Did a full day walking tour of LA. Our tour guide Damien was very knowledgeable & passionate about giving us all the information in a clear & concise way. The tour was very well planned & organised & was not tiring.
We did The Real Hollywood tour & loved it! The tour was at a great pace & the guide (Vicky) was very knowledgeable & made the tour fun. Thank you!
Stuart was so knowledgeable & was worth the day with him. I had been to LA multiple times before but this is the first time I had taken a tour – so thrilled to have this experience with my mom & sister. I would recommend this tour again & again.
We had an amazing DTLA Murder Mystery Ghost tour with Damien & Dante… thank you very much from the Italian girls… very interesting & funny… absolutely recommended!
This tour was awesome! Stuart is very knowledgeable, likeable & fun. The stops on the tour were very interesting & I learned a lot. I’ve been on quite a few tours of this nature & this was one of my favorites – highly recommend!
Did a walking tour of LA (LA in a Day). Vicky started us off with the Hollywood tour & Damien (who is also the owner) was our guide for the rest of the day. The entire day was awesome, I suggest this tour. There isn’t that much walking, to be honest. It’s very fun!
My boyfriend & I took the DTLA Murder Mystery Ghost tour with Stuart as our guide & had the most amazing time! We had experiences we will never forget! We were able to see parts & people of Los Angeles that we never would have without Stuart. I give this 10/10. If we visit again, this will be at the top of our to do list!
Absolutely amazing! Highly recommend taking both The Real Hollywood Tour & the Central Downtown LA tour! Our time in LA wouldn’t have been the same. Great way to learn about the city, see it from a different angle, explore the local life & learn about its history & filming industry. Damien our guide was fantastic!
Sylvie was our host & was fantastic. She had a lot of local knowledge & gave her unique perspective as someone who had moved to the area many years ago, so she had an outsider’s as well as an insider’s perspective. The tour gave us a great overview of Santa Monica & Venice & set us up for a great rest of the day.
We took 2 tours, the Santa Monica & Venice Bike tour (with Sylvie) & the Real Hollywood tour (with Damien). Both were great & highly recommended. Sylvie & Damien were informative, knowledgeable & easy to talk to. They were like you were with friends. We were traveling as a family of 4 with 2 boys (15 & 12). We all enjoyed the tours.
Tipping in the U.S.
One of the most confusing things for many visitors coming here, is knowing how to deal with the issue of tipping in the U.S. As Winston Churchill (might have) said it’s a riddle wrapped in an enigma, inside a mystery. Sometimes it seems like everyone has a tip jar just waiting for you to drop a gratuity in, so where is the definitive list of workers that one should tip? Is it ever appropriate not to tip? If it’s such a big deal why isn’t the gratuity included in the bill? Why, for that matter, aren’t workers in the U.S. paid enough, so that they don’t need tips?
Tipping in the U.S. is a social minefield. An ethical dilemma from which there’s no escape while you’re here. Bars, restaurants, hotels, taxis – at any moment it can strike. Is this waiter really expecting me to leave 25%? What if I leave 15%? Will they jeer me out of the restaurant? Or will they just look at me with cold disdain? Even Americans can find it confusing.
Intimidated? There’s no need to be! We at The Real Los Angeles Tours have written this handy guide to tipping etiquette, that will help you find your way through the minefield and resolve the existential paradox that will hit you when you get back to your hotel room and find some nice chocolates sitting on top of your freshly made bed. To tip the chambermaid or not to tip the chambermaid? That is the question. To find the answer read on.
A SHORT HISTORY OF TIPPING IN THE U.S.
To address the whole issue of tipping in the U.S. we have to first understand where this custom came from and why it is so prevalent in the U.S. (because it’s without question more common to tip here than anywhere else). Funnily enough Americans got the habit from Europeans, and particularly the British. If you watched the TV series Victoria you might have noticed Queen Victoria tipping her servants, like many traditions in North America, that’s where tipping in the U.S. originated.
Wealthy Americans who traveled to Europe in the nineteenth century would observe the British aristocracy doing it and when they returned, to show how sophisticated they were, began tipping in the U.S. Gradually it became commonplace to do it here – even as it became much less common in the U.K. and Europe. Why is that?
U.S. culture is overwhelmingly an immigrant culture, people from all over the world moved here, some willingly and some not. These people had different languages, cultures and customs. Something was needed to unite them. Of course students of American history will tell you that this is where the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Pledge of Allegiance all come in. Devices that Americans are taught to respect and believe in, which have the effect of binding the people together as one.
Of course this is true – to a point. You do need ceremonial, governmental and even mystical elements to make a country such as the U.S. function. But you also need a language that everyone, no matter what their background, religion or culture can understand. As we all know English is America’s lingua franca (although Spanish is now making significant inroads), but a language comes with it’s own cultural background, embedded in its DNA. You need something more neutral, more a-cultural if you like. And that something is money.
Money really is the universal language. It’s math. One and one equals two, two and two equals four. Everyone can understand that. So really money became the U.S.’s official language – which is the main reason why it’s the most capitalist country on earth. In other countries people’s place in society is based on complicated factors to do with class, profession, education and, of course, money too. But in the U.S. that’s the major factor.
Why? Because it’s the only element on which everyone can agree. There are other nations which have immigrant cultures to one extent or another, Australia for example, but in those countries there was always a dominant culture – in Australia’s case it is Anglo/British. For the U.S., after the Revolution, that wasn’t the case anymore. That doesn’t mean Americans are interested only in money and lacking any other cultural expression. Americans are typically friendly and polite and usually generous to a fault. It’s just that they use money as a way of communicating. U.S. culture is very deep, rich and varied.
WHY TIP HERE?
So, what does all this mean to you, as you reluctantly ponder whether to leave a gratuity for the chambermaid? Just this: at The Real Los Angeles Tours we promote travel that is respectful of the cultures that we come across. That’s the whole point of the kind of traveling that we enjoy. It’s about accepting and learning from different customs – not imposing our customs on the countries that we visit. When in Rome do as the Romans do.
Probably where you come from it’s not customary to tip. Here it is. So do it. Really it’s no different to leaving your shoes at the door in Japan. Or when a German says “danke” you must reply “bitte”. Or understanding that Indian restaurants don't have steak on the menu – the cow is sacred.
It’s true that the federal minimum wage in the U.S. is ridiculously low (it’s $2.31 p/h, which is insane), but that’s a separate issue – you can’t change that, only Americans can. You can only accept the way it is or try to ignore it and leave a lot of unhappy workers in your wake.
Look we totally get it – tipping in the U.S. can be expensive, but that’s just the deal. It’s also expensive for your waiter, bartender or chambermaid. Even more so because they live here. Remember, it’s not just about the money (funnily enough like nearly all things that involve money), your gratuity is sending a message, a good tip means you’re happy and no tip means you’re NOT happy – so neither should they be.
How Much to Leave as a Gratuity in Los Angeles
Since we’re The Real Los Angeles Tours our guide to tipping in the U.S. is based on what we tip in LA.
Restaurants: 15-20%. An easy way to estimate the tip is to double the sales tax (in LA it’s 9%).
Bars: $2 per drink. Be generous when ordering cocktails – especially if you want to be served next time.
Chambermaid: $5-10 whenever they change the sheets.
Hotel Porter: $5 per bag.
Valet Parking Attendant: $5 when you leave.
Taxi: 10%. Previously you couldn’t tip ride-sharing taxi drivers. Now you can.
Car Wash: $5-10. Given to the person who does the detailing on your car.
Hotel Concierge: They usually get commission on bookings they make for you, so it's not necessary to tip.
Tour Guide: 15-20% of the per person ticket price – what did you think we’d say?! Tour guides work hard.
IS IT OKAY IF I DON'T TIP IN THE U.S.?
You can do whatever you want. Of course you can leave nothing if if that's how you roll, a gratuity isn’t obligatory. But it's very impolite. Unless you had bad service it isn’t cool. If that happens it’s normally best to try to resolve the issue with the server/bartender etc first. But this kind of situation’s unusual – mainly because the practice of tipping in the U.S. is so ingrained, service is nearly always excellent.
The Los Angeles Times' Marisa Gerber has written a great article about this important U.S. courtesy (for which she joined us for a tour), here.