Free Tours: The Perfect Way to See a City

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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.

Image - Next Barcelona Tours
Image – Next Barcelona Tours

My Experience

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.

Image – Next Barcelona Tours

So why take a free walking tour? Here are just a few reasons:

Limited time

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.

Next Barcelona Tours

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.

Orientation

What better to orientate yourself than spending 2-3 hours walking round it with someone who knows where they are going.

 

Meet people

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!

Local knowledge

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:

Viator

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!

Next City Tours

Operate tours in the following cities:

Barcelona, Berlin, Budapest, Dublin and Prague

New Europe Tours

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!

 

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 need a cheap flight to anywhere check Skyscanner first! Or download their App here, and don’t forget your insurance!

15 Replies to “Free Tours: The Perfect Way to See a City”

  1. Very useful tips! Thanks for sharing, Claire!

  2. I’ve never joined a walking tour but I can see how it can be beneficial especially learning little-known facts about a city from a local. Also, I think it’s a great option if you’re traveling solo!

  3. I love free walking tours so much that sometimes I do multiple in one city. If you have limited time, it’s a great option to pack at lot in. But also if you have more time, it can be a good starting point to get an overview of the city and learn its history from an experienced guide for a good price.

  4. I totally agree with participating in free tours! I went on a free guided tour inside California’s state capitol and it was one of the best tours I went on last year. I would love to do one like this where it’s a walking tour outside 🙂

    1. Oh that sounds really cool!

  5. Walking tours are really best for getting an immersive experience of the place. I find that this way you get closer to the place and learn much more about it at a ground level. The icing on the cake would be if it comes free as well.

  6. I’ve only done a couple of free walking tours, and I really loved them! My favorite part is meeting people. I’m actually a total introvert, so it is a good way to meet people without having to be weird and approach them in a bar or something.

    1. I totally understand. I can be the same too. It’s always good to put yourself in positions that you have to talk to people ?

  7. I’m a big fan of the free walking tours too. I did them in Venice and Florence and learnt tons. In Rome, however, our guide wasn’t so knowledgeable and she gave us some wrong information.

    1. Ah no sorry about that! Not what you need when travelling

  8. I absolutely agree with everything you say. Free walking tours are perfect when you don’t have a lot of time and want to do a local experience. I did one in Sofia and I was very happy to “pay what I felt” at the end! Thank you for sharing your experience 🙂

  9. Louiela Ann Analista says: Reply

    Oh yes, I love free walking tours… this is the first thing I search whenever I’m in a new city… Like you, we budget our money but at the end of the free tours, it’s too easy to give tip because of the great experience we had… thanks for this post, it reminds me of my wonderful walking tours:)

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