Category Archives: E-book ‘ How to get a job as a Tour Guide’

One: Why be a Tour Guide?


One: Why be a Tour Guide?

Work as a tour leader, tour manager, tour director – it doesn’t matter what the title is – the job is pretty much the same all over the world!

A tour guide’s duties will vary according to the type of tour company employing you. For example if you work for an overlanding (what’s this?***) tour operator you may have to drive the vehicle, carry out vehicle maintenance, cook on a camp stove…..

If you work as a tour director for a coach tour company you will probably have to do narrations en route, organise seating, answer lots of questions…..

  • Whatever type of job you have in this field, you get to work with people when they are happy – most people don’t go on holiday to be in a bad mood, or complain. It’s lots of fun!
  • The job is never boring. You get to solve problems, think on your feet, and be inventive. You may encounter danger; you’ll certainly encounter the unexpected.
  • You get to travel free, and even get paid for it.
  • You meet all sorts of interesting people, from all over the world. Some you get to work with, some will be your clients

Here’s what some tour guides have said about their job:

‘…..challenging, painful, thrilling, inspiring, exhausting …’

‘…..the most exciting, fun, scary, off-the-wall job I’ve ever had…’

‘….the best job in the universe…’

My Tour Guide Course will teach you everything you need to know to do well at interviews and get a job as a tour guide, tour director or tour manager. Working as a tour leader is demanding and the better prepared you are, the more you’ll enjoy your work and the happier your clients will be, not to mention safer, and more likely to travel again with your company!

*** Overlanding is travelling with a group on a specially designed vehicle over often rough terrain. It usually involves eating al fresco, camping in camp sites or ‘bush camping’ where no facilities are available, where you sleep under the stars. It may be in the silence of the desert or among the cacophony of noise in the jungle… are close to nature!

  • Make friends with people of all nationalities and backgrounds
  • Learn about other countries and cultures
  • Learn new languages or improve your foreign language skills


Be aware of:

Long hours, no fixed routine. You are on duty 24/7!

Some expense – not all meals will be covered and alcohol won’t be!

Long periods away from home

Repeating the same itinerary several times

Often the time you spend doing a reconnaissance (what’s this?***) of a destination will be unpaid

Work can be seasonal with no guarantee of further contracts

You may be self-employed, with no job security or redundancy pay. Some tour companies offer performance bonuses – enquire about this at your interview. Don’t be afraid to mention pay – it is not a dirty word and no one expects you to work for free, or without knowing what your finances will be.

You must be fit and healthy – there’s no one to take over from you on tour (but in the case of serious illness the company will usually send out a replacement leader/guide)

***A reconnaissance (French) is a pre-tour visit to a destination to get to know it, make contact with local hotel personnel/guides/agents, seek out restaurants suitable for groups, and make yourself known. If there are any walks or cycle rides on the tour itinerary, now is the time to do them yourself, making notes of difficulty, any hazards, duration, optional alternative routes, and so on. There is no substitute for your own knowledge of a destination or walking route; even other tour leader’s notes are not always reliable (circumstances / staff may have changed, paths disappeared…)

Do a sketch map of every route – you may not remember them all!

Photos: New colleague, Tibet; Terracotta warriors, Xi’an, China

Sixteen: Travel light!


Everest Base Camp

Sixteen:      Travel light!

Do take:

Light, durable clothing:

Shirts with zip-off sleeves at elbow and armpit, and side zips

Zip off trousers – both at knees and calves


Two sets of each item above is enough (one to wear, one to wash), apart from a couple of extra pairs of socks (comfortable thick ones don’t usually dry quickly)

Make sure underwear can be washed and dried overnight at room temperature

Wear boots to travel in rather than making your bag heavy with them inside

Lightweight wash bag that can be hung up

Travel towels – one large, one medium


Comfortable walking shoes and/or sandals

One ‘evening’ outfit – for women, a long sleeved top (mosquitoes come out at dusk) with high neck and long skirt or light weight trousers; for men, lightweight trousers, long sleeved shirt

Light weight fleece

Breathable waterproof (preferably one which compresses small) which covers head to ankles (water dripping onto your knees can be very uncomfortable)

Casual outfit: T shirt, shorts

Scarf, hat and/or bandana

Gadgets: camera, adapter plug, ziplock packing bags, head torch (invaluable), waterproof liner for back pack, waterproof packing bag for wet washing, compact personal medical kit, padlock, travel alarm clock (don’t rely on your mobile cell phone – it may not work or you might forget to recharge it), phone and camera chargers, travel washing line

Toothbrush, dental floss or wood sticks

Playing cards, book/s, travel guides, all tour documents, phrase book if you don’t know the local language, small notebook to carry in hand baggage with pen – in it write down important telephone numbers in case you mobile doesn’t work or the battery doesn’t charge, small photos of loved ones (you may feel lonely and homesick, though not for long – you’ll be too busy!), your personal music player loaded with your favourites

Passport – with plenty of blank pages, in date for at least a month after the tour ends, with all necessary visas, health insurance (may be provided by your employer – check) document with emergency contact numbers. Leave a photocopy of your passport with family or trustworthy neighbour, and take a copy with you

Currency – enough for first 24 hours

Sunscreen, repellent, after bite gel, sunglasses (and spare pair), prescription glasses and spare pair, copy of all medication prescriptions including eyes, water sterilising tablets

Good quality, durable water bottle

Possibly sleeping bag if camping or in places where hygiene standards aren’t reliable

Tour Leader’s essential kit


Hang Gliding, Rio de Janeiro


Now you see why you won’t have much room for clothes!

Don’t take

  • valuable jewellery or watches – buy cheap (but reliable) ones for duration of tour, anything of personal valuable
  • real leather bags (they attract thieves)
  • anything  made of glass or in heavy packaging
  • large bottles or pots of toiletries – you can buy most things on location (and usually cheaper) But take enough for your comfort for the first few days as you may not have time to shop straight away. Whatever you can fit into the hand luggage liquids allowance will be enough for two days
  • electric razors or other electric items (the voltage may be different, the power point a different shape). Battery operated is fine but take enough batteries in case you can’t find the right ones on location

Don’t forget to

  • make arrangements for your pets
  • tell your credit card company where you’re going (or your card may be declined)
  • call Head Office for last minute instructions/updates

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