Introducing: Baksheesh

“Tip! Tip! Tip! Baksheesh!!” the small man cries after leading me up the stairs to my cheap hotel room. He’s like a bellhop, but he’s hasn’t even carried my bags. He demonstrated how the fan, lights, and TV work, and now he demands some “small change”.

This is not an uncommon scenario in India. You’re bound to come across baksheesh sooner or later.

Baksheesh is small change, a tip, charity for beggars, or even a bribe. It’s all nearly the same thing.

Few vendors in India can make change. So you’ll need to collect smaller bills, like 5, 10, and 20 rupee notes, and hang onto them. You’ll need these to pay for small purchases and rickshaw rides.

You’ll also need baksheesh to give as tips. Indian culture dictates a lot of tipping and many services jobs expect tips.

How to get baksheesh? Well, whenever possible I ask to get change for something I’m about to purchase. Only if they don’t have change do I hand over the exact amount.

When traveling, it’s important to learn the local tipping customs. In India, it’s safe to assume almost any situation could merit baksheesh. It could be the man washing dishes at the café, the server, or the staff in your train carriage. Sometimes they will ask for it. Even as little at 10 rupees ($.17 US) may be appropriate much of the time.

In some countries, like Iceland or South Korea, it might be insulting to leave a tip. So do your homework!