Tipping In Switzerland: My Experience Living There

waiter in switzerland

Tipping in Switzerland or Europe is not obligatory or expected, which is one of the great things about traveling there.

However, just like in the USA or Canada, service staff in Switzerland earn some of the lowest wages in the country.

So, while you are here, should you tip in Switzerland? And if so, how much?

Let’s take a look at my experience as an expat living in Switzerland for over a decade.

Swiss Mountain Hotel
Swiss Mountain Hotel – Furka Pass

Service Charge in Switzerland

Unlike in other countries, the service fee is always included in prices in Switzerland. This includes both goods and services. As such, there is not a huge tipping culture in Switzerland.

As such, the price you see on the menu is the price you are going to pay for food and drink. You are not expected to pay extra for the service staff. In many ways, you could say that tips are included in the price.

However, we are looking at tipping in restaurants and bars next.

Tipping In Restaurants & Bars

Because service fees are included in Switzerland, I do not find it makes any sense to reward bad service. Likewise, I like to tip in restaurants where I get excellent service to reward those making an effort.

The salary of the average waiter/waitress in Switzerland is around 27 CHF, which may sound like a lot, but that is a monthly salary of 3500-4000 CHF. When you take into account that apartments cost a minimum of 1500-2500 per month and that food is certainly not cheap, wait staff are not left with much to live with.

So, although tipping is not expected in Switzerland, people tend to tip between 5-10% of the final bill in a restaurant.

In a bar, you have far less contact with the Swiss waiting staff or bartenders, and they also spend far less time serving you in my opinion. So, I usually round up the price of the various drinks to the nearest franc or five. Or, tip them at the end of the evening if they were attentive.

Although to be honest, this is a bit of a shame for them because they don’t really earn much more than wait staff, so a tip is definitely welcome.

Tipping in Self-Serve Restaurants & Cafes

There are a lot of self-serve restaurants when you are skiing in Switzerland. The mountain resorts are full of them!

When you serve yourself food and drink I do not feel the need to tip in Switzerland. However, if you are so inclined, then look for the tipping jar at the cash register when you pay.

The same goes for places like Starbucks and other cafes where you have less interaction with the staff. Many Swiss staff in these establishments have tip jars, I see them all the time at the cash register when you pay. So if you have some change you can spare, I am sure they would appreciate it.

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Tipping In Hotels In Switzerland

Tipping at hotels in Switzerland
Tipping at hotels in Switzerland

Again, there is no obligation to tip in a hotel in Switzerland, however, bellboys and other hotel staff usually do not earn a high salary, And often they are living in a country that is very expensive, and a town that is also (like Zermatt, St Moritz etc).

A receptionist in a hotel makes on average around 60,000 CHF per year, which is a little more than bar or wait staff, but certainly not a huge amount. And with the cost of living in places where they live being high in most cases, they are going to appreciate a tip if you can afford it and their service is great.

So, it makes sense to give them 1-2 CHF for every bag they carry or maybe 5-10 CHF if they provide you with some service above and beyond the normal.

This is especially true if you are in a 5-star hotel. Here, if you have your luggage carried for you to the room or down to the taxi, it would be polite to tip at least 5 CHF. The same goes for the Swiss cleaning staff. Why not leave them some money at the end of a long stay, taking into account the overall bill?

Tipping Taxi Drivers Or Airport Shuttles

Taxi Drivers in Zurich, Switzerland
Taxi Drivers in Zurich, Switzerland – image via Wikimedia

When it comes to tipping taxi drivers, things are a little more in the grey area. The prices of taxis in Switzerland are quite high. However, in many cases, it is not the driver who is earning all the money.

Again, we are talking about some of the lowest-paid people in the country, with the average salary of a taxi driver being around that of bar staff, if they are lucky. This post from a Swiss driver’s website states that it is around 3800 per month, which when you consider rent, insurance and food in Switzerland, does not leave them with much at the end of the month.

So, if you make use of taxis or airport drop-off services, be generous if you can afford it. They will definitely appreciate it, and it will make a huge difference to their monthly salary.

If your journey is long, try to add 5% to the total. If you are on a shorter trip to the local city, maybe just add 1-2 CHF to the final amount.

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Tipping At Hairdressers

This again depends on the type of hairdresser you visit and the service you get. As a man, I often go to a cheap barber and only pay 30 CHF. So I usually throw on 5 CHF because I feel they earn way too little.

If you go to a high-end hairdresser and get the full gamut – cut, dry, color, and the like, then your bill will likely get close to 150-200 CHF anyway, so what is a 10 CHF tip?

Tipping In Zurich or Geneva

Many people wonder if you especially should tip in larger cities like Zurich or Geneva? I find that because these cities are so much more expensive than the rest of Switzerland, I tend to tip more.

Frequently Asked Questions about Tipping

Is it customary to tip in Switzerland?

Although it is not obligatory to tip in Switzerland like it is in North America, in many instances, like in a restaurant and bar, a large part of the Swiss public does tip the staff.

How much do you tip a waiter in Switzerland?

You should tip between 5-10% if you received good service in a restaurant in Switzerland. Although it is not expected, the service staff do not earn much compared to the cost of living.

Can I tip with US dollars in Switzerland?

It is possible to tip in US dollars, however, the local staff would appreciate it more if you gave them the local currency, which is Swiss Francs. This is because they cannot readily spend US dollars nor change it to Swiss Francs easily.

Written by Ashley Faulkes
As a twenty-year resident of Switzerland, I am passionate about exploring every nook and cranny of this beautiful country, I spend my days deep in the great Swiss outdoors, and love to share these experiences and insights with fellow travel enthusiasts.

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