Why should you consider a free walking tour on your next trip??
Traveling can get expensive. Between the transportation, accommodation, food, and everything else…so a savvy traveler knows to take advantage of good deals when they can! One money-saver in particular is free walking tours. These can be found in most major cities and there are a couple of different companies that offer them. If you’re curious as to whether or not they’re worth your time, then keep on reading!
Did I mention they’re free? As in you get to learn stuff about a new city without having to pay the extortionate fees that some museums charge?? If this doesn’t already convince you that these are a great tool to use while traveling, then maybe the rest of my post will. But I figured I’d start here since the word “free” is in both the title of this post as well as the theme we’re talking about here.
When you book a free walking tour, the only way you spend money is if you deem the tour guide worthy of a tip. They usually mention/explain the whole tip thing once at the beginning of the tour and again at the very end. The way they explain it is this: the “tip” you give them really isn’t a tip at all, it’s their livelihood. So they work their hardest to give you the best tour through the city that they can to ensure that everyone is happy and thinks their work deserves to be well-paid. From what I gather, the company takes a percentage but the tour guide keeps the rest. Oftentimes tour guides will say that this is their main source of income. They spend time researching and gathering information and one guy even explained that he spent time writing jokes for his tours. They usually take you to the most popular and impressive sights in the city, so within a short timeframe, you get to see a lot of the best parts of a city.
In short: The $$ aspect of these tours is strictly whether you’re satisfied with the tour guide. And to be honest, I’ve never had a bad free walking tour experience!
Another great thing about these walking tours is time: specifically their length & frequency. If you’re taking a quick trip to a new city and you don’t have time to dillydally about (do people still use that phrase?), utilizing a free walking tour could be in your best interest. They usually offer a few tours throughout the day and sometimes the lengths of the tours can vary. So you may be able to find an hour-long tour, or a 3-hour long tour, depending on your needs. The schedules are always online so it’s easy to look up what’s being offered in your city and plan accordingly.
Tip: Take advantage of the earlier tours. If it’s summertime, getting out and about early means less time spent out in the hot sun (take it from someone who did tours in Washington DC in August in 90⁰F whether and 80% humidity – early is good). Plus, getting a walking tour done and out of the way early means that if you want to circle back to something you saw in the tour, you still have plenty of time to do so.
Joining in on these tours can be a great way to meet fellow travelers. If you’re a solo traveler and you’re not sure the best way to go about meeting people to hang out with while visiting a city, doing one of these tours can be a good way to either meet other travelers or pick the brain of the tour guide and get great tips on local spots. There have been several times where I’ve met solo travelers during a tour or have seen a couple of solo travelers hit it off during a tour. It’s a great way to connect with other people who love traveling and learning about new cultures and history!
I’ve never walked away from a free walking tour and felt as though I’d learned nothing. As I stated before, the tour guides try to ensure that they do their best job so that their clients/patrons are satisfied enough to give them “tips”. If looking through museums to learn about a city’s history isn’t your idea of a good time, then these walking tours are a great alternative. They can be interactive, they’re entertaining, and the tour guides have a lot of knowledge to offer you. If you have a question, they’ll do their best to answer.
Tip: If you’re unsure of where the best local food/drink is, ask your tour guide! Chances are they’ll be able to give you a few suggestions on good places to go, where to avoid, and what place has the best prices.
5) Language Accessibility
No matter what country or city you’re in, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find a free walking tour that accommodates different languages. If you speak more than one language, you’re definitely good to go. The 2 most common languages I’ve seen tours for are English and Spanish, but it’s possible that depending on where you are, more languages might be offered. This being said, not every language is going to be offered, but hopefully you can find one that works for you.
I’ve already stated a couple of times that the tour guides are pretty knowledgeable. But it’s also worth mentioning that they’re usually very enthusiastic! In order to guide a group of people throughout a city and keep their attention until the end of the tour to secure their “tips”, they kind of have to be! Not only that, but in general I’ve found that many tour guides are foreigners who have moved to the country you’re visiting – clearly they love the country you’re visiting enough to have moved there, and usually they are excited to show you all the best things about it. For example, in Prague, our tour guide was a Canadian who had moved there and declared several times that Prague is the greatest city in the world. You could tell his excitement about Prague was genuine!
Here are the websites for free waking tours that I’ve personally used and can vouch for. In general, I use Sandemans, but this company doesn’t offer tours in every city. There are probably other companies out there for different cities – make sure to do your research to find the best one for you!!
Free Walking Tour: https://freewalkingtour.com/
Free Tours By Foot: http://www.freetoursbyfoot.com/
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