Tipping on Safari

Tipping is a universal custom on safaris in East Africa and has always constituted a significant proportion of a guide’s or crew member’s take-home income.

Safari Tours Tanzania do not pay the very highest wages to our staff as this would equate to a significantly diminished volume of work enjoyed by each member, which is something they would not welcome, however we believe that the salaries we pay fall amongst the top 10% or so. We are occasionally asked about the prospect of paying staff higher wages. Increasing our staff wages by just USD 2 a day would cross a threshold between the current tax-exempt status that some 70% of our staff currently enjoying, to rendering 100% of our staff liable to having their incomes scrutinized and taxed. Since between a third and a half of all the costs paid by those on safari already go directly to government coffers via the system of park fees and permits, we believe that a more efficient use of any additional funds that a safari-goer is willing to part with, would be for these funds to go directly into the pockets of your support staff. This is possible and entirely legal if given via tips, as opposed to via an enhanced salary or system of bonuses.

Tanzanian Personal Income Tax and Tipping

The Tanzanian Revenue Authority’s current memo on tipping and allowances states the following:

4.11 Tips

Employees in certain trades receive tips which form a substantial part to their income.  The payments of tips received from the employer or a third party as a reward for services rendered in the course of the employment are taxable. Payments given as a present in appreciation of the recipients’ personal qualities, such as faithfulness, and consistency and readiness to oblige, would not be taxable.

Safari-goers are therefore encouraged to consider the tax-free reward system of tipping with respect to addressing any perceived disparities between services rendered and appropriate remuneration as the kindest and most efficient means of achieving whatever balance the safari-goer judges to be correct.

Granted that visitors are always willing to supplement the rewarding of their staff through tips, we realise that the costs of going on safari are considerable and such tours need to be carefully saved and budgeted for. We are therefore often asked for guidelines for recommended tipping amounts.

How Much to Tip the Safari Crew?

A simple answer to this question is that our safari-goers tend to tip between 8 and 10% of the lightweight camping price for the safari they are going on – even if requesting luxury accommodation – as well as further tips to each local specialist guide if their safari involves survival skills with the Bushmen of Eyasi*, or a visit to a traditional Maasai boma, or an ascent of the volcano Oldonyo Lengai.

If for example two people go on safari on our STT702 schedule, a normal tip amount – regardless of accommodation type requested – might be calculated by them as follows:

8% of the lightweight camping cost = 8% x USD 2,010 = around USD 160 per safari-goer, plus A total of USD 20 for the Maasai Guide = USD 10 per safari-goer, plus A total of USD 30 for the Eyasi Guide = USD 15 per safari-goer, plus A total of perhaps USD 40 for the Oldonyo Lengai Guide = USD 20 per safari goer

* many safari-goers also choose to add a small tip to the Bushmen, but are advised to discuss this with their local Eyasi guide as the Bushmen have only a shallow grasp of effective use of money and it may be more helpful for the Eyasi guide (Gasper) to purchase something useful on their behalf.

… making a total of some USD 205 per safari-goer.

Division of Tips Amongst the Safari Crew

Of the main portion of the tip allocated to the full-time members of your safari, the USD 160 x 2 = USD 320, an appropriate division that reflects the respective experience and responsibility of each member, would be a 50:25:25 split between Driver, Assistant Guide (if on a lightweight camping safari or adventurous safari), and Cook. In this example, then:

  • The Driver would be given around USD 160
  • The Cook would be given around USD 80
  • The Safari Liaison would be given around USD 80

If on a game-viewing only lodge or permanent tented camp safari, there would be no Safari Liaison, and the tip amount would be divided in a ratio of around 70:30, between the Driver and Cook.

Tipping Rule of Thumb When on Safari

And if all of this is too complicated to remember, the following is a good, and rather simpler, rule:

  • Drivers are usually tipped between USD 20 and 30 a day
  • Cooks & assistant guides are each usually tipped between USD 10 and 15 a day
  • Local specialist guides are usually tipped between USD 20 and 40, depending on how difficult their work has been