a group of tourists take a free walking tour and chat to the guide

What Are Free Walking Tours? Are They Really Free?

You might have seen an offer of a free walking tour on your travels, and thought, amazing – whats the catch? Do you really get a totally free tour?

Well, even though the word free is in the title, there are some things to bear in mind.

First of all, yes, the tour is free. HOWEVER – the guide usually will expect something for offering their time, knowledge and skills that make your vacation that bit more special. The thing with free walking tours is that although they might be marketed as free, the saying ‘there’s no such thing as a free lunch’ definitely applies here.

How do free tours work?

The idea behind free tours is that the guide will assemble as many people as possible and take them on a tour to see the key sights of a location. As there is no price to sign up or any ticket price, in theory, yes, the tour is free.

But the guide will usually make it clear at the beginning, and often at the end – or even during the tour – that they do hope you can make a financial contribution.

In short, your free tour guide will be expecting to make some money, although the price is not specified.

You can then ‘tip’ what you think is a fair amount for the guides expertise, how interesting or entertaining they were, or if they showed you some special places.

How much should I pay a free tour guide?

The amount to tip a free tour guide will vary depending on where in the world you are, the duration of the tour, and other factors such as whether you thought they did a good job.

Your free tour guide may also help you personally, perhaps if you’ve asked for some insider tips or recommendations.

But be generous and fair with your tip. For example, tipping $1 might be seen as pretty cheap, even in a relatively low income country. We’re not going to be specific with amounts – but imagine you were the tour guide, what might you expect to receive?

How can I find a free tour guide?

In most major cities and tourist destinations in the world, you will likely spot a free tour. This might be a free walking tour, free cycle tour, or even a free talk or presentation about the location.

You can search using our tours search to find tours in your chosen destination (these aren’t free tours though, but you will find some great prices before your trip).

Or simply do an online search. Many forums online will also point you to the best free guided tour in your destination city.

Have you had any experiences with free tours or walking tours? Share your experiences with us in the comments!

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