I come from a country where tipping is not the done thing, so when I am overseas I find it difficult to understand the do’s and dont’s of tipping. Luckily, tipping in Russia is a pretty simple and easy to understand affair.
Offering a tip to service workers is definitely not an ingrained cultural tradition – it is a much more recent development. During Soviet times, many people joke that offering a tip was more likely to be interpreted as a bribe! Today, you will see tip jars all over the city in cafes, bars and restaurants. But the big question is, how much to tip?
Unlike the North American tipping culture, there is no set percentage for tipping in Russia that is seen as ‘acceptable’. Generally when paying for small items, such as a coffee in a cafe, rounding up is fine, or even not leaving a tip at all is perfectly acceptable as there is no expectation. For larger bills in restaurants that have table service, a good rule of thumb is around 10-15%.
I have yet to be in a restaurant in Moscow that allows you to add a gratuity to the cheque and pay by card. So if you would like to leave a tip when paying by card, it will need to be in cash, so be sure to keep a few 100RUB notes handy! Of course, it is perfectly acceptable not to tip at all, but if you have received good service, it is nice to acknowledge it. Although wages are higher in Moscow than anywhere else in Russia, servers and waitresses are definitely not highly paid and are sure to appreciate a little bit extra in their back pocket at the end of the month.
If you have any comments or insights about tipping in Russia, please leave a comment below.