How to tip in Russia

Whether you come from a country that endorses and promotes tipping (USA) or one that doesn’t (most other countries), you’re probably wondering about how to tip in Russia.

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You might have heard about the famously bad Russian customer service and whether tipping is still a thing. If you haven’t, I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

But in this post you’ll learn all there is to know about how to tip in:

  • Bars
  • Nightclubs
  • Strip clubs
  • Restaurants
  • Taxis
  • Hotels
  • On tours

You will be an expert at how to tip in Russia and every Ruble will be a great investment.


How to say "tip" in Russian

A tip is called “чаевые” (chayeviye) and literally sort of means "for tea". The Russian expression for the verb "to tip" is давать на чай (davat na chay) and translates to "to give for tea". So in Russia the person who you're tipping is supposed to spend that money on tea instead of all the other things the country might be famous for. 

How to tip in Russia in bars

Let's cover the most interesting establishments first. 

In general, the rule in Russia, and specifically Moscow, is "you can but you don't have to". Up to 10% is a good rule of thumb. 

I use tipping as an incentive scheme for the waiters. Let's say I'm at a bar that I'm planning to stay at for a while and I'm ordering drinks. In Russia you don't open tabs but pay right away. I try to pick the waiter that looks the most competent. relaxed and friendly. If he's as competent as he looks, I do tip him 10%. More often than not, they'll be grateful but that doesn't mean you'll receive good service for the next round as well.

If I'm ordering drinks at a table, I'll tip depending on the speed and friendliness that I'm getting served with. Some are good, some are terrible. Don't tip if the service was bad. No need to reward them if they're slow or unfriendly. If they're good, you can reward them with a tip.

I'm usually a bit more generous with places that I go to regularly.

How to tip in Russia in nightclubs

Ah clubs, the boxing ring when it comes to tipping. 

My personal experience is the following:

Generally it doesn't make a lot of sense to tip. Even when you stick with one waiter for the entire evening. More often than not, they will not "connect the dots" if you fork over a generous tip (= there's more where that came from). Blame it on the hectic environment or just a lack of common sense. 

Every once in a while there are some competent people at the bar. Then by all means tip, if that means you'll get served quicker later when it really matters (if you know what I mean...).

The big exception is getting a table. Tipping will be expected and I covered how to do that like a pro in my bottle service guide

How to tip in Russia in strip clubs

Gentlemen, listen up now.

In strip clubs you have to tip the girls that come and dance for you. If you don't want to, just politely refuse them, that's completely fine. 100 Rubles will be good enough. Sometimes they ask for more although I usually don't give more (wrong frame and all that). In some of the high-end strip clubs you might have to tip a bit more as well.

You don't have to tip for any "upsells" you're getting from the girls. After all, she's already earned her fee, right?

For service you can but don't have to tip. If it's been good or you're just digging the sexy girl that's been serving you Jack 'n Coke all night, feel free. If you're getting my free VIP passes that get you 10% off the menu, you don't have any extra cost.

How much to tip in Russia in restaurants

In restaurants it is common to tip 5-10% of the total. Unless the service has been terrible, that's what I leave as well. More often than not waiters are young people that get a poor salary working that job and can need the money. However, the same principle as in bars applies here. You should see it as an incentive for them to do a good job and use it accordingly.

Do you tip taxi drivers?

Hell to the mothereffin' no!

Yes, official taxi drivers are paid poor money but they also do a poor job 90% of the time. Be grateful if you arrive. Business class taxis have better service, so they don't need the tip anyways because their profit margins are good as they are.

Do absolutely, under no circumstances, tip illegal cabs. They will "forget change" and whatnot when it comes to paying. Before negotiating a price, be sure you have that exact sum in your pocket. Goes for official cheap cabs too actually.

What about tour guides?

The people I take around the city (like for bar tours) are not thrifty with tipping and that's much appreciated. In my experience, tour guides often try their best to do a good job and in this case a couple of small bills are a good way of giving them some love.

And in hotels?

You can tip the poor guy that is carrying the lady's oversized suitcase full of cosmetics and high heels a small sum.

If and how much you tip the cleaning lady is up to you. Foreigners usually do, Russians mostly don't. A few hundred for the duration of your stay will be good enough, if you decide to do so.

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