The tipping culture in Canada

So I have been asked this  question a few times now, about the tipping culture in Canada, and so thought it would make a good article.

Note,  this is in reference to Calgary- but is similar, as far as I know,  across the country (but let me know if you have had a different experience of this)

So  the ‘servers’  (waiters and waitress’s)  get paid minimum wage and so they  ’rely’ quite heavily on their tip to top up their salary . In bars and restaurants, all food/beverage prices  that are posted don’t include ‘service’ (unlike UK where it is embedded) so… its hard to get used to having to pay it at first. Also  it is apparently ‘discretionary’ but is usually between 10 and 20% but 15% is typically the  ’usual’.  It is usually fairly easy to work out though, because the GST  (VAT equivalent) , for Alberta is 5% (again is added- not already included)- so  usually just x the GST by 3 and do that as a tip.

Note- though, that in some restaurants or bars, if it is a group of 6 or more- they often say it is minimum 15% or sometimes 18% and that it is added automatically to the bill- MOST will tell you about it when they give you the bill- but not all!!

In Taxi’s  I am not sure what the ‘expected’ is- i usually round it up to the next 0 or 5 depending on the length of journey, time etc.

At petrol pumps, some of them have full service pumps, where the guys will fill the car, wash front screen/check washer fluid etc- but note tip is NOT  required here….

For bell boys etc, if they help with luggage, I usually do $1 /piece. For other services, eg spa/beauty/hair etc I believe it is discretionary but I now use a salon with a no tipping policy, so I don’t feel quite so ‘uncomfortable’!! Note I did do some research to get a ‘Canadian’s view’ regarding Canadian tipping policies, and this is from a Bar,  in the South, called the Windsor Rose (which by the way, allows children in during the day on a Sunday- and offers a good brunch menu at the weekends too) … what it should be- and this was the response-

Tips don’t end at providing wages for just your server… the kitchen staff preparing your meals, the bartender pouring your drinks, the host greeting you at the door and expediters running your food orders all receive a portion of the gratuity you leave behind. Costs towards broken dishes and lost cutlery are also covered with gratuities. Some guests are unaware that by not leaving a gratuity, your server is actually paying to serve you at the end of the day. This is because the allocated portion to his or her colleagues is due no matter how much is left by the costumer. Tipping in Canada is calculated at 15 – 20% of the total bill. Auto-gratuities only occur on large parties to ensure the server will not suffer a large loss after service.
So as you can see, it is actually a bit more in depth than we would first think- and while it is still deemed to be discretionary, by realising the reasoning for it, and being aware that is is not included in the price of the food- hopefully  can make it a little easier and less awkward, when its time to ‘pay’!


  1. Jane Davies says:

    This is a nice website but if you are in the business of giving potential immigrants from the UK information you should inform them of the frozen UK state pension injustice. It is the UK’s grubby little secret and many UK citizens settle in Canada totally unaware of this theft of their pension money.

Speak Your Mind