Tipping Guide when on a Safari

Unlike the US or UK, tipping in Kenya is not as customary as in those countries. However, if you believe the driver or guide has done an exceptional job and you wish to express your appreciation for their work, you have the option to give them a tip. When deciding on the amount, consider factors such as the size of your group, the duration of the safari, and the distance traveled.

Tipping culture:

While studying in America, I acquired an appreciation for the customary practice of tipping when receiving services. However, in Kenya, the customs diverge. Tipping is viewed as a courteous gesture, and it is expected to promptly compensate for services rendered.

One time, I was specifically reminded of the tipping percentage for a meal we had in some restaurant in Boston and it was 15%(which I found too much).

While some guests may express concerns about tipping, arguing that workers’ salaries should suffice to cover their living expenses and that lodge owners should bear the responsibility of paying more, it is important to consider the comprehensive nature of safari costs. These costs encompass not only wages, but also concession fees, fuel, insurance, security, maintenance, food, beverages, Wi-Fi, entertainment, and various other expenses. It is crucial to recognize that any increase in wages would inevitably lead to a rise in overall costs for guests, as certain expenses such as conservation fees and borehole water pumping are fixed. To mitigate this, many lodges are implementing measures like solar power utilization and establishing kitchen gardens, seeking to reduce costs wherever possible while simultaneously ensuring fair compensation for their workers.

5 Reasons to Tip when on a Safari:

  1. To show your appreciation for the driver/guide’s hard work and dedication to making your safari experience enjoyable
  2. To foster an environment of fairness, as some drivers/guides may not receive enough from their employers
  3. To encourage excellence in service, allowing experienced staff to be compensated fairly
  4. To promote sustainable tourism practices by allowing the lodges and camps to reduce their costs
  5. To strengthen local economies, as gratuities tend to be spent in the areas where they are received.

What employees say about tipping them:

When I asked some of my safari drivers about their thoughts on tipping, they said they appreciated any gesture from the guests to show their gratitude for a job well done. Most felt that the amount was not as important as the sentiment behind it. After all, these people have gone out of their way to ensure your experience is memorable and enjoyable.

Time away from their families:

For many drivers and guides, a safari is also an opportunity to earn additional income away from their families. These individuals often come with us on our trips and tend to form strong bonds with guests. Tipping allows for them to give back something tangible in return for the kindness we show them during our journey.

Travel cost to get to and from camp/lodge:

In addition to the wages they receive for their services, many drivers and guides have to pay out of pocket for transportation costs when traveling to and from safari camps or lodges. A tip can help offset these expenses, which are often a burden on workers who do not have access to reliable public transportation.

Long work hours:

Many safari drivers and guides work long hours in hostile environments. Tipping can be a way of thanking them for their hard work and dedication to making your experience memorable. It can also give them the opportunity to take a break from their hectic schedule or purchase something they would not normally be able to afford.

Expectations to support the extended family:

In addition to their own families, many safari drivers and guides have the responsibility of supporting extended family members. Tipping can be a way for them to provide extra assistance or otherwise contribute to their families’ welfare.

So how much to tip?

When deciding on an appropriate tip, consider factors such as the size of your group, the duration of the safari and the distance traveled. Generally speaking, a 20-30% tip is considered generous for a driver or guide who has provided excellent service throughout. However, if you feel inclined to do so, you may give more or less depending on your own

In Kenya, a 15-20 percent tip is considered generous for excellent services provided. Gratuities are also typically given in cash instead of included in the bill like it is done in the US and UK.

When to Tip: 11 occasions:

  1. When the driver and/or guide pick you up at the airport
  2. After each game drive or other activity
  3. At the end of your safari, for both the driver and guide
  4. If your driver or guide has gone above and beyond to make your trip more enjoyable (e.g., they take extra time to answer your questions or show you a special spot)
  5. When the driver and/or guide takes you for lunch/dinner (especially if it is not included in the package)
  6. For extra services (e.g., they help carry your luggage, work longer hours, go out of their way to provide additional assistance during the trip)
  7. If you are staying at a lodge or camp for more than one night, it is customary to tip each morning and evening.
  8. If the driver and/or guide helps you purchase souvenirs or other items from local vendors, it is customary to tip them a few extra dollars for doing so
  9. When the driver and/or guide takes you on a walking safari, for example if they help to take pictures of wildlife or point out interesting facts about the environment
  10. If the driver and/or guide is taking you on a special side trip to a location outside of your planned tour (e.g., they take you to visit an elephant sanctuary)
  11. Upon returning to the airport, once again for both the driver and guide

Tipping etiquette:

  1. Give tips directly to the recipient. It is considered rude and offensive to give a tip to someone else in the presence of the driver or guide, as it may lead them to feel disrespected or taken advantage of.
  2. If you are giving tips in cash, try to use local currency instead of American dollars or other foreign currencies, as this will often be more convenient for the recipient.
  3. Try to keep the tips discreet and private when possible, to avoid any potential misunderstandings or hurt feelings among the group.
  4. If you are traveling with a large group, it is customary for everyone in the group to contribute an equal amount for the tip, regardless of who provides most of the services.
  5. When tipping multiple guides or drivers during the course of a single safari, it is best to give each person the same amount.
  6. If you are happy with the service provided and would like to tip more, it is recommended that you wait until the end of the trip before doing so, as this will avoid any potential confusion over who should receive what amount.
  7. Finally, remember that tipping is not obligatory, but it is a great way to show appreciation for all the hard work that goes into making your safari experience enjoyable and memorable.

Should the tip vary depending on group size?

Yes, the amount of the tip should be adjusted depending on the size of your group. If you are traveling with a large group, it is common to give more money than if there were only two or three in your party. This is because larger groups require more work from the driver and/or guide, so tipping extra for their services can go a long way in showing gratitude. Additionally, if you are traveling with a larger group, it is customary to split the tip evenly among everyone in the party regardless of who received the services. This will ensure that no one person is left out and all members of the group have contributed equally to the gratuity. It is customary to tip your driver-guide on the last day of your tour. A recommended tip for a driver-guide is approximately US $5 – US $7 per day per traveler, based on a group size of 4 – 6 travelers in a vehicle. If your group is smaller, with only 2 or 3 travelers in a vehicle, you may consider increasing the tip to approximately US $6 – US $8 per day per traveler, as a gesture of appreciation for the personalized attention provided to smaller groups.

If you sought escort services during your safari, it is customary to show appreciation to your escort by giving a tip. The recommended amount is between US $8 to US $10 per traveler, per day. For smaller groups, consisting of 5 people or fewer, it is suggested to consider tipping slightly more, around US $10 – US $12 per traveler, per day, as a gesture of gratitude to your driver guide.

Tipping for custom camping services:

When embarking on a camping safari in Kenya, whether independently or as part of a program, you can expect to be attended to by a camp manager and a team of staff members. It is recommended to provide an overall tip of US $10 – US $14 per traveler per day to show appreciation for their services. On the last day, you can give this amount to your guide, who will ensure it is distributed among all camp staff members. For smaller groups (5 people or fewer), it is advisable to consider tipping in the slightly higher range of approximately US $12 – US $18 per traveler per day, particularly for exclusive camps where tips are not included. Please note that this recommendation does not apply to permanent tented camps.

When we launched Kambu Mara Camp, we didn’t have toilets or fences and we got security. We anticipated 2 security personnel but in the African spirit, 6 security personnel showed up. At times, tipping can be uncomfortable as you may not have agreed to some services but the locals may have gone above and beyond to make your experience memorable, so tipping is always appreciated. We were able to show our appreciation by providing them with a much-deserved tip.

Tipping in restaurants:

When it comes to dining out during your safari, you should follow similar guidelines for tipping as those applicable in North America or Europe. Generally speaking, it is customary to tip approximately 10-15% of the bill for restaurant services. In Kenya, this should be done either in local currency (Kenyan shillings) or US dollars; however, if paying by credit card, you will likely need to use Kenyan shillings as many restaurants do not accept foreign currency payments.

Why we discourage tipping:

When you book a tour with Kambu Campers, you will be attended by well-remunerated guides and drivers who are paid a fair wage by the company. We don’t encourage tipping, as we believe that our employees should be compensated fairly for their hard work and dedication to providing an enjoyable experience to our travelers. At Kambu Campers, we strive to create a culture of mutual respect between travelers and staff, which does not rely on monetary tips or favors; rather, it is based on open communication and appreciation for one another.

We strive to ensure that our guests have an enjoyable and memorable experience without any surprises or added costs, so feel free to let us know if you have any questions or concerns about tipping during your safari. We are here to help make the most of your adventure!

Instances that I have tipped:

When the driver managed to drive us to see all big 5 in single trip:

During my last safari in Kenya, I traveled with a group of 6 people and we had the same driver-guide throughout our entire trip. Despite being on an incredibly tight schedule, he managed to drive us to spots where we could see all five of the big animals (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and buffalo). We were so appreciative of the driver-guide’s hard work and dedication that we decided to give him an extra large tip at the end of the trip. We all agreed to split it evenly among everyone in the group, so each person contributed US $8 – US $10 as a show of appreciation for his efforts. It was truly an unforgettable experience!

When I used public transport:

On my last trip to Kenya, I decided to use public transportation for part of the journey. The drivers were very friendly and helpful in guiding me to my destination. As a gesture of gratitude, I tipped them each an extra US $2 – US $4 for their services. It was a small token of appreciation but it meant a lot to them!

When I took a guided tour:

On my most recent visit to Kenya, I took a guided tour of the local area. The guide was knowledgeable and passionate about birds, and really went out of his way to make sure our experience was enjoyable. At the end of the tour, I gave him an extra US $10 – US $15 as an additional show of thanks for his hard work. He was very appreciative and thanked me for my generosity!