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Tipping Guidelines for Scuba Divers


tip jar full of scuba diving tips

Tipping dive professionals is customary, but who should you tip, and how much?

© istockphoto.com
How much should you tip your dive guide and crew? It is so confusing. The answer varies according to geographical location, dive shop, and the staff dynamics. Tipping dive guides and the boat crew is a standard practice. Unfortunately, tips can also cause jealousy between dive shop personnel. In the worst scenario, improper tipping protocol can lead to your tip being distributed in ways other than you wished. The question becomes not only how much to tip, but who to tip, and how.

How Much Should You Tip?:

There has no simple answer. As a dive shop employee, I had the attitude that any tip is a good tip. Tips were always appreciated but never expected. However, some dive guides view a tip as their right. If you do plan to tip, a good way to discover the appropriate tip amount is to ask the dive shop owner or manager. Generally, the tip does not go to them, so they are less likely to be embarrassed by the question and answer it honestly. If you feel the guide was exceptional, give the guide more than the standard tip.

Who Gets Tipped?:

Your guide, the boat crew, tank handlers, and any other staff that helps you.

Who Do You Give the Tip To?:

This is confusing as well, and depends upon the dive shop. As a dive shop employee, if I were given a tip for guiding I would split it 50-50 with the boat crew. If I was given a tip for instructing, I would split it with the crew according to the amount of time I spent on the boat vs the amount of time I spent in the classroom and pool.

Depending upon the group dynamic at the dive shop, it may be best to give each person's tip to them separately and as privately as possible. Otherwise you may not be sure your tips are distributed as you intend. One of the best methods I have seen clients use is to deliver envelopes to each employee containing their tip.

More scuba diving advice:
8 Tips for Being a Better Dive Buddy&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp • What to Do If You Panic Underwater
• 6 Steps to an Easier Descent &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp • How to Relax on the Surface
How and When to Use Trim Wieghts&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp • 8 Methods of Preventing a Foggy Mask

When Should You Tip?:

If you are completely certain you will be diving with only one crew and one guide, you can tip at the end of the week. Otherwise it is a good idea to bring small bills and tip after each dive or day of diving. In this way, if the guide you have had all week is off the last day of your trip, you don't have to worry about delivering his tip to him. This also eliminates the confusion of remembering how many dives you did with each guide, and avoids your tossing a lump sum of money at the guides and crew and letting them duke it out.

Tip at the end of your dive trip or vacation if you are sufficiently organized to specify how much money each person is to receive, or if it is standard practice leave tips in a tip pool to be distributed by the manager among the staff.

Sometimes Tipping Ahead of Time Helps:

This is totally disgusting, but I have seen it work wonders. A client walks onto the boat, and hands the instructor and the crew each $20 bucks for the day. He says "take me somewhere special" or "treat me well." And he gets it. Maybe that was the same amount he was planning on tipping at the end of the day, but now he has just assured himself of great service. I personally hate this, but you should know it works.

Please Don't Tip for Bad Service:

Tipping guides, instructors and crew for good service is standard in diving, just as it is in any other service related industry. Sometimes clients feel pressured to tip no matter the quality of service. Please don't. This just encourages bad service by rewarding bad behavior. I laughed out loud when a client told a rude captain that if he wanted a tip on the next dive he could try being a little polite. He wasn't any nicer to her after that, but he was gentler with the other divers.

Plan Ahead:

If you choose to tip your guides, the easiest way to determine tipping protocol is usually to talk to the dive shop owner or manager ahead of time. Determine your tipping strategy and then go for it! Good luck and happy diving.

What Do Other Divers Think About Tipping?:

"When traveling most of the time it depends on the place I am diving. Most of the time I tip at the end of a trip if I am diving with the same shop but if I am hopping around I will tip daily. Also I try to tip the boat and DM indepently.

But the thing that is funny to me as a DM here in the states I don’t get tipped very often. But I have come to except that. I didn’t become a DM to get tips and try to give everyone the same service anyway. Normally getting a beer is about the best tip I normally get."

-- One of the Mikes

"I usually tip the divemaster and hope that he will be fair with the rest of his crew. Reason for that is that unfortunately in Mexico, I find small bills hard to come by since a lot of ATMs will only give $500s and $200s, which are hard to break.

I will tip according to the service I get. When diving, I always tip well because I always get good service. And I always get good service because I do my research before booking. If some forums have more than one bad review of an dive operation, then better to stay away. It’s OK to tell a DM that he’s getting squat because he/she is not giving service up to par, but why not try to avoid that bad experience altogether? Vacations are so short to have a bad day of diving."

-- Jean

"Well, personally, I think tipping may vary according to the satisfaction gained by the customer with the services rendered to them. A tip, whether big or small, can already express gratitude to the assistants there."

-- Josh Lunzaga

"Amusing and true comment from Mike, that beer is a good tip. It surely only applies to some staff but I remember when I was starting out with diving and living the backpacker’s life, after every dive I’d ask the instructor to have a beer with me, which I paid for. Sometime some food while drinking. That’s pretty much how I tipped back then.

As I dived more and more, I began tipping 20 to 50 USD or the equivalent in the home currency. Of course it depends on when I give the tip – smaller if daily and bigger if at the end of 3 or 4 days.

Where I work now, we have a tip bowl. Works pretty fine I think."

-- Dive Puerto Galera

"Tipping is indeed a frustrating thing because you never really know what’s expected and whether you’re grossly overtipping or whether you’re being a tightwad. Asking usually yields only non-commital answers.

The answer to the tipping question, I think, is a firm “it depends.” I generally look for clues (like a tip jar or recommendations on info sheets and such), try to ask others already familiar with the situation, and then attempt to be as fair as possible. Personally, I wish dive operations would simply post a brief statement describing what’s expected if you liked the service. Nothing wrong with that."

-- Conrad Blickenstorfer
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