In this post, we explain the main differences between a traditional paid-in-advance tour and a free walking tour. This must be taken into account when debuting a free walking tour, especially if you are a professional guide with years of experience.

1. The traveler pays at the end

This is the most obvious difference: on a free walking tour, travelers pay at the end what they consider appropriate. Travelers usually pay the guide in cash before leaving, although we also have gurus that use a portable card reader.

Many guides explain the free walking tour concept at the beginning and / or the end of the tour. The most important thing is to make it clear that “free” should not be understood as free of charge but rather as free to join without commitment and to pay what you want in the end.

Moreover, it’s important to highlight that it’s not a hobby or a job in exchange for a few tips, but that it is your main job and that it must be rewarded as such.

Talking about money is a delicate subject and that’s why many guides prefer not to mention it so that they don’t feel uncomfortable. If you do, make sure you do it in a fun and friendly way. Otherwise, it could end up being uncomfortable for travelers.

In this post, we provide several options that you can use to talk about the payment on free walking tours with your travelers.

2. First approach to the city

In most cases, free walking tours show a first overview of what the city can offer for travelers during their stay. It covers a wide variety of topics based on history, art, architecture, food, etc. It also gives practical information such as opening schedules, museum entrance prices, how to use public transport,… 

This approach is also cultural: the traveler who participates in a free walking tour doesn’t want to be just another tourist and wants to learn more about the lifestyle and customs of the inhabitants of your city, like learning a few words or expressions in the local language.

3. A fun experience

Tour guide of GuruWalk is showing something to a group of travelers in Vilnius.

It’s important to be an expert on the topic of the tour, but it’s essential to be able to share this knowledge in the best way, as this will also impact what you receive at the end of the tour. This is another reason that explains the great success of free walking tours: they are entertaining and fun experiences. 

They thrill travelers, like in a movie or a play, and travelers don’t want to lose a minute of the experience.

The key is to select the most interesting and relevant content and to think about how to bring it to life. It’s essential for travelers to be part of the experience and to have an interactive visit. 

4. A personal touch

Travelers who participate in a free walking tour expect a personal touch from the guide on their tour. Although the itinerary may be the same, a tour leader who was born in a city will use a different approach to his/her tour than an expat who has lived there for a few years.

Your personal touch must be reflected in the tour to create a more humane experience. Travelers expect this vision and personal interpretation of the city on a free walking tour.

It may be by telling personal anecdotes related to a place of interest, by recommending places worth visiting, restaurants, etc. 

5. The no-shows

It’s a reality on free walking tours: as travelers don’t have to pay anything in advance to book the tour, it’s possible that they don’t show up at the meeting point. However, there are many ways to decrease these “no-shows”.
The easiest thing is to contact the traveler beforehand (through WhatsApp, the platform, …), insisting on punctuality. In case of rain, you should tell travelers that the tour is still standing. You can also explain how to get to the meeting point, mention how to recognize you, … In this post, we give you all the detailed information to avoid travelers’ no-shows.

Tour guide of GuruWalk speaking to a group of travelers in Amsterdam.

What’s next?

Now you know the difference between a traditional paid-in-advance tour and a free walking tour, do you want to get started as a free walking tour guide at GuruWalk? Then we recommend that you take a look at this post about the success of free walking tours and why they are the future of the tour-guiding sector.