If you visit Kenya on vacation you will encounter people who serve you either because it is their job, or because they are just being friendly.
You may feel inclined to offer a tip on top of the the base payment for these services. Besides being an act of goodwill, tipping can be a way to indicate appreciation for good service delivery.
However, if you are not from Kenya, you may not be sure when to tip, or how much is appropriate to give. Here is a basic guide to tipping in Kenya, to help smooth your vacation.
If you wish to give a tip, you must do so in Kenyan shillings, not your native currency. The Kenyan currency is abbreviated officially as KES, or more commonly as Ksh. You are likely to hear it colloquially called “bob,” for example “100 bob” or “2000 bob.”
One US dollar is the equivalent of around KES 90. One Euro trades at KES 120 and one British Pound is around Ksh 150 at current exchange rates. The shilling comes in coins of 1 shilling, 5 shillings, 10 shillings and 20 shillings. There are also notes of 50 shillings, 100 shillings, 200 shillings, 500 shillings and the highest denomination is 1000 shillings.
Why should you tip?
Many workers in the hospitality industry are not paid much, so they rely on tips to supplement their income. For example, the folks who take you on guided walks through safari parks, nature trails, historical monuments and so forth either get paid nothing at all or very little, and largely rely on tips for their survival.
In a general sense, whether or not to hand a tip to someone who has served or sold you something is at your discretion. It is not cast in stone, but is always appreciated.
When and how much to tip
For unsolicited help – for example a random person in the street showing you directions – a 20 shilling tip would suffice. In most cases though, Kenyans are very polite and would be willing to give you directions or even walk you to the destination without expecting anything in return. This is especially common at the coast.
For more structured services, a 100 shilling (roughly $1) tip would be fair enough.
At hotels, porters can be tipped anything from 50 shillings to 100 shillings. You may give your housekeeper anything from 200 shillings to 500 shillings per week to ensure motivation and good service by her.
In restaurants, the waiter serving you would ordinarily expect 10% of the bill to be offered as a tip. Be sure to hand the tip to the server in person to ensure that they receive it, and not to leave it on the table.
If you are under the guidance of a tour company, you will have a van with a driver to take you around. Tipping the driver is not necessary, but still nice. You can offer anything from 100 shillings to 200 shillings. Non-monetary tips like sodas or cigarettes aren’t a bad idea, and tour-van drivers are likely to appreciate them.
If you’re riding in a taxi, do not offer the driver a tip because they do not expect any, and they have factored in all their costs into their standard fare.
If you go on safari, your lodge will usually suggest an amount that is appropriate for each member of staff: safari guides, vehicle drivers and lodge support staff. Alternatively, you may be instructed to put tips in a communal box, and the money will be evenly distributed among staff.
At a spa, it’s customary to tip 100 KES per beauty treatment. So if you get a massage, manicure, and facial, you’d tip 300 KES.