So to be totally prepared and avoid failure, here is everything you need to know about Free Walking Tours.
These are literally the best invention for adventurers wanting to stretch their travel budget as far as they can.
Free Walking Tours are available in most big cities and tourist destinations and can provide you with a nice segway into your stay in a new destination.
Lets begin with the basics
What is a Free Walking Tour?
Just as the name states, a Free city walking tours are literally taking a walk around the main sites of a city, suburb or historic location with your own personal guide that explains the history, politics & architecture of the main tourist attractions.
Types of Free Guided Walking Tours
The overview the Guide gives you depends on what kind of tour you have signed up for.
There are so many kinds of Free tours available, it really depends on what sites, tourist attractions and history the place has on offer. Expect to find tours on the following specific topics along with the more general overview City walking Tour
- Street Art Tour
- Food Lovers Tour
- Monuments Tour
- Popular Suburb Tour
- Political Tour
- War Tour
- Kids Tours
- Cultural Tour
Take a Look at the Athens Free Food Tour
Are Free Tours offered in Multiple Languages?
Yes, tours are offered in multiple languages. Generally English, the mother tongue of the country you are visiting and other languages based on the amount of tourists that city attracts from a particular country.
Should I book a free walking Tour in Advance?
It depends on the organisation. Go to their website or facebook page to see if they require you to book in advance or rock up at the meeting point on the day without booking.
Try to book at least 24hrs in advance. I have done 50+ walking tours and only on a couple of occasions during summer (high season) did I find that I couldn’t book into a tour within 24hrs.
Likewise, if you can’t make the tour you have booked, you should cancel by letting the Company or the Guide know.
How do Free Walking Tours Work?
Free walking tours are a gratuity based service. I know, so not as Free as they claim.
So, if you liked the tour and the guide was interesting and knowledgable, you should give them a Tip. I’ll discuss how much you should pay for a Walking tour on foot further down.
It is optional however, to leave without tipping, but you have to be pretty strong willed to walk a city with someone, listen to the hard sell then walk away without giving them even coffee money.
Free walking tours are run by numerous types of organisations, some not for profit and others not. They are not run by the city tourism office to offer tourists a free tour of the city.
Structure of a Free Walking Tour
This is pretty straight forward. You meet the Guide and your fellow tourists at the designated time and place.
The Guide will introduce themselves and their company and sometimes ask you things like. “How did you find out about our Tour?” or “Where are you from”?
Some guides build group cohesiveness by getting everybody to introduce themselves and some just give you a run down on their personal experience or background.
They will tell you what you will see on the tour and how long the tour runs for. Then the Guide will explain how they work for Tips, saying something like
“So if you like my Free Walking Tour of Paris, I ask that you give me what you think the tour is worth at the end”.
You do the tour, walking and stopping to discuss sites and hear the history and stories, then the tour ends.
The guide will always end the tour with their little chat about how they are a tip based service and they rely on your generosity etc etc. They will also ask you to do a write up on Trip Advisor.
Now you can walk away or get your moneys worth. Most guides know the city well and will have some great tips.
They can give you advice on the ‘non touristy’ restaurants to eat at, where the locals shop, bus, train and tram tips. Other great sites to see or even where to find the closest toilet.
So hand over your tip, thank the guide and ask your best tourist questions.
How much to Tip for a Free Walking Tour
You honestly pay what you think. If you loved the walking tour, show the Guide you did by giving them a good tip, they did just take you around a city for 3 hours or so.
From my experience doing 50+ tours most people tip between €10 to €20. We generally aways tip €10 for our family as we are travelling on a tight budget and that is 1/7 of our daily spend.
However if a Guide did an extra special job, like engaged with our kids like our awesome guide on our Free Walking Tour Lisbon, then we will tip up to €20.
Read more about how our family of five live on €70 a day travelling Europe.
How long do Free Walking Tours last?
The answer to this depends on the city your doing the tour in. In general they can last anywhere from 1.5 hours to 3.5 hours.
However, if its a good group of people and there are lots of questions, sometimes it can run slightly over time. I have done a tour that lasted 5 hours, but it was a great experience and I enjoyed every minute.
Do Free Walking Tours Run all year Round
Yes, as long as there is demand (tourists visiting the city) then the walking tours will run, rain, hail or shine.
If it is off season, there are usually less tour times available or just one city tour and not other free highlight tours.
Benifits of a Free Walking Tour
Other than the fact that it is a budget friendly way to get to know a new city, you also get to meet like minded people that are exploring a new city just like you.
You never know, you might make fast friendships with your fellow Tour go’ers.
We have been out to dinner multiple times with other Tourists we have met on Free Walking Tours and shared lots of travel tips.
Another benefit is that you don’t have to pay up front. If you don’t like the tour or you think the guide did a bad job then you walk away with nothing to pay.
Other Tours you have to pay in advance and if you don’t like it, your stuck, having already handed over your hard earned cash.
Are Walking Tours for Kids and Elderly
Yes, if you are able to walk for up to the designated time then you can do the tour. My personal experience is that the tours usually attract singles, couples and students.
The tours definitely cater for families, but walking around a city for 2 hours is not high on a childs to do list.
That said, our four year old did all the walking tours with us.
If I can’t Walk a long way, do I have other options?
You have the option to leave a Free Walking Tour early if you are getting tired or not coping. I did this once when we were on a Free Walking Tour in Rome. Just politely let your guide know that you are leaving.
There are multiple option for self guided tours of a city via Rick Steves AudioGuide or the Rick Steves Guide Books which offer you a self guided walking tour of suburbs, museums, attractions and cities.
Some Cities also have other options to get around easily and are based on the same concept as a Guided Tour.
Rome is huge and there is so much to see, so with Nana (who is not so keen on walking) visiting us, we decided to do a Tour by Mini Electric Car. That way we could zip around the city from one site to another quickly and easily.
Personal Recommendations for the Best Free Walking Tours in Europe
- Free Walking Tour Athens – Street Food Tour – Free Tours in Athens
- Free Walking Tour Seville – Monuments Tour – Heart of Sevilla
- Free Walking Tour Pristina – City Tour – Prishtina Free Walking Tours
- Free Walking Tour of Sofia – City Tour – Free Sofia Tour
- Free Walking Tour Venice – City Tours – Venice Free Walking Tour
I’d love to know your favourite Free Walking Tour. Why don’t you leave a comment below letting me know.
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