Generally, members of a dive staff make a living wage, but often not by much. In some regions or situations, staff works entirely for tips. Gratuities can make a big difference, not only to the quality of life for dive staff, but also when it comes to the service you receive. Diving is a service industry, so in most cases it is appropriate to tip for good experiences. Here we offer some basic tipping guidelines for divers.
How much should you tip?
We base tipping guidelines for divers on several factors:
How much did the diving cost? Obviously diving is more expensive in some areas than in others. As a generalization, cheaper dives often occur in areas where the cost of living is also lower. Generally, $5 to $10 per dive (per tank) is appropriate; or, think of it like a restaurant tab and tip 10 to 20 percent based on service.
How was the quality of the service? Were you welcomed to the shop? Did the dives go smoothly and did the boat leave on time? Did staff brief you properly and happily answer your questions? Were your special requests handled in a manner that made you feel appreciated? If a staff member goes out of their way for you, especially if the situation was a result of your actions, you should tip appropriately.
Did the captain turn the dive boat around because you forgot your fins on the dock? Lend you their spare mask because your strap broke or make a last-minute repair to a regulator right before the dive? Maybe your dive guide gave you lots of encouragement and extra attention because you hadn’t been diving for a while. If someone goes the extra mile for you, do the same for them.
Sometimes gratuities are included on group trips or on liveaboards, so make sure to note whether or not that’s the case. If so, consider a small top-up to individuals that made things extra special.
Who should you tip?
Knowing who to tip can also be confusing. Some operators explain how to leave a gratuity, and sometimes it’s completely up to you. If you don’t know, ask how the shop divides gratuities. Often in-water staff and boat captains share tips, and some shops and operators split gratuities between all staff. Handing a staff-member the money and clarifying who you intend it for is generally okay as well. Bringing envelopes for longer trips and passing them out accordingly at the end is also common. Don’t forget that staff may be filling tanks, arranging for special excursions, or rinsing your gear at the end of the day. Those people may not be on the boat with you. Often a general tip for shop staff, and extra for those who ran your dives is a good approach.
If you’re in the midst of your dive training, tipping your instructor may also be appropriate. While you did pay for service within the course by signing up, the staff will appreciate a little extra if the service was exemplary or if you needed extra attention beyond the group activities. If a situation directly results from your lack of readiness, such as not having homework done or forgetting an essential piece of gear for class, and your instructor accommodates, you should definitely tip.
Owners and operators usually make their living off the dive or course costs. Base your tip on the operation’s size. You may not even know who the owner is when visiting a big resort. But if you dive with a small operator, where the owner is present day to day, a small tip may be appropriate. If the owner or manager is physically running your dives or driving the boat, tip them like dive staff.
Leaving a gratuity at the end of a longer dive trip or a liveaboard is appropriate — again, 10 to 20 percent of the cost of the trip. But if you’re diving day to day, tip daily so that the people who provided service that day will get a proportionate amount of the money. Once you’ve figured out how much to leave, the general rule when it comes to tipping guidelines for divers is easy: take good care of dive staff, and they’ll take good care of you.