How Much Do You Tip for a Massage?

By Jaime Jacques

Know How to Tip So You Can Relax

How Much Do You Tip for a Massage?

Worrying about money while you are trying to unwind is a recipe for failure. It’s best to sort this out, if only in your own head, before you get on the table. Should you tip for a massage? Yes! The question is, of course, how much? The general rule is the same as if you were dining out: 15 percent for good service, 20 percent for something exceptional. This varies according to where you get the massage, but not by the type of massage. Prices are set according to the type and length of the treatment – for example, a basic Swedish massage would cost less than a deep-tissue, therapeutic one – and you tip a percentage of the total price. This guide will help you understand the do’s and don’ts of tipping for your massage.

All-Inclusive Resorts

Do massage and other spa services include tips in the costs at all-inclusive resorts? The short answer: Yes, but check the policy at the resort you visit. Some resorts – such as Sandals, Couples and Beaches – go so far as to have a strict no-tipping policy. Ostensibly, this ensures that all guests get the same standard of service. Staff are monitored to make sure they do not accept any money from guests, so even if you feel like the service was extraordinary, you still shouldn’t offer extra money. However, at other all-inclusive resorts, it’s really up to you. Some people feel the urge to splurge after getting an exceptional treatment, and obviously your massage therapist won’t mind.

Independent Practitioners

If you receive a massage from an independent professional at a personal residence or other independent location, you are not required to tip. The cost of the massage goes directly and entirely to the masseuse, so you are off the hook for a gratuity. A monetary tip is appreciated, but never required.

Cruise Line Spa Services

Most spa services on a cruise add a 15 to 18 percent service charge to your bill, but always check beforehand so you know whether to tip or not. Many mainstream cruise lines pay workers a low wage, by Western standards, and as a result crew members look to the generosity of travelers to supplement their income. The cruise lines' reasoning for this model is the opposite of the all-inclusive resort: They believe that tips encourage higher service standards. The bottom line: Always ask.

Oceanside Massages

In many vacation destinations, it's common to find people hawking massages on the beach, and there really is nothing better than getting a massage while feeling the ocean breeze and hearing the crash of the waves. Usually, these people work for spas located inside town and as such should not be considered independent. You should absolutely tip 15 to 20 percent for any massage you get on the beach.

Spas and Clinical Settings

If getting a massage at a walk-in clinic or spa, assume that tips are not included, and add 15 to 20 percent to the cost of the service. In general, the more high-end the spa, the more likely a service charge will be added to your bill. In a medical setting, such as a chiropractic office, the massage is seen as a medical service and as such tips are generally not given. However, most medical offices are not strict about the no-tipping policy, so if you feel strongly about tipping your therapist, ask if it is acceptable.