Tips or gratuities are custom in Istanbul, or Turkey for that matter. The good news is that tipping (başiş) won’t hurt your wallet since you are only expected to spend rather humble amounts. But Turks don’t tip anywhere. Here is the lowdown on where and how much you are expected to tip in Istanbul. You’re of course free to raise the bar for excellence. On the flip side, you can lower or skip the tip if you were unhappy with the service you received.
General Tipping Rules
As a rule of thumb, you are expected to tip 5-10% in restaurants, cafés and bars. Hotel staff expect, depending on their duties, between 5 to 20 Turkish Liras for their services. Turks don’t tip taxi drivers, but round up cab fares.
How to Tip?
- Cash — In bars, cafés and restaurants, waiters will bring the bill to your table, on a plate or in a small booklet. You can pay the bill cash or by credit card. Unfortunately, contrary to some Western countries, there is no way to add an extra amount to the bill before paying it by credit card. Tipping always occurs with cash money, so be prepared to have some with you!
- Turkish Liras — The staff prefers to receive Turkish Liras, both notes and coins are fine. Foreign currency is appreciated too, as long as it is paper money and not change. Foreign coins cannot be exchanged into Turkish Liras.
Where and How Much to Tip?
- Airports — Every airport has professional porters, operating by an official tariff. In case the tariff is not prominently posted, tip 2 to 3 TL per suitcase. In case it totals less than the official tariff, be reassured that the porter will let you know.
- Taxis — For taxi drivers, don’t tip, just round up the fare. So, a fare of 8.60 TL, will become 9 TL. The only time people tip cab drivers is when they carry your luggage or bags to and from the car.
- Minibus (Dolmuş) — No tip.
- Hotels — For porters and room service, it is customary to tip 5 TL, the smallest paper bill. For housekeeping, people tend to leave their local change (5-10 TL) in the room, especially on the bed. Guests usually leave a tip at the reception after checking out, mostly around 20-50 TL.
- Restaurants, Cafés & Bars — As mentioned earlier, 5 to 10 percent is common. In more up market eateries, it’s appropriate to tip 10 to 15 percent.
- Musicians — Some establishments (meyhanes, fish restaurants) have strolling musicians. They play for tips. If you don’t want them to play at your table, it’s not impolite to graciously wave them away. However, it’s not done to have them play a few songs and not reward them. The correct technique is to slide a 5 or 10 lira note behind the strings of the violinist when he leans over the table. Alternatively, you can just drop some money in his pockets.
- Turkish Bath (Hamam) — There is no way you can avoid or forget tipping the Turkish bath/hamam attendant(s). Before you leave, they will all come ‘to say goodbye’, so make sure you have some cash money on you. You normally divide 10 to 20% of the total amount you spent among the attendants.
- Tour Guides — Tour guides don’t work for tips, you already paid for their service. Having said that, they of course do hope to receive a tip, which is token of your appreciation for a job exceptionally well done by the tour guide. Typically, people don’t tip the guide(s) individually, but as a group. Between 20 to 30 TL is common.