Tipping in scuba diving - A guide to leaving Gratuities

How to go about Tipping on

your next dive Holiday

Tipping after scuba diving

For the better part of the past decade I have been working as a dive instructor and divemaster. Liveaboards, resorts and dive centers, I’ve worked at them all.

To tip or not to tip, what do I do?

This is a topic that comes up quite often

There isn’t a chapter in the Open Water Course that explains this, so I will give it a go. There are many factors like culture, experience, length of stay and so on. I'm gonna break this down into a few simple things to consider so you can get a better understanding of what is happening here.

Should you tip?

And the answer is.......It's completely up to you.

Tipping is a old world custom that is dying faster and faster every year. Some cultures don't have any concept of it, some find it rude to leave tips and others still embrace its long traditions.


Nobody is sticking a gun to your head and screaming give us the money.

Regardless of who you are or where you come from, you will certainly make someone's day when leaving generosities as a way of saying thank you for a job well done.

Most dive staff don't expect to be tipped, since so many don't, yet we do certainly appreciate it when you leave one.

So before you get to the "should I or shouldn't I" there are a couple things you should reflect upon:

Number one: Did you Enjoy yourself? – pretty simple

*You need to balance the sheet in between :

Did this experience meet, fail or exceed your expectations? I’m not talking about saying it failed cause you didn’t see the whale shark you wanted to see, I’m talking about the experience with the company that brought you diving. An honest reflection of how you were treated as a paying customer.

*Was the crew polite and attentive? Remember your leaving a tip to a person not the ocean, so if you didn't see the species you wanted to, usually that's of no fault of the dive guide.....usually. Were the staff sometimes entertaining or knowledgable? Were they helpful or completley useless? Were they off in the corner playing games on their phones, giving lack luster briefings and just huckin’ you in the water or were they engaged with the diving and trip? Was the place a mess? Was the food good or inedible? Regardless of it’s a day trip, resort holiday or liveaboard, these things matter because it’s these people you are contemplating tipping.

It’s not always a clear cut issue an employee can handle. If the chef has a shoe string budget to work with or the dive staff has to hand out severely aged rental gear, some issues are completely out of their hands.

Number Two: Where are you?

Behind the scene, different countries have very different ways of doing business and ways of life. This can be hard for you to know about as a diver on holiday.

For example: A diving liveaboard in Asia compared to one in Australia. They might feel very similar, but I can guarantee you, the pay checks the employees receive are very different. Also where those employees go after work and their family obligations can be drastically different.

I’ve worked places where dive guides get $220 USD per month. In most cases with a maximum of 4 days off per month. I understand living costs are very different from country to country, but even if you only save 10% a month, a dive guide in Australia is left over with a lot more than one in a poorer country. I’m not saying don’t tip staff in Australia, what I am saying is this :

If you find yourself in a country that evidently has less wealth than your own, and you are privileged enough to have the opportunity to be able to travel by plane to foreign lands to go diving…. Considering tipping at the end of your trip is a fine thing to do. Your tip would mean a tremendous amount to the person receiving it.

The non-tippers philosophy

“Yeah but I paid $5,000 for the week for me and my wife and there were 9 other couples at the resort, surely the staff gets paid well!”

“Hmmmmmm, 20 people at 2,500 a head times 4 weeks times 12 months…… they are making a lot of money here.”

Hahahah .....You would be dead wrong to think that that dive operator was raking in 2.4 million every year!

Without even getting into the details of why that is a ludicrous thought, let's look at the bigger variables in motion.

What happens in rainy season when no one shows up?

What happens when a 150HP motor need to be replaced?

And happens when their industry stops turning?

What happens when there is a virus outbreak or a




Volcanic Explosion

Piracy – yes Pirates do still exist!

Military Coup

Political Uprising


Airline strike

and so on...

Yes, dive operators can do well when times are good, but those above median monthly earnings are there for the months when they are well below.

Getting a 150 HP motor replaced here in Europe can happen in a day……

How long and how much more do you think it will cost in Tahiti?

All I’m saying, is that just because your trip may have been expensive, everyone isn’t swimming in it like Scrooge McDuck!

So if you’ve had an amazing trip and you’ve decided you want to leave a tip.

now what?

This is not always clear, I’ve tried to narrow down what you could do, not what you should do.

Ask yourself a few questions.

*Did I have fun?

*Was this a memorable experience?

*Did the staff ensure I enjoyed myself? Were they capable and prepared to keep me safe?

*Was I disappointed by anything within their control or did these guys deliver?

*Did I ask for anything specific and did they try their best accommodate?

(I’m not talking about asking for McDonalds during your surface interval!)

*Did the crew work as a team, or did only one person take care of me?

*Am I in a country that is much poorer than my own?

*Was there anytime they exceeded my expectations?

*Was there any super special once in a lifetime moments?

*Do I respect the caliber of job that they did?

Just a few questions to ask yourself. There are far more than this. If you feel like it was a lack luster experience or you had hands down your best dive holiday ever, these things can affect your decision.

So how do I calculate what to give?

This question doesn’t come up as often as “What time is briefing” or “ Where are we gonna dive tomorrow” yet it does come up quite a lot.

I have been instructed at times, by my employer exactly how to answer this question. Some tell me to inform guests of a set percentage or an amount per day…...and I don't like that.

I never enjoyed looking someone in the eye and telling them to throw a thousand dollars in an envelope just because their trip for 2 people cost 10 grand.

I know damn well that just because a trip was expensive, doesn't necisaily mean the person didn't work their ass off and save for years to be able to afford it.

Makes me feel like Rob Schneider in Home Alone 2.

Only you know the state of your financials, so only you can decide what you can afford to comfortably leave.

Nobody else should dictate your generosity! That should always be up to you.

Leave what you think is right. There is no formula to answer this unless you are comfortable with using a percentage. As dive staff, of course we appreciate a large percentage tip, but we mostly just appreciate anything at all that you are kind enough to leave.

Tip Etiquette

There are a few ways to go about this. You can do your tipping in hand, use a provided envelope, a tip jar or sometimes charge it to your credit card.

Note* Make sure you haven’t already been charged for gratuities!

I only mention this because I once worked at a resort that added 20% to guests bills without informing them. Some guests would go around handing out tips before getting their final bill, not knowing that they'd already been charged gratuities.

It doesn't kill to ask if you don't know.

Tipping in Hand

Tipping in hand can be a great way of saying thank you. Even if you don’t speak the persons language you will surely understand their smile and

gratitude in their eyes.

If you are gonna go for the individual approach, please don’t start handing out money directly in front of other staff members and/or guests. Even on a dive boat you can find a way.

NOBODY want's to see some ass hole making a scene about how generous they are. If you are leaving a gratuity it shouldn’t be because you want other people to see you doing it!

Giving larger tips or tipping unequally can create animosity within the crew. I'am sure in most cases it’s not the intention of the person leaving the tip, yet it happens all the time. Dive staff talk, so when one person gets more than another it can create a riff between the 2. Sure, maybe the first dive guide was five times better.

However, I gurantee you they aren’t gonna see it that way.

The Envelope

Ah, the good ol' tip envelope. Nothing better to make it clear that the company has tipping expectations of their guest. I’am not saying that the company does this because they underpay their staff and expect you to foot the salary, they do this because it works! If done correctly, it is a great system that ensures fairness among all the staff working to make your trip special.

It’s generally used by companies who know most of their clients would leave a tip regardless of the envelope and it provides you a solution to

be fair to all the employees.

There is however a certain aspect of feeling guilty for leaving a blank envelope upon your departure and this works like a charm to get those who might not have left anything otherwise. As a dive instructor, I am a big fan of working places that have the envelope system:)

It’s can work kinda like passing around the basket on Sunday morning at church. I have been a recipient of many a tip via the ol' tip envelope.

The contents of the envelope usually(and SHOULD) get divided evenly among the staff that took care of you.

Remember, it’s your money, so if you don’t feel comfortable with the envelope, you can always opt for another way.

If you decide to leave a tip, we suggest:

Day Trip Diving

If you are on a big mega boat with 50 divers and no dive guide..... who are you gonna tip?

If you are on a small day trip boat with a dive guide and a captain... Don't forget the captain.

*Remember the captain is also responsible for making sure your day doesn't end like a horror movie!


If you trust the company and the individuals handling the money, use the envelope or the tip box.99.9% of the time it gets devided equally. If you do not trust them, you can do it in hand…. It’s ok to have a favorite and give them a little more, just remember to be discreet!

Resort Diving

If it is a small resort, try and leave something for everyone. The envelope can be a good option but same conditions apply as mentioned above.

If it’s a large resort, this can be tougher. Try to take care of your dive guides and captains. If you’ve had people tending to your room or special requests take care of them as well.

Special Condition

A good Engineer can be all the difference

Keep your eyes open for little engineering miracles. This doesn’t apply to all situations but I’ve worked with engineers who have worked all through the night, literally until sunrise, with the compressor or engine in pieces just so the show can go on. Most times you’ll never even see or hear about it, but if you do catch wind of this, make sure you think of them when leaving something because their heroics have saved your dive trips more times than you know!

Alternate Tips

I have seen dive guides get BCD’s , regulators, dive computers, masks, wetsuits even underwater cameras from guests.

If you are gonna buy new gear anyways, and your old gear is likely to just sit in the closet and collect dust, never to be used again…….leave it behind. As long as it's not tattered to pieces, I guarantee you it will get put to good use.

Remember what I said earlier, dive guides in underdeveloped countries are going to have a tremendously difficult time purchasing their own equipment. Few companies provide gear to their dive staff and expect them to have their own. In most cases, leaving equipment as a tip is far more valuable than leaving behind money, especially in remote

locations where dive gear is hard to come by.

If you have leftover alcohol….. we’ll take it! I have received countless duty free bottles of booze from people who over estimated how much they’d drink on a dive trip. When you do 3-4 dives everyday you ain’t got time to be hungover.

At the end of the day, this topic doesn’t need to be taboo. You shouldn’t feel bad about calculating how much to leave in a restaurant so neither should you for a dive trip. No one should impose a fixed amount for how much you should leave, that’s up to you. However if you don't know, you can always ask. Some companies are better than others at dealing with this topic.

Just remember that we highly appreciate anything you leave and that just because your dive trip might be expensive, those of us who are employed by the dive operator are not getting paid like Corporate Attorneys.

A Note to all other Dive Professionals

If you are a dive guide or dive instructor and you go on a dive holiday……


If you can’t do it for someone else, then no one should ever do it for you!

I'am not saying you gotta leave a lot, I am not even saying you gotta tip everyone, but you gotta do something for someone. It's good karma.

Even if all you can afford is to buy your dive guide a beer or an ice cream.

I know we as dive staff often make peanuts in comparison to the guests we take, yet it does not matter. It’s a question of principle. Do on to others as you would wish others to do on to you. Period!

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