How do free walking tours work?
Free walking tours are exactly what the name implies. A guide will take you around on a tour walking around the city while explaining things about its culture, history, and food. And it’s completely free. If you enjoyed the tour and got value from it, you’re highly encouraged to tip the guide at the end.
How much do I tip a free walking tour guide?
The proper amount to tip a free walking tour guide depends. If you were happy with the tour, usually a five Euros tip is appropriate. If you don’t have that much in your pocket, that’s alright as well. They would rather get whatever coins you have in your pocket than nothing. Remember this is their profession. If you can afford more and felt that you received more value out of it, by all means leave more. Sometimes I see older people leave a 20 Euro bill. And that is great!
Why take free walking tours?
There is something about actually walking through a city that gives you a more intimate experience. When you wait at the crosswalk with the other pedestrians, you really get your finger on the pulse of the city. On busses, you don’t really get a lay of the land and a sense of relative distance. On bike tours, you can’t really go inside buildings you pass by. And on Segway tours you look like a huge tool.
I actually like free walking tours better than paid ones because the guides are working for tips. They usually tell elaborate and entertaining stories to keep you engaged throughout the tour. When you pay for a walking tour, they already have your money and they typically don’t try as hard to be entertaining.
How can I find free walking tours?
Finding free walking tours is easy if you know where to look. Before I started traveling a lot, I had no idea that these even existed. But now that I know about them, I see them everywhere.
- Hostels – The best way to find them is at the front desk of hostels. Every hostel will have a specific free walking tour that they recommend. They may even have flyers for a few of them. They have likely vetted the tour or else they wouldn’t send people to it.
- Facebook – Search for “Free walking tour + [city].” If it’s a decent sized city, I guarantee there will be plenty.
- Google – Same as with Facebook, search Google for “Free walking tour + [city].”
- TripAdvisor – You can search on TripAdvisor and hope there will be a free walking tour listed. Although I think they favor paid walking tours in their search results.
- Umbrella hunting – Free walking tours usually meet in the most central square at 11:00 am. The trick is to go and look for a colorful umbrella. They almost always use a colorful umbrella that has “Free walking tour” written across it. This makes it easier for people to find them in the crowds of a city. This is a last resort if you weren’t able to use the other means, but you’d be surprised how often this works.
How do I meet new people on free walking tours?
Free walking tours are stocked ponds for making new friends while traveling. Many of the other people on the tour will be interesting and open to meeting new people. As soon as you start walking, say hi to the person standing beside you. Ask where they’re from. Ask about their travels. As you continue on the tour, talk to as many people as possible. But it doesn’t end there.
Throughout the tour, the guide will point out various attractions that you don’t have time to see. Maybe there’s a castle. Or a vantage point up the hill just outside the city. When the tour ends, you can ask your new friends if they want to go see those things.
After the tour ends, the guide will stay around and you can ask for recommendations. You can ask for a good spot to have lunch and then invite your new friends to dine with you. At the very least, you can exchange numbers and make plans to meet them later.
(Also check out my YouTube video: Making Friends on a Free Walking Tour)
How do I get the most out of free walking tours?
First ask yourself what you want to get from the free walking tour. Culture, architecture, history, food, nightlife? Castles, churches, museums? Pay special attention when the tour guide says something that piques your interest .
As you are walking, you can make a note on your phone to remember the places. Of you can FAVORITE them on Google Maps and then revisit them later.
For this reason, a walking tour is the first thing I do when I get to a new city. It gives me the lay of the land and I can go back to the places that interested me for a more in depth visit.