Here’s what it REALLY takes to be an international tour guide

Are you curious about becoming a tour guide? It’s something many people dream of, but very few actually venture out and actively begin to work towards. It can be very tough, but it’s also very rewarding!

One tour guide who has given tours from the UK, to Japan, to Egypt, chimes in on what it takes to be a good tour guide.

Credit: Leisure Group Travel

Ability to read the audience and customize the tour to their interests. Sometimes a group is attentive to the history spiels, and other times they look bored to death during those stories. So testing other topics (people, food, the weather, nightlife, random dirty jokes) to see what resonates and having enough material to go down different paths, keeps both the tourists and the tour guide more entertained and involved.

Not just having a personality but being personable. A tour guide can throw on a period-piece costume and look like they belong to the environment, but that person can still be an asshole that nobody wants to spend an hour with. Look every person on the tour in the eye, check in with them to make sure they’re having a good time, are feeling ok, if they need some coffee for the jetlag, or a nap. Again, it comes back to giving them what they want, not what’s in your script.

Share local spots and tips, but not too local. Protect the sanctity of a neighborhood spot and the safety of a tourist heading off into unknown territory.

Credit: Mytoursjapan

Notice the details and use them. The pot plant in the window of the apartment you drive past every day. A colorful new piece of graffiti. The new musical at the community theater. The happy hour times. The tunnel that makes a great echo when everyone whistles. The smell of the sourdough bread bakery. The neighborhood squatter who always smiles and waves. Point them out, but not heavy handedly.

Never, ever tell another tour guide’s stories. Do your own research, tell your own stories, your way. I’m not saying don’t talk about Alma de Bretteville because that other guy does too, but learn about the place, go take a walk around the Legion of Honor, read a book, and tell the story in your own way.

She finished by joking that a flask of whisky doesn’t hurt to have on you, either.

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