Tips on tipping on safari

Tipping while on safari is often a sensitive topic, and so we thought we would provide a few guidelines. The first and most important point is that tipping in entirely your decision and you should never feel obliged to tip anyone. Be aware though that your tip can make a big difference to staff at lodges, and it is always truly appreciated. Also be aware that there are many people who play a role in making your safari experience a great one – most of whom you never meet in person.

Here are a few general guidelines which travellers wanting to tip can follow.

Tipping on safari, guides, South Africa

Garonga Safari Camp, Makalali Nature Reserve, Limpopo

♦ How much do I tip?

Guide/Tracker: Your guide and tracker are central to the success of your safari. You’ll have plenty of time to connect with them and, by the end of your trip, they might just be your new best friends. With guides, it’s customary to leave a tip on your departure. What you choose to leave is totally up to you, but a general rule of thumb on safari is to tip your guide US$10 and your tracker US$5 per person per day.

Guests that are returning to a lodge that they have visited before, sometimes even bring small, personalised gifts for their guides. Alternatively, the lodges will generally give you a guideline for tipping and gifting if you ask them.

Camp/Lodge Staff: There is a lot that happens behind the scenes of your safari and it’s important to consider and acknowledge all the wonderful people who look after the lodge. From housekeepers, to wait staff, to chefs – they all deserve to be thanked appropriately! Most safari lodges and camps have a communal tip ‘jar’ and around US$10 to US$20 per day is considered a reasonable tip.

Tipping on safari, guides, South Africa

Garonga Safari Camp, Makalali Nature Reserve, Limpopo

♦ How do I tip?

Most lodges will provide you with envelopes to place the tips in. These can then be handed directly to the staff member it is intended for, or to management to distribute depending on the lodge’s process. If you would prefer not to leave cash, most places will also accept online payments if you let them know.

♦ Currency

East Africa: Tips can be given in US$. However, the local currency is preferred for small tips.

Southern Africa: Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, Zimbabwe and some areas of Mozambique accept South African Rands (ZAR) as tips, as well as their local currencies. Zimbabwe has no local currency and accepts US$, Botswana Pula and ZAR. Recently, they’ve also been accepting the Indian Rupee, Australian Dollar, Chinese Yuan and Japanese Yen.

Note: You will be offered currency exchanges by people on the street throughout Africa. It may be tempting to avoid the conversion commissions; however, this practice is illegal and should be avoided at all costs.

For any more advice about travelling to Africa, or help planning your safari trip, get in touch with us.

Journeys Discovering Africa

We believe in creating your perfect African safari – whether paddling a dugout canoe in the Okavango, tracking mountain gorillas or experiencing the Great Migration. We will work with you to craft your ideal trip, offering a customised service to ensure your safari is truly a Journey Discovering Africa.

  • Ryan de Beer

    Hey African Geo

    I agree with your statement that ‘The first and most important point is that tipping in entirely your decision’.

    To me a gratuity is gift and guides and trackers get paid to do a job they chose to do in life.

    Again a gratuity is a gift and should be given to someone in the hospitality industry that has gone above and beyond for the guest. Too many guides and trackers out there think they are obliged to receive a tip because of industry ‘norms’. I was a safari guide for over a decade and some days I worked really hard and received a ‘golden handshake’ meaning we didn’t receive a tip but just a big thank you. and in all honesty some days I felt that i could of done a better job and I got tipped handsomely.

    We forget so many things. How long did those guests save to come to this lodge that costs $1500.00 per person per night, did they save for 15 years? What if their travel agent told them that the gratuity was included in the price of there entire vacation. What if they come from a culture where tipping isn’t normal.
    There are many factors that we have to take into consideration.

    Yes this can make a guide and tracker somewhat despondent but it happens and we had to remind ourselves that we are not doing this entirely for money alone but for the passion of interpreting wildlife and the lifestyle to paying guests, otherwise we would work in a city being part of societies ‘rat race’. Just about everyone needs money to survive in this world.

    Every guide needs to realize that they are guides for the lifestyle and not the money. Majority of lodges supply everything from meals, accommodation, water, electricity, contribution to medical schemes and pension funds as well as providing an income. Some lodging companies pay very average salaries whilst other companies will pay there staff above industry ‘norms’ depending on qualifications, experience etc.

    So before every guide and tracker reads this comment and replies, finish reading what I am saying first please.

    As much as we as guides and trackers, guide and track for the passion and lifestyle many of us go above and beyond and deliver a service above what is expected to local and international clients without even thinking twice before we do things like, arranging a night drive at 10 pm, even though we have been awake since 04h30 or to arrange a private dinner because we the guide found out that the two guests were celebrating a special occasion, the list is endless.

    Lodges work like a well oiled machine, its takes everyone from housekeeping, the gardener, the butlers, the curio shop assistant, the chefs and of course the lodge managers to the guides and the trackers to complete a guest experience.

    The truth of the matter is that we do rely on tips for an income. Lodges often pay guides and trackers low salaries due to the generalization that guides make good tips.

    So when we do go above and beyond and we get a ‘golden handshake’ or a $30 tip for three days of solid guiding because someone told the guests we earn a suitable income or when this article says $10 a day is sufficient , I get slightly upset.

    I work in the U.S.A now and tipping as you most probably know is a given. We will go out and have a meal and its almost compulsory to to tip.

    I don’t agree with this completely. I ordered some drinks at the bar the other night that came to $60 and I left $4 for the bartender that spent two minutes serving us. She turned around and said “is that all?” I almost fell off my chair. She wanted 20% of the amount. I turned around and walked off.

    When a guide and tracker spend 18 hours a day entertaining and working their backsides off, please don’t tell everyone who reads your article it is the industry norm to tip a guide $10.00 and a tracker $5.00 a day. You are setting an amount that will not create you any fans.

    A gratuity is up to a guest and not up to you to give advice on a daily rate. And if a lodge is to give a guideline, think about what you pay your guides and the effort they put into the guests experience first before you give away guideline that are not suitable for hard working lodge staff.

  • Ryan de Beer

    Hey African Geo

    I agree with your statement that ‘The first and most important point is that tipping in entirely your decision’.

    To me a gratuity is gift and guides and trackers get paid to do a job they chose to do in life.

    Again a gratuity is a gift and should be given to someone in the hospitality industry that has gone above and beyond for the guest. Too many guides and trackers out there think they are obliged to receive a tip because of industry ‘norms’. I was a safari guide for over a decade and some days I worked really hard and received a ‘golden handshake’ meaning we didn’t receive a tip but just a big thank you. and in all honesty some days I felt that i could of done a better job and I got tipped handsomely.

    We forget so many things. How long did those guests save to come to this lodge that costs $1500.00 per person per night, did they save for 15 years? What if their travel agent told them that the gratuity was included in the price of there entire vacation. What if they come from a culture where tipping isn’t normal.
    There are many factors that we have to take into consideration.

    Yes this can make a guide and tracker somewhat despondent but it happens and we had to remind ourselves that we are not doing this entirely for money alone but for the passion of interpreting wildlife and the lifestyle to paying guests, otherwise we would work in a city being part of societies ‘rat race’. Just about everyone needs money to survive in this world.

    Every guide needs to realize that they are guides for the lifestyle and not the money. Majority of lodges supply everything from meals, accommodation, water, electricity, contribution to medical schemes and pension funds as well as providing an income. Some lodging companies pay very average salaries whilst other companies will pay there staff above industry ‘norms’ depending on qualifications, experience etc.

    So before every guide and tracker reads this comment and replies, finish reading what I am saying first please.

    As much as we as guides and trackers, guide and track for the passion and lifestyle many of us go above and beyond and deliver a service above what is expected to local and international clients without even thinking twice before we do things like, arranging a night drive at 10 pm, even though we have been awake since 04h30 or to arrange a private dinner because we the guide found out that the two guests were celebrating a special occasion, the list is endless.

    Lodges work like a well oiled machine, its takes everyone from housekeeping, the gardener, the butlers, the curio shop assistant, the chefs and of course the lodge managers to the guides and the trackers to complete a guest experience.

    The truth of the matter is that we do rely on tips for an income. Lodges often pay guides and trackers low salaries due to the generalization that guides make good tips.

    So when we do go above and beyond and we get a ‘golden handshake’ or a $30 tip for three days of solid guiding because someone told the guests we earn a suitable income or when this article says $10 a day is sufficient , I get slightly upset.

    I work in the U.S.A now and tipping as you most probably know is a given. We will go out and have a meal and its almost compulsory to tip.

    I don’t agree with this completely. I ordered some drinks at the bar the other night that came to $60 and I left $4 for the bartender that spent two minutes serving us. She turned around and said “is that all?” I almost fell off my chair. She wanted 20% of the amount. I turned around and walked off.

    When a guide and tracker spend 18 hours a day entertaining and working their backsides off, please don’t tell everyone who reads your article it is the industry norm to tip a guide $10.00 and a tracker $5.00 a day. You are setting an amount that will not create you any fans.

    A gratuity is up to a guest and not up to you to give advice on a daily rate. And if a lodge is to give a guideline, think about what you pay your guides and the effort they put into the guests experience first before you give away guideline that are not suitable for hard working lodge staff

    • Deputydog

      See above for my general view – but also agree with you that some guests are VERY demanding and often show little consideration. This is when tipping should recognise going above and beyond. Salaries should not be determined by what employers hope workers are going to make in tips – recipe for exploitation all round and needs stopping!

  • The recommendation for $10 per day for the guide is shockingly low, and just plain wrong. It should start at $50 per day and go up from there based on the quality of service. The guides we’ve had start their work day before the guests are even awake, and end it only after their guests are turned in for the night. I will give Africa Geographic the benefit of the doubt and consider it a typographical error, one that should have said 10%, not $10.

    • Deputydog

      Perhaps you could just do the math for everyone and work out the additional cost of, say, a seven day safari for two people? Then tell me why 500US a night is not covering the wages of people. You seem to want to make wildlife viewing an even more exclusive activity than it already is. Staff must be paid a proper living wage by their employers. Beyond that, the client can exercise discretion in tipping for the personalisation of good service. I get really annoyed when restaurants pull the same stunt – auto adding tips to a bill becuase they refuse to take responsibility to pay staff properly.
      Another observation: do people agree that excessive tipping for some can really unsettle a micro economy and completely change the expectations of some staff.

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