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Tipping in Sri Lanka

by Tom Armstrong

Most travellers prefer to get to grips with the Sri Lanka tipping etiquette before their holiday. There is a strong tipping culture in Sri Lanka; wages are low so it’s an important additional way of making money.

However, all ETG holidays are ‘Tip-Inclusive’ so the total holiday cost includes all tips for your guides, drivers, and other in-country experience providers. This is all taken care of before you set off, in just one simple upfront cost. There is no stress around whether, when, and how much to tip; no more awkward fumbling for notes, or that feeling that you’ve under-tipped and offended your guide. The only people in an ETG holiday you might feel the need to tip are hotel or boat staff, at restaurants, and in taxis, but that is entirely at your discretion.

For those not travelling with ETG you can find our guidelines for how much to tip in Sri Lanka below.

Staff members at a hotel in Sri Lanka

Tipping in Sri Lanka is a big part of income for many

Per group travelling (both couples and families) –

How much to tip drivers or chauffeur guides:

A driver or chauffeur guide can be tipped Rs3,500-4,500 a day for good service. You can give this to them at the end of each day, which is often preferred, or if you prefer you can give it to them in total at the end of your holiday. Please do give more if you feel it is deserved, or less (even nothing) if the service has not been satisfactory. If you are unsatisfied with your driver, please let us know why.


How much to tip other guides:

A good rough estimate is RS 1,000-1,500 an hour. If the guide is particularly enthusiastic and good, tip a few hundred rupees on top. If not, don’t.

How much to tip hotel staff:

Tipping hotel staff in Sri Lanka is expected if you stay in a small hotel or villa – you can do this either as you go along or on departure. Giving a collective tip is fine – usually to the most senior of the staff while making it clear that you would like it shared out. Most small hotels have a tip box now.  Even in large or expensive hotels, wages are very low (you would be surprised), so these tips are appreciated and needed. This amount is impossible to dictate and depends entirely on how helpful/friendly they have been and how generous you are feeling. Rs1,500 – 2,500 per day is a good guide.


Tipping in Restaurants:

A 10% service charge is usually included in restaurant bills, so it’s best to check whether or not it’s been added. In small local places, however, it’s not normally included so if you’ve had good service, do leave a small tip – anything up to RS100 – and in tourist or posh city restaurants an extra tip is always gratefully received as well.


Do you need to tip taxis/tuk-tuks in Sri Lanka? 

Tips are not necessary but appreciated. Rounding up the fare is normal practice and so you should expect to pay a little more than the local fare.  Nonetheless, it is important to bargain; locals would not want you paying vastly over the odds and thereby inflating prices. Drivers will not change large notes so, if necessary, ask him to stop on the way to your destination in order to get some change.

Try and keep the small change (notes of anything less than Rs500 denomination and especially 50 and 100 notes!) as much as possible for tipping and small purchases.


If you wanted to talk to an expert about planning your Sri Lanka trip, do call  020 7924 7133 or email us with your questions here. To see an example of the kind of trip you could have, do take a look at our example holiday itineraries. They’re just a starting point, all our holidays are tailor-made so we can tweak all elements to suit your exact interests. Alternatively – download our free Sri Lanka travel guide for more insider tips and insights:

Travel Guide to Sri Lanka


Wondering when to visit Sri Lanka? Our Curious Traveller’s Guide to Sri Lanka will give you a more detailed breakdown of the best time of year to book a holiday, as well as tips on the best beaches, unmissable sites, and much more.


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