How tipping works in Russia.
Russia tipping culture is not strong, like for example in the US, where tips is absolute must everywhere. In Russia people in service jobs also do expect tips. Seemingly simple subject, but look how many points and recommendations below on giving tips in Russia.
Tips in Russia are common in cafes, restaurants (where there is table service). Normal tip amount is 5-10% if you liked the service and believe they really made extra effort in serving you. Waiters are paid for their job some minimum salary, but it covers basic service of bringing your orders and removing dirty dishes and this is included in a price of food and drinks. Tips are extra, so they have to provide extra service on top of basic function to deserve the tip.
Tips can be personal, meaning waiters put in their pockets whatever they make on tips, but most commonly waiters share tips with other personnel who don’t get to work with guests directly. This does not affect your tip, but when you consider amount, take into account quality of drinks, food and overall service, because people who contributed to all these might get some of your tip too.
Tipping is done only in CASH, you can not put tips on a credit card. Meaning for tipping you need to carry some cash anyway.
If you did not leave tips, I suggest to never return to the same place. Going back to the place you did not like would be pointless anyway.
Ones you finish meals and want to pay and leave, you ask for a bill – счёт пожалуйста – schet pozhaluista. Usually your bill will arrive in a small folder. Some places get creative and bring your bill in some kind of a box or something else. Check that everything is in order and bill has what you actually ordered. Nowadays they often ask how you pay upon bringing the bill – cash or credit card – nalichnie ili kreditnaya karta? If card, they will bring card terminal and after payment leave your receipts in the same folder. (If they do not have wireless card terminal they might ask you to go to the terminal and enter your pin.) You take those receipts if you need them and leave tips in the same folder.
When you receive bill (literally everywhere with table service), text at the very bottom of it says: “Tips for the waiter are welcomed, but we leave it for your consideration”. (This phrase is on the receipt picture above).
If you pay in cash – “nalichnie”; you will have to put money in that folder together with bill and leave it for waiter or give it to them or wait for the to pick it up from the table. Nothing fancy as you can see.
Important trick – when you do not have exact amount and put bigger bill that will require change. If you hand the folder with bill and your money and say “spasibo” – thanks (or say spasibo when they pick up the folder), this will be an indication that whatever change – it goes for tips. When you say “spasibo” they might not return your change, thinking you are so generous. If you put the money in that bill folder but they can not understand if they can take it from your table they would ask. Sometimes they hesitate or forget, so you can proactively say “rasschitaite pozhaluista”. You point at the bill folder or hand it to them. This is useful if waiter or waitress is slow and you are in a hurry.
Normally they would bring your change in the same folder. You leave tips in it and either leave folder on the table or hand it to the waiter or waitress, saying – spasibo. This indicates the end of transaction and gratitude as well.
Leaving small coins is a sign of disrespect. It depends on a waiter and a place however, but generally for tips you leave bills.
In some self-service places they have kind of small bin or box nearby cash register with a note saying “tips”. This happens often in craft beer places for example. It’s up to you whether you wanna tip them or not and in this case you can use coins, especially if your bill is small and tip consequently is small too.
Tipping taxi drivers is not necessary, however you can do it if you like their service. Example. I was leaving for airport and called myself a taxi. They give 10 minutes to come to the car. After 10 minutes waiting fee starts ticking – by minute. I was 5 minutes late, but I noticed that driver did not clocked waiting time on the meter. I got into the car, it was very clean and smelled real good. In addition the driver did not talk as he was driving me. Cost of the trip was 1200 Rubles and I gave him extra 100, because of the wait he did not bill me and because the ride was smooth and overall pleasant. I also left positive feedback on the app I was using to order the taxi.
Hotel tips are not very common, however hotel staff might expect you to tip, knowing that in most western countries this is what you normally do. Personally I would leave some money for whoever does room cleaning if I like how the room is made up. It happens very often, especially outside of Moscow, that they do not understand that money left are for them and just carefully put it somewhere on the table. In this case I would just leave it there and maybe add some more if I stay more nights.
Russia tipping culture – useful vocabulary:
Cчёт пожалуйста (Schet pozhaluista) – Check please.
Наличные [Nalichnie] – Cash.
Кредитная карта (Kreditnaya karta) – Credit card.
Рассчитайте пожалуйста (Rasschitaite pozhaluista) – Check-out please (this is used specifically when paying bill in a cafe or restaurant and you want waiter to take your money).
Спасибо (Spasibo) – Thanks (In Russian we really use just “thanks” rather than “thank you”).
Все было хорошо (Vse bilo horosho) – Everything was good (this can be used in response to question like “how you liked everything?”).
Нам всё понравилось (Nam vsyo ponravilos) – We liked everything (same as above, form of feedback).