Working as a Free Tour Guide: Tips & Success Stories

Working as a Free Tour Guide: Tips & Success Stories

Whether you’re thinking about starting out as a free tour provider or are already tour-guiding in your city, delivering your best tour experience is paramount to long-term success. We spoke with the top-rated free tour guides on our booking platform about their journeys so far and their tips for providing top-notch tours. Dig in!


How do you become a tour guide?

If you like the idea of being a tour guide, showing visitors around your city and being your own boss but feel like you missed the boat, you’d be wrong. Whether as a full-time endeavor or a lucrative side-gig, creating your own free tour and having fun guiding visitors to your city need not only be a daydream, but can be achieved with a little self-belief - regardless of your background, education, or even age!

Each of these three guides who are currently enjoying success as award-winning tour providers came from different backgrounds, jobs, and experiences to take a leap of faith and create remarkable walking tours. 

Diego Laborda, who runs free walking tours of Zaragoza in Spain, scooped not just one, but three 2019 awards as voted for by the Free Tour user community – Best Free Tour Worldwide, in Europe, and Best Free Tour Guide.

free tour guide zaragoza review

His journey as a free tour provider started out after a chance encounter with the free tour concept which inspired him. 

“The curious thing about my story is that I studied to be a Sports and Physical Education teacher, but I never thought that I would devote myself to guided tours. I discovered the Free Tour concept a few years ago when I was traveling” he explains during an interview. 

“That's how I got to know, as a tourist, and I thought it was wonderful - the possibility of being able to show your personal perspective of someone who lives in a city and tells you about their way of life, curiosities and stories" says Diego.

Free tours helped me a lot in my travels and allowed me to discover and see things that I would have missed otherwise. So, when I got back home, I decided it was time for me to show the city where I was born and grew up.

Similarly, Andis Artmanis, who was voted in the top three Best Free Tour Guides in the world for his excellent free walking tour in Riga, Latvia, came from an entirely different background and decided to make a change relatively late on in his career.

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“My original background is chemical technology. However, when Latvia gained independence in 1991, this field was hit by the crisis due to the collapse of connections to former USSR countries. Therefore, I switched to financial services. I spent the next 20 years working with a bank and government debt offices".

"However, I have always been interested in history and geography, particularly that of my native Latvia. I decided to use my knowledge and share it with other people, so since 2017 I have been guiding visitors and introducing them to the history and stories of wonderful Riga, which I regard to be the most beautiful city in the world" he declares. 
I am very happy and proud that I made the decision to start out as a free tour guide.

Local Marco, who was awarded second in the Best free Tour Guide category, runs his free tour in Dubrovnik, Croatia, and, like his two fellow guides above, decided to make a change to what he considers a more rewarding profession as a free walking tour guide.

“I was working in a tourism agency and I realized this type of job was not for me; there was a lack of communication with guests, no surprises and fun, and sitting all day with Excel spreadsheets”, says Marco. 

“When I was in Istanbul for a trip, I noticed a tour guide doing a ‘free tour’. I found this concept appealing and realized we need something similar in Dubrovnik. So, with the next season, I started providing free tours!”, he explains.


What next? Tips to improve your tour

So, once you’ve decided the time is right to try your hand at tour guiding, what are the key components to be mindful of? Our three tour guides have some helpful learned advice.


Logistics – plan first!

Being mindful of some essentials during the planning stage will make fine-tuning your tour experience a much easier process once you’re in action. 

“Each city has many things to offer, but on a tour you cannot talk about or show everything or it could last five hours or more” explains Diego “…therefore, it is necessary to thoroughly plan the route and set your priorities, decide on what you want to show & talk about, and give continuity to keep visitors interested during the tour”.

“One of the biggest challenges with a Free tour relates to the unpredictability of the number of guests arriving,'' says Andis. “If many guests show up, it can be a challenge for everybody to hear the guide. A big group may also require additional time to move around, which should be taken into account” he advises.


On the platform, you can set a maximum number of guests per booking, as well as easily cut-off availability when your total bookings reach a threshold set by you for a given tour date. However, if you also receive bookings from other sources without similar quality control features, it’s important to be prepared to handle an unpredictable number of guests; for example, prioritizing pre-booked guests only, or having an additional guide available.


You should also be mindful of other tour guides too when planning your route and the times you tour. You may need to think outside the box a little, like Andis.

“The main challenge,” he says, “[can be] the number of tour groups visiting the same sights at the same time. The total area is quite limited, groups may mix up and guides can struggle, which is not good. Therefore, I am considering offering a new tour in the afternoon, which is generally less crowded”.

riga free tour

Andis and his tour guests on a free walking tour of Riga.


It’s not all about facts and dates – you must engage your guests!

“I definitely suggest reading a lot about people’s behaviors and social life in different historical eras, as just factual data can be boring in bigger amounts,” says Marco. 

“Understanding the history and different crucial events is, of course, important,” he says, “…[but] don't spend all your energy giving a bunch of numbers or chronological data … it is much more important to connect these events with other elements. For example, I tend to use phrases like ‘In the first half of the 15th century’, which is enough information for most guests, and give more info if your audience asks for it”.

Diego also thinks it's important to share your anecdotes, giving guests a valuable personal perspective.
You can’t ignore history, but you must also include gastronomy, customs, and anecdotes that will make the experience more personal.

“We deal with people, and I believe it's essential the tour doesn't sound like someone reading a history book. You must involve the attendees, ask them things, interact with them - having them contribute is what makes the difference”, he continues.

Andis in Riga also feels engagement and connection with your group is more important than filling their heads with specific dates and names.

“It is important to have an interesting story…tourists, in general, don’t care much about names of different kings and the years of their respective rule; however, people are always interested to hear some unexpected or curious facts about the city and its residents,” he says.


Always be learning!

Andis, as an avid history buff and state qualified tour guide, was already proficient in his knowledge of local and national history but took measures to improve other aspects of his tour-guiding repertoire with the aim of strengthening his overall tour experience for guests. 

“I attended some communication courses to improve my communication skills. And, of course, the knowledge and experience of other guides are of great value and they are keen to share it,” he proclaims. 

For Diego, in Zaragoza, being already comfortable with communicating with groups, he also found learning from other tour guides invaluable.

“When I was teaching, I had to deal with public speaking and explanations daily, but I learned [guiding skills] by attending other tours and observing other guides 'in action', which helped me a lot,” states Diego. 

“As for means of learning”, says Marco, “documentaries, YouTube videos, online articles & abstracts, books, magazines, specialized seminars and presentations, and stories that you find interesting [can be key sources],” he advises. 

“I tend to be very self-taught in that I love to investigate”, says Diego, “… people ask you things that might not have occurred to you before, and it is thanks to them that you start investigating, learning more and improving. You help people learn but at the same time you learn too”.


Pay attention to your guest reviews

Word of mouth is online; you need people to talk about your tour and this is most frequently done in the form of reviews – be it on your Facebook or TripAdvisor profiles, or on the platforms where people book your tour, such as While having your passion judged, rated and reviewed online might feel a little daunting initially, reviews are nothing to fear. 

“In the beginning, I was a little afraid of feedback and how people will react to my tour,” says Marco. “[but] online reviews have become everything in this business in the last few years. People are making decisions on previous experiences from people they never met".

free tour guide dubrovnik

There’s little doubt that positive reviews are a great motivator for tour providers, but negative reviews are important too – not only to inform you where you can improve your service but also as a counter-balance which helps set expectations, helping potential guests better understand what to anticipate. 

“Working with people, it's always complicated, since everyone has different expectations and needs” proclaims Diego. “A negative opinion is an opportunity to improve, so you have to keep them in mind”. 

Managing guest expectations is fundamental to how your tour is received, and reviews, especially negative ones, can help with this when handled correctly.
[The] success of the tour depends on whether tourists receive what they have expected.

The platform allows tour providers to publicly respond to reviews, a great opportunity to demonstrate to potential guests that you take feedback onboard, work to improve where possible, clarify what an attendee should expect, and dilute the impact a negative review might have otherwise had on your audience.


There you have it, budding tour-guides, some helpful advice from three of the best free walking tour guides on the planet. Don’t forget to register your tour on the platform and FREE TOUR app and start showing happy travelers the place you call home.  


(Content from contributors has been edited for length).

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