Thinking of taking a free tour? After having several really great experiences with Free Tours I thought I should probably share the love and dedicate a whole post to it! Granted they may not be everyone’s cup of tea. But for me, it’s the perfect way to see the city.
If you have limited time in a city I think any kind of organised tour it a great idea. You can quickly orientate yourself without getting lost and wasting time. I’ve even been known to take a seat on a big red bus (or five), sometimes they are great, especially in big cities where it’s too far to walk everywhere in a day. That said, I’ve done all three NYC routes and it was painful! Being in any kind of motorised vehicle in NYC is never a good idea if you are passing through midtown!
So what’s the difference between a free walking tour and a normal tour? And what are the benefits to going on an organised tour rather than just figuring it out yourself?
Ok, so firstly some free tours aren’t really free. Make sure you do your research before hand so you know. In the City of Bath, for example, the tour I took was run by the Mayor of Bath office and they do not accept tips of any kind. The guides are all local volunteers. Other tours marketed as free tours are in fact ‘pay what you feel’ tours. The tour guides make their money from the “tips” you give at the end of the tour. They will normally give you a suggested amount but it’s up to you if you pay at all, and what you pay.
The first free tour I took I chose because I’m a budget traveller and I didn’t want to spend 20 euro on a walking tour. When I realised I was expected to pay at the end I felt a bit duped. However, by the end of the tour, I was so impressed that I happily handed over my euros to the guide.
The ethos they work on is that they have to work hard to make sure you have a great experience. That way your are happy to pay for the service you receive. Because the tour guide works hard and the customers reward their hard work with the payment they feel appreciated and like they have done a good job. Thus getting job satisfaction. Well, that’s the idea anyway and how our guide explained it to us. However, I can also see how this could possibly go a bit wrong so do watch out for that and make sure you go with a good company.
So why take a free walking tour? Here are just a few reasons:
This is normally my number one reason for taking any kind of organised tour. It’s pretty simple really. If I have a few days and don’t mind getting totally lost and wandering the streets aimlessly then that’s great. But if I only have a day or so taking a free walking tour is the perfect way to see the sights, orientate myself and do it quickly. If I have time I go back to places (now I know how to get to them) and explore at my leisure.
On a budget
If you want to take a tour but the fees you may pay with other companies are too expensive then this is perfect. Do keep in mind to check if you are expected to tip, though.
Learn about the history of the city
This is another of my top reasons. I love finding out about the history and culture of a place and what better way to do this that by getting a guided tour from a local person (or at least someone with a lot of great local knowledge). You get to find out things about the city that you would likely never know without the tour. I even took a tour recently of my hometown Liverpool and learnt that the clock in the Liver Building is bigger than Big Ben in London. I’ve already used this fact several times to demonstrate my general knowledge haha.
What better to orientate yourself than spending 2-3 hours walking round it with someone who knows where they are going.
The last tour I went on I met so many cool people, I actually ended up staying on for the beer tour (I was in Belgium and it would have been rude not to). I met some great people and ended up having one of the best nights out I’ve had in ages. Who says you can’t have a good time going out on your own!
You have 121 access to a local person whose job it is to inform you about the place you are in. It’s a bit of no brainer really. Ask them where to go, where to avoid, where to eat and where to drink. Chances are they wouldn’t be doing the job unless they loved their city and enjoyed educating people about it. They want you to have a good time so of course, they are going to help you out and give you some great advice.
So if I have convinced you to take a free walking tour there are a few companies I can 100% recommend:
One of the best places to get information on all tours and activities around the world is through Viator which is a trip advisor company. I have used them several times and had great experiences with them. They also always have special offers and discounts so make sure you sign up for their mailing list!
Operate tours in the following cities:
Barcelona, Berlin, Budapest, Dublin and Prague
Operate tours in the following Cities:
Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Copenhagen, Dublin, Edinburgh, Hamburg, Jerusalem, Lisbon, Liverpool, London, Madrid, Munich, New York, Paris, Prague, Tel Aviv
Have you taken a free tour of a city? I’d love to know about your experience!