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Seeing the world by rail allows you to slow down and really process your travel experience. So much of travel these days is bouncing from one destination to the next at the speed of, well, a 747. Aboard a luxury train, you’ll spend your nights unwinding in the chic bar car or enjoying a coursed-out meal in the dining car. And that’s all while traveling exclusive routes between sought-after destinations. To show your appreciation for those who make your next luxury train travel experience so memorable, here’s what you need to know about tipping on board.
Luxury train travel has an ever-evolving stance on gratuity; it really depends on the voyage. However, for the most part, the price of a luxury train vacation is meant to include base-level gratuity, such that guests are not obligated to leave additional tips. Though most luxury train packages are priced to include gratuity, additional tips for next-level service are still appreciated.
To confirm and gain a broader sense of gratuity on luxury train travel, we checked in with leading luxury train tour operator Vacations By Rail. President of Vacations By Rail Heather Leisman confirmed, “Tips and gratuities are included in the tour price on typical luxury rail journeys, such as the Golden Eagle.”
Vacations By Rail’s Trans-Siberian Express trip aboard the Golden Eagle includes meals, multiple city tours, and two nights in a hotel. The idea, of course, is that the luxury price covers day-to-day vacation expenses, like tour guides and nice meals, so guests can relax without having to think about financial logistics. Weaving gratuity into the price means there’s one less thing for guests to worry about.
Leisman continued, “for those train staff members, such as a cabin steward or dining car waiter, who go above and beyond to provide a fantastic experience, it is certainly appropriate for travelers to recognize them with additional gratuities.”
As a rubric for tipping on a luxury train voyage, Leisman said the recommendations for premium rail travel like VIA Rail’s Canadian Sleeper Class, are as follows:
Dinner: $2 to $3 per person per meal
Breakfast: $1 to $2 per person per meal
Room attendant: $3 to $5 per room per day
However, she also noted that “where VIA Rail’s Canadian really excels is their Prestige Class, where tips start between $10 and $15 per person per day across the board and can go as high as $40 to $50 to reflect quality of service.”
As for other luxury train voyages, staff aboard Belmond Trains, like the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, Belmond Royal Scotsman, and Belmond Grand Hibernian also do not expect tips but appreciate discretionary gratuity. When traveling on board Rovos, Pride of Africa tipping is discretionary, but for those interested in leaving gratuity, the recommended tip is $10 to $20 (per person per night).
On Rovos, you hand the gratuity to the Train Manager rather than tipping individual staff members—the manager will then distribute tips accordingly. The same system of giving gratuity to the train manager to distribute is customary on Maharajas’ Express. Aboard the luxe India train, the suggested gratuity is up to $125 per person per night. Finally, Japan’s upscale train operator, Seven Stars in Kyushu, follows Japanese tipping protocol, which is to not give gratuity.
All this to say, while luxury train travel often includes base gratuity in the price, you can easily spend $10 to $125 per person per day. It’s entirely dependent on the train operator, specific voyage, and service received. If you find the staff offers exceptional service, a good starting point is about $40 (per person per night) to the train manager or lead car attendant to distribute among core staff. Alternately, you can distribute that $40 as you see fit between your room attendant, car attendant, and dining car attendant. When booking through a luxury train operator, don’t hesitate to ask about their gratuity etiquette on board.