How to become a tour guide

Tour guiding is a dream job for many people. Being a tour guide is a great way to find out more about the world, whether that’s through showing off the delights of your home town, offering a free tour Granada or leading a rafting expedition in the alps. Equally, it can be an uncertain career; most tour guides are freelance and are reliant on the tourism industry.

Here’s our guide to finding success in this inspiring yet uncertain career.

Different types of tour guide

In an industry as diverse and worldwide as tour guiding, you need to have a niche. There will obviously be competition for positions so choose an area and subject you are knowledgeable and passionate about.

Walking tour guide

Usually in larger cities, these tour guides walk groups around, explaining the history and chatting freely with their guests. 

Tour bus guide

This type of tour guide operates on a tour bus, narrating the journey, usually with a microphone; pointing out interesting and relevant landmarks.

Museum guide

This guide walks a group around a museum, discussing tidbits about the art, and ensuring the guests see the best the museum has to offer. 

Adventure guide

The outdoor adventure tour guide offers a more intense experience: hiking, rafting, and truly exploring the outdoors. 

What skills do you need?


In its nature tour guiding has to include timekeeping. Some tour guides may lead two or three tours a day; making sure your group has a balanced experience that doesn’t feel rushed can be a challenge when you are on a schedule. 


Tour guides must be charming, adept communicators, who are able to get along with a wide variety of people


Being a tour guide, you will have to move a significant amount of people. Convincing people to heed your instructions, listen, and follow is a skill in itself. 


There are a multitude of challenges associated with being a tour guide: unruly guests, environmental challenges, and timekeeping challenges. To be successful you will have to face these with a calm and sunny demeanor.


Most tour guides are freelance; Having to find your own work can be tough, especially for those coming from a steadier profession. You need to be passionate and determined, having a strong will for what you’re doing is a must.


Although qualifications are not required to work as a tour guide in the UK, there are still bodies that can award them. You may find that having these accreditations will help you to secure work as a tour guide.

The Institute of Tourist Guiding offers a badge system, with training courses for every level of tour guide. There are also many online courses in tour guiding, which are less recognised but could be the first step for those intimidated or unknowledgeable about tour guiding.

How to find work

Getting hired by a tour guide company

Networking is absolutely necessary in this situation. Tour companies are looking for social, charming people; and those willing to reach out and ask for advice and information are not only helping themselves but others as well.

Researching companies in your area is important, as you will want to apply to as many as possible. Sometimes just googling “tour guide companies in ___” will supply you with a good list to work through.

Starting your own business

The British Guild of Tourist Guides is the national association for Blue and Green Badge Tourist Guides working throughout Britain. If you are a blue or green badge holder, it’s definitely worth joining this group.

Building a website is essential to maintain a professional image. This is the first thing your customers will likely see and it is vital that your website is good-looking and usable. Features that your website should have include a booking system and a way to contact you. Comments from satisfied customers and images from previous tours will also help to assure potential customers of the quality of your service.

You should also strive for a relevant social media presence. These days people search Instagram tags, not google. Your social media should be clean, professional, with enough personality to keep it intriguing. Posting regularly will optimise your searchability and will keep new customers flocking to your business.