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Tipping in Nepal for Volunteers

This post deals with tipping for volunteers who travel to Nepal with Take on Nepal. The tipping expectations for those trekking with us is different, and I’ll outline those in a later post.

Tipping in a foreign country is always a bit of a minefield. Even worse in a third world country where a couple of dollars could be close to a day’s wages. But — and this is important — for the most part when you participate in one of our volunteer programs, you’re not a tourist. You’re traveling to Nepal to work, to offer what help you can in schools and villages. And in that context, tipping rarely come into play.

There are a small number of cases where volunteers like yourselves should consider tipping, but even then it would rarely be at the level of the garden variety tourists upon which so much of the Nepalese economy depends. I’ll outline those instances later in this post.

First, the basics.

Your Take on Nepal guides will handle whatever tips might be expected during your stay in Kathmandu, during your trek to the village, and during your time in Batase. This includes the driver who picks you up at the airport and takes you to your hotel, all tips during your hotel stay (porters, concierges, cooks, etc.), waiters and other staff in any restaurant where you have a communal meal, etc. Though it should be noted that tipping in restaurants is rare in Nepal, as a service charge is usually added to the bill.

Do not tip anyone on your first few days in Nepal. It’s not required, and if you feel any staff member — even a hotel porter — is lingering in the expectation of a tip, tell your Take on Nepal guide immediately. We have arrangements with each hotel we use that specifically states our volunteers are not be imposed upon for tips. We use the same hotels on a regular basis, and we make sure the hotel staff who help out our volunteers are tipped appropriately.

When should you tip, and how much should you give?

If you extend your stay beyond your volunteer experience, you should then tip in hotels. Likewise, if you plan to go trekking after your volunteering, you should tip your trekking guides at the end of the trek (10% of the cost of the guide for the duration of the trip is a good benchmark.)

When volunteering, the only time we recommend tipping of Take on Nepal staff, is a small token gesture when leaving the village. And even then, we find it’s better if the group as a whole comes together with a single tip rather than each individual having to handle tipping themselves. I’d suggest $5-$10 each for the cook in the village who prepares all your meals, and in the region of $10 each for the guides.

This is completely optional, and no one should feel under any obligation to participate. The reason for a detailed post like this, is that we are often asked by volunteers how much they should tip staff, and if we say nothing, or make a “whatever you feel like” type of answer, volunteers invariably over tip. We pay our staff very well by Nepalese standards, so they do not require tipping to supplement their income, as do many guides who work for more mainstream trekking companies.

Bottom line: don’t be worried by tipping. Taking care of that is part of the package we offer.

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