Namibia information

Tipping in Namibia

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$/ZAR40–50 per guest per half-day activity (morning or afternoon excursion), or N$/ZAR80–100 for a full-day excursion
  • To the lodge staff: N$/ZAR40–50 per guest per day
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.