Eating Out and Tipping in Central Europe
A trip to Central Europe is just as much as a vacation for your taste buds as it is for you. Europe is famous for its diverse cuisine, from Italian and French to Hungarian and Czech to name a few, each country has its own delicacies and speciality dishes. It's a foodie paradise and we highly recommend taking a food tour or trying as many local dishes as possible on your trips to Europe.
You'll find fine dining restaurants, casual dining, bistros, taverns and food stands. There are endless possibilities to eat out and try local food while traveling through Europe.
How much should I budget for meals in Europe?
How much you should budget for meals during your trip to Europe depends mostly on your personal preferences. For instance, if you prefer gourmet fine dining, then you should expect to pay a fair amount for your meals, even in Prague, Budapest, and Krakow. On the other hand, if you are willing to get off the beaten path and try some restaurants popular with the locals, then you can dine fairly affordably, even in German and Austrian cities.
A good way to know whether a restaurant is expensive or not is to check the price of the beer. In Prague, if a large beer (1/2 liter, 10°) costs over 50 crowns than it is getting into the expensive range. In Vienna or Salzburg, if the cost of a large beer is more than 4 Euros than it is likely a pricey restaurant. In Budapest, if a beer is more than 700 HUF than it is likely a pricey restaurant. It’s not a fool-proof method, but it’s a good start.
You can also assume that meal prices will be about the same as in the U.S., Canada, or Australia in Germany and Austria, and about 20-40% less in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland.
If you want to budget, remember is to ask for the daily lunch menu on weekdays. The daily menus can be remarkably cheap as they are targeted towards workers on business lunches. For instance, if you choose from the daily menu in Prague you can enjoy an excellent lunch with beer or wine for about $7-8 USD. Not all restaurants in the tourist center offer a daily menu. However, many still do, but only display it in the local language. Ask for it at a restaurant, they should be able to tell you.
Another way you can save a tremendous amount of money is by taking advantage of the many street food options in the cities. For instance, in Berlin, you can pop into a kebab place and get a filling (and delicious) meal for under five Euros.
If you want to do detailed budget planning, you can check out our restaurant recommendations on the Go Real Europe city maps. The city maps are accessible in your account after you pay your deposit. You can visit the websites of the restaurants that sound interesting to you, as they often have English-version menus online. This way you can work out a very accurate budget and estimate of your food costs.
Should we tip in restaurants, if yes how much?
Do not worry about tipping much. Some restaurants already include a tip in the price (it should be noted on the menu), and even if they don't, tipping is not as generous as it is in North America since waiters receive a regular salary. A tip of 10% is very generous regardless of whether or not the tip is included in the price. Most Europeans just round off the price of the meal when giving a tip. For instance, if a meal was 768 Czech crowns, they might just give the waiter 800 Czech crowns and let him keep the change. Others don’t tip at all.
The transaction usually works like this:
You ask the waiter for the bill
The waiter brings you the bill, you look at the price of the meal, and then you tell the waiter how much you want to pay in total, including the tip
If you pay in cash the waiter returns your change at the table and keeps the difference between the meal cost and the total amount you stated
If you pay with a credit card the waiter usually brings the machine to the table and charges your card for the total including the tip
If you prefer, you can also just leave the tip on the table.
Bon appetit and bon voyage!
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