How much?We have heard many suggestions concerning the amounts to tip. By and large, local people who are not receivers of tips tend to suggest that you tip modestly, explaining that local wage levels are low and that big tips can represent a significant proportion of the recipients income and can distort relative income levels.
People who do receive tips from foreign visitors will emphasise that workers in the tourist industry are particularly poorly paid and tend to depend on tips to supplement their income. We will leave aside the argument about whether generous tips encourage low wages.
Tips are a personal gift as a reward for good service, so the amount has to be discretionary. They will depend on the generosity of the donor and the quality of service. Nevertheless, the following indications may be helpful as a starting point.
PortersLocal businessmen normally give around LE2 per bag. Tourists are normally more generous and the rule of thumb often promoted is LE5 per bag in a hotel. Please do not be over-generous at the airport. People often give £1 per bag, because they don't have, or don't yet understand, the local currency. To put it in context, £1 is around a day's wages for most people, so it is far too much.
Room staffAn Egyptian businessman will probably give around LE10 every other day. A tip of LE10 per day for a short stay, LE50 for a week or LE100 per fortnight is a good tourist tip. It can be helpful to follow the local tradition and give something every now and then, say on alternate days, rather than leaving it all to the end. It saves the staff wondering if they will get a tip or not and it can also help if you want little things done.
Pool staffThis depends a lot on the services that are provided, which varies a lot between hotels. At the hotels where the pool staff provide the towels, fetch and position the loungers and so on, LE20 at the beginning, rather than at the end of your stay, will encourage good service. Another LE20 at the end won't hurt if you have been pleased.
Taxis10% is normal, but it can be difficult because the sums are so small. For a local trip, 50 piastres to LE1 is fine. LE5 would be normal for a longer journey costing LE25 or more. For a half-day on the West Bank, the normal charge would be LE80 - LE100, and a tip of LE10 - LE20 would be fair depending on how pleased you are with the tour. For a full day, LE20 would be OK as a minimum, but most tourists would give a little more if the driver has been helpful.
Take into account also that if you are 'encouraged' to spend some of your West Bank time in papyrus galleries or alabaster factories, the driver gets up to 50% commission on your purchases. We tend to tip better if the driver does not automatically stop outside these places.
RestaurantsLocal people tend not to tip as a percentage of the bill, but give a fixed amount, typically LE5 per person. Tourists are normally more used to tipping in relation to the cost of the meal, but don't be too fussed about the calculation. If a service charge is not included aim for something around 10% of the total, but depending on how satisfied you are and how convenient the sums work out. For example, if your bill is LE89, a tip of LE11 would be a tip of about 12% and would round up the total to convenient LE100.
Even if a service charge is included you would be expected to leave some spare change, around LE3 - LE10 per person.
Tour guides10% of the tour cost, but see the comment about commissions relating to taxi drivers and bear in mind that reps get up to 50% commission too.
CruisesTips are normally quite regimented and are regarded as part of the cost of the cruise rather than as a 'gratuity' in the traditional sense. If you are in a group with a rep, the tipping arrangements will normally be explained at the outset or quite early on.
On some trips you may be invited to pay a suggested sum up front. More usually there will be an envelope that you put your donations in and hand to reception towards the end of the trip.
If you are in a guided group, the amounts will be suggested to you. If not, work on the basis of a minimum of LE10 per person per night. In practice, LE200 per couple for a one-week cruise for all on-board staff and LE100 for the Egyptologist (if you do the excursions) is not unusual.
The tips are distributed to all staff according to a formula, so even the staff who do not normally come into direct contact with the passengers get something. This doesn't prevent you giving a little extra to people who may have provided particular services. It is not uncommon to give the room staff a little extra, not necessarily at the end of the trip, to encourage particularly good service.