Most travellers prefer to get to grips with the Sri Lanka tipping etiquette before their holiday. There is a strong tipping culture in Sri Lanka; wages are low so it’s an important additional way of making money. Of course, tips should be earned for good service rather than simply expected. Here are the guidelines for how much to tip in Sri Lanka.
Drivers and chauffeur guides: A driver or chauffeur guide can be tipped 5000-6000 LKR a day for good service. You can give this to them at the end of each day, which is often preferred, or if you prefer you can give it to them in total at the end of your holiday. Please do give more if you feel it is deserved, or less (even nothing) if the service has not been satisfactory.
Other guides: A good rough estimate is 1000-1200 LKR an hour. If the guide is particularly enthusiastic and good, tip a few hundred rupees on top. If not, don’t.
Hotel staff: Tipping hotel staff in Sri Lanka is expected if you stay in a small hotel or villa – you can do this either as you go along or on departure. Giving a collective tip is fine – usually to the most senior of the staff while making it clear that you would like it shared out. Most small hotels have a tip box now. Even in large or expensive hotels, wages are very low, so these tips are appreciated and needed. This amount is impossible to dictate and depends entirely on how helpful/friendly they have been and how generous you are feeling. 2500-3000 LKR per day is a good guide.
Restaurant staff: A 10% service charge is usually included in restaurant bills, so it’s best to check whether or not it’s been added. In small local places, however, it’s not normally included so if you’ve had good service, do leave a small tip – anything up to 150 LKR – and in tourist or posh city restaurants an extra tip is always gratefully received as well.
Tuk-tuk drivers: Tips are not necessary but appreciated. Rounding up the fare is normal practice and so you should expect to pay a little more than the local fare. Nonetheless, it is important to bargain; locals would not want you paying vastly over the odds and thereby inflating prices. Drivers will not change large notes so, if necessary, ask him to stop on the way to your destination in order to get some change.
Try and keep small change (notes of anything less than 500 LKR) as much as possible for tipping and small purchases.