Not every hotel you are going to stay in will have a bellman and concierge. Heck, some just have Frank, who makes $5.85/hour, asleep behind the desk. In this case, you needn't worry, tipping is probably not expected; but if you're staying in a place slightly more upscale, tipping is both customary and appreciated.
Because tipping is a way of rewarding good service, there is no way to say what is appropriate across the board. Tip at your own discretion, but keep in mind the following guidelines:
- Valet: $1-$2 (more in bad weather)
- Shuttle driver: $2
- Doorman: $1-$2 (for hailing a cab)
- Bellman: $1-$2 per bag (when bags are brought up and down from your room)
- Concierge: $2-$20 (depending on the level of attention)
- Room service: 18 percent of the bill or at least $2 (not required if gratuity is included)
- Housekeeping: $1-$5 per night (the messier you are, the higher the tip)
- Coat check: $1-$2
More tipping tips
Tip your housekeeper for each night instead of giving her one large tip at the end of your stay. You may not have the same housekeeper each evening and a single tip given before you leave may not get distributed evenly to all staff members who cleaned your room.
Do not ask to borrow the bellman’s cart in order to bring your suitcases up to your room on your own and avoid shelling out a tip. The bellman and his cart are a package deal — if you want to carry your own bag, use your arms.
Keep in mind that when you’re tipping a service person at your hotel, you’re essentially paying a part of that person’s salary. If you forget to tip a housekeeper, concierge or bellman (or anyone else who deserves a tip) and have already left the hotel, call the concierge and explain your situation. The concierge most likely will be able to find the name of the person who was working during a particular shift or cleaning a particular room; write your forgotten staff member a check and stick it in the mail.
If your room is not ready and you request that the bellman store your bags ... tip! A bellman’s tips are not limited to carting bags to and from hotel rooms. Tip the bellman for each major task that he performs for you.
Out of cash? Need change? Don’t tell the staff member that you will tip him or her later. Most likely, you'll be distracted by the fact that you are on vacation and forget to tip later. Even if you have the memory of an elephant, be prepared and bring plenty of cash. If you are out of small bills, ask the staff member to get change at the front desk; in most cases, he or she will be happy to oblige.
If the staff member who is assisting you seems rude at first, do not withhold a tip. In a foreign country, what you interpret as rudeness may simply be a difference in culture. However, if you are deeply affected by the unhelpful behavior of a staff member who has been consistently rude throughout your stay, tip the minimum and notify the hotel manager of the offense. It is the manager’s job to dole out consequences for substandard service, not yours.
For more comprehensive tipping guidelines, don't miss Fodor's How to Tip.