If you get exceptional service from a hotel bartender, waiter, waitress, or maid they might say to you "tomorrow is my day off." Because they're not allowed to ask you outright for tips, this is usually a big hint from them that if you plan on tipping, today would be a good time to do it. They can say the phrase so casually that you may wrongly assume they just want to have a conversation about what they're going to do with their spare time. Most of the people in Mexico work 6 days a week and don't get paid very much, so they can definitely use the spending money on that one free day.
I don't tip on a daily basis but instead give the workers who treated me well $10 or $20 before their day off. It saves carrying around $1 bills in my swimsuit all the time.
Similarly, there may be a card in your room that says something like, "Hello, I am your maid. My name is 'Maria' and my day off is 'Tuesday'". This has the same meaning, leave a tip on the day before her day off.
To indicate your intention to give a staff member something on a future date just ask, "What's your day off?" They will tell you, automatically understanding the arrangement, and will treat you very well.
Bonus Tip: Most of the hotel workers in Cancun aren't "locals", they come from other Mexican provinces and many come from other countries.
In Mexico, Cuba, and other Latin countries, bands will expect to receive a tip from you if you are sitting on a patio, cafe, the beach, or a small bar enjoying their music. This is custom and standard, it's how they make a living and they're not getting paid by the venue. Generally $5 for a table of three people is a decent enough tip. The band will consider it stealing if you don't give them something, they're troubadours or mariachis, and they incorrectly assume you already know about the payment arrangement. Even locals give them some money if they stop to enjoy the music. I've seen way too many Western tourists treat them as common buskers or bums trying to rip people off. There can be loud arguments. It's a cultural misunderstanding, with both sides feeling cheated in the end. Know before you sit down that you will be expected to pay and have some money ready to give them when they do a break in their set.
Bonus Tip: If they have a CD for sale and you buy one (approximately $10-15), you won't be expected to give them a tip on top of that. (Get them to sign it for fun, it makes a nice souvenir!)
I don't know how the rumour got started on VT that you don't tip taxi drivers in Cancun. Of course you should tip them! Just like you would in any other country--based on friendliness, cleanliness of the car, distance, and efficiency. The drivers are generally very friendly, so they won't "freak out" if you don't leave something--but it doesn't mean you shouldn't. Cancun's not a very big city so a 10 peso ($1 USD) is a good tip wherever you might go. If they drive you to or from the airport (which is out of town), you might want to give the driver more. This same rule applies to other towns in the area like Playa Del Carmen, Cozumel, or Tulum.
But as you would anywhere, ask them the price of the ride before you get in the car so there are no surprises or misunderstandings when you reach your destination.
The average tips for waiters is about 10-15%.Bellboys and baggage handlers get about $.25 per bag.Do not forget the speed limits when entering or leaving a town.Mexican people will respect people trying alittle Spanish and will help you if you get it wrong or get abit stuck.
The mexicans rely on tips, they get paid awfully low salary's so be generous.
Don't tip everytime you go to the bar but at the end of your night find your waiter/barmen etc and give them a tip then. It will be appreciated.
...meaning $1 bills.
workers (esp those working in hotels, restaurants and shows) appreciate tips from tourists. they are very hard workers but get paid very little so try to be generous and you will feel great about it :-)
tip more if you get exceptional service (from waiters particularly) esp in an all-inclusive hotel.
Re: ".. don't tip taxi drivers in Cancun. Of course you should tip them! Just like you would in any other country."
This is very wrong.
Whilst tipping may be expected in Cancun it is not universal in 'any other country.' Traditions, culture and expectations vary across the world .. this is part of the reason for the appeal of travel AND part of the reason to read virtual tourist so as to understand a little in advance.
There are many countries were tipping of taxi drivers (or of any sort) is not only not expected but would be seen as very unusual, with some even considering it an insult.
Two widely different countries where tipping of taxi drivers is highly unusual is China & New Zealand.
What is noticeable is that in countries visited by many US tourists tipping has become the norm, whilst before such tourism it was not. In contrast, in countries without many US tourists the expectation of tipping is far less.
Suggestion: Take note of local customs, and do not impose your own onto others.
I just wanted to remind travellers that the people there earn a fraction of what people in rich, developed countries earn. Please don't skip out on the tips, it really makes a difference for them, especially now that tourism has declined for the fear of flying, and a lot of people who worked in the hotel related industry got laid off....
A gratuity of 10 percent is recommended for both self-serve buffets and menu items. For Hotel porters $1-2 USD is the norm. Hotel maids is $1 per day. Taxi drivers do not automatically expect a gratuity.
Well to be honest you wont have any problems in Cancun, the people that works and live there are people that come from other places of México, they´ll be very grateful if you tip them, I mean it´s correct and nice to tip them as long as they provided you a good service.
One thing you need to be careful about...you´ll find girls at bars offering you alcoholic jelly´s they wont tell you there is a prize for them til you had already eat it!
So watch that out!
I generally tip both the maid(on the bed) and the mini fridge server (normally in fridge so obvious for him) a couple of dollars each day, these are separate jobs (always been female for maids and male for bar porter, but this could be different at different resorts but doubt it). This will help you know if the person responsible for filling the fridge has been by or if you have been missed (in doing this I have never missed out and this included places like Cuba where rare to not have at least one day where you were missed), if maid hasn't been by should be obvious. Not really a huge expense for me to give a couple of dollars each, every day, but a huge deal for the receiver of your tip. For most part person leaving you the note on your bed might be the person who speaks and writes English and therefore leaves correspondence for you while in actual fact person who is responsible for your room may change everyday and may speak a little English if any without being able to read or write any English. Even if you do have same person each day except their one day off why shouldn't the one day person get a little tip as well. I bought on my first trip to Mexico a waterproof container so could carry money in the pool so could tip even when at the pool bar and have never had an issue of being served. I tip a dollar normally for a drink in Vegas so there isn't a good reason in my opinion not to do this unless not happy with service while on holidays in Mexico as well, in Canada you can't get a beer from liquor store for less then a dollar. I have seen different size containers available at Swimco and assume that most swim attire and accessory type stores will have these type of containers to purchase, you'll pay lot more for it at the resort like I did. For smokers I have also seen containers that would be big enough to hold both several dollars and most regular size cigarette packages or perhaps even a small camera. Due to humidity would say that my bills still got a little damp so leaving smokes in package is most likely a must.
Knowledge of the Spanish language is not needed, but knowing even a little, and at least trying - makes things go your way a lot more often.
Don't be afraid to haggle when renting a car, booking an activity, or shopping at the outdoor markets.