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Tipping in Namibia

Tipping in Namibia

Tipping explained

Our travellers often seek our advice on how, who, when and how much to tip when in Namibia. With this in mind, we have set out below some guidance on the issues involved and the etiquette of tipping in Namibia.

Namibia's economy: issues around tipping

In Namibia, as in much of the rest of the world, tipping is always voluntary, and should depend on the quality of service received. This said, we’d encourage visitors to tip in appreciation of good service, but please keep in mind the importance and extent of the work someone is doing for you.

To put this in context, tipping can be a significant component of the income of those in service industries, including waiters, guides and trackers. However, there is a fine balance between tipping enough, and tipping too much. Excessive tips can throw the balance of the local economy, with the potential for very negative consequences.

For example, consider the job of a park ranger. Having educated and competent people in this job is very important for the good of the parks, and the visitors who come to them. A senior park ranger will also need to be knowledgeable, and will probably have had many years working for the government in various national parks. By local standards, the Namibian government will pay a fair wage for this job, but government employees are not usually top earners.

By contrast, a camp hand – who carries bags and helps out generally at a safari camp in Namibia – is also very necessary. However, s/he doesn’t need the same level of education, or experience, and doesn’t shoulder the same level of responsibility. If such a casual helper gets overly large tips – adding up to, say US$500 a month – there’s a danger that this job will end up paying more than that of a park ranger.

In such a case, the scales can easily become unbalanced. Where’s the incentive for a ranger to put in more effort and take on more responsibility if s/he will be paid less than a camp hand? If the situation were left unchecked, it could result in park rangers quitting their posts to become general camp hands, to the detriment of the park, its animals and its visitors.

Who to tip when on safari in Namibia

Before thinking about the amount or how to tip, think about who to tip. Many people work to make your travel a success, including the guides, the back-of-house team and the camp manager.
  • Tipping guides
    Your safari 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.
  • Tipping the back-of-house team
    A lot of people will work behind the scenes to make your trip a success, including the chefs, the kitchen team, the maids and the housekeeping staff. To cover all of these ‘back of house’ people, many camps have a ‘general staff tip box’ – the proceeds of which are divided equally between these members of staff.
  • Tipping the managers
    Camp managers are of course important, but should you tip them? In our opinion this is a similar situation to that of a restaurant owner. Although they are clearly important, you wouldn’t normally tip them. Similarly we wouldn’t usually recommend that you tip the camp manager.
    Of course, if the manager helped you with something outstanding or very extraordinary, you might find yourself making an exception to this rule.
In summary, on a Namibian safari you usually tip the guide separately and the rest of the staff together. It is unusual to tip a camp manager.

When to tip

This is an important question, with three distinct options:
  • After each activity
  • At the end of each day
  • At the end of your stay
Our answer is very clear: tip just once, and always at the end of your stay at each safari lodge or camp.

The guides do not expect a tip after each activity, or even at the end of each day. Tipping in this way could pressurise a guide to ‘perform’ for the guest who is tipping, and thus could distort the relationship between the guide and the guests as a whole. It would also put your fellow guests in a very difficult position if you were offering frequent tips, and they were not.

How to tip

Most camps and safari lodges in Namibia 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. You can then decide whether to put everything into the box, or to tip some members of the team separately and more directly. In most Namibian camps, guides and trackers are tipped directly, with other staff usually sharing the proceeds of the ‘general staff tip box’. However this does vary, so do ask!

Most travellers tip in cash, with the preferred currencies in Namibia being Namibian dollars or South African rand or, failing that, US dollars or even euros or GB pounds. Whether or not you can tip by credit card depends entirely on the camp, their accounting practices and their ability to process cards, but this isn’t normal practice, and it makes it difficult to direct your tip to precise team members.

A great idea for well-prepared guests is to bring a small supply of envelopes for your tips, perhaps with a hand written thank-you note inside. Generally you would then hand these out towards the end of your stay, either directly to individuals or by placing them into the general tip box. If you cannot find the person you wish to tip you can always leave a named envelope with a manager to pass on.

How much to tip

The guidance we offer here is based on our experience in Namibia. In the end, though, tipping depends on your personal opinion and your individual satisfaction – moderated by some understanding of the issues mentioned above.

With this in mind, we’d recommend that for good service, our travellers tip around:
  • To your guide: N$/ZAR60–120 per guest per half-day activity (morning or afternoon excursion), or N$/ZAR120–250 for a full-day excursion.
  • To the lodge staff: N$/ZAR50–150 per guest per night.
  • Restaurants: A 10% tip is acceptable for good service – or more if you consider the service to have been exceptional.
  • In bars: Tips are the exception rather than the norm, and even then, the loose change from your drink is generally acceptable.
  • Filling stations: All filling stations (petrol garages) in South Africa have attendants who will fill your tank and wash your windscreen. A tip of about N$/ZAR5 is welcomed.
  • Car guards: Whenever you try to park in urban centres, car guards will assist you (not always competently) to park and then watch over your vehicle while you are away, with a view to deterring vehicle-related crime. Some belong to more formal security companies than others and where possible we recommend using these. A ‘donation’ of N$/ZAR5-10 usually suffices depending on how long you have been parked.
To put these suggestions in perspective, the average income of Namibia’s citizens in 2016, as reflected by the country’s gross national income (GNI), was about US$12.70 per person per day. In contrast, the equivalent GNI in the UK for the same year was about US$115.89; in the United States about US$155.53; in New Zealand about US$106.09; and in Germany about US$120.05.

Gifts as a tip

If you’re returning to a camp, it is a lovely gesture to bring personalised gifts for their staff, perhaps the guide or the butler. This isn’t particularly common, but it is always appreciated. Favourite items include pens and books – especially wildlife guides (eg: comprehensive and detailed field guides).

Tipping is a sensitive issue, but there is no need to feel awkward. It’s a normal part of a service industry in Namibia, as it is in many countries. Just remember that thoughtless tipping by relatively affluent visitors can have a big impact on the local economic and social balance – so please keep that in mind when you tip the staff during your safari in Namibia.

Our top picks for holidays to Namibia

We'll always tailor-make your Town for you. Here are some of our favourites to inspire you.

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Chongololo Self-drive Safari

21 days • 11 locations

This self-drive safari focuses on the best walking experiences in Namibia. Get your boots ready for the apricot dunes of the Namib Desert and the ancient hills of Damaraland.

US$7,400 - US$9,960 per person

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Hartebeest Self-drive Safari

16 days • 8 locations

This self-drive safari focuses on the best cultural experiences in Namibia. Visit a Himba village and enjoy three days living with the San Bushmen interspersed with some excellent wildlife watching.

US$3,540 - US$4,340 per person

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Rock Hare Self-drive Safari

20 days • 12 locations

An in-depth look at Namibia from the Namib Desert to the Caprivi, with additional stops in Botswana and Victoria Falls. This three-week adventure includes an unrivalled mix of environments and is great value.

US$5,250 - US$7,470 per person

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Caracal Self-drive Safari

14 days • 8 locations

The quintessential Namibian self-drive adventure exploring the highlights from Sossusvlei and the Namib Desert to Damaraland’s wilderness and a safari in Etosha. A great mix of accommodation and excellent value.

US$2,710 - US$4,150 per person

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Dune Lark Fly & Drive Safari

14 days • 8 locations

A combination fly-in self-drive exploration of Namibia, with quick, easy and scenic flights in and out of Sossusvlei before a classic road trip adventure of the country’s rugged north.

US$4,560 - US$5,860 per person

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Brown Hyena Self-drive

14 days • 8 locations

The perfect trip for those who want to mix the adventure and freedom of a self-drive with some of our favourite luxury camps in Namibia and a great mix of activities.

US$7,880 - US$9,950 per person

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Quiver Tree Self-drive Safari

14 days • 7 locations

An offbeat Namibian self-drive adventure exploring the epic Fish River Canyon and fascinating Kolmanskop ghost town in the south, before turning north via the classic highlights of Sossusvlei, Swakopmund and Damaraland.

US$2,390 - US$3,300 per person

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Black Wildebeest Self-drive Safari

19 days • 10 locations

Journey from South Africa’s cosmopolitan Cape Town to central Namibia’s Okonjima Nature Reserve during this self-driven safari. The route passes through a stunning variety of landscapes, offering access to this beautiful continent’s rich diversity.

US$3,320 - US$3,820 per person

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Cape Fox Guided Safari

13 days • 7 locations

A classic clockwise circuit around Namibia’s northern highlights with a private guide and vehicle. We can’t think of a better way to see more in this timeframe.

US$8,450 - US$10,760 per person

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Black-faced Impala Guided Safari

13 days • 6 locations

A unique mix of luxury and adventure in our original, and perhaps most varied, destination on a privately guided Namibian overland safari. Perfect for families, friends or couples travelling together.

US$4,910 - US$6,470 per person

Inspire me

Need inspiration?

Let our trip chooser narrow down the options for you

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