To Tip or Not to Tip your dive guide or instructor that is the question. When your are in your home town, you have a good understanding of when to tip and how much. You know you're expected to tip a certain percentage in your typical restaurant and that you need to take out a loan to tip at a gourmet restaurant. When you go on a luxury cruise, the cruise line will make a “suggested” tip.
It is a suggestion, but if you do not tell them otherwise, they will add it to your bill. On a dive boat, especially one that is abroad, the answer is not as clear. On a dive trip, unless the dive center says no tips, you should plan to tip. How much and who, is a more complicated answer.
When you are on vacation, a good portion of your expenses will be tips
While I might not consciously think about it, when I am on a dive boat for the first time there are some factors that I consider when deciding who and how much to tip. You will tip the bellhop, the restaurant staff, the taxi driver, just anyone that provides a service.
So when you make your vacation budget, ensure that your dive budget includes tips too. The level of service you receive will of course vary with the people that serve you. Unless the crew was totally incompetent, I would suggest you tip a few coins in the tip box and never come back again.
Working at a dive center and on a dive boat or as part of a support team for shore dives is a wonderful job, a dream job for many. However, the reality no one gets rich working a dive boat or preparing a shore dive.
Photo Credit: Doun Dounell
An instructor might make a decent living. However, he or she will earn the most with teaching the courses. The fun dives will earn him / here little. A divemaster might even be working for free. Internships in the dive industry are becoming more common. The cost of becoming a divemaster and becoming an instructor is very high. Getting a job after recently becoming a pro, is not that easy.
Some resorts offer an internship, in this arrangement the student pays a reduced fee for their training with an understanding they will work for the center during their training and a period after. They may work in the dive retail store, clean rental gear or work as a member of the boat crew before completing their training.
While it borderlines on slave labor, it does allow the person to get the certification they want and real experience. The other members of the boat crew will likely be working for minimum wage. In much of the world, the minimum wage is near poverty level.
In Cancun Mexico, they just raised the minimum wage, but it is still less than $5 a day. Vietnam and Cambodia are less. While Thailand, Malaysia and Philippines, all popular dive destinations minimum wage is still less than $10 a day. So adding a few extra dollars, Euros, Pounds, or whatever the local currency is will surely help them more than it will hurt you.
I am not saying it should be a charity, I am just pointing out the value it is for the workers to receive a nice tip if they earned it. If one member of the crew pays special attention to you, tip him separately from the general tip.
Planning a scuba trip? Then you should download the ultimate scuba dive checklist just like 5000+ other divers already so you will not forget to bring anything.
How to tip the in-water dive guide?
Many people may disagree with me on this one. I group in water guides into two groups: the dive guide and the follow the leader or group guide.
Many diver operators either by practice or local regulations will have one dive guide for every four divers. For a competent dive guide who took an interest in the dive, I will normally give them a tip separate from the others.
I give 1/3 of my total tip to them. If the in water guide is just there or just monitors a large group, I do not give them a separate tip. I remember one dive where the dive plan required that all the divers (20) stayed in a single line behind the dive guide. The line was followed by another dive master.
While the dive site was wonderful, I do not think anyone enjoyed the dive. In this case, I saw no reason for a separate tip and adjusted my tip budget lower.
How to tip the Owner?
The most confusing question for many divers concerns tipping the owner if he is on board. I have heard people say it rude and insulting to tip the owner. I totally disagree. If the job that a crew does is a reflection on the owner and the manner they train their employees.
If you feel the crew deserves a tip, then tip the owner as well. They are human also and will enjoy the recognition your tips imply. I give a small tip, and suggest that he buy an extra beer and thank him and his crew.
If I truly enjoyed the trip, I will also tell him that I will write a positive review. As soon as you can, do so. People are more likely to think of doing a review when their experience is negative.
Should you tip when on a Cattle boat?
You know what I mean, these boats that take a hundred snorkelers and maybe a handful of divers to a coral reef. They give everyone a five minute “class” on how to snorkel and turn them loose on a reef. If a member of the crew paid special attention to my needs, I would tip them directly. Otherwise, a token tip only in the tip box that is often placed at the exit.
Tipping is a personal matter, regardless of the guidelines. If you feel no one deserves a tip, do not leave one. If someone made your day, then give them a nice thank you and a tip. If there is someone, such as the dive guide, that is to receive a separate tip, hand it to them directly and thank them. If there is a tip box, place the tip for the crew in the box. If there is no tip box, hand the tip to the senior member of the crew, asking them to divide it among the crew.
Do you always tip your scuba dive guide and crew? Let us know in the comments below
Enjoyed this blogpost? Sign up for our free newsletter! and get our scuba blogs delivered in your inbox.
Article written by Rutger Thole who is an avid scuba diver and loves to travel, dive and write about scuba diving. Based in Amsterdam he runs bookyourdive.com and at least twice a year he plans a dive trip of the beaten track.