How Much Should I Tip My Guide? We Asked Guides How Much to Give.
Planning adventures can be super exciting but when utilizing guides, how much should you tip?
“Tipping is part of life, but it often feels confusing and stressful. Whether you’re on a river trip, a safari, or taking a ski lesson, we asked all the hard questions to provide these guidelines on how much to give—and how to do it right.
I was on a backcountry hut trip in British Columbia last winter, and at the end of an incredible, powder-filled week, my group of friends and I realized what most of us had forgotten: cash. Specifically, enough money to tip our two hard-working ski guides, as well as the cook, who’d been making us delicious meals morning and night, and the hut caretaker, who’d been pre-heating the sauna and shoveling the path to the outhouse.
It was a major oversight on our part. In the end, we cobbled together what cash we had and the rest of us chipped in via PayPal, a clunky fix.
In America, we know that when we go into a restaurant, it’s expected that, assuming the service is decent, you will leave your waiter a 15 to 20 percent tip on the bill. But when you go on, say, a guided backcountry ski trip or a whitewater rafting trip with a commercial outfitter or an afternoon of guided fly-fishing, the assumptions of gratuity are less clear. Are you always supposed to tip in those cases, and if so, how much?
“Guiding is very similar to the restaurant industry. It’s a service industry,” says Shane Robinson, a Seattle-based mountain guide and the founder of Graybird Guiding. He also guides for the company Alpine Ascents International. “Unfortunately, guides are probably not paid as well as they should be. So, most guides rely on those tips to make ends meet.”
Tips for outdoor guides and instructors vary wildly—some people tip a lot, some less, others don’t tip at all—and every destination is different. If you’re traveling internationally, many countries don’t have a tipping culture like the U.S.
“Tipping these days is much more common, but it’s not across the board,” says Dave Hahn, a long-time guide for RMI Expeditions who has guided on peaks like Mount Rainier and Mount Everest. “I think of a tip as a reward for a meaningful time or for someone putting themselves out there for you, not as an expectation.”
Given that guides are often the one who makes your trip or instruction stand out above the rest, we recommend always being prepared to tip. But sorting out how much to give and when to give it after a shared adventure can be awkward, confusing, and feel so hush hush, like no one’s talking openly about it.”
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Photo Credit: Original Author