Tipping in Uganda when travelling
Staff at hotels, lodges, guides, porters, drivers and other people providing services to travellers will be hopeful of receiving tips.
How much and to whom you choose to tip in Africa is usually defined more by the tipping culture that you are used to back home. The people that you meet will most likely vary their levels of expectation depending upon your nationality. So if you are American or Canadian, then you will probably be amongst the highest tippers. If you are British then you will probably be tipping somewhere in the middle of the range. In some environments in Uganda such as lodges, on safaris and on treks, tipping is structured in ways which make it clear, fair and less easy to abuse.
Tips can be given in local Uganda shillings or in US$, GBP or Euros, so be sure to carry small denominations with you.
Offering large tips is usually seen as being generous, but it can becomes counter-productive.
The most common incidence is when travellers become confused about the exchange rate and pay 10x or even 100x the correct amount.
The main danger of massive over-tipping is that it erodes the amount of respect that local people have for travellers and erects rather than breaks down barriers … it increases the degree to which travellers are viewed less as people and more as targets for financial advancement. It really does contribute heavily towards a breakdown this most important type of relationship, between the African hosts and the international guests.
Please do not significantly over-tip.
If you are on a private safari with your own driver-guide, then this guy means everything to your trip and tips need to be quite high to reflect this, assuming that he has really put himself out for you. We presently recommend in the range US$20 to US$30 per day between the group.
If you are staying at a fly-in safari lodge, where guides are provided by the lodge and you share them with other guests, then you can either tip them directly, perhaps in the range US$5 to US$10 per guest per day, or you can include this in your contribution to the staff box.
Hotels in Uganda operate a staff tip boxes. This is usually the best way of offering tips, since it ensures that all of the staff get their fair share, even the ones you did not meet but who were working hard behind the scenes, such as cooks and laundry ladies. We usually recommend in the range US$2 and US$10 per guest per day. You may also want to slip tips to specific members of staff if they have been particularly helpful or friendly, but this should be in addition to your staff box tip, not instead.
For drivers of simple transfers you may want to offer a discretionary tip, particularly if he has been friendly and gone out of his way to make you feel welcome, or has solved any little teething problems along the way. Around US$5 per day between the group may be suitable.
In Uganda you will encounter many people who want to help you in return for some modest payment. This can sometimes seem like a hassle, or even a hustle, but it is part of life in Africa … there is no social security here and people who are out of work are obliged to try to earn something on the street.
We tend to be more appreciative of people who are being more creative and thoughtful about their work … who are right there at the moment that you need them, offering exactly the service that you require.
We also sometimes manage to be quite creative in this regard. If you think to yourself … “What jobs can I think up for these guys on the street to do for me?” … then you can often find yourself being royally looked after in exchange for a few dollars … money which may mean a great deal to these people. It is a great way of giving without resort to charity.
But please try to restrain yourself from giving to beggars, unless it is absolutely clear that they are unable to fend for themselves. And try not to give left over picnic lunches or other stuff to kids, who are particularly vulnerable to being turned into beggars.
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