Our travellers often ask, ‘How, who and how much should we tip on safari in Botswana?’ To help you to avoid awkward situations, below is some guidance on tipping in southern Africa, the issues involved and the etiquette of doing so.
Tipping is always voluntary and should depend on the quality of service received. It’s never compulsory, but we’d encourage visitors to tip to appreciate good service, while remaining mindful of the impact of this on the community. So keep in mind the importance and extent of the work someone is doing for you, when you tip them.
Before thinking about the amount or how to tip, think about who to tip. Many people work to make your travel a success.
The Guide(s). The guide will be one of the most important people in making your safari a success. With this in mind, many places suggest tipping him/her separately, to ensure that they get the tip they deserve.
The Camp/ Back Of House Staff. There are a lot of people who work behind the scenes to make your trip a success including the chefs, kitchen hands, housekeeping staff and during mobile camping safaris the camp assistants & backup driver, who pitch your tents, dig your toilets, clean up after you and transport the equiptment.
In lodges there is usually a “General Staff Tip Box”.
During mobile safaris, where you spend time with every staff member, you are usually encourage to tip the camp staff individually.
The Operations (Back Up and Office) Team. During Mobile Safaris there are a lot of people who you will not meet during the safari but who work tirelessly in the background to make sure your tour runs smoothly e.g. the team shopping for groceries, checking and packing the cars and trailers before tour start and cleaning all camping equiptment at the end of the tour as well as the team listening to the radio and coming to your help (sometimes during night without you realising it) to resupply, or work on the cars (mechanics) in the bush if the rough terrain caused some damage.
This team is often forgotten as they are not as visible as the camp team and the guide but they are the base of the operation.
Tipping them is tricky as you never meet them in most cases. We recommend to bring a separate envelope, label it “Operations Team” and give it to the guide at the end of the tour. Please also write an email to our office (if possible as soon as you end the mobile safari) informing the office how much and to whom you handed the envelope so that we expect the tip and distribute it evenly between everybody who was involved in the tour but was not in the bush with you.
We’re sometimes asked about when to give tips, and it’s an important question.
The options are:
After each activity
At the end of each day
At the end of your stay
The answer is very clear: Always tip just once, and always at the end of your stay at each safari lodge or at the end of your mobile safari.
Guides don’t expect a tip after each activity, and tipping this way would pressurise the guide to ‘perform’ for the guest who is tipping – whilst probably distorting the relationship between him/her and the guests as a whole. It would certainly put your fellow guests in a very difficult position if you were offering tips this frequently, and they were not.
Most permanent camps and safari lodges in Botswana have a ‘tip box’, and often their own tipping policy. Sometimes the ‘tip box’ will be for all the staff; sometimes it’ll be for the staff excluding the guides; occasionally it’ll be arranged differently.
Some camps explain their tipping policy in the literature left in their rooms. If not, ask the manager and, if there’s a tip box, find out who shares the proceeds of this.
During Mobile Tentes Safaris tip the camp staff together or individually when you leave camp in the morning of the last day of the mobile safari. Tip the guide when he drops you in town at your accomodation. Give an envelope for the “Operations/BackUp/Office”-staff and write an email to notify the operations team that they should expect the tip money in the amount of XYZ and to whom you handed the gratuity.
Travellers often ask if they can tip by credit card – and the answer depends entirely on the camp, their accounting practices and their ability to process cards. However, this isn’t the norm, and it makes it difficult to direct your tip to precise team members. It’s much more common to tip with cash, with the preferred currency in Botswana being Botswana pula or, failing that, US dollars, South African rands, or even euros or GB pounds.
One excellent idea is for well-prepared guests to bring a small supply of envelopes with them, perhaps with a note inside on which a ‘thank you’ could be written. Towards the end of your stay, you can name the envelopes for the people or groups of people whom you wish to tip, put the appropriate cash tip into each, then either hand them out to individuals or put them into the general tip box.
Bear in mind that all we can offer here is guidance from our experience. In the end, tipping depends on your personal opinion and your individual satisfaction.
Given that, we’d recommend that for good service, our travellers tip around:
If you’re returning to a camp, it is a lovely gesture to bring personalised gifts for the people there, for example for the guide or camp assistants. This isn’t done commonly, but is always appreciated. Favourite items include books – especially wildlife guides (eg: comprehensive and detailed field guides).
However, to exchange tip money for unpersonal items such as pens and sweets is not recommended as those are very affortably available in southern Africa and are a nice gesture but not a tip showing appreciation of the service received.
Please remember the staff often works day and night to make this safri unforgettable for you.