You’ve probably heard about so-called ‘free walking tours’ many times. The main result of such tours is that paying to be led about a city on foot is not as usual as it used to be. In my opinion, free walking tours are much better than the paid ones – there isn’t anything like an official fee and guides just depend on how satisfied you are. So, how much should you tip such a tour?
It all depends on how you enjoyed it, but it’s usually between 5 and 20 Euro. If you’re not satisfied with the guide, 5 Euro is enough. If the tour was ok, the tip is usually around 10 Euro. If you find the tour excellent, you can tip it with 15-20 Euro.
Be aware that sometimes guides are obliged to pay a fixed rate to the company they work for. It’s usually a certain amount per 1 participant. It means that tips are very important to them. You’ll find some more info on that in the article, as well as some tips you should know before joining a free walking tour.
How Does a Free Walking Tour Work?
A free walking tour is free of charge tour that is only paid with tips given to the tour guide. Even if it usually has a schedule, the number of participants isn’t very important -it’s up to the guide usually. Guides are either individuals working on their own or professionals working for tour agencies/organizations. Sometimes free walking tours are sponsored by the city – it’s very common in big cities. In smaller towns, free walking tours are still a relatively new way of sightseeing. However, they have been more and more popular recently, especially among younger travelers. The popularity of free walking tours has been increasing in recent years and there have been more and free tour providers, especially in well-developed European countries.
What Are the Benefits?
You might think that if a tour is free, it’s worthless. You couldn’t be more wrong! Every year more travelers see the benefits of free walking tours and the great quality behind the idea. Such tours are usually more rewarding than traditional paid guided tours. Let’s start with the guides themselves – they are usually young and their knowledge is often impressive. In most cases, they are independent freelancers who want to have a flexible work with a decent income. Very often they show their character and personality while running the tour so each tour is a unique experience. This makes the whole experience less standardized and more personalized. In short, guides are usually passionate people who know what they are doing as most of them just love their job. Can there be a better person when it comes to exploring a new city?
What Does It Mean They Are Free?
It may look a bit strange at first sight – unlike traditional tours, there is no set price. There are also no suggestions on how much you should tip a tour. Instead of paying before taking a tour, you wait until the end to see how you’ve liked the tour, the guide, the information they provided you with, the quality of communication and the style the tour was run. As the guide has to ‘earn’ their income, they always do their best to make you feel fully satisfied with the tour.
How Does an Average Free Walking Tour Usually Look Like?
The guide, usually English-speaking, gathers a group of people who want to take the tour. The tour itself takes between 1 and 3 hours and this is the time for the guide to give a good account of themselves. The impression they make is equal to the amount of money they will earn at the end of the day. You will learn many interesting facts about the city you’re discovering, some historical facts and anecdotes and of course see the most important historical sites. Guides are always well-educated about their cities. During the tour, you will also have a chance to stop at a local café or restaurant. After the tour ends, participants give tips to the guide. The amount depends on the level of their satisfaction. Participants just decide by themselves if the tour was worth the tip, as well as estimate what amount they can actually afford. Sometimes, if the guide is hired by a company, they have to pay a certain amount to the operator. So, if participants don’t tip them, they can even end up with a loss.
Is It Obligatory to Tip a Free Walking Tour?
No, you aren’t obliged to tip the tour. Usually the guide gives a subtle reminder after the tour is complete, however, there’s no pressure at all. In fact, some participants even leave before the tour ends and it’s not a big deal. What I can say from my experience, most people who take a free walking tour tip the guide, even when the guide is not ‘selling’ the tour at the end. And when the tour is very interesting, they are very generous. Even if tipping isn’t obligatory, it just feel right to tip the guide who did their job well. They also have to make a living after all, right? Just compare it to a paid private tour you would take while exploring a new city – a ‘free’ walking tour seems to be much cheaper. An average price of a paid private tour (2-3 hours) is approximately 30 – 50 Euro per person. So, tipping a guide after a free walking tour is only a fraction of this price.
What Should You Consider While Tipping a Free Walking Tour?
There are many things you can think of if you don’t know what the right amount of money to be given as a tip is. The most important factor is of course the general level of satisfaction consisting of:
- Did you like the tip you took?
- Did the guide have enough knowledge?
- Were they nice, helpful, patient while answering questions?
- Was the information you were given interesting? Did it help you know the city you’re visiting better?
All these matters. But there are also other things, let’s say more practical. The amount of the tip might be also dependent on the length of the walking tour and people who take the same tour.
Personally, I always tip based on the quality of the guide. If the guide is professional, has an extensive knowledge and can share it in a good way, they deserve a nice tip, which is around 20 Euro to me. Most of the tours I have taken so far were satisfying so I tipped them well. However, there were a few I didn’t like. Either the guide wasn’t informed enough or just didn’t show any interest in a group they were taking care of. Sometimes they don’t care that some of participants cannot hear them. In such cases, I believe you should still tip the guide with a small amount like 5 Euro to say ‘thank you’ for the time they spent walking with you.
Tips on Tipping
Even if it’s totally up to you how much you’re tipping, there are some tips you can utilise. Both under-tipping and over-tipping seem wrong but you should always choose the option that fits you best. In order to avoid tipping too much / not enough, you can stick to the following rules:
- Take the exchange rate into consideration – no need to think about it in most EU countries. However, while traveling out of Europe it’s common that people don’t check the exchange rate and highly over-tip walking tours.
- Prepare different notes before taking a free walking tour. Try to bring your maximum tip budget in smaller denominations. If you only have the high ones, you may be forced to over-tip even if you didn’t like the tour. And on the other hand, asking for a change would be quite embarrassing, wouldn’t it?
- Giving change as a free walking tour tip is a bit rude – in some countries giving a coin tip is believed to be a bit insulting. However, it’s tolerated in most European countries.
- Get a piece of advice from a local – if you are traveling with a local, they have you covered. If not, you can always ask other tourists or e.g. a receptionist from the hotel you’re staying at about how the tipping standards look like.
- Be reasonable – holiday, sightseeing, adventure – it’s extremely easy to trifle money away. Tipping is an easy way to spend more money than you originally intended to.
Tipping free walking tour is like tipping in restaurants. In most countries it’s not obligatory, but it just feels right to tip if the service was ok. And if the service was excellent, this is a token of appreciation and a nice way to say ‘thank you’. No matter the quality of the tour, you should leave something, even if it’s just 5 Euro. To be honest, I have never been 100% disappointed with any of the tours I have taken. It’s quite the opposite – guides usually go the extra mile to make the tour unforgettable. Maybe this is why I always try to tip well and fairly.