comments

  1. Tipping is always such a confusing custom in each country. I like how you mention that locals don’t think tipping in Iceland is rude, just that its not practiced by locals. Great post!

  2. Tipping is one thing I always have to look up when I am traveling. I wish we could just do away with tipping cuz it’s so confusing! I grew up in Japan where there is no tipping and then when I moved to the states I had to get accustomed to it. I worked as a server both in Japan and in the states, and I have to say that I enjoyed the job more when tipping wasn’t a factor 🙂

    1. It changes everywhere doesn’t it?! Tipping in Iceland is no different! It’s interesting that you enjoyed serving more when tipping wasn’t a factor, I would have thought the other way around!

  3. I find the tipping culture complex. There is so much variation from one country to the other and that is why I always make it a point to read up about the tipping etiquette in the country I am planning to visit. I haven’t been to Iceland yet so your article will come in handy when I visit. Also, it was interesting to read Candy’s thoughts on tipping.

  4. This is a very handy article! I think it’s always important to read about these kind of subjects before you’re going to visit a certain destination. In the Netherlands, tips aren’t obligated as well, but it’s always nice to get them.

  5. Tipping around the world is always such an interesting topic and I’m always careful to research before I visit each country. I haven’t been to Iceland yet but I’ll be sure to keep this guide in mind for when I visit – as an American, I have to remember that tipping is significantly different from the US.

  6. This is really helpful, as a Canadian, I always tip so it hadn’t even crossed my mind that this may insult someone. Thanks so much for this information.

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