If it’s your first time in Romania, you may have several questions about how tipping in Romania works, such as how much is expected and when and how you should add a tip.
One of the important things a traveler needs to consider when arriving in a new country is the tipping culture of their destination. Regardless of wherever you’re from, remember that you are a guest in their country, and you should adhere to local customs and guidelines.
Keep in mind that tipping in Romania is typically less than the US and Canada, but more than places like Great Britain and Australia. While tipping more than what is expected is always appreciated, leaving less is bad form.
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Tipping is not compulsory, but it’s more or less expected
When it comes to tipping in Romania, there are a few things to keep in mind. For one, know that often, the base salaries are incredibly low. Servers take these jobs because it’s expected that tips will be a part of their income.
It is standard to tip 5-10% for table service in Romanian restaurants. A 5 lei tip (about $1 USD) on a 50 lei bill may not seem like a lot to you, but it may mean your server can afford to take a taxi home when they get off work at one or two in the morning or to afford better groceries.
Keep in mind that service standards differ from country to country. What is standard service in the U.S. or Canada would be over-the-top anywhere in Europe. Service in Romania is typically a little terser and to-the-point than in other countries, and that doesn’t mean that your server is doing a bad job – it’s just part of the culture.
If you truly have bad service, it’s better to speak with the management about what could be improved about your meal or to leave a smaller tip of around 3-4%, rather than to just straight up not tip.
Don’t enforce your point of view on tipping culture on others
Continuing on a similar vein from the above point, when it comes to tipping in Romania, please be mindful of the country’s customs concerning tipping and don’t let your country’s tipping culture influence how you tip in Romania.
Allison and I meet a fair share of Australian and British tourists while traveling who hate the concept of tipping culture and feel like they shouldn’t have to tip because it’s not expected for them back home. While I have my problems with tipping culture, skimping out on your waiter is not the way to solve those problems — especially when it’s clear that you have a good deal of privilege relative to your wait staff.
Likewise, I’ve met a lot of Americans living in the Balkans who get frustrated with the fact that servers in Romania tend to be more matter-of-fact and less overtly friendly than servers in their home country. As an American, I try to remember that my expectations for service are greatly different than people from other countries, and I try to adjust my expectations accordingly.
When you travel, it’s best to be aware of what the local expectations are and to adjust yourself to that, rather than expect people to adjust themselves to you.
There are different guidelines for tipping in Romania for different kinds of service
The etiquette for tipping in Romania depends largely on the kind of service you’re receiving. We’ll go over the kinds of service workers you’ll most likely encounter during your trip and what a good tipping baseline is for each of them.
Waiter: 5-10% of the bill for fair to good service, though you’ll sometimes see Romanians tip up to 12% for great service.
Taxi Driver: 4-5 lei (about 80 cents to $1 USD). If your taxi is over the equivalent of $10 USD, it’s nice to leave 5 lei per every 50.
Barista/Café Worker: Not required if you use counter service, but tipping a few lei if they have a tip jar and you pay in cash is appreciated. At sit-down coffee shops where you receive table service, leave 5-10%.
Nail or Hair Salon Worker; Masseuse: Approximately 10-15% directly to the person who serviced you.
Hotel Housekeeping: Tipping in hotels in Romania is customary. You’ll want to leave 5 lei per day (about $1 USD). You can tip every day, or leave it at the end. Make sure to leave a note or put it in an envelope marked “housekeeping” so they know it’s meant for them and not an accident.
Hotel Porters: 5 lei (about $1 USD) per bag
It’s extremely rare to have a service charge added, but do check before paying regardless
It’s rare for a service charge to be added to the bill in Romania. However, there is a chance that some places may add a service charge to your bill, so do quickly scan your bill to see. If there is one, it will most likely also be mentioned on the menu.
Be sure you’re not confusing the VAT/tax with the service charge! If you’re confused, simply ask your waiter to clarify your bill.
If you do run into a service fee, you don’t need to leave a full tip on top of it, but a few extra lei are appreciated.
It’s not always possible to tip on a credit card, so have some cash on hand
Depending on the point of sale device, it is not always possible to add a tip with a credit card. Even when it is, cash tips are generally appreciated as it is more likely to go directly to your wait staff rather than the restaurant management.
While in the U.S., for example, you often have the ability to add a tip at the very end of a meal after your credit card has already been run, in Europe that’s not the case and you usually have to tell your waiter exactly how much to charge on a card if you are tipping by card. For that reason, I think it’s generally less awkward to simply tip with cash.
Note that in many restaurants, anything tipped on the credit card will not be given to the server.
Tip using Romanian Lei, not Euros
Romania uses the Lei (singular: Leu) for all payments, and Euros are not accepted anywhere except in extremely dire circumstances. (There are hotels that will take Euros, but ask if you want to use them in the restaurant, and NEVER tip in them).
You should tip in lei as well – you don’t want to give your server the errand of also going to convert that currency to get their tip. Make sure you either exchange your money or take out some local currency from an ATM so you can tip in the right currency!
If for some strange reason you have to tip in Euros or another foreign currency, tip in such a large amount that they’d be happy. Think USD 20 when you’d normally tip the equivalent of $5. Only leave other currency in an emergency, and only in an amount so large that you’re making their life better instead of just giving them a BS errand to run.
Don’t forget to tip your tour guides!
Tour guides often get forgotten about when it comes to tips, but they shouldn’t be — they have to go through licensing procedures which are time-consuming and expensive, not to mention how much time they spend preparing to be ready to guide people each day. Plus there are countless specialty guides who are experts in their field.
I suggest a tip of approximately 10% of the cost of the tour for your tip for your guide, keeping in mind that if you have both a driver and a guide, they will likely share the tip.
If you take a free tour – we recommend tipping a minimum of 25 lei and better yet, around 50 lei per person.
For private, multi-day tours, tip 50-75 lei per person per day.
What to Bring with You to Romania
If you’re planning a trip to Romania, you’ll want to pack all the normal essentials, but here are a few things we strongly recommend bringing that may not have crossed your mind. For more, check out our complete Romania packing list.
– A physical guidebook, in paper or on Kindle. We love Lonely Planet Bulgaria & Romania for this region and strongly recommend it to supplement blogs. Blogs are great, but a combination of a blog and a guidebook is key to having the best access to information easily at your fingertips.
– A water bottle with a filter. While generally, the tap water in big cities in Romania is drinkable, such as in Bucharest and Brasov, we generally recommend using a water bottle with a purifying filter to reduce your plastic consumption and ensure you won’t drink any funny-tasting water on your stomach that could make your trip unpleasant! We recommend the GRAYL water bottle – it filters water perfectly in an instant so that you can even drink from lakes, bad taps, etc.
– Motion sickness pills. Romanian roads are winding and road conditions are not good – not even getting into the drivers, either. If you have a weak stomach as we do, save yourself and bring some non-drowsy motion sickness pills.
– Wet wipes, hand sanitizer, TP & other Balkan transit needs. Bathrooms in the Balkans tend to be… how can we say it?… not so well-stocked. Save yourself the disappointment and bring a mini-rescue pack of wet wipes & hand sanitizer.
– Travel safety items. We think Romania is very safe to travel, but at the same time, it never hurts to be prepared! Some people like to carry money belts, but neither Allison or I use these.
Instead, we both carry the same PacSafe anti-theft backpack. It has locking zippers, slash-proof construction with metal mesh hidden in the fabric, and tons of other smart security features — all while being cute and stylish enough to be our everyday bag. We recommend it highly for both male and female travelers, as it’s neutral enough to be unisex. We also strongly recommend travel insurance! Our recommendation is at the bottom of the post.
Where to Stay in Romania
We’re in the process of creating comprehensive guides on where to stay in various Romanian cities. You can check our suggestions for where to stay in Poiana Brasov, and more are on the way!
We recommend checking out Booking.com as early as possible. There are some great hotel deals available in Romania, but many of the most popular hotels do sell-out.
Romania Travel Resources
If you’re going to Romania, we have a goldmine of resources for you to take advantage of! First, check out this guide to planning a trip to Romania. It’s a good starting point for planning your trip.
You can also read about the best Romanian castles, the Romanian food you should try on your trip, the best Romanian souvenirs, and inspirational travel quotes about Romania. Plus, how to plan some epic day trips from Bucharest.
Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance
I’m sure you’re aware that travel insurance is a good idea for traveling in Romania (or really, any part of the world)! Allison and I have both been paying customers of World Nomads for the last three years. We love the peace of mind it gives us in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, or trip cancellation or disruption.
While the Balkans are perfectly safe to travel around, there’s always a risk inherent in everyday travel, so it’s better to play it safe. The saying goes “if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel” is true!
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Stephanie has been living in and traveling around the Balkans for the past three years. She’s written for National Geographic Online, appeared on CNN Arabic and in the New York Times, and ridden more Balkan buses than is good for a person.