Tipping in Madrid: Unravel the Mystery of ‘Propina Voluntaria’

Delve into the intriguing tipping practices of Madrid, including the concept of "sobremesa" where lingering at the table after a meal influences tipping customs. Gain insights into the notion of voluntary tipping and understand the difference between IVA and service charges. From tapas culture to exceptional service establishments, this guide unveils the unique aspects of tipping in Madrid, ensuring a culturally aware and rewarding experience.
Tipping in Madrid
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Madrid, the vibrant capital of Spain, offers a rich cultural experience and a diverse culinary scene. As you embark on your travel journey to Madrid, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the tipping culture to ensure respectful interactions and show appreciation for excellent service.

Tipping Culture in Spain

In Spain, tipping is not as prevalent as in some other countries, but it is still appreciated for exceptional service. Two terms you’ll come across are “propina” (tip) and “IVA” (value-added tax). Understanding these terms will help you navigate tipping practices in Madrid.

Tipping percentages in Spain generally range from 5% to 10% of the total bill. It’s important to note that tipping is not obligatory but is considered a gesture of appreciation for good service. Unlike in some countries where tipping is expected, in Spain, the decision to leave a tip is up to your discretion based on the quality of service received.

Factors Influencing Tipping Behavior

When it comes to tipping in Madrid, several factors can influence your decision. The first and most important factor is the quality of service you receive. If the service goes above and beyond your expectations, leaving a tip is a way to show your appreciation. It’s a way of acknowledging the effort and hard work of the service staff.

The type of establishment also plays a role in tipping customs. In upscale restaurants, it’s more common to leave a higher tip, especially if you received exceptional service. On the other hand, in casual cafes or bars, rounding up the bill or leaving a small amount of change is generally appreciated.

Tipping Etiquette in Madrid

Restaurants and Cafes

When dining in restaurants and cafes in Madrid, it is customary to leave a tip if you are satisfied with the service. A typical tip amount is around 5-10% of the total bill, although some people may round up or leave a small amount of change. It’s common to leave the tip in cash directly on the table after paying the bill.

If you receive exceptional service from the waitstaff, you can consider leaving a slightly higher tip to express your gratitude. For example, if the waiter went out of their way to accommodate your dietary preferences or provided detailed explanations of the menu, leaving a larger tip is a way to acknowledge their efforts.

Bars and Nightclubs

In bars and nightclubs, tipping is not as common, especially if you are ordering drinks at the bar. However, if a bartender goes out of their way to provide excellent service or creates a customized drink for you, leaving a small tip as a gesture of appreciation is always welcome. You can round up the bill or leave some loose change, typically around 1-2 euros ($1.13-$2.26), depending on the total amount.


When it comes to tipping in hotels, it’s customary to leave a small tip for hotel staff who assist you during your stay. This includes bellhops that help with your luggage, housekeeping staff who keep your room clean and tidy, and concierge services. You can leave a few euros ($2.26-$4.52) for each service rendered.

For exceptional service, such as going above and beyond to accommodate your needs or providing special assistance, you can consider leaving a slightly higher tip. It’s important to note that tipping is not obligatory, and if the service does not meet your expectations, you are not obligated to leave a tip.


Tipping taxi drivers in Madrid is not expected, but it is common practice to round up the fare or leave some loose change as a courtesy. For example, if the fare is 9 euros ($10.17), you can round it up to 10 euros ($11.31). This gesture is appreciated and considered polite. However, if the driver provides extra assistance, such as helping with luggage or offering insightful information about the city, you can choose to leave a slightly higher tip.

For rideshare services, such as Uber or Cabify, tipping through the app is an option, but it is not mandatory. If you had a particularly pleasant ride or the driver offered exceptional service, you can consider leaving a small tip through the app to show your appreciation.

Handling the Bill

In Madrid, the bill presented to you will usually include the service charge, known as “servicio” or “servicio incluido.” This charge is not a tip but a mandatory fee that is included in the total bill. It’s important to differentiate between the service charge and the tip. The service charge goes to the establishment, while the tip is an additional amount left for the service staff.

When paying the bill, both credit cards and cash are widely accepted in establishments throughout the city. If you choose to pay by credit card, you can leave the tip in cash directly on the table. If you prefer to pay in cash, you can hand the tip to the server along with the payment. It’s always a good idea to have some small bills or coins on hand for tipping purposes.

Alternatives to Tipping

In addition to tipping, there are other ways to show your appreciation for good service in Madrid. Some restaurants may include a cover charge, known as “cubierto,” which covers the cost of bread or other items. Leaving small change or rounding up the bill can be seen as a gesture of appreciation.

Another way to express gratitude is by using polite phrases such as “gracias” (thank you) or “muchas gracias” (thank you very much) when interacting with service staff. A simple “gracias” accompanied by a smile goes a long way in showing your appreciation for the service received.

Cultural Considerations

While tipping customs may vary across different regions of Spain, in Madrid, it is generally appreciated but not mandatory. It’s important to respect the local customs and understand that tipping is a gesture of gratitude rather than an obligation. Embrace the cultural diversity of Madrid and be mindful of the local customs as you explore the city.

By familiarizing yourself with the tipping culture in Madrid, you can navigate the social norms and show your appreciation for the excellent service you receive during your visit. Enjoy your time in Madrid, savor the delicious cuisine, and make the most of your cultural experiences while being mindful of the local customs.