How Much Should I Tip a White Water Rafting Guide?

How Much to Tip a Rafting Guide

If you’ve ever been white water rafting, you know the importance of a guide’s job, and you might even know how important it is to tip them when deserved. But just how much should you tip a white water rafting guide?

How much to tip a white water rafting guide? Tip a white water rafting guide between 5 and 20% of the overall cost of your rafting trip. Between $5 and $20 per person, is usually acceptable. Tip your white water rafting guide according to:

  • The length of the trip
  • The level of difficulty of the white water
  • The overall cost of the rafting trip
  • Their professionalism, friendliness and attitude
  • Number of paddlers you bring

The rules for tipping white water rafting guides definitely aren’t common knowledge like tipping waiters. Still, it’s important to make sure you don’t undertip the next time you go white water rafting. To find out how much you should tip and more, keep reading!

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How much should you tip a white water rafting guide?

The amount to tip a waiter or a delivery driver is common knowledge, usually 20% of the bill in the US. However, white water rafting isn’t an activity that takes place as often as dining out.

Come to find out, river rafting guides aren’t paid all that awesomely. So, some people might not even know they should be tipping their guide. So, yes, you should tip your white water rafting guide. All you need to know is how much you should be tipping them.

There aren’t any set-in-stone rules for tipping a white water rafting guide. It’s just like with restaurants where you might give a very generous tip to your waiter or waitress if they do a great job. However, there are a few rules that can help you decide the minimum tip that’s appropriate.

Here’s a quick reference on how I tip rafting guides:

  • I and my family came back alive – Automatic 5% Tip
  • The river guide knew what they were doing and remained calm during the trip – Add 5% to the tip
  • The river rafting guide made everyone feel at ease – Add another 5% to the tip
  • I have a hard rule about being nice to my wife and kids – Add or subtract 5% bonus to the tip

So up to 20%…

That’s just how I do it with many sports including white water rafting.

Here are some general rules you should consider when tipping white water rafting guides:

  • The first thing to consider when tipping is the cost of the trip. If you paid $150, you could multiply that by any percentage to decide the amount you tip. The usual range is anywhere from 5% to 20%. If you multiply $150 and 15%, you will get $22.50, which would be the tip you’d give the guide.
  • Another thing to consider is the length of the trip. If it was a longer trip, your guide would’ve put more effort into it than a shorter trip. If you think the guide deserves $25, you can give him or her that amount for a long trip. You could give $20 if it was the medium-length route, and $15 would be for the shortest route.
  • The level and difficulty of the river should also influence how much you tip your guide. If the river is one of the higher classes of river rapids, like III – V, you should definitely tip more, as they had to be extra attentive to your safety.
  • You should also tip more if there are more people in your group. You can even tip by guest. The tip can be anywhere from $5 to $10 a person, meaning a group of 10 could be anywhere from $50 to $100. 

Is tipping a white water rafting guide necessary?

When you think of tipping others, you generally think of waiters, waitresses, delivery drivers, and bartenders. However, there are many other people that should be tipped for their hard work. It’s necessary, as a lot of them depend on tips for income.

Since white water rafting guides are in charge of your life, they should definitely be considered for a tip. Most don’t get paid per trip, so getting a tip will make their day. You should also consider the quality of the guide. Some only give the bare minimum that’s required. But, there are also those who show respect, enthusiasm, and even entertainment for guests while also keeping them safe.

Listen, any guide that brings you back alive and unharmed, you should definitely tip! Read my Oregon River Rafting Article for a good example of this.

Speaking of the ones who only give the bare minimum, you’re probably wondering what you should do when you get one of them. Some might not tip them at all. Or they might do what most do with poor service at restaurants, which is to share a small percentage of the bill rather than the usual 12% to 20%.

When and where should you tip your guide?

A day of white water rafting can be pretty hectic. There’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to find your guide after the trip is over, as they are often cleaning equipment and checking out of work. 

Depending on the situation, you should be able to give it to one of the trip leaders or find a box labeled “TIPS” near the office. If the outfitter you choose for white water rafting is pooling or collecting tips, the money is usually entrusted in the lead guide of the trip to be distributed to all of the guides later.

If you’d like to be more discreet, you can leave an envelope at the front desk. Leave the money and a note that says thanks to your guide and any other guides or leaders who were on the trip.

How do you tip if you have no cash?

This might be an odd thing to think about, but the truth is not everyone brings along extra cash.

A lot of people don’t think about tipping for something like white water rafting. You might be shocked to learn that tipping with other things besides cash is actually more common than you’d think. There is even a Reddit forum where people share the strangest tips they’ve received.

One pretty common tip that you might be surprised by is beer. Of course, they can’t always accept it, or they aren’t old enough to accept it. It’s the thought that counts, though. 

There are definitely some stranger tips out there that you wouldn’t expect. If you go white water rafting after Halloween, you might want to consider tipping candy because everyone has plenty of candy to hand out after Halloween. However, that might not be a good tip for a job like a white water rafting guide as that takes a lot of work. 

If you or anyone with you specialize in any service that your guide is in need of, that would be a great way to tip them. For example, if you are a car mechanic and your guide voices his or her concerns about their car not working, you could offer your services as a way to pay them back for their services.

You could also offer your guide a drink if there is a drink machine nearby. Though that definitely won’t match the value of a typical tip for a guide, I’m sure they would appreciate it. There are many other things that could be used as a tip. Some of those are listed down below.

  • Bag of cookies: These would be great for multiple guides and leaders.
  • Gift card: If you have a gift card sitting in your wallet that you know you won’t use, it would be useful in thanking your guide.
  • A vacation: This is probably very rare, but if your guide leaves an outstanding impression on you, you can get your wallet out to book them a vacation rather than give them a traditional tip.
  • Leave a great review. One way to let others know and reward a great white water rafting guide is to give them a good review online.

How much to tip a white water rafting guide – Now you know!

If you ever go white water rafting, you should definitely tip your guide. Considering that your life is in that person’s hands, it’s a small price to pay. However, the amount you pay them depends on many factors such as the trip’s price, the length of the river, and several other important considerations.

You can also tip with non-traditional items or favors. But let’s be honest, there’s nothing like cold hard cash for tipping a river rafting guide.


I'm Steve, the research and technology workhorse behind Paddle Camp. I do tons of research on all our family's paddling gear before I buy or recommend anything. I grew up canoeing with my dad and brother. A few years ago I bought paddle boards for my daughters, myself, and my wife. Ever since then, we plan most of our vacations around kayaking, canoeing, or paddle boarding.

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