When you start as a tour guide, we all make mistakes and the worst part is that in many cases, we don’t even notice them! That’s why we wrote this post with the most common mistakes tour guides can have when starting to receive their first groups of travelers.

Before the tour

  • Don’t look at the weather forecast: is it going to rain today? Perhaps it would be nice to warn travelers that the tour is adapted and that it’s still on despite the rain. Otherwise, many travelers may not come. You can also recommend them to come with comfortable clothes etc.
  • Dress badly: if you are well-dressed and looking sharpy, travelers will value your time more and it will give you more credibility and help you to earn more money.
  • Forget to drink water: for 2 hours or more, you will talk almost non-stop and your throat will dry up. We recommend that you always have a bottle of water with you!
  • Not knowing how to adapt your route: you need to know the streets and layout of your city well. Maybe someday some of the roads or walkways you use on your tour will be cut off and you will have to adapt the route quickly without getting lost.

At the beginning of the tour

  • Look down on yourself: on the first tours, many guides seek compassion from travelers to make them more forgiving, and say that it’s their first tour, that they are not experts or that they have been living in the city only for a short time. It’s the worst thing you can do. You have to highlight what makes you a good guide and you should not let them know that’s the first time you are doing it. Otherwise, you will lose credibility and the traveler will regret having booked your experience.
  • Forget to tell travelers to let you know if they have to leave before the end of the tour: at the beginning of the tour, you should ask the travelers to let you know if they will have to leave before the end of the tour. This way you can organize the tour better (you do not have to look for them) and you can make sure you get your payment.
  • Not to mention the concept of free walking tour: that depends on each guide. If you don’t feel comfortable, you do not have to mention it, but if you decide to, do it in a fun way. Many travelers know how a free walking tour works, but it must be made clear that it’s not free of charge, but “free to give what you want”.
Tour guide speaking to a traveler wearing a plastic coat during a free walking tour in Malta with GuruWalk.
  • Wait for the latecomers. You can wait 5 minutes extra, asking travelers who are already there if they don’t mind waiting a few minutes. But no more than that, as they might think that they are wasting time. Ideally, you should start your first explanations at the meeting place so that latecomers can easily join. You can also send your location directly by WhatsApp, so they know where you are at all times without having to call you.

During the tour

  • Do the tour in uncomfortable places: avoid explaining where travelers may be uncomfortable (smell of garbage or restaurants, crowded places, near a noisy water fountain, where there is a lot of traffic, …). If there is no other way, perhaps it’s better to explain a bit earlier and then go to the place with travelers.
  • Mentioning that you forgot to say something: it can happen to all of us: we are explaining something, and we forget to say part of it. In many cases, the traveler will not notice that, so you can say it naturally later or avoid mentioning it. But in all cases, it’s important not to mention to travelers that you forgot to explain something, as it seems very unprofessional.
  • Turn your back on travelers: that can happen when you’re explaining somewhere. Keep in mind that if you turn your back on them, they won’t hear you well and they may think that you don’t care about them.
  • Walk in a hurry: although you have to respect the tour schedule and not delay the tour, it’s important to do the tour in a relaxed way and not run from one place to another. Travelers should walk at a nice pace. Furthermore, if you walk too fast, it increases the risk of travelers losing you along the way.
  • Forget to leave time for pictures or to ask questions: sometimes it’s great to give 5 minutes to take pictures in a very famous place. You always have to say it before explaining the place, otherwise many will take photos while you explain and you will lose their attention.
  • Start explaining when the whole group has not gathered: if you start explaining your stop without waiting for the whole group, some will miss a part of your explanations, complicating the understanding of the entire speech and it can frustrate travelers.
  • Explain while walking: we do not recommend it, since it’s difficult for you to be heard and that can be very frustrating.
  • Don’t talk to travelers: When they walk from one place to the next one, many guides go ahead of the group without listening to anyone until they reach the next stop. Don’t do this! Use these moments to sympathize with them, and create a  connection with them, which will increase their attention during your tour and the money you receive.
A guide of GuruWalk talking with travelers between 2 stops of a free walking tour.
  • Use complicated words: use words that everyone can understand.
  • Give your opinion as a fact: you can comment on something you said to make your group laugh but you have to make it clear that it’s your opinion, not a fact.
  • Talk about religion and politics: these are topics that we do not recommend including in a free walking tour, since they are sensitive topics and may cause disagreements among travelers. 
  • Abusing historical dates: it can be too boring. It’s better if you use comparisons (it is bigger / older than …) or the context (from the same time, year …).
  • Be the only one who speaks: it’s important to let travelers participate. It can be by asking them questions, acting with them, teaching some typical words or a dance they have to do, … This will make the experience more fun and travelers will be more attentive.
  • Lie if you don’t know the answer. Explain that you don’t know the answer, that you are going to look for it and send the answer later. Thank the traveler for his/her question as you will be able to improve your experience (this way the traveler feels good to have contributed, and he/she does not leave with a negative impression of your tour for not having received an answer).

At the end of the tour

  • Not having a good ending: it’s the most important moment of the tour, you have to thank the travelers, make them realize how incredible the experience has been with you, give suggestions about what travelers can do later and remember that they leave you a review, always with a good sense of humor.
Group of travelers applauding a free walking tour guide in Prague.
  • Do not ask for feedback: especially if these are your first tours, try to understand what travelers liked the most and the least. There are always things that can be improved. If you receive several similar comments, then you could consider changing something.

What’s next?