Tipping in Prague

“I don’t tip because society says I have to. Alright, I tip when somebody really deserves a tip. If they put forth an effort, I’ll give them something extra. But I mean, this tipping automatically, that’s for the birds. As far as I’m concerned [waiters and waitresses are] just doing their job.”
Mr. Pink, Reservoir Dogs

To this day, tipping in Prague’s restaurants and pubs is still a confusing matter to many a tourist – and to many an expat. The rule of thumb that many guide books abide by is to round up the bill to the nearest 5 or 10 Korunas. For instance, if the bill comes out to, say, CZK 137, you pay CZK 140, leaving your waiter, waitress or bartender a three-Koruna tip.

Of course, this rule is ridiculous if you’ve got a waitress busting her ass for you and your crew all night and your bill comes to something like CZK 782. If you were to round it up to CZK 790, or even CZK 800, I doubt you’d be able to look her in the eye. I know I wouldn’t.

Of course, the class of pub or restaurant affects tipping practices. At your typical cheap Czech pub, the rounding-up method is par for the course. If, however, you get great service (and, for those of you who don’t speak Czech, the wait staff hasn’t tried to rip you off – something that doesn’t happen as often as it used to, but you should still be careful) why not cough up the percentage you would in your home country?

At a more upscale place, a service charge may be tacked on to your bill, so keep an eye out for that. There is also the old couvert trick, in which the restaurant charges for the condiments they bring to your table, whether you use them or not. If there is no service charge or couvert, then merely rounding up at a place like one of the Ambiente restaurants is not cool if the service deserves more.

Then there’s the matter of tipping bar staff. We tip them in Canada, whereas this is not the custom in the UK. It’s a grey area in the Czech Republic. Having worked as a bartender in Brno and Prague, I can say that if the bar is busy and someone’s not tipping on large complicated orders, chances are they will be ignored for a good long while when it comes time to get in the next round.

This is not a matter of “society [saying you] have to” tip. This is about common courtesy, especially considering most waiters, waitresses, and bartenders in Prague are paid chump change wages. The jobs I had paid between CZK 40 to CZK 60 per hour. I don’t know what the numbers are now (the last time I tended bar was four years ago), but they can’t be that much higher.

I find that the best thing to do when in doubt is to round up and add an extra 10 to 20 Korunas for great service in a low to mid-range pub or restaurant.

The only times I eat in really fancy places is when someone else is paying for it – and that happens about once a year, if I’m really lucky. I would assume that if one can afford to eat in places that offer CZK 400 appetizers and CZK 1000 entrees, one can probably afford to apply the percentage method of tipping (in Canada that would be 15 percent for excellent service and 10 percent for adequate to good service).

For bar staff I tend to round up, but, again, I always leave an extra 20 or so when they’ve been really good to me.

Dec 12, 11:00 (Filed under: Prague pubs, restaurants and cafes )

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