Tipping Point

Source: Tracy Olson, Flickr

Tips, Hotels and Good service – Panama

One aspect of visiting Panama that may come as a surprise to North American travelers is tipping –  not expected in most of Panama.  Think about it, a strange custom to much of the working world, where you tell someone the price of a service….which you proudly offer, and they pay you more!

Unlike in the US, tips are not factored as part of anyone’s pay in Panama.

when to tip?

It is a little more complex than this, here are a few rules of thumb I go by, the first two are hard won truths:

– There are some actions which are just part of being human. Don’t expect less from other people because you may make more money than them.    A sincere and specific thank you  is appreciated by most people.

-If people ask for a tip, they don’t deserve it.

-The exception is for people looking out for your car while leaving it in any area where you take a ferry (colon, bocas). If you’re not leaving it in a lot-you should, and you better tip a $1, because that car is going to be there as is the person after you’re gone.

-Tips for taxis are never expected. They will charge you more anyway than they should (sigh…).

– If you are eating in any restaurant, and plates under $8, a simple tip of $1 after a meal for excellent service would be a nice gesture, but it would not be expected.  .

-If you are eating in a location where the plates are over $10, tip 10%.

-I always have this vision that people are expecting tips, that’s why they are showing me to my room and helping with luggage.  This is the truth.  People don’t expect a tip and don’t think less of you for not tipping.  Tipping bellboys, maids, barbers, the people who put gas in your car, etc.. not necessary.  If the person is going beyond their duties, yes, a small tip or probably more appropriate, a thank you is appreciated.

-As in the US, a tip to the owner of a small business is never expected.

Got motorhome? No problem.

Hotel Coffee Mountain Inn, Santa Fe, Veraguas, Panama, ROOFOver the past couple weeks, we (er…my husband) finished putting on the roof and are working on repellando or stuccoing the walls on the hotel in Santa Fe.  I think it looks great so far!  Red it was.

In the foreground you can see evidence of what I term as my husband’s new hobby – renting heavy equipment. Now, if you know Cele, you know that he’s very neat.  We’ll go out for a day on a muddy backroad, and I’ll think – cool- we had a great time the mud on the car- wow, it’s over the rear view mirror -it’s a badge of honor.  He’ll think, great, we had a great time, now it’s time to clean the car…and worse, somehow he manages to talk you into helping out.  Sigh.

He discovered that you can rent time from owners of the road construction equipment.  In front of the hotel, there used to be a green area, but it had little indentations and hills, the free spirit in me thinking- how nice a little character.  But man, those hills didn’t stand a chance once Cele learned about the cuchillo that was in the area.  The upside, we have a nice area for parking…. got motorhome? No problem.

His friend Eliecer is an outreach technician for the coffee cooperatives in the area and helped us (er Cele again) plant 50 different coffee bushes around the inn of different classes, they’re planted around the perimeter, currently about 10 inches high.   Eliecer says that one of the kinds only takes 1-3 years to start producing coffee – how great would that be!