We take a look at the rules of tipping in Dubai and UAE to help you
17 March 2019| Last updated on 20 December 2020
When it comes to tipping, knowing the general rule of thumb can really help.
Stories of disputes over tipping are common, and we’re sure everyone has had at least one bad experience because of the amount of money they have tipped – be it a taxi driver, waiter or bellhop.
But unlike countries like the United States, tipping in Dubai and the UAE is customary, and not compulsory. Workers in the service sector here understand that a tip is a bonus and not a requirement from customers. Sure, tipping is common here, but it is never expected the way it is in the US, for instance.
You would never have a nasty dispute because of a tip here.
So, to help make sure you’re fully confident with who, when and how much you should tip – here’s our complete guide to tipping in Dubai and UAE.
Is tipping expected in Dubai?
As we’ve mentioned, tipping is not expected in Dubai. In fact, there’s no rules when it comes to tipping in Dubai and UAE. Both Dubai and Abu Dhabi are world famous for their extraordinary service levels – but tipping varies from profession to profession.
Is tipping rude in Dubai and UAE?
Whether you should tip or not tip isn’t exactly related to your own culture – especially here in the UAE. Tipping is a lot about the culture of the recipient. Some may be offended at the gesture, while others may be grateful.
The UAE laws of tipping
The social rules of tipping here are a grey-area; should you tip your hairdresser? Your nail technician? The woman who threads your eyebrows? What about petrol attendants?
But when it comes to the UAE laws of tipping – by law, you do not have to tip.
There is no law in the UAE that says you must give anyone a tip. In 2010, UAE restaurants withdrew service charges that were automatically added to a customer’s bill, as this was deemed to be an act against the consumer protection law number 26.
However, if the restaurant is attached to a hotel or located in a special zone, they can legally charge a 10% fee – which many customers are not aware of.
When, who and how much to tip
Whether you’re a tourist visiting Dubai and the UAE, or a resident living here – knowing how much to tip, when it is appropriate and who you should tip are useful things to know when out and about.
Tipping is a positive way to express delight at good service, and today many UAE residents will not tip if they have received a bad service.
To guide you, here’s a quick overview of tipping etiquette in Dubai and UAE:
- Restaurant staff: 10 – 15% of the bill
- Taxi/Careem/Uber drivers: AED 5 or AED 10, or let them keep the change
- Hairstylists and spa staff: AED 5 or 10% of the bill
- Supermarket staff: Small change or AED 5
- Delivery drivers: AED 5 or AED 10, or let them keep the change
- Home services staff: AED 10 – AED 30
- Valets, bellhops, housekeeping: AED 5 or AED 10 per night of stay
Since we are in the UAE, a lot of people don’t expect a tip and won’t say anything to you if you don’t tip them.
But if you wish to tip, the general rule of thumb to follow is 10 per cent of the final bill, or 15 per cent if you thought the service was exceptional.
Tipping in restaurants in Dubai and UAE
Much like elsewhere, the service charges included in the overall bill are usually kept by the restaurants, and not distributed among the staff. So be sure to tip the waiters, even if there are service charges.
Tipping delivery drivers in Dubai and UAE
A lot of apps like Talabat and Zomato will include a delivery fee for their drivers; but if you don’t want the drivers to fumble through their pockets looking for change and you want to show appreciate for their service, you can round it up to the nearest currency note and let them keep the change.
Tipping home services staff in Dubai and UAE
This includes cleaners, maintenance, movers and painters. The standard to tip is between AED 10 and AED 30, but you might be inclined to increase that to AED 40 or AED 50 if you have a significantly large task at hand. This may also vary depending on the number of staff you have hired.
Who NOT to tip in Dubai and UAE
Don’t ever try to tip civil servants, government workers or police officials – no matter what country you’re in. Anything that can be taken as a bribe can land you in jail.
Tipping during Ramadan in Dubai and UAE
During the Holy Month of Ramadan, Muslims (and non-Muslims) are encouraged to increase their acts of good deeds and charity, known as ‘zakat’ and ‘sadaqah’.
Whilst tipping of course, is not charity, being mindful of tipping when out and about is important during the Holy Month.
Particularly when many service staff may be fasting themselves. Sure, shorter working hours help during this period, but individuals who are fasting will no doubt be tired and/or hungry.
Instead of becoming disgruntled at a poorer service, keep in mind that it is Ramadan and tip a little extra during a month of respect, awareness and selflessness.
What is the history of tipping?
The practice of tipping is believed to have began in the late Middle Ages, when a master gave his servant a few coins as an expression of good will. By the 16th Century, guests in English mansions were expected to give a “vail” or a small amount of money at the end of a visit to compensate the owner’s servants.
According to Kerry Segrave, the author of Tipping: An American History of Social Gratuities, "by 1760, footmen, valets, and gentleman's servants all expected vails, leading to great expense to the guests. The gentry and aristocracy began to complain. An attempt to abolish vails in London in 1764 led to rioting."
Tipping soon spread to British commercial establishments such as hotels, pubs, and restaurants.
Tipping in the United States of America
Prior to 1840, in America – tips were not given. But, after the Civil War, newly rich Americans visited Europe and brought the practice back home to show that they had been abroad and knew genteel customs.
By the 1900s, Americans considered tipping to be the norm and, in fact, were frequently criticized for overtipping. But in 1960, the norm changed – and Congress agreed that workers could receive a lower minimum wage if a portion of their salary came from tips. The minimum wage for tipped workers is $2.13, which has not changed over the years, as long as those workers receive at least $30 per month in tips.
Thoughts against tipping...
Many would agree that tips are in fact detrimental to those working in the service industry – and instead, their employers and companies should take good care of their staff and take responsibility for giving fair salaries.
Tipping alternatives in Dubai and UAE
Sure, cash is king, but there are other ways you can thank for excellent service. Many service providers like drivers, contractors and hotels, try to build their online reviews. Taking the time to leave them a positive review can be really appreciated – and it won’t cost you anything.
For professionals like teachers, a gift can be a nice gesture of appreciation – and much less awkward than a cash tip. Sending a thank you card to a service provider can really make their day.
At the end of the day…
While tipping is always appreciated in Dubai and the UAE, it is rarely expected. No matter if one percent or 50 percent is given, the most important thing to do is to treat service staff with respect. After all, a smile and a thank you goes a long way.