How Much and When to Tip in Istanbul

Plate with tipping money in Istanbul, Turkey.

by Erlend Geerts

in Practical Information

Tips or gratuities are custom in Istanbul, or Turkey for that matter. The good news is that tipping (başiş) won’t hurt your wallet since you are only expected to spend rather humble amounts. But Turks don’t tip anywhere. Here is the lowdown on where and how much you are expected to tip. You’re of course free to raise the bar for excellence. On the flip side, you can lower or skip the tip if you were unhappy with the service you received.

General Tipping Rules

As a rule of thumb, you are expected to tip 5-10% in restaurants, cafés and bars. Hotel staff expect, depending on their duties, between 5 to 20 Turkish Liras for their services. Turks don’t tip taxi drivers, but round up cab fares.

How to Tip?

  • Cash — In bars, cafés and restaurants, waiters will bring the bill to your table, on a plate or in a small booklet. You can pay the bill cash or by credit card. Unfortunately, contrary to some Western countries, there is no way to add an extra amount to the bill before paying it by credit card. Tipping always occurs with cash money, so be prepared to have some with you!
  • Turkish Liras — The staff prefers to receive Turkish Liras, both notes and coins are fine. Foreign currency is appreciated too, as long as it is paper money and not change. Foreign coins cannot be exchanged into Turkish Liras.

Where and How Much to Tip?

  • Airports — Every airport has professional porters, operating by an official tariff. In case the tariff is not prominently posted, tip 2 to 3 TL per suitcase. In case it totals less than the official tariff, be reassured that the porter will let you know.
  • Taxis — For taxi drivers, don’t tip, just round up the fare. So, a fare of 8.60 TL, will become 9 TL. The only time people tip cab drivers is when they carry your luggage or bags to and from the car.
  • Minibus (Dolmuş) — No tip.
  • Hotels – For porters and room service, it is customary to tip 5 TL, the smallest paper bill. For housekeeping, people tend to leave their local change (5-10 TL) in the room, especially on the bed. Guests usually leave a tip at the reception after checking out, mostly around 20-50 TL.
  • Restaurants, Cafés & Bars — As mentioned earlier, 5 to 10 percent is common. In more up market eateries, it’s appropriate to tip 10 to 15 percent.
  • Musicians — Some establishments (meyhanes, fish restaurants) have strolling musicians. They play for tips. If you don’t want them to play at your table, it’s not impolite to graciously wave them away. However, it’s not done to have them play a few songs and not reward them. The correct technique is to slide a 5 or 10 lira note behind the strings of the violinist when he leans over the table. Alternatively, you can just drop some money in his pockets.
  • Turkish Bath (Hamam) — There is no way you can avoid or forget tipping the Turkish bath/hamam attendant(s). Before you leave, they will all come ‘to say goodbye’, so make sure you have some cash money on you. You normally divide 10 to 20% of the total amount you spent among the attendants.
  • Tour Guides — Tour guides don’t work for tips, you already paid for their service. Having said that, they of course do hope to receive a tip, which is token of your appreciation for a job exceptionally well done by the tour guide. Typically, people don’t tip the guide(s) individually, but as a group. Between 20 to 30 TL is common.

[Photo Source]

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Rachel June 16, 2013 at 5:36 pm

This is a fantastic web sight. I am visiting Istanbul later this year and the information I am gathering here will be of great assistance to me. Many many thanks. Tessekur ederim.

Reply

Erlend Geerts June 17, 2013 at 8:42 pm

Hi Rachel,

Thanks a lot for the compliments. Rica ederim.

Erlend

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Dina June 30, 2013 at 12:21 pm

yes, this is a more helpful website than the Lonely Planet book I bought on Turkey. thanks!

Reply

Erlend Geerts July 1, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Hi Diana,

Thanks a lot for the compliments!

Erlend

Reply

Sam July 8, 2013 at 1:24 am

Invaluable information. Couldn’t have survived my trip to Istanbul without it. Thanks so much!!

Reply

Erlend Geerts July 10, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Hi Sam,

Glad you liked it. Thanks for sharing it.

Erlend

Reply

Gina September 10, 2013 at 12:51 am

Thanks for the good advice! I have an additional question(s):

What about local sandwich-esque shops and bakeries where you either go up to the counter and order something to go (so no sitting, no waiter) or you order home cooked food, cafeteria style, and carry your own plates to the tables. Do they expect tips there? I’m thinking of the local small places in my neighborhood that sell pide, kofte…not exactly restaurants but certainly food places.

Also, a lot of these places have home deliver options. Should you tip the delivery guy?

Thanks for the great advice!

Reply

Erlend Geerts September 10, 2013 at 10:00 pm

Hi Gina,

If you get food from a counter, there is no need to tip at all. Locals only tip people in food places when food is brought to the table by a waiter, and he or she also delivers the bill and collects the money.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Abdul September 15, 2013 at 8:33 am

Super useful ‘tips’. Thanks a lot for posting this!

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Pamela December 12, 2013 at 9:28 pm

I agree that this is an amazing website and I wish I had found it when I was originally booking my trip… but anyway: (what) should we tip the hotel driver who picks us up from the airport?

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Erlend Geerts December 14, 2013 at 9:27 am

Hi Pamela,

It’s custom to tip between 5 and 10% of the total amount.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Christian January 25, 2014 at 8:54 pm

Erlend, you’re a legend. Thank you for your website. It is more helpful than Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor combined.
Cheers,
Christian.

Reply

Erlend Geerts January 31, 2014 at 11:05 am

Thanks a lot Christian.

Reply

jones August 23, 2014 at 10:22 am

Regarding the tipping at hotels, the 5-10 TL you mentioned for housekeeping, is that per day or total? Turkey Travel Planner suggests 5 or 7TL per day. And I haven’t visited a country where it is customary to tip at reception, whom does the tip go to and what is it for? As all the waiters, bellboys, concierge etc. will already have been tipped, 20-50TL seems a high gratuity to pay the employee who assigned your room, and besides, this seems like part of the normal job responsibility rather than providing any additional service.

Someone posted on a Lonely Planet forum that “even if you carry your own bags there will be a bellboy in any “better” hotel who will escort you to the room, demonstrate the light switches, the climate control, etc. About 5% of the room charge is reasonable.” I think there is so much conflicting information because everybody has their own preferences. Some tend to be more generous with waiters, others give higher than standard percentages to concierge, doormen, or whomever. I personally would not give 5% of a nightly room rate to somebody who shows me to the room and explains the light switches and climate control.

Is it okay to tip 5% at a lokanta?

Reply

Erlend Geerts August 23, 2014 at 8:35 pm

Hi Jones,

I completely understand your concerns, and yes it is confusing. For starters, the tipping customs change from country to country. And the rules are not carved in stone.

Giving a bellboy 5% of your room rate is of course too much. Depending on the work he did and how much you appreciated his efforts, an amount beteween 15 and 50 Liras will do.

As for tipping housecleaning, the choice is yours. Either you tip small amounts on a daily basis, or you tip at the end of your stay according to your satisfactory level.

The concierge you tip only at the end of your stay. Again, if he helped you out a lot and made arrangements and reservations for you, it’s nice to be generous. If he only said hi and bye, there is no need to tip.

About tipping in bars and restaurants, there is this misconception that you must tip. Tipping is showing your appreciation for the service you received. If service is impeccable, then 10% is custom. If less but satisfactory, leave 5%. If you had to go stand on a table and shout across the room to get his or her attention before you got attended, by all means feel free not to tip to show your dissatisfaction.

I hope this helps,
Erlend

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