To Tip or Not or How Much or Why . . . ?

As I travel to various parts of this wonderful world — whether it’s speaking on cruise ships or just enjoying the beauty of the area — there are activities and customs that can be downright confusing to some. One of those customs has to do with leaving a tip for someone who’s provided a service to you. That service could be the person cleaning your hotel room, serving you a meal, driving you somewhere, making your special morning latte, toting your luggage at the train station. There are lots of services being done every day as people move about in their own city or in some place far away.

One quick story. It was my first business trip to Japan, and I was staying at the Hyatt Hotel near the Shinjuku Station. I’d been given directions on how to use the train from the airport to the train station, so I was all set for getting to the area. Once at the station, I got in a taxi and told him the Hyatt Hotel. We were off in a jiffy, and we made it to the hotel in about six minutes (I didn’t know how close by it was; I walked from then on). As we got to the hotel, a man ran out to the taxi, grabbed my luggage and ushered me into the hotel after I paid the taxi driver. Once inside, the bellman stood by my luggage as I checked in, showed them my passport, etc. With key in hand I head to the elevator as the bellman dutifully and politely followed me. We ride up together, neither of us saying anything, until we reach my floor. Off to the room where he waits for me to invite him in with MY luggage. He brings it in and turns around to leave. I said something and he turned around. I had some money in my hand to give to him and he shook his head “No.” He bowed politely and left.
After I put my clothes away I looked at the hotel check-in form and there it was in bold letters: NO TIPPING. That was certainly different from what I was used to the the USA!

Many customs can cause confusion as there doesn’t always seem be rhyme or reason why “Yes” here, “No” there, “Maybe” or “Sometimes” in other places. As these are customs and not laws, there is no definitive source for what is actually the right thing to do, but Wikipedia does have a nice reference article: You might not want to print the article although you could jot down a few notes based on the countries you’re planning on visiting.

Many people say that you shouldn’t have to tip if the service people are paid “a decent wage.” That sounds good, but that’s not always the case. For some workers, particularly in restaurants, hotels and other customer-focused service industries, their base pay is pathetic, perhaps three dollars an hour with the expectation that they’ll make it up in tips. Our son worked six years in a restaurant where a very significant part of his pay was the tips he received. His experience helped us to be even more generous when we tip; it will be 20% at a minimum in a restaurant unless the service is sub-par.

One of my recent cruise ship speaking experiences was a six-week voyage from New York City through the Panama Canal to Sydney, NSW, Australia — what an awesome experience. It was the last segment of a 3+ month world cruise that sailed round trip from Sydney, so it was mostly Aussies and Kiwis on board. Because the ship was home ported in Australia, it was a requirement that there be no tipping on board. When you bought a drink, your room card was charged the menu price, and the bill was closed out. There wasn’t even an option to add a tip. That was strange for us (so we did personally tip some of the staff), but it was life as usual for the Australians. I came across an article on Cruise Critic about tipping, particularly on cruises, and I thought it was interesting — here it is.

Travel is a wonderful thing; whatever you do, wherever you go — remember there are people working to make a living so that you’re able to enjoy your travels. Even a few dollars from you — such a small amount for you — can make a big difference for the service staff.

Happy Travels!

Stuart Gustafson is America’s International Travel Expert® who speaks on cruise ships, writes novels, sends out an infrequent newsletter (almost every month!), is an avid TripAdvisor reviewer, and loves everything about travel. Visit his website at You can also connect with him and other travelers on his International Travel Expert page on Facebook at

All information and images copyright © 2017 by Stuart Gustafson Productions, LLC. America’s International Travel Expert is a U.S. Registered Trademark of Stuart Gustafson Productions, LLC. Ownership of images and content from linked sources remains with those sources or their attributions; no ownership by Stuart Gustafson Productions, LLC, is implied or claimed.

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A hidden Gem in downtown Cabo San Lucas

Casa Bella Hotel

I’ve been going to Cabo San Lucas, at the tip of the Baja California peninsula, each year since 2003. It started out while I was still working, and I’d go one week a year. A few years later it became two weeks a year, and now it’s anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks a visit, and we go up to 3 times a year. So you’d think we would know the area very well. We do, of course, but it’s not until you stay somewhere different that you start to explore that “new area.”

We just got back from a 2-1/2 week stay — two weeks in a timeshare unit right on the Pacific Ocean (we love watching and hearing the waves!) followed by 3 days in a charming boutique hotel that looks like a family villa straight out of Spain or Italy. Casa Bella was originally designed as a family home for a large family — but then they had only one child, daughter Barbara, who now manages the hotel. It’s easy to miss the hotel as you walk along Hidalgo Avenue because its facade blends in beautifully with the other businesses along the sidewalk.


But once you walk through the entrance way into the delightful courtyard, you’ll forget that you’re in the middle of a major tourist town and only one block away from the famous (and very noisy) Cabo Wabo Cantina. There are about a dozen rooms, all tastefully decorated and with very large bathrooms, and there are two mini-suites up a flight of stairs. There is no elevator, so be ready to carry your suitcase up the stairs.


I had previewed this hotel in May 2015 as I was researching locations for an upcoming small-group tour that I’m hosting this April — it’s called Los Cabos Highlights TourCLICK HERE for tour information. This hotel is going to be just perfect for us because it is quaint, quiet, and very charming.


There is a covered terrace area where Barbara and her staff serve a continental breakfast each morning; once you let them know your selections, they automatically bring them out each morning — that beats the service on a cruise ship! It’s also a great spot where you can hold an informal business meeting if you’re so inclined, or just enjoy the free wifi that’s throughout the complex.


The swimming pool is not very large, but just the perfect size for socializing or cooling off after a warm day in town. If you love plants, you’ll truly enjoy strolling around and seeing all the different types of palms and other varieties that adorn the open spaces.


Another benefit of being right in town is that you’re able to find small restaurants that are “just around the corner.” We found a great sushi place, a new cafe, and Argentine restaurant, and a superb coffee shop — all within one block. There are more, of course, in that area, but you can’t go to them all — unless you come back for another stay.

The next time you’re planning a visit to a familiar place, check out some places that are new to you on TripAdvisor — you just might be surprised with your new find. I submit reviews of almost every place I go so that I can provide helpful hints to other travelers.

Stuart Gustafson is America’s International Travel Expert® who speaks on cruise ships, writes novels, sends out a monthly newsletter, and loves everything about travel. Visit his website at

How to Select a Tour

Do you receive emails and brochures on a regular basis from travel companies enticing you to go on one of their tours? I get a lot of them, partly because I’ve taken a tour with them, or I’ve signed up to have information sent to me. They ALL look wonderful; so the question becomes — how do you decide which tour, if any, to select?

I wish there were a simple answer that would work for everyone, but there isn’t. I remember going into the Local Automobile Club office in late 2005 just to pick up some catalogs on Italy. Why? Well, I was going to plan a trip to Italy the next year, one that we would do on our own. The Travel Consultant asked if we’d ever thought about going on a tour? No, was my reply. I travel a lot internationally, so I know how to plan a trip.

She wasn’t going to give up that easily. She told us about a couple tours (notice, she didn’t bombard me with a dozen possibilities), and then she said something that made perfect sense to me. She said we could take the low-end tour but if we didn’t like it, was it the tour itself or that we didn’t like touring? Or we could take the high-end tour. If we didn’t like that tour, it certainly wouldn’t have been the tour; it would be that we didn’t like touring at all.

Would that apply to everyone? Probably not, but I liked the logic. We signed up for the high-end tour (the company is Tauck) and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Since then, we’ve taken a 21-day tour through Rick Steves’ Europe Through The Back Door, and I’ve taken two tours with The Traveling Professor. We’ve also been on many cruises where we’ve also taken one- and two-day tours.

So let’s get back to the initial question, “How do you decide which tour, if any, to select?”

  1. Where do you want to go? (and don’t say “anywhere”) Don’t even look at THE BEST tour to Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam if you have no desire to go to Southeast Asia
  2. How long can you go, instead of how long would you like to go?
  3. What is your realistic budget? (you’ll probably go over budget, but try to focus at tours within “your price range”)
  4. Is airfare included? What extras do you have to pay for?
  5. Is the currency exchange rate favorable to you? (right now, the U.S. Dollar is very strong against most other currencies, meaning it’s a great opportunity to travel internationally)

Try answering those questions as you look at different tours and see if your answers help to narrow down your choices.

Remember, if you have a question about international travel, don’t hesitate to contact me, America’s International Travel Expert® by submitting the simple form on my CONTACT page.