Like many people, I pay for most of my store, restaurant, hotel and transportation purchases here in the US with credit and debit cards. When I'm heading to Europe, my money preparations consist of making sure I have packed the correct credit/debit cards, and I'm good to go. No traveler's checks, no buying Euros here in the US, no exchanging dollars abroad.
The Camino de Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route – The Way of Saint James– is made up of a series of routes across Spain, Portugal and France, all of which end in the city of Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain. And this week four of the Christian pilgrimage routes in northern Spain were added as Unesco World Heritage sites.
The questions about tipping guides and restaurant staff in Spain and Portugal far surpass any other questions travelers have. With reason. In the US tipping is both obligatory and viewed as a reflection on the service. In Spain and Portugal the matter is viewed differently. In many restaurants a service charge is included in the bill, and tips, while appreciated, are not expected. And tips, when given, tend to be 5 to 10%, and 10% only in restaurants where the service has involved a great deal of plate and glass changing. In a café or tapas bar normally only a few coins (under 1€) are left. Tipping private guides is optional and based on your satisfaction with the guiding service. Hotel staff can be tipped a Euro or two for porterage and concierge services.
Here's a brief guide to tipping in Spain and Portugal.
Tipping 5% - 10% maximum in restaurants is standard, although tipping is only done if you are happy with the service. No tip is expected for a cup of coffee or a drink, although some people will leave the change rounding up from the nearest Euro. For tapas or a sandwich in a bar, the change from the nearest Euro is sufficient. For high level or Michelin star restaurants, a 5 to 10% tip is standard. If you pay by credit card it is preferable to leave a cash tip because the wait staff often does not receive the tips left on credit cards.
For a half or full day, anywhere between 10 and 40€ is normal. For multi-day guiding services, 20 to 100€ or more is common when you feel very satisfied with the service provided. Tipping guides is optional and at your discretion.
As with the guides, it depends on how many days the driver has been with the group. 2 to 5€ per person per day is appropriate.
For help with luggage: €1 per suitcase is standard. Concierge services or room service: 1 - 2€. Maid service: 1€ per day.
Tips to taxi drivers are not expected or required.
See our Food and Wine Tours in Spain and Portugal.
How to translate sobremesa… It is a concept that barely exists in the English-speaking world. The Manuel Seco Diccionario del español actual defines it as the "tiempo inmediatamente siguiente a una comida, durante el cual los comensales permanecen reunidos y conversando." The time immediately following a meal during which the guests remain at the table and talk. It is the post-meal time marked by shared conversation. It is the time when coffee and perhaps brandy or a liquor are savored. It is institutionalized in Spain especially when meals are shared in restaurants or with invited guests at home. It means that eating and running is fine for quick lunches during the work week, but not an option when friends or family gather to eat. So revered is it in Spain that they have a prize for it!
Having recently eaten at Restaurante Coque, I heartily agree with their receiving the Best Sobremesa award. The experience at Coque is marked by the guests starting in the bodega and then moving to the kitchen, then to the dining room and finally to the Lounge for the Sobremesa. In the Lounge you are presented with dessert and the Box of Minerals. Literally a box containing 13 different small truffles and sweets with flavors ranging from Passion Fruit to Cinnamon to Candied Orange. Most notable in the Lounge is that all of the diners who earlier inhabited separate spaces in the dining room all seem to be friends in the Lounge, talking openly across tables and across the room. Barriers have come down, and no one seems in a hurry to get somewhere else, despite the fact that the meal is into its third hour. But isn't a leisurely Michelin-starred lunch in Madrid, masterfully prepared and served by Mario Sandoval and team, a pleasure to seek out, and reason enough to travel to Spain?