One of the best examples of the quality of Portuguese people is when it comes to tipping. In Paris I have come across a taxi driver who swore at me when I had enough cash only for the fare with no tip, and waiters looking down their noses even before they have served me as if I owe them something. In London I have had taxi drivers demanding a tip when I didn’t offer it. In Portugal, there have been many times when I have not offered a tip and never once have I seen a frown or heard a scornful comment.
In many Portuguese cafes, the locals pay the exact price for their coffee or their coffee and pastry. For them, tipping is reserved for fancy restaurants, and even then some people don’t even think about adding a tip to their bill. So, the fact is, you don’t have to tip in Portugal but I always do when I can.
Wages are extremely low in Portugal and in cafes the wages are even more extremely low. After all, most people will be in and out without paying more than a Euro, and there are cafes on almost every corner, so each visit is not generating a lot of revenue. Some cafes employ a large amount of waiters, which improves service.
When I go to a cafe or take a taxi, I almost always pay with cash, and I usually just round up the taxi fare, or chuck in a few extra coins in a cafe. In restaurants, I will add an amount to the bill – around 10%, depending on the size of the bill, or I pay with a card and then leave some money in cash for the waiter. This could be between €2 or €5 – again, depending on the level of service required for the meal.
I’m talking about the real Portugal here, not the holiday resorts in the Algarve, where there is perhaps a greater expectation of tips due to the fact that most customers are tourists.