How to Be A Tour Guide
When people say “I wish I could travel for a living!” I start talking about the sheer number of opportunities out there. Before starting GuideTrip (I am actually a MBA and a former Banker) I spent eight years as a tour guide in North India, learning firsthand what goes into leading small and large groups of international travellers through some of India’s world famous sights.
Being a tour guide can be a dream job if you know what you are getting into. During the course of this article, I hope to help you understand how you can become a tour guide in any area which appeals to you; this could be guided tours, bike tours, cooking classes, photography sessions, adventure tours or even something out of the ordinary and extremely unique such as a haunted tour.
Understand the difference: Tour Director vs. Tour Guide
Tour Directors are responsible for logistics (such as accommodation and flights), confirmations, planning and pricing, damage control, and group dynamics such as the size of a particular tour. They also arrange for travel escorts who give commentary on the history and culture of a destination(s). A tour guide gives specific narration in a place, joining the tour group for sometimes as little as a couple of hours and at times as long as two weeks. If you want to dip into this world, local guiding is great, and perfect if you want to go home each night. There is also long-term contract work available on cruises, from big ships to smaller river cruises.
The Strong Points
We all go through ruts at our current jobs from time to time, tour guides and guided tours offer a chance to do something different each and every day. This is not just a job but a lifestyle that can take you all over the world to events like the Olympics and the World Cup. As one of our Guides Sunil Raman recently quoted “It’s the ridiculous things I get to do every single day — whether it’s museums, shows, or watching a sound and light show at the Red Fort in Delhi — but it’s also the dynamic of people, and a sense of helping them to know my city better” Raman said. “When someone waits their whole life to go to India, I get to take them. It’s the look on their face as they experience it for the first time, and I’m a part of that memory.”
The Not-So Strong Points
Most tour directors are largely freelancers, which brings its own set of challenges, like needing independent health insurance and struggling to cobble together enough work — especially at the beginning. You’ll also be getting very little sleep when you’re confirming the next day’s activities and studying commentary. “True colors come out on an actual tour,” Sonu, our guide in Agra said. “At times, though extremely rare, a few guests can be ungrateful or bossy or think they know more about a place than you. But even if I think it’s the silliest question I’ve ever heard in my life, I have to answer it so they feel good about it.” Scheduling may keep you away from home for weeks or month at a time, so you might have to skip important events, like weddings or funerals.
What kind of training do I need to become a tour guide
You could consider signing up for a course within your country’s government accredited institutions. While this may not be a cost effective measure, and you may need to invest as much as a year of your time to get your license, the overall benefits far outweigh any kind of cons. Moreover, you would be an individual who will have the right credentials and authority to conduct your tours, be it guided tours or of any other kind within a certain area of jurisdiction. What should be taken into account is the fact that certain tours and activities such as cooking classes and photography call on your own individual expertise whereas guided tours which involve trekking or adventure sports such as white water rafting may require a formal training procedure over and above the existing tour guide license which you may possess.
Getting into the thick of it (GUIDETRIP)
The final step is obviously to partnering up with a trusted and well known source that handles the online marketing and business part of your job to allow you to handle yours to the maximum efficiency. The lack of a proper system to save us tour guides from greedy travel agents lead me to launch GuideTrip, a social marketplace connecting travelers with tourist guides globally. Check why to enlist as a tour guide here and sign up on our website to be a part of the revolution in travel.
Going Off Road
Tour guiding is physically exhausting. Sometimes you may be walking as much as twelve hours in a day and may have to repeat the drill while keeping your guests happy the very next day. In other words, you may burn out or get tired of always being on the road. That doesn’t mean your career as a tour guide is over. There are behind-the-scenes roles to be played as well — like developing more tours, which involves choosing the right hotel, transportation, and activity partners, as well as sales, event planning, and social media.
Bottom Line: Is Tour Guiding Right for You?
“For this job, you have to love every part of travel, and know you could be living out of a suitcase at times with very little sleep,” Raj said. “But I absolutely love what I do, and I don’t need the stability right now.” If you believe that this is something you can imagine doing day in and day out for most the year, then travel guiding is the way forward for you.
Arjun Sachdeva is a co-founder at GuideTrip. He has also been a tour guide and tour escort in India since 2006.