When to tipOccasionally we are asked when is the right time to tip:
After each activity
At the end of each day
At the end of your stay
As a general rule, always tip once, at the end of your stay at each safari camp or lodge – not at the end of each activity, or every day.
Guides don’t expect you to tip after each activity, and this could create the impression that the guide needs to “perform” for the person giving the tips, which can distort the relationship between them and the other guests. It would certainly make things awkward for fellow guests if you were tipping frequently and they were not.
How to tip
Most lodges and camps in Malawi have a main tip box that is shared out amongst the back-of-house staff, with guides tipped directly. This does vary, however, so do check.
Some camps explain their tipping policy in the camp literature in the rooms. If not, then ask the manager and, if there is a tip box, find out who shares the proceeds. You can then decide whether to put everything in the box, or tip some members of staff directly.
It is common to tip in cash, with the preferred currency in Malawi being US dollars, South African rand, or even euros or GB pounds, as these can easily be exchanged into Malawian kwacha by camp staff. Travellers sometimes ask us if it’s possible to tip by credit card. This is not normal practice, as many safari camps in Malawi do not have credit-card facilities, and even then, you would not be able to tip a member of staff direct.
If you’re very organised, it’s a great idea to bring some envelopes with you, possibly with thank you notes inside them, to prepare individual tips for the staff. Towards the end of your trip you can name each envelope for the individual or group of people you wish to tip, add the appropriate tips, then either hand them to the individuals or put them into the main tip box.
How much to tipWe can only offer advice about this from our experiences in Malawi. Tipping is voluntary but always greatly appreciated and depends entirely on your own experience, moderated by the issues mentioned above.
Having said that, we’d recommend that for good service our travellers tip around:
- US$5–10 per guest per day for a group guide
- US$5–10 per guest per day for the general staff To put these figures into perspective, Malawi has the world’s lowest gross national income (GNI) of approximately US$8.20 per person per day. This is a reflection of the average income of Malawi’s citizens.
In contrast, the equivalent GNI in the UK is about US$118.74, in the United States about US$150.58, in New Zealand about US$109.80 and in Germany about US$125.45.
In conclusion, although tipping is a sensitive issue, it’s a normal part of Malawi’s service industry so there’s no need to feel embarrassed – just ask if you are not sure. Remember that more affluent visitors can potentially have a big impact on the local community, and that excessive tipping can upset the social and economic balance, so please do bear this in mind when you’re tipping staff during your safari in Malawi.
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