Home Romania Tips How to Tip in Romania: When, who and how much to tip

How to Tip in Romania: When, who and how much to tip

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In today’s article, we’re going to talk about the tipping etiquette in Romania. I decided to write this after returning from my month-long stay in Valencia and realizing that, whenever you’re in a new country or city, you always have this problem bugging you: should I tip? If so, how much should I tip?

I realized that applying the tipping etiquette from your own country might not be the best option as you could end up spending too much or too little. While the latter won’t really affect you that much, if you really want to say “Thank you” to somebody for their service, it should still matter.

Things are even more difficult when a different currency is involved – and Romania still hasn’t switched to using Euros. I have my personal experiences to back up my words that tipping is even more difficult in a different currency.

For example, this one time that I was in Serbia, I tipped 50 Dinars to our waiter. He served 4 of us, the food was great and plenty, but I simply didn’t realize how much those 50 Dinars mean at the time. It was something like 50 cents. Which was definitely not enough.

On the other hand, back in Valencia, I was about to just leave the change as a tip for a 13 Euro lunch. The change being 7 Euros. Not a lot if those were Romanian Lei, but definitely a lot in Euros.

So yes, I understand that it might be difficult to know how much to tip in Romania, especially since it’s a different currency and you might not always have the exchange rates into your currency readily available in your mind. But hopefully this article will help.

Do you have to tip in Romania?

Because this is a country where salaries are still low, despite going up a lot lately, tipping is widespread and probably everybody will expect you to tip them. Or at least they wouldn’t mind if you did, no matter where they work.

Tipping in Romania

Therefore, you are generally expected to tip when paying for your bills in a restaurant, bar or pub, but also when paying for a taxi ride or a service, and even in grocery stores or supermarkets.

The latter are not really seen as actual tips, as people usually don’t take the coins when they receive their change (because, yes, many Romanians still use cash).

If it’s a bunch of 10 bani coins or lower, almost nobody will take them because of their low value. The 50 bani coins will usually be picked from the bunch of coins received as change and all the lower ones will be left behind.

The good side here is that if you go to a farmer’s market, for example, they will always round down the amount you have to pay. So even if something costs 5 lei and 40 bani, they will only ask for 5 lei from you. In this case, you are not expected to tip or pay more. Although I am sure nobody would mind if you actually do.

So to sum it up, most people are going to expect you to leave them some sort of a tip, no matter if we’re talking about the change in a supermarket or an actual tip offered at a restaurant or to the guy that delivers your pizza.

In conclusion: yes, you are usually expected to tip in Romania.

How much should you tip in Romania?

Things get a bit more complicated here, as the simple rule of thumb of tipping 5 percent, 10 percent or 15 percent of the bill doesn’t really apply in most cases.

Every other person living in Romania will have their own strategy when it comes to tipping and how much to tip, so we can say that the “appropriate” amount is something that you feel – not exact science. Strange, I know.

When it comes to restaurants and pubs, we could say that most people stick by the 10% rule. This means that you should tip an amount equal to 10% of your bill. However, the higher the bill, the lower the amount you can tip without looking like Scrooge.

For example, if your bill is 50 lei, 5 lei is just fine. The same amount is usually tipped if your bill is 45 lei.

But if your bill is around 100 lei (which would be the case in most restaurants if you have lunch for two), 10 lei is considered OK. This goes for a 90 lei bill or a 130 lei one.

Finally, if the restaurant bill is 500 lei or a higher amount, in most places you wouldn’t be expected to tip 50 lei. In these cases, anything between 10 to 20 lei would be considered satisfactory.

In other words, it would be safe to take the 10% rule as a safe bet, but know that the higher the bill you have to pay, the lower the percentage can be.

Even when we go out in larger groups and the bill is really high after a night of partying, I don’t think that the accumulated tip would ever be above 50 lei. So don’t go above that amount in most cases unless, for some reason, you really want to make an impression or you were very pleased with the quality of the service.

Some places will even have a tip jar to make it easier for you to tip.

In other cases, things are a bit more complicated and they depend on the situation. Whenever I get stuff delivered at home, I tip between just 2 lei and 5 lei, depending on what I have available, my mood and how the delivery person behaves. In all other cases that I can think of, I would probably tip a maximum of 5 lei as well.

The amount might seem small (5 lei is almost 1 Euro), but extremely generous tips are not really common here. Many Romanians won’t tip at all or tip very low amounts. Of course, nobody would be upset or offended if they received a huge tip but it is usually not done.

And to set one thing clear about not picking up the coins when receiving your change in stores: it’s not a must not to get them and nobody would consider you a freak if you took all the money back.

Many people do it, many people don’t. Some do it selectively (such as myself, for example) and sometimes it’s based on mood alone. But in this particular case, nobody really expects you to do it, although many people still do mainly because the coins on their own are basically worthless and there isn’t anything you can buy for 10 bani or even 50 bani.

I know that one month, a few years ago, I ran an experiment and collected all the coins I received as change in stores. At the end of the month, I had close to 30 lei in the jar. While for many this is not a huge amount (it is under 6 Euros), it was still interesting to know the numbers.

How to tip when paying with a credit or debit card

Although cash is still king in Romania, in most places in the country (maybe except for villages and very small towns) you can pay using a card. Unlike other countries, though, in Romania there’s no additional “tip” option on the bill, so if you want to leave a tip, you will actually have to put a bill on the side.

Do ask if service is included in the price. In some areas – especially the more touristy places out there – the service fee will be already included if you pay by card (and sometimes even if you don’t). In most cases it won’t, but it doesn’t hurt to ask just to be sure.

But all in all, you shouldn’t really worry too much about this. If you don’t tip at all, people won’t start throwing stones at you or calling you out for not leaving a tip. And if you do tip, any amount is appreciated because in Romania people say that even a little bit is better than nothing!

18 COMMENTS

  1. Hey Calin,
    Quite a useful article.
    Do you know some people say “tip” is an acronym for: To Insure Promptness, or “tips” is: To Insure Prompt Service? I don’t know if that is true, but it’s appropriate. Also, to me 10% is the easiest to calculate.
    Plus, NOT everyone should get a tip–especially if they provide “crap” service, right?
    If I were selling at a farmer’s market, I would round UP instead of round down. It would make the vendor’s life a lot easier, and more “fruitful.”
    Do a lot of the prices end in .99? It’s a psychological trick to think you’re getting a “better” deal. I think ALL prices should be an whole number with no decimals. (No more 49.99s!) Plus it would keep small change to a minimum.
    Just curious… What do the Romanians think of Trump? (Of course, I think he’s an ass, and should be impeached.;-))
    I take it Romania is baking like the rest of the continent? Climate change is a reality–unlike what the Bozo Trump thinks.
    Stay cool,
    ~Teil
    (Baking in Tacoma, WA)

    • Hello Teil,

      Yes, we too have the .99 prices here, quite the trick! :))

      Regarding Trump, there isn’t as much talk about him as in the US or probably other countries, but I am sure that a huge number of people – if not all – have a very poor opinion of him. I have personally never heard anybody in the Romanian media saying nice things about him.

      Regarding the weather – it’s a really strange one, indeed. Although generally hot, Romania is extremely cloudy and rainy, unlike any other year. Since the summer started, there have always been clouds on the sky and the threat of storms. As a result, our dry summers turned into humid ones and I personally preferred it the other way around. So we could say that, if it weren’t for the heat, it could safely be said that we’re getting fall-like weather with all the constant rain. This year has been stranger than any other – starting with the snow in late March and continuing to act as strange as possible.

    • How does politics find its way into a site about tipping in Romania. And please stop lying Teil, it wasn’t record heat in Washington, it was in fact a very mild summer and a record cold winter and spring. Why lie about something as obvious as the weather?

  2. Thanks for the… tips, Calin. 😉 I’ve had some interesting tipping moments including tipping at a carwash. I had paid and went out to pick up our car. As my keys were presented I gave a couple of lei. The attendant looked rather taken aback. I was afraid I had not given enough, but as it turns out apparently, he wasn’t used to someone doing this. He took it, of course, but seem as though he’d received a gift from the heavens.

    As for leaving small change: Nobody seems to want coins. I’d encourage visitors to not do as my wife does and count out coins to pay at a cashier. They always appear to be in a hurry and these fractions of pennies annoy them. I’m all for leaving the change… except for the 50 bani coin. You need these to unlock the shopping carts at the grocery stores.

  3. Keep those tips coming guys.. i need them. 🙂 I would tip car wash too. I think tipping the people that physically do work for you is appropriate in general. Like the person carrying bags, perhaps the boy that mows the lawn etc. I am not sure i would tip my grocer for ringing up my groceries however. I do like the 10% for its ease of calculation. I do question if Romanian waiter/waitresses get the concept however. Far to often they seem annoyed by my presence and do not seem to understand that their tip is directly related to their behavior. In time they will learn that a really good waiter can make really good money. If you are the perfect waiter it is as easy to calculate 20% and that is a common tip in U.S. You rent a grocery cart? Ugg..

    • You get the 50 bani back when you return the cart. This keeps the carts from being left around willy-nilly. We had some stores doing this back in California.

    • That is absolutely correct, Otto! The people serving you in restaurants or bars and usually anywhere fail to understand that their behavior affects the tips they get. Just yesterday I was talking with my wife about the extremely low service you are usually met with and especially the fact that almost nobody smiles.

      There was a time when in the Carrefour chain, the employees wore a sticker saying something like “Today I smile for you…” followed by the name of the employee. That always made ME smile because you usually saw those grim faced people that seemed to go through the worst moments of their lives… and that shiny sticker that said the exact opposite. Probably it was the company trying to teach their employees to smile more and behave better… but the sticker thing only lasted for a short while 🙂

      Regarding the coin needed for the grocery carts, that’s how it goes in Europe and indeed it’s mostly for making sure that people return the carts to where they took them from and not leave them scattered all over the place. It might take a tiny bit of adjustment for somebody who’s not used to this, but not really a problem in my opinion.

  4. I live in tip-free Japan. The Japanese feel culturally bound to offer good service without getting a tip for it. Needless to say, the price level for just about everything is higher in Japan. Tipping in the USA is really just a way for employers to get away without paying a decent wage. Would service employees really give worse service if they didn’t get tips? How about if knew they could be fired for not doing so like in Japan?

    • I personally think that Japan’s way is the best way to go. It saves you a lot of trouble thinking about how much should you tip and doing the math yourself. But that’s in an ideal world and we’re far away from it.

      However, I didn’t know that bit about Japan and I am pleased to hear it. I am getting more and more fascinated by this country that manages to at least seem to do everything right in a world where everything’s done wrong.

  5. Great article. It really is stupefying trying to figure out tipping in different countries. I always aim for the 10% in Europe and 20% in the U.S. Since my husband was a waiter for years in the U.S, we might sometimes overdo it. I’m trying to remember our trip to Tokyo a couple of years ago. If memory serves me, the slip had space for a tip in one place at least..perhaps the touristy areas are starting the fad? In Spain, most people just leave the change from their bill, but they definitely appreciate the tipping.

    • Yeah, unless the change is a bit over 4 Euros on a 16 Euros bill :)) I was there during my first days in Spain, still thinking like in Romania “ah, they’re just coins!”

      Jokes aside, it seems that the 10% rule works best in case you’re in doubt. You can’t go wrong with it in most countries.

  6. Great article. I wish I knew about the grocery store bit before. Oh well you said its no big deal if a person takes the small change back…..next time.

  7. Hi, I had problems with tipping in a restaurant or not. because it is the norm I did tip even though the service was bad. Once I decided not to because the prices were high and the service very low. The waiter came after us and demanded to know why we did not give a tip. We are traveling in Roemenie for 6 weeks and I don’t like going out to eat because the service is usually so bad. So we cook our zelfs being on a camping.
    I hope that the waiters become to see that there is a patron between good service and tipping. If everybody gives tips because it is the norm then nothing will change. Once I asked a waitress if she was tired because she did no smile once. it was like being served by a robot. Then she began to tell that clients don’t understand how hard the work is bla bla bla. Yes I see it is hard work!! But that does not mean you treat your customers like a piece of sh*t. I have seen waiters struggle and make mistakes but if they were nice and authentic they get a tip from me

    • I completely agree with this, Donna. Tipping shouldn’t be the norm, but the result of good service.

      I too use to tip just because that’s what everybody does, despite the poor service. But hopefully I will be able to move on and not tip when the service is bad – maybe this will help a bit.

      The problem is – at least in the small city I live in – that staff at bars and restaurants is difficult to find. People come and go (probably because of low wages as well), and as a result owners don’t spent too much time training the staff or at least telling what’s expected of them or they simply don’t care.

    • Hello David. This is a really delicate situations – some will swear by tipping, some tip a lot (sometimes more than the value of the order, if you can imagine something like this!) and some don’t. So it really depends on how you feel – there are people in all categories. Personally, I think that 1 to 3 lei would be much appreciated.

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