Hello traveller! Today we will finally answer the big question of “how much to tip the guy in a free walking tour?” Not only will we talk about it from the tourist’s point of view, but I’ll also bring you the opinion of someone who has been a free tour guide (mine). I’m willing to be honest with you about everything… plus, at the end you’ll have the opportunity to ask me any questions in the comments! 😉
If you’re reading this article it’s probably because you’re going on a free tour, but, you have no idea how much to pay at the end of it. You don’t want to come up short (which would be frowned upon and perhaps not fair), but you also don’t want to give more money than is fair. You may have already been on a tour where you didn’t know how much to tip or you “snooped” to see how much others were paying to do the same.
I won’t keep you waiting any longer, let’s finally answer the typical questions that everyone has asked themselves at some point:
Looking for something specific?
How much should I pay for a free walking tour?
Let’s get to the most asked question of all: How much should I pay for a free walking tour?
First of all, I have to admit that I don’t like the term “tip” at all, as it implies that the guide already has a salary and the contribution you make is just a bonus. Nothing could be further from the truth, in fact, the guide does NOT keep everything he collects.
Moreover, the amount depends on each case: a good steak from a cider house is not the same as a hamburger from McDonald’s, nor is a ticket for AC/DC the same as a concert of your neighbour who plays the guitar. It makes sense, doesn’t it?
There are many factors to take into account: the length of the tour, the quality of the content, the size of the group, whether the guide answered questions, whether he cared about the people… Although the guide doesn’t keep all the money, the more money he gets, the more profit he will make in the end. So instead of asking ourselves how much to pay for a free tour, we should look at it in the following way: how much does the guide deserve to earn? (the more the guide collects, the more he earns)
It depends on his workload:
It can be that the guide has been given an itinerary and content already established, he/she has studied it and now he/she is exclusively dedicated to the tour (which is also fine); or it can be that the guide has created EVERYTHING from scratch, that is, apart from planning the itinerary and content, he/she has created the website, has invested in the website and has created the website: has created the website, has invested many hours creating content and trying to position it in Google, is in charge of social networks and manages the accounts on different platforms (TripAdvisor, Google My Business, guruwalk, freetour, freeguides…), is in charge of customer service, runs Google Adwords campaigns, buys the cards and other necessary materials, manages the reservations… I won’t go on for crying 🙁 Believe me, the weight in one case and in the other is very different.
Having said all this, how much to pay for a free tour is something very personal and subjective that depends on each situation. However, I CAN tell you how much people usually pay from my experience as a guide, I’ll be honest with you 😉.
How much do people usually tip the guide?
I confess that, to my shame, the first time I gave only 8-10 Bulgarian leva to the guide (equivalent to about 5 euros). I felt like I was doing a good deed! Since nobody and nothing was forcing me to do it… XD
I can defend myself by saying that I was an Erasmus student and I had a very tight budget… The truth is that nowadays (with some exceptions) I usually triple that amount, and luckily for all the guides, people are much more like my EGÓ (me in Greek) of the present than my EGÓ of the past 🙂
If many people paid only 5 euros, the business would be doomed to go bankrupt, so I take this opportunity to thank all my (generous) guests!
This is one of the wonders of this beautiful concept: if you are on a tight budget you don’t need to give much, while people who can afford it will be consistent with the value of the tour and contribute accordingly.
Yet you came into this article with the question of how much to pay for a free tour, expecting a more concrete answer, so I have to answer you:
If you didn’t like the free tour at all; you didn’t get useful information, the guide didn’t go off-script or answer questions, the group was huge, the tour was short, you were bored, they tried to sell you other things (the “friend’s” restaurant for example)… then give them 5 euros (per person), to cover expenses and a small profit margin. By giving you this answer I’m risking making a lot of enemies, but I sincerely consider it the appropriate thing to do when the person doesn’t make an effort to do their job well 🙁
If you liked the free tour; since it was more personalised, in a smaller group, the guide helped you with your doubts and questions, the walk lasted longer, the content was good… then pay 15 euros, 20 if he personally spent time with you to “solve” something you had asked him.
We have not yet talked about how much a free tour guide earns, as he/she does NOT keep all the tips you give him/her (not at all). I’ll tell you in a moment:
How much money does the guide make in each free tour?
Another very interesting unknown and a question I have been asked many times is: How much does it cost to work as a free tour guide?
Many people think that one can NOT make a living with this, that it is only useful for students to earn some extra money (FALSE). While others think, or directly assume, that guides make gold:
“If you have 20-30 people on a tour and each one gives you more than 10 euros, you make a bundle ONLY for a 2-hour tour”.
(because the guide doesn’t keep all the money, among many other reasons).
Maybe you are used to doing the tour in very large groups, this happens because most people sign up for the first (or second) free tour they find on the internet. This way the big companies get almost all the customers while the small businesses and freelancers (of which there are many more than you can imagine) have to settle for much less.
In a future article I will explain the inner workings of these companies (let me know in the comments if you want me to do so), there again there is a lot to be said…
It should also be taken into account that the guide must also survive in the low season, with the reduction in tourism that this entails. In addition, in order to estimate how much a free tour guide earns, we will also analyse the expenses he/she has:
What is the cost of organising a free tour?
Let’s talk about how much it costs to organise and run a free tour, contrary to what many people think, there are a few types of expenses. Of course the total cost will depend on many factors in each different situation, however there are certain common expenses that are repeated in each case:
The purchase of leads.
Almost 100% of the bookings are made on online platforms that are totally independent from the tour companies and, of course, their guides. These are intermediaries that charge the tour providers a fixed amount when they send them a booking, from 0.5 to 4.5 for each person within the same booking (sometimes the one who pays the most is the one who gets the clients). Nobody, I repeat nobody, promotes you for free.
The website (optional)
You have to pay an annual fee for the hosting and domain of a website, however that is not enough to have visibility on the net. It is necessary to invest a lot of resources to get a good SEO positioning, although you will always be below the platforms mentioned above and international companies. Another option is Google ads, for which you pay every time someone clicks on one of them (regardless of whether or not they decide to make a booking).
This really depends on the location in question, the self-employed fee (if there is one) varies from country to country. Also, I have not seen a profession with more bogus freelancers than this one (I was in this group).
There are a few established companies which, I imagine: they will be listed as limited companies, have liability insurance and pay social security for their “employees”… Another issue that creates a lot of controversy is the issue of tickets -> is it a payment (which should be accompanied by a receipt) or a voluntary donation?
These are the typical main costs that are usually incurred, although obviously they will vary depending on the situation. I hope all this helps you to determine how much to pay for a free tour, but the decision is always yours!
For my part I have nothing more to add, thank you very much dear reader for dedicating your time to me. I want to repay you by answering any questions you may have in the comments, so take advantage of it!
Did you like this article, do you agree or do you think differently, have you already participated in a free tour, the comment box is yours? 🙂
If you come to Athens remember to book the best tour at https://freetouratenas.top/en/, we would be happy to show you this wonderful city.
Ask whatever you want 🙂
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):
What does “free” mean? So, is it really a “free” tour?
“Free” could mean that the cost for it is 0, but it could also mean that the customer is free to decide how much to pay…
It is true that no specific amount is ever required, neither at the time of booking nor at the beginning of the tour. However, the guide lives from a part of the donations he receives at the end of the tour, and not all the money stays in his pocket.
It is necessary to invest money in marketing, advertising, affiliates and web maintenance to get people to come every day to these walking tours (Athens being also a very competitive city); and thus, have the opportunity to give a good service and be rewarded for it.
However, if you are not satisfied with the service offered by the guide, you are not obliged to pay any amount. On the other hand, the guide will always do his best to make sure that this does not happen.
How much is usually given as a “tip”?
In short, the amount is totally free, in fact that is the philosophy of free tour. The tourist, although we prefer to refer to him as “the guest”, is the one who decides how much the work of the guides (and what is behind them) is worth.
There will be people who liked the experience very much and decide to tip generously, while other people (perhaps with a tighter budget for the trip) will tip a little more…