The title is a little clickbaity I admit, but this really is the first thing I do. What is it, you’re wondering? It’s one simple Google search, and one that has benefited us immensely in cities all across the world.
“Free Walking Tour (Insert City Here)”
Free walking tours are by far my favorite way to see a city, and I will always take one over a paid tour when they’re offered. I may sound like a cheapskate, but let me explain my rationale.
These tours are not actually “free”. They require nothing up front to join, but the tour guides work on a tips basis. If you enjoyed the tour you pay what you feel it’s worth. You’re not obligated to pay anything, but then I think you would be a cheapskate. This is usually their only income, and they receive nothing from the company as a base pay. If you don’t like it that much you can always leave, but I’ve never seen that happen in my seven years of taking these types of tours.
I also feel like in many cases the quality of the tour is much better than a paid tour. My reason being because the tour is run on a tips basis, these guides have to know what they’re talking about and be good at their jobs. If they’re not good they won’t get tipped! With a paid tour you’re already paid up and there’s no guarantee they will be good. I think most of them will be, but not all. With the tips system you’re almost guaranteed to have a knowledgeable guide. If they’re not, they won’t be running tours very long.
I try to do a free walking tour of the city the first full day I’m in town. It’s a great way to see the major sites, get your bearings of the city, and have a chance to talk to someone who lives there full-time. Some of the best restaurant and bar recommendations have come from my tour guides. If anyone is going to know a cheap spot for a pint or somewhere that’s not a tourist trap, it’s them.
These tours are especially popular in Europe. Asian cities are unfortunately too large and sites too spread out to have them, but there are some companies offering them in select cities.
My favorite site for searching these tours is Free Tour . They have a database of all the free tours offered by their affiliates, as well as the paid ones each company offers. Another company that I really like is Sandemans. They were the first company I ever used back in 2010 and still consistently give quality results. Breada and I just took their free walking tour in Prague and it was great. I took this same tour back in 2011, but because the guides have some freedom to make it their own I saw some new sites and learned some new things.
Give it a shot. Google “Free Walking Tour” along with your next destination. You would be surprised just how many are offered around the world!
Have you taken a free walking tour? What did you think? Comment below!