Tips or gratuities are a custom in Istanbul, but you don’t need to spend a lot to show your appreciation for good service. Like any place else in the world, we too have our customs when it comes to tipping (başiş).
But the good news is that you’re not expected to tip everywhere, and when you are you’re only expected to offer a modest amount. Yet even experienced international travelers may be unsure of exactly when to tip and how much it should be.
These tips will help ensure that you don’t encounter any cultural faux pas. Of course, these are only basic guidelines. You are of course allowed to raise the bar to reward exceptional service and, like any place where tips are part of the culture, you can also lower or skip the tip if you were unhappy with your service.
Tipping In General
In restaurants, cafes and bars, you’ll generally be expected to tip between 5 and 10%.
Depending on their duties, hotel staff may expect between 5 and 20 Turkish Liras for their service.
Unlike some Western countries, there will usually be no way to add gratuity to a bill before you pay it. Tipping is always done with cash money, so be sure to have some on you.
Most staff will prefer Turkish Liras. While foreign currency is also appreciated, only offer paper money. While local change is acceptable, foreign coins cannot be exchanged into Turkish Lira.
Turkish airports staff professional porters who operate by an official tariff, which should be prominently posted. Just in case though, you should expect to pay 2 or 3 Turkish Liras for each suitcase. If the total comes to less than the official tariff, the porter will be sure to let you know.
Instead of tipping our taxi drivers, we just round up the fare. So if a ride costs you 8.60 TL, simply pay 9 TL. The only time you should tip your driver is if they carry your luggage to and from the car.
You are not expected to tip for this service.
It is customary to tip porters and room service 5 TL, which is the smallest paper bill.
People tend to leave their local change, usually on the bed, for housekeeping. This generally equates to 5 or 10 TL.
Guests will also usually leave a tip of 20 to 50 TL at the reception desk after checking out.
Restaurants, Cafes and Bars
As mentioned, 5 to 10% is common, but if you’re eating in an upscale a 10 to 15% tip is more appropriate.
In some meyhanes, or a traditional restaurant or bar, and fish restaurants, musicians will stroll around and play for patrons—and tips.
If you do not want them to play at your table, you may courteously wave them away. If they play a few songs for you, it would be impolite to not reward them.
The local technique is to wait for the violinist to lean over the table and slide a 5 or 10 lira note behind his strings, but you can also just drop it into one of his pockets.
Turkish Bath (Hammam)
This is one tip you will be unlikely to avoid.
The attendants at a Turkish bath will generally come to “say goodbye” before you leave, which is the appropriate time to tip for their service.
Again, make sure you have cash on you. It’s common practice to spread 10 to 20% of the total amount you spent among each of the attendants that assisted you.
Since you already paid for their service, tour guides don’t work for tips. They are, however, appreciated as a token of your appreciation for a job well done. People will generally tip the guide as a group, rather than individually. 20 to 30 TL is common.
If you have other questions about local customs before heading out to explore Istanbul, the Hotel Büyük Keban staff will always be on hand with helpful advice.