Many travelers would benefit from hiring a tour guide. Not only do they supply you with knowledge of your unfamiliar surroundings, but they can keep you safe, find you the stellar meals, and offer plenty of tips along the way. But even though talking is a big part of their job, there are a few things that polite tour guides will almost never tell you.
You Should Give Them a Tip
Tipping etiquette can be one of the most awkward and confusing parts of traveling, so understanding the rules in advance can be a huge help. When it comes to tour guides, many people assume that they don't need to give a tip if they already paid for the tour. Since money is such a delicate subject, most tour guides won't contradict this belief — but the fact is, tipping the guide is almost always proper etiquette.
Just as with other industries that depend heavily on tips, tour guides are often paid lower rates under the assumption that they will be making extra cash through tips. And while many guides love what they do, there's no doubt that it's a tough job involving lots of walking, talking, and research. If you're feeling nervous about figuring out how much to tip, your best bet is to talk to a local expert such as your hotel's front desk clerk. They'll be able to clue you in as to the appropriate local etiquette.
They Won't Always Want to Answer Questions
One of the biggest perks of taking a guided tour is the ability to have your questions answered by an expert — but this doesn't necessarily give you free rein to ask whatever you want, whenever you want. While tours are definitely interactive, the guide will generally set aside specific times to answer questions. In fact, a barrage of complex questions while they're trying to speak can throw a guide off and slow down the tour — and they may naturally give answers to many questions if they're able to speak uninterrupted.
It's also important to remember that even the friendliest tour guide is just doing their job, and will likely not want to answer very many personal questions. Many of them will have heard these same questions over and over, and may feel irritated or downright uncomfortable about answering them. Similarly, on tours that involve meal breaks, most guides will want to actually take a break — chatting can be fun, but they may not want to continue answering questions until they finish eating and start the tour back up again.
They Wish You'd Come Prepared
Although many tours will provide details about what you should wear and bring, tour guides themselves may try to avoid being too pushy about it. However, this doesn't mean that they don't sometimes wish their guests would be a little more prepared. Unless otherwise specified in the parameters of the tour, guides aren't required to lug around extra sunblock, water, sweaters, or other things that tourists may have forgotten. Guides always want guests to have a good time, but there often isn't much they can do if people aren't prepared for the tour.
To get the most enjoyment out of a tour, it's important to think ahead. Dressing appropriately for the weather, wearing comfortable walking shoes, and bringing along any necessary items can all help to create a tour experience that is fun for everyone.
They Can Tell When You're Bored
Constantly interrupting a tour guide while they're trying to speak is poor etiquette — but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be engaged with what they're saying. While they would never point it out to your face, tour guides can generally tell when people aren't interested in what they're saying. Having guests who frequently yawn, space out, or repeatedly ask the guide to repeat themselves can be pretty frustrating and demoralizing, especially when the guide has worked hard to create a fun and engaging experience.
Guides are generally providing tours because they're interested in the topic they're talking about, and they want to be able to share that passion with the people they're talking to. While nobody can be 100 percent engaged all the time, paying attention to your body language is a good way to make sure your guide feels listened to and appreciated. Make eye contact, laugh at their jokes, and, when appropriate, ask any questions you may have — the tour will be more fun, and you'll really get the most out of your experience.