How much should I tip in Mérida?

tetiz mariscos restaurant in santiago park merida mexico

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When do I tip? Who do I tip? How much is enough? What is too much? The task of tipping in Mexico can be complicated, at best. You can ask 10 people about tipping and get 10 different answers about how much should I tip in Mérida? The easy answer is a few pesos to a percentage of the bill, depending upon the situation.

After 20 years’ experience in Mexico, I know how to tip in every situation. I will share insider tips for tipping to help you from a local perspective (pun intended). Understanding cultural differences and economic aspects provide insight and respect for hard-working local service providers.

Cultural Differences in Mérida

Sobremesa is one of the most charming aspects of this culture. Sobremesa is lingering after a meal to connect, chat, relax and enjoy the company you are with, even if the company is your own. No matter where you are, you are never rushed to finish your meal or your cup of coffee. This is both a different and refreshing change of pace.

Notably the longer you linger, it is customary to tip appropriately.

Your check is called “la cuenta”. Importantly, learn to ask for it like a local. Your waiter or waitress will appreciate your attempt to learn a few words in Spanish. This culture is respectful of your sobremesa and will not rush you.

Remarkably, wait staff will not bring your check until you ask for it.

Want to know a secret?

I absolutely LOVE the ability to relax at a local restaurant while people watching or even writing a blog post like this one. I never feel rushed and I get to enjoy the flavors and sounds of this magical city!

Amy Jones at La Tratto in Santa Lucia Park
Me at my favorite patio for writing . . . La Tratto in Santa Lucia park. A place where sobremesa is welcomed!

Economic Aspects in Mérida

Not surprisingly, the Mexican economy is extremely different from other countries such as the United States. Some service providers in Mérida live exclusively on the tips they make.

A few pesos make a huge impact for locals, please be generous.

Sometimes, people think it is fun or more convenient to tip in U.S. dollars. This causes undue stress on the service provider, unfortunately. Conversion fees are charged when the foreign currency is exchanged to local currency. For locals, this can be a hassle to exchange the currency as well as reducing the tip amount.

american one dollar bills
Refrain from using foreign currency in Mexico – it can be a hardship for the receiver to exchange the money.

Insider tip:
I highly recommend ordering pesos from your local bank BEFORE arriving in Mexico.


Pay attention when using your credit card.  It’s possible the merchant may add 3% – 4% to cover fees incurred by the credit card company.

I’ve found this fee is typically added in shops targeted at tourists. Also, in the beach destinations such as  Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum.

How to Tip at Mérida Grocery Stores

Sometimes, the only wage an employee earns is from tips. Grocery store baggers are in this category. Most of these service providers participate in tip sharing or take turns bagging groceries.

Let me explain . . . 

When you tip your bagger at the grocery store, they may combine the tips the received then split them up between all the baggers at the end of the day. Alternatively, they will take turns bagging groceries so that everyone that day gets a turn for tips.

Other helpers at the grocery store include men who will help you to your car and load your groceries for you or parking lot attendants.

Super Aki grocery stores in Mérida Mexico
Super Aki grocery stores are found all over Mérida. Depending upon the location, you will have baggers of all ages, both men and women.

Grocery Store Tipping Guidelines

  • $5 – $15 pesos for baggers, parking lot attendants or men to help load your groceries.

How to Tip at Mérida Restaurants

You will find a wide variety of restaurants in Mérida. From cocina economicas to local taco stands to fancy smancy upscale establishments. My favorites are everything in between! Because there is such a range of prices, how to tip in Mérida restaurants can be a little confusing.

Mérida is a highly cultural destination with museums, art, music and history. Eating out is an adventure to be enjoyed and savored. Literally, food is everywhere. So, I’ll spend a little more time on this section than the others to help you out.

tip-in-merida-bryans-burger-bar-santa lucia
Even though I don’t eat meat, I know Bryan’s Burger Bar has the best burgers worthy of a HUGE tip!

Check Your Expectations for Service

First, remember this culture is slower than most other cultures. Don’t expect to get the same level of service you have “back home”.

Second, you have to ask for what you want or need. Don’t expect your server to automatically know.

Third, be patient. Don’t expect the full attention of your server even if you are the only customer.

Fourth, have a level of understanding that there will be things “lost in translation” even if your server is fluent in English. Don’t expect your server to have complete knowledge of the language.

Fifth, your server wants you to be pleased with their service. They rely mainly on tips to support themselves and their families.


Insider tip:
Go with your gut. Give a few more pesos. Be generous.


Carry Coins and Small Bills for Tipping

When paying in cash, use a large bill and save smaller bills and coins for tips. Keep small denominations like $20, $50, and $100 peso notes as well as $1, $2, $5, and $10 peso coins handy.  I place smaller bills and coins in a separate pocket in my wallet.

Why?

Reserving smaller bills and coins not only helps me, it helps my service provider when I tip in Mérida.

Mexican peso bills and coins
Here is an example of small bills and coins. Keep these handy for tips!

Check this out . . .

You received great service at a restaurant and want to leave a generous tip. Your bill is $600 pesos. You give your server $1000 and ask for change. He brings you two $200 peso notes. His thought is to bring you what is easier to carry in your wallet. You are wondering why he didn’t bring you more appropriate change so that you could give him a 20% tip.

Then, you have to ask him to break a $200 peso note and he brings you two $100 peso notes. You still don’t have enough to give him a 20% tip (unless you followed my advice and have enough coins on hand).

See the problem?

Always Tip in Cash, Not on a Credit Card

It’s super helpful to plan to tip in Mérida because this is such a cash heavy economy. Carry enough pesos to tip appropriately. It’s better for your server to get a cash tip.

Think about it this way . . .

Your server receives a 15% tip on a credit card. They could pay up to 4% of their tip in credit card fees that are charged to the restaurant. This leaves them with an 11% tip, reducing their amount almost 25%.

If you want to pay your bill on a credit card (don’t we all LOVE those airline miles) and only have a large bill for a tip, here’s what to do:

Give the large bill to your server and provide VERY specific instructions about the exact change you need. That way nothing gets lost in translation and everyone is happy!

appetizers and drinks at peruano restaurant merida mexico
Delicious botanas appetizer at Peruano restaurant in front of Santa Lucia Park.

Restaurant Tipping Guidelines

  • From a few pesos to 20% or more depending upon the situation and the establishment.
  • For great service, tip 20% or more.
  • Be aware, the daily (not hourly) wage for waiters is $120 pesos plus tips ($5.64 USD).

How to Tip an Uber or Taxi Driver

Unless you are super brave and preparing for an Indy 500 race, more than likely you will use public transportation or Uber to move around the city. When I arrived for the first time in Mérida on vacation, I drove straight to my Airbnb, parked and never ventured out on the streets again. I was quite intimidated by the aggressive driving, large buses and plethora of pedestrians.

I prefer Uber to a taxi for several reasons:

  • Using the app is safer (I can see the driver rating).
  • Ability to pay with a credit or debit card (it’s convenient with customer service).
  • Don’t have to negotiate the fee (I’m NOT a tourist and won’t pay tourist fees).
  • I’m still learning the language (nothing lost in translation when the route is provided).

Of course, every single Uber driver is different. Yes, I’ve even had to report a few that drove erratically or were texting while driving. Some drivers sit in the car while I struggle to put my groceries in the trunk while others jump out of the car to help.

taxi service in Merida Mexico
Taximetro has an app similar to Uber. Negotatiate your amount BEFORE getting into the taxi. Not all drivers speak English.

Taxi or Uber Driver Tipping Guidelines

  • Tipping is not expected.
  • Adding a tip on the Uber app is completely acceptable.
  • If your driver helped with groceries or other items, tip a few pesos up to 20% depending upon the total fare.
  • Friendly? Knowledgable? Helpful? Then a few pesos go a long way.

Insider tip:
Ask your taxi driver for a set fee to your destination prior to getting in the car.
Taxis don’t have mileage counters and fares should be negotiated up front.


How to Tip at a Hotel, Resort or Airbnb

Did you know it is customary to tip the staff in small boutique-style hotels? Yes, it’s true. Tipping in these types of hotels can include a few pesos for the maids, bellboy, concierge, and other service providers. I learned on my first trip to Mexico that leaving a few pesos on my pillow every day for housekeeping meant I would have extra care taken with my room and things.

Leaving coins or a $20 peso note is a generous gesture to show someone you care and it is reciprocated.

Does your Airbnb have a pool? Cleaning service? Gardener? It is appropriate to tip a few pesos for each service. When you receive a little extra assistance or attention, a few pesos go a long way to show your appreciation.

I know what you are thinking . . . 

“Why should I tip more when I am already paying for service that is included with my fee(s)?”

The answer is quite simple:  giving a small token to convey the value of the service you receive creates a more personal interaction.

 

bed in the morning with coffee and journal
It’s a luxury to have your bed made every day. Clean, fresh sheets and soft blankets ease stress and promote relaxation.

Hotel, Resort or Airbnb Tipping Guidelines

  • $15 – $40 pesos/day depending upon the service provider or type of service performed.
  • 10% of the bill for the on-site chef, front desk, and other staff which is typically split equally.

Insider tip:
You can ask what is an appropriate tip for any service provider associated with your accomodation.
I give $15 – $20 pesos per service provider. If there are 2 pool cleaners then I give $30 pesos.
If there is one housekeeper, I give $15 – $20 pesos. 


How to Tip Delivery Service Providers

Servicio domecilio (or home delivery). Two of my favorite words in Mérida. From pharmacies, Uber Eats, Rappi,  Cornershop and more, you will find a plethora of home delivery services. For someone like me who doesn’t have a car, servicio domecilio is the BEST!

I’ve tried just about every delivery service in Mérida. There is no such thing as consistency. It all depends upon your personal delivery driver. Some take their job very seriously, while others (may I be honest here?) are a bit lazy.

If you’re just learning Spanish (or maybe you don’t know Spanish at all), you can also order via WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger for many estalishments. This helps tremendously when there is a language barrier.

lavaderia and tintoreria in san cristobal merida mexico
Many lavanderias and tintorerias like this one offer pick-up and delivery service. I tip $20 pesos per trip and my deliveries area always on time.

Delivery Service Tipping Guidelines

  • From a few pesos to 10 – 15%.
  • If you are ordering through Rappi or Uber Eats, you can add a tip via the app or pay the tip in cash.

Insider tip:
Did your water delivery man carry your water upstairs? Was your food delivered extra fast?
Use your best judgment. When in doubt, a few pesos are better than none. 


How to Tip for Other Services

Street Food Vendors

You will find muy rico (very delicious) street food from marquesitas to cochinita pibil to fruit with chile.

  • A peso or two guarantees a smile.
marquesitas cart on the Paseo de Montejo merida mexico
Delicious marquesitas made by street food vendors are a delectable surprise . . . but a word of caution: only eat one!

Musicians and Street Performers

With regards to music and street performers, there is something for everyone no matter what age. From mariachis to break dancers and everything in between, you’ll see a variety of acts. Some are curious, others are funny, many are cultural exhibitions of the history of the city and the area.

One of my favorite weekly things to do is the Serenata in Santa Lucia park. You’ll find musicians and street performers all over the city.

  • $5 – $20 persos per person for street performers.
  • $20 – $50 pesos per music set in a bar like La Negrita or lounge such as Dzalbay.

Personal Services

Massage therapists, hairstylists, spa attendants receive their own tips (not part of a tip share). Generally, an envelope is provided at the front desk for your tip and a personal message, if you want to include one. You can also tip your personal services attendant directly.

  • 10% – 20% based on the type of service and your relationship with the service provider.

Gas Station Attendants

I’ve yet to find a self-serve gas station in Mexico. Gas stations have gas station attendants to fill your tank. Sometimes they will ask if you want your oil, tire pressure or windows cleaned. Take advantage of this service when possible because you never know where the next gas station might be.

  • From a few pesos to 5 – 10% on the total amount.

Tour Guides

This can be one of the most difficult to tip. The amount will depend on the type of tour so it will vary. Here are some suggestions found on other expat and tour forums:

  • Multi-day group tour: $80 – $100 pesos/day for the tour guide and $40 pesos/day for the driver.
  • Private tour: $150 – $200 pesos/day and $60 pesos for the driver.
  • One day tour: 10 – 20% is standard.
merida mexico city tour bus santa lucia park
Local tour bus leaves from Santa Lucia park. This is a really amazing (and inexpensive way) to see the sights and hear the sounds of the city.

Final Thoughts on How to Tip in Mérida

Now, you have some guidelines about how to tip in Mérida. You have a bit of foundation to answer the questions:

  • When do I tip?
  • Who do I tip?
  • How much is enough?
  • What is too much?

Remember these important points:

  1. You will need to ask your check or “la cuenta” when you finish your drink or your meal.
  2. A tip is called a “propina”. Pay close attention when you receive your check to see if the tip or service already included – “servicio no incluido” or “servicio incluido”.
  3. The old standards of tipping only a few pesos or 5% at restaurants is outdated. Mérida is a center of arts and culture. Tip appropriately. 
  4. Reserve smaller bills and coins so you don’t have to rely on your service provider making the correct change.

Not surprisingly, it takes some time to learn about the culture of Mérida. I hope this article helped you understand more about how to tip in Mérida.

P.S. Let me know your thoughts on tipping in Mérida Mexico in our online community (I can’t wait to meet you!)


The Universal Rule:  no effort = no tip


 

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