Like anywhere, tipping in Croatia is (of course) based on the service you received, and certainly not obligatory, however, if you enjoyed the service, tips are definitely appreciated. An average salary in Croatia is much lower than in the west, and with service jobs, tips make up a good portion of workers’ earnings. Generally, about 10% of the service is considered a nice tip.
You’ll probably dine out, and/or go to cafes quite often on your travels, so this might be the most useful point. In restaurants, you can calculate gratuities on a percentage basis. Tipping in restaurants isn’t as crazy as it is in North America, but about 10% of your meal would be considered very nice, and generous.
Although credit/debit card payment is now much more common in restaurants, there is no way to leave a tip using your card (that machine doesn’t have an option for it). Gratuities can be given in cash only. Not all restaurants accept cards at all, though, so double check before sitting down if you’re planning to pay that way.
One note about restaurants - usually your server will come to your table just a couple times - to take your order, and bring your food (and maybe once after to check in ...but that’s a big maybe). If you need something, it’s best not to wait until your server pops by, but rather try to grab his or her attention with a little wave and say “oprostite” (oh-pros-tee-tay) as he or she walks by.
In cafes (which you’ll surely visit often in Croatia, as there are hundreds of them in each city), a tip of 5-10kn (1 EUR) for serving your coffees / teas / juices / beer / wine is about average. You can even just round up to the nearest 10kn, which many locals do (example: if your bill is 53kn, just leave 60kn).
It’s quite common for Croatians to leave the entire amount of the bill in cash on the table (in the little black wallet with the receipt, or simply under the ashtray with the receipt) and then just walk away, but I always make sure to give the money directly to the server, just in case!
Night clubs - not too customary, but if you want to tip the bartender, just round up (like previously mentioned) to keep it simple!
Airport transfers: For private transfers (not taxis or uber), around 10 EUR is a decent tip from the airport to the city center. I would say taxis would be a little less, as they aren’t providing the same service as the transfer companies (who go right into the airport, wait with a sign at the arrivals gate for the guests, help with luggage to the car, etc.).
For taxis and Uber, up to 5 EUR would be considered ok (for an airport - city transfer). Taking a short ride within the city center? 10kn (1.50 EUR) would be the going rate for tips, or just rounding up to the next 10kn works, too (example: if the cost is 53kn, give the driver 60kn).
Longer transfers: Taking a private transfer from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes or to Split? Generally, if you’re in the car for hours with your driver and you had a pleasant experience, a good tip would be about 20 EUR.
If you driver was on time, drove safely, and took the appropriate social cues (chatting with you throughout or letting you rest / admire the scenery in peace if you hinted that way), then he or she would be grateful for a token of your appreciation.
Tour bus drivers
It’s not necessarily customary, but sometimes a tour organizer will collect a very small amount from each (willing) passenger to give to the bus driver.
For private city tour guides (example: a private, three-hour city tour of Zagreb/Dubrovnik), a tip in the range of 15-20% is pretty common. Most of these tours (~3 hours with a private guide) cost about 100 EUR, so 15-20 EUR would be considered a nice tip. If you had an all-day tour with your private guide, then adjust the tip accordingly.
If you are part of a non-private group tour, then of course a smaller amount is perfectly acceptable (10-20kn / 2.5 EUR per person).
Should I tip my tour leader/director?
Typically if you are on a week-long, private, small group tour with a tour leader throughout, the general rule of thumb is to tip approximately 10EUR per person, per day. If you are on a bigger group tour, 3-5 EUR per person, per day is adequate. if you had a private driver throughout the trip, about half of what you would tip the tour leader would be appropriate.
Have you organized a private boating excursion for the day and your skipper has taken you all around to hidden coves and quiet beaches? A nice tip (if you enjoyed the day and the skipper was a friendly, accommodating person) would be about 20-40 EUR.
If you have organized a sailing/yacht charter for multiple days, about 10% of the charter cost would be considered the norm for a gratuity if you were pleased with the whole experience. This is split between the hostess and the skipper, so be mindful when calculating :)
Bellhops and valet workers - With these services, a few euro is the norm if you were happy with the service (the general rule in many places in Europe is 1EUR per bag, but you don’t have to follow this too closely in Croatia)
Housekeeping - If you are staying at a more luxurious hotel and there is a nice daily service, a small gratuity of a few euros is much appreciated (either daily, or save a slightly bigger amount until the end and give it all at once).
Front desk - no need to tip the front desk, it’s not expected
Concierge - if he or she is really helpful, makes great suggestions & reservations for restaurants or an event, a few euros would be a nice sign of appreciation.
Room service - check to make sure a gratuity hasn’t already been added to the bill before leaving a tip, because often times it is. If not, generally a few euros is appropriate.
Pool staff - if you’re staying at a more luxurious hotel with staff that tend to the pool all day, a small gesture of a few euros after a day of bringing you towels, setting up umbrellas and arranging chairs would be considered appropriate.
Hair stylist / nail salon / masseuse - getting your hair done or some spa treatments while on vacation? About 10% of the service for a tip, but this one is definitely more personal. These services tend to be much more affordable here in Croatia, so indulge yourself, you won’t regret it!
Pizza or food delivery - just round up the bill.
In short, yes. Dollars, euros and pounds are definitely accepted as gratuities (you can’t pay for items in a store using those, but they can work for tipping), but I might suggest staying away from less-popular currencies which might be harder to exchange, just to make things easier for the person receiving. If possible, it’s best to tip in the local currency, as the person receiving the tip will lose money on conversion when they exchange it later.
When I first visited Croatia in 2007, tipping was much less common, but with the growth of tourism and the influence of the west over the years, it’s become a more standard practice. Although like anywhere in the world it’s not mandatory, the locals really do appreciate the gesture (the average Croatian salary is approximately 850 EUR per month, with minimum wage at about 450 EUR per month).
All of the above gratuity amounts are just suggestions, tip as much as you feel right tipping. If your guide / driver / server / other service provider was exceptional, feel free to give as much as your heart desires. It will surely be welcomed, very much appreciated, and not offend anyone :) Keep in mind, too, that the more touristy a place is, the more tipping has become the norm.
Sometimes our guests are worried about over tipping and if it will offend someone. The answer is no, I don’t think anyone would be offended by receiving a very generous tip, based on a job well done. I suppose the only way you could offend someone is if you gave a tip in an insulting way (for example, if used as a bribe for a better table, etc.).
If the service was underwhelming, skip the tip. Don’t feel forced to tip if the service wasn’t wonderful. Some places in Croatia still haven’t caught on to the customer-first mentality, although I have to say, service industry workers have definitely improved on this over the last few years!
An interesting tidbit about the history/origins of tipping
I recently read an article about the origins of tipping, which really surprised me. Apparently, tipping was used as a way for employers to hire freed slaves without actually having to pay them any wages. Here’s a link to read the full article - it’s quite interesting: https://www.forbes.com/sites/rakeenmabud/2019/02/12/the-racist-roots-of-tipping-reappearing-in-the-gig-economy/