How do I Become a Tour Guide?

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  • Written By: Brendan McGuigan
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2019
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When many people think of tour guides, they think of enormous tourist attractions like the Great Pyramids, or castles in Ireland. The truth is, though, that if you live anywhere near anything that people like to see, you might have an opportunity to become a tour guide. Guides can make a good living, work for a company or independently, and have a generally fulfilling job, showing others something of beauty or interest each and every day.

Many countries require guides to be certified, and one of the first steps you’ll want to take to become a tour guide is to investigate the requirements for your local certifications, study for the exam, and pass it. Generally these exams are relatively easy, and don’t require any additional schooling. Taking it early will ensure that when you’re ready to start working, you’ll be able to do so legally.

A number of programs also exist to help people become a tour guide, with the most well-known being the International Tour Management Institute. Although going through a program isn’t a necessity, it can help you make sure you have all of the fundamental information you’ll need, and can also help you make connections that will later assist you in landing a job. Many programs offer placement services, which will help you connect with a tour agency somewhere in the world you want to work.


If you already know the region you want to operate in, the next step is to become an expert in that area. If it’s a town or region, learn all of the hot spots for tourists, and try to visit them at least a few times over the course of a year to get a feel for them in each season. Look up local historical agencies, and use their archives to do your own research, and see if any books have been written on the area. Find locals who are known experts in the area, and see if you can have a day or two of their time to have them guide you around, and teach you things you may have missed in your own research.

If you want to become a tour guide in an area that has a central attraction or handful of attractions, like the Eiffel Tower, or the Great Wall of China, do as much research as you can on the attraction. Read the normal tour books, but also look for more esoteric books that may have fun bits of trivia your clients won’t likely have gotten from the standard guidebooks. If there are graduate students doing research in the area, see if you can spend a few days with them learning more in-depth information about your site. Although this won’t be used for the majority of clients, it will help differentiate you from the other tour guides, and put you in a better position to answer any unexpected questions that come up.

One great step you can take to become a tour guide is to get a job for a local travel agency, or somewhere in the hospitality industry. This will help you get a feel for the travelers who come to your region, and will also give you a chance to get to know the hot destinations even better. Best of all, once you do begin operating as a tour guide, the agency or hotel will likely be more than happy to refer clients to you who want a personal tour.


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