Canada is one of the few countries in the world with a strong tipping culture, along with the US. This is one of the surprising aspects of life in North America, and there’s no way around it—skipping the tip is a major faux pas.

If you’re used to leaving a few cents on the table because you can’t be bothered grabbing them on your way out, read on to make your first restaurant or haircut experience in Canada a bit smoother.

Why isn’t tipping optional in Canada?

People who have worked in the service industry at one point in their life—i.e. many people in North America!—tend to be good tippers because they know that tips are part of the employee’s total remuneration.

Wages are usually lower for tipping jobs because workers are supposed to make up the rest with tips. Some argue that it’s the employer’s responsibility to pay workers a decent wage while others claim that no one would ever work in the service industry for a set wage and that the result would be higher prices for customers.

Regardless, tipping has a legal status in Canada—all tips are taxable and must be reported as income.

So not leaving a tip is a major cultural faux pas. Okay, if the waiter starts pouring wine on your head while insulting you, you may consider skipping the required 15% tip but it’s seldom okay to leave nothing or just change.

“I’m not used to tipping!” and “I never tip back home!” are not valid excuses to stiff the staff.

When am I supposed to tip? And how much?

The tip is always calculated on the amount before taxes depending on the type of service. 

Restaurants and bars

The minimum expected is 15%, up to 18% for dinner… or even 20% for a truly exceptional experience. So if the bill is $10 before tax, you should tip at least $1.5.

Your waiter or waitress will probably ask what went wrong (awkward moment ahead…) if you don’t tip 15% of the bill. Remember that the front of the house (i.e. waiters, busboys, etc.) are not responsible for the back of the house—don’t punish your waiter if you had to wait because the kitchen was on fire! 

As for bartenders, the going rate is $1 per beer, and $2 for cocktails.

Take out

There may be a tip jar on the counter, but tipping isn’t required.


Tipping isn’t required for furniture, packages, etc. However, a 10% tip is expected for food delivery.

Taxi or ride-share platforms like Uber

A 10-15% tip is expected, plus $1 per luggage piece if they help you carry your stuff.


The going rate is 15% of the total bill.

Checkroom attendant

Get $1 ready if you need to leave your winter coat or other items before enjoying a concert or a crazy disco night. 

Baggage handler

In hotels, the going rate is $1 per piece of luggage.

Hotel housekeeper

There’s usually an envelope on the bed or the desk, and it’s advisable to leave $1 per person per night.

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How to leave a tip?

If you pay cash, you will have to do the math. We have a tip for you! Your tip has to be calculated on the amount before taxes. And since taxes are 15%, your tip should be equal to the tax shown on your bill. When in doubt, ask the waiter or waitress—tipping isn’t taboo!

If you use your debit or credit card, the payment terminal will often prompt you to pick a tip percentage—15%, 18%, or 20%. It will do the math for you.

Note that a mandatory gratuity can be added by default for large groups. And check the bill because restaurants in popular tourist places sometimes add a default tip. In this case, you’re not supposed to tip again!

A few tips to get great tips

Interested in working in a restaurant? Here are a few tips to get great tips! 

  • Introduce yourself at the beginning of the meal. “My name is Jane and I’ll be your waitress today” may sound cheesy but it’s okay to make the dining experience a bit personal in Canada.
  • Smile, smile, smile!
  • Pour customers a glass of water as they’re reading the menu and make sure to refill glasses throughout the meal.
  • Check-in regularly to make sure everything is okay.
  • Choose a fairly upscale restaurant or bar—tipping is a percentage of the total bill, so the pricier the food is, the higher your tips will be.
  • Eat out a few times before applying for jobs and watch how other food service industry workers provide great service!

En PVT au Canada de novembre 2021 à 2023, je répondrai à vos questions avec plaisir. Pour le premier trimestre 2024, direction l'Amérique latine !

I moved from France to Canada on a WHV from November 2021 to 2023, followed then by spending the first quarter of 2024 in Latin America! Happy to answer all your questions.

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