As with any visit to a new destination, one thing people wonder about is the tipping culture. You have North America, the USA more particularly, where tipping is custom and expected or Europe on the other end where tipping is something more “merit based”.
Many other countries fall within this spectrum and this is also the case for Peru. The services where tipping is most common and more expected are restaurants and guides. To a slightly lesser extent we could also include tour drivers, bell boys and hosts in this group.
Most travelers among us will not easily end up in a true local restaurant during their Peru and Machu Picchu trip but if this would be the case, a couple of Soles left behind on the table is always appreciated but never expected. For the normal restaurants frequented by tourists as well as locals, tipping is somewhat more expected and a 10% tip would be the norm. This being said, we do encourage people to increase the amount based on the quality of the service and the food. In the very high end restaurants a good tip can go up to 20 or 25% of the bill. Again, we feel that merritt is the best base on which to decide the exact amount. It is also important to note that even though some restaurants charge a 10% service fee on the bill, in many cases this will not go to the staff and stay in the owners pocket. This fee is obligatory to pay for.
Most hotel and restaurant staff will count on their tips to make a living but they have a normal contract. Guides on the other hand often work freelance and use their tips to get around during the less visited months. Therefore they do depend slightly more on tips. In order to pin an amount to tip your guide(s) you have to take into consideration whether you are in a shared or private tour and if it is a half, full or multi day (hiking) excursion.
For shared excursions that take around 4 hours a tip of US$5 (20 Soles) per person is the norm. For a full day tour (around 8 hours you can double this more or less (US$8-10 or 30 Soles).
For private tours this depends a little on the size of your party but for 4 people a half day shared tour a nice tip is US$10 per person. For a full day this would be approximately US$15 per person. For a private tour you may also want to consider tipping the driver who often have an underestimated job taking you safely from point A to point B, especially on the bending roads in the Andes. A tip for a full day excursion of US$5 (15 Soles) per person is much appreciated by the drivers.
For multi day hiking excursions such as the Inca Trail or the Salkantay Hike one not only has to consider the guide for a tip but also keep in mind the whole support team including porters, assistants and cooks. These often have the hardest jobs as they are up before dawn making sure that breakfast is ready and porters always making sure to be ahead of you allowing you to arrive to a camp all set for the night. As a rule of thumb you can take about US$10 per person per day as the norm for tipping. You can give this to the guide on the end of the trip and he will make sure that the porters and other staff get their share. You are of course free to tip the porters and cooks yourself if you would prefer this. Keep in mind that porters often come from humble villages and backgrounds and that the tips they earn will be well spent.
Finally, please remember that even though tipping is a good tool to express your gratitude and happiness with the service provided, even if the service isn't great, or even good, consider leaving a tip. Customs and language barriers are just a few of the circumstances that may prevent you from seeing the situation in its entirety.