When traveling in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bhutan, it is recommended to understand the tipping etiquette in each country. This includes gratuities in restaurants, bars, and establishments that provide a direct service. There is also the personal assistance. The guides, drivers, and representatives feel great pride in being given a chance to show visitors their country. If they were being paid a salary commensurate with their work, they would be earning more than they do today. Tipping is personal and completely voluntary, and here are the standard guidelines:
India: Tipping in restaurants is customary but not required. If you are pleased with the service, you can tip 10% of the total. We recommended handing the money directly to the waiter. If it is added to a bill or left on the table, it may not be received. Some restaurants and bars charge a service fee in the final bill. This fee is not considered an inclusive gratuity. It is also customary to tip porters, guides, drivers, and transfer representatives, as well as anyone who provides a direct service, including spa therapists or a delivery service. For a certified driver and/or guide, we recommend Rs 200-400 per person for a full day of service. A transfer representative can receive Rs 100-200 per person, per transfer, and Rs 30 – 50 per bag for the porter. It is appropriate to tip the person who watches your shoes at a temple or religious site, approximately Rs 20-30. Gratuities in Indian Rupee (INR) is preferred, though you can also pay in USD or your local currency. Kindly note: Many tour packages include porterage fees, so please inquire prior to your trip.
Nepal: Tipping is a relatively new custom in Nepal. Most people who provide a direct service (taxi drivers, barbers, etc.) do not expect gratuity. It is customary, however, to tip guides, hired drivers, and transfer representatives, as well as trekking guides and sherpas. The recommended amount is slightly less compared to India: NPR 100-200 per person for a full day driver and/or guide. For a more experienced trek, consider a tip of NPR 300-400/day. Gratuities in Nepalese Rupee (NPR) are preferred.
Sri Lanka: The tipping etiquette in Sri Lanka mirrors India. A 10% service fee is often added to final checks in restaurants and bars, but this often goes to the owner. If you wish to add a gratuity, please give directly to your waiter. A general practice is to tip 10% of your total bill. It is also customary to tip porters, guides, drivers, and transfer representatives, as well as anyone who provides a direct service. For a certified driver and/or guide, we recommend LKR 200-300 per person for a full day of service. A transfer representative can receive LKR 100 per person, and the porter LKR 20 – 30 per bag. It is also appropriate to tip the person who watches your shoes at a temple or religious site, approximately LKR 10-20. Gratuities in Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR) are preferred.
Bhutan: Although tipping is officially discouraged in Bhutan, it has become a common practice. Kindly use discretion and tip your guide and driver for a well-performed service. You may tip in Bhutanese Ngultrum (BTN) or Indian Rupee (INR).
*Please remember that the guidelines outlined above are only recommendations. Also, please be discreet when tipping in public.
To Pack or Not to Pack? Our travelers often inquire about the best way to ”lug their luggage” to South Asia. It truly all depends on the destination, season, and duration of travel.
One of the first considerations is exactly how many bags to bring. Many international airlines allow for two free pieces of checked baggage up to 50 pounds each. However, does your itinerary include flights in India and Nepal? Most domestic airlines allow for one checked bag at 45 pounds (20kg) and one carry-on bag at 22 pounds (10kg). Fees will apply for additional and/or overweight luggage. There is no weight limit if traveling by land, but for ease of travel, we suggest trying to pack everything in one piece of luggage. Remember: There are no trolleys at most train and bus stations, and luggage is carried by yourself or a porter.
Clothing/Shoes: Of course, the season and activity will determine what is packed. A traveler to the Himalayas in fall/winter should pack accordingly, including a heavy jacket, hat, and gloves. Much of India has a patchy climate: Warmer in the days and cooler in the evenings. A light jacket or layering is best to accommodate the varying temperatures. If visiting during the monsoon months, pack a rain jacket, small umbrella, and – most importantly – waterproof shoes. In general, we suggest shoes that are comfortable for walking, including sandals, clogs, crocs, or tennis shoes. I also recommend packing a bathing suit, even in winter months. Your hotel may have an indoor pool, or you may unexpectedly pass hot springs or thermal tubs!
Adventure Gear: If you are participating in adventure activities, remember to bring appropriate gear and accessories. For example: If you will be camping, remember to pack your own sleeping bag. If you reserve your package with Sodha Travel, we will provide a list of what is included and available from the adventure company, as well as required items from home.
Toiletries: The amount of toiletries and cosmetics is dependent on your preferences and length of trip. Many travel-sized items can last for up to ten days, eliminating the need to pack bulky containers of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, shaving cream, hair products, etc. If you don’t need your usual products, consider buying them once you arrive. This not only saves on space and weight in your bag, but also allows you to sample the local products. (I discovered one of my favorite body washes from a shop in Delhi. I now stock up each time I visit!) Most hotels provide hair dryers in the rooms, but if you are bringing your own, remember to check if it has dual voltage.
Money: Cash, credit cards, or travelers checks? And how much? Extra expenses include meals, gratuities, internet access, phone calls, spa services, and souvenirs. Unless otherwise stated, your accommodations include breakfast. Other packages may also include dinner, or all meals. (The houseboat in Kerala and most adventure itineraries include breakfast, lunch, and dinner.) Government regulated shops and retail outlets accept major credit cards, but the markets and bazaars are cash only. *Please be advised of the international fee your credit cards and ATM cards will charge if used abroad. Prior to departure, we recommend contacting your bank and credit card companies to determine the fees. I personally recommend travelers checks as opposed to cash, both for the added protection and to eliminate any ATM fees.
Travel Insurance: Technically this is not something you pack, but it does protect what you pack. Travel Insurance also protects your trip investment, your family, and yourself. Sodha Travel offers a variety of plans, including reimbursement for trip cancellation, flight delay/cancellation, baggage delay/loss, and medical expenses overseas. Please visit our Insurance page for more information.
It’s official! The Indian Rupee will soon have a unique symbol – a blend of the Roman R and Devanagri Ra. India joins the United States, Japan, and Britain as having a distinct identity. The symbol was designed by D Udaya Kumar, an IIT (India Institute of Technology) Bombay Post Graduate. Kumar’s entry was chosen from over 3,000 entries. Ambika Sona, the Information and Broadcasting Minister, stated, “It’s a big statement on the Indian currency… The symbol would lend a distinctive character and identity to the currency and further highlight the strength and global face of the Indian economy.”
The symbol will not be printed on currency but will be included in the Unicode Standard, an international standard that allows global data to be exchanged without discord. You can read the full article in The Times of India. Congrats, India, for joining the “unique currency club.”