I recently had the chance to interview four experienced and expert tour guides currently working in Italy, though all have at some point worked in other European countries as well and one in Asia, and have a range in personal nationalities including Italian and American. When I first told them I wanted to write the things they wished they could say to their tourists but couldn’t, they were hesitant, because negativity is sort of a big don’t do it in the tourism industry. However I promised not to name names or companies, and to be gentle, and that this post is intended to help tourists with advice on how to create a more pleasant touring experience for themselves too, because lets face it, we all have a better time if the guide isn’t super annoyed. So here are the top five things your tour guides wish they could tell you… maybe just a little something to keep in mind on future trips!
1. Please limit your questions to those about the tour or destination, not your guides personal life.
Guides actually go through some pretty rigorous testing to become certified, and they have a LOT of knowledge about your travel destination and it’s culture, so if you spend your entire tour asking about how they became a tour guide or why they are an expat, or even sometimes rude questions like “so what is your real job” then that kind of lets both their hard work and your payment go to waste. Let them teach you something new so you can appreciate your travels more. Getting to know people is great too, but if you’re interested in meeting locals then stop off at a populated looking pub after your tour is over.
2. Respect your guide’s time.
If you sign up for a three hour tour and show up 30 minutes late, or decide to spend 25 minutes buying souvenirs, you cannot rightfully hold it against your guide if they cannot finish the tour once the three hours is up. They probably have another tour to get to, maybe a class to teach even, or hey perhaps lunch with their mates. Your walking tour was not the only event on their calendar that day, and most tours are scheduled to include a bit of time for shopping and photos but nothing excessive, so if you ask your guide to make a longer stop off along the way, that’s on you.
3. Trust your guide with your itinerary, they know what they’re doing.
Sometimes when you travel things happen that are out of everyones control. The bus breaks down, there’s a fire at the restaurant hosting the included lunch, someone was leaning just a hair too far over that ledge for a selfie and well… you get the idea. It’s times like these tourists tend to bombard their guides with reminders about the itinerary and blatant facts about the current situation. “But we’re supposed to be at the museum by 3pm and it’s 2:30pm and the bus has a flat tire.” Similarly to how you are both aware of the schedule and also the flat tire, the guide is very aware as well, and if you let them be they could most quickly, calmly and smoothly make other arrangements and alter the schedule and explain to you the revised plan. Please simmer down.
4. Don’t treat a group tour like a private tour.
If you’re in a group tour and you and your pal are stopping to take 800 selfies, buy sunscreen because you forgot it at the hotel, or T-shirts for your bros back home, maybe a snack, you are likely holding up the whole group. On private tours, it’s fine to sort of go at your own pace, ask more questions and take photos when interested and hustle along when you aren’t, but in a group tour it’s only fair to pretty much stick to the itinerary.
5. “Please do not be a teenager.”
That is a direct quote from one of the guides currently with a group of teenagers. Understandable. Let’s chalk this one up to please listen before asking questions, only ask question relevant to the tour or destination, don’t try to be a comedian, don’t climb on or touch things that aren’t meant to be climbed on or touched, use your indoor voice when indoors and probably also outdoors, and stop making out with your bae.
Photo via Sarah Freeman