Up to Dh1,000 tip: How UAE's tipping culture has become a second salary for workers

Tips often contribute to service workers' livelihood and their ability to support their families


Waad Barakat

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Published: Mon 8 Jan 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Mon 8 Jan 2024, 10:52 PM

From home-delivering your food, groceries and medicines to pampering you at hotels and restaurants, the UAE’s service sector workers try to go above and beyond what’s required of them. Often seen as the face of their respective companies, service with a smile often results in a second salary of sorts for workers in the form of tips.

While it’s customary for customers to express their appreciation with tips, it isn’t a mandatory requirement. There isn’t a fixed amount or even a general consensus of what an ideal tip in the UAE is. Some pay 10 to 15 per cent, while others round the bill off.

However, generous tips go a long way for these workers. And Emiratis and expatriates certainly don’t disappoint when it comes to being generous. Some workers told Khaleej Times they have received tips as high as Dh1,000.

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Abdul Waheed, a Careem captain, said customers tend to be more generous with tips on longer trips and intercity services. He said factors like cleanliness, personal hygiene, and in-car amenities influence passengers to show their appreciation. He received a Dh1,000 tip when he ensured the customer reached a stadium in Al Ain on time for a football match.

“I was pleasantly surprised with that tip. I needed to replace my mobile phone, which I did with that generous tip. It motivated me to keep my services up to the mark,” said the cabbie.

Benga Tamen Ivo, a waiter at Couqley, recalled the highest tip he has received — Dh700 that a couple offered for his service and recommendations. “Since then, we have developed a genuine friendship and I love welcoming them whenever they visit Couqley. They truly make our restaurant feel like home and this encounter proved to me that nothing beats an honest personalized service.”

Benga Tamen Ivo
Benga Tamen Ivo

According to Ivo, tips at restaurants depend on various factors, including the size of the table and time of day. He stressed the importance of establishing a personal connection with guests, which has often resulted in more substantial tips.

Umair Ali, a delivery driver at Washmen, said in the age of apps, most tips are now given online. However, personal touches still matter to him. He recalled a heartwarming incident during Christmas when a customer personally handed him an envelope with a tip that exceeded his expectations.

Umair Ali
Umair Ali

“Tips are always welcome. When we receive tips, we usually use them for additional expenses or to send back home to our families,” he added.

Do workers keep 100% tips?

Tips are either distributed equally among the service staff, or they are retained by workers who receive them. It depends on company policy.

Most delivery company apps give customers the option to tip riders while they make their payments. 100 per cent of these go to the riders.

Antonio Al Asmar, UAE general manager of Careem Rides, provided Khaleej Times with valuable insights into the tipping culture within the ride-hailing industry. "Our focus is to provide everyone who uses the Careem app with an everyday reliable, convenient and stress-free commuting experience. As part of that, customers have access to the tipping feature, which allows them to show their generosity and appreciation for Captains efforts and dedication, by giving a tip at the end of their trip conveniently and with the push of a button. This feature gives customers the option to easily give a tip using their credit card or in cash, whichever they prefer."

Washmen has implemented a tipping feature on its app, which ensures a “fair distribution” of tips among drivers. “Tips complement the drivers' salaries and contribute to their overall income, supporting a comfortable life in Dubai and enabling them to take care of their families,” said Sundus Awan, operations manager at the company.

Sundus Awan
Sundus Awan

Duncan Kabiru, assistant restaurant manager at Couqley, said prioritising customer care “naturally encourages tipping”. He said tips are fairly distributed among the restaurant staff.

Duncan Kabiru
Duncan Kabiru


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