The Truth About Being a Tour Guide: Exposed

Three years ago I packed all of the things that I could squeeze into a suitcase and decided to begin a new adventure which would see me become a Tour Guide for Contiki.

Pictured: me (pretending to) drive the Contiki bus

Pictured: Me (expertly) driving the Contiki bus

Many people asked what it was like being a tour guide. It was hard work, providing constant challenges which frequently tested my patience, my character and my ability to continue to perform when I felt like there was nothing left for me to give. But on the other hand I have never known a job to be more rewarding, exhilarating and allowing for so much personal growth and self discovery. Simply put it was the best thing that I have ever done.

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What does it take to be successful?

1. Be yourself.

Recruiters for these positions can almost always see through you; even if you think otherwise. Show them exactly who you are and how amazing you will be as a guide. They can’t be fooled so don’t bother trying. 

2. Know what you are getting yourself into.

This is not a galavanting holiday where you can constantly be in a state of wanderlust with a big floppy hat; that is reserved for your travellers. You will be ensuring every single detail is organised to allow them to have the best time possible.

3. Patience.

Good things come to those who wait and to those who can save. The process from my first interview till my first day of work was around six months. Between this time there were several nerve-wracking interviews (with flights to get there), an enormous assignment, a country relocation and a two month unpaid training trip that took me to all of the European countries that Contiki visits.

4. A Positive Attitude.

This is probably one of the most important factors. You have to be “on” constantly. If you’ve ever been a server, imagine those overwhelming shifts, but without ever getting to call it a day (at least for weeks at a time).  A positive attitude always goes a long way in showing travellers (and yourself) a good time.

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5. Be willing to go the extra mile.

You can’t always know everything but as a guide but you need to make an effort for your travellers to find out anything they may want to know. This not only ensures that you are providing the best service that you possibly can but it also means that you are constantly learning and challenging yourself.

6. Blood, Sweat and Tears.

Yes you read that correctly. To become a tour guide you have to give it all you have got and then a little bit more. This means there will be times where you will want to throw in the towel, to cry, to pull out the hair on the other side of your head (as you are already patchy on one side) but in the end it’s all worth it.

There is no way to sugarcoat this for you; training to become a tour guide is brutal. Contiki and Topdeck have two month unpaid training trips that see eager tour guides and drivers taken for a thrilling adventure through different regions.

Every day on training is like riding a rollercoaster, first there is the initial excitement and nervousness. Each morning mimics lining up for this crazy high speed ride where you try ignoring the riders before you who couldn’t hack it. You remind yourself that you are on training because you want this more than anything. 



So what is it like to be a tour guide?

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My life was on the road included no permanent address and as such stability was a foreign concept and the prospect of travelling to different locations on a constant basis filled me with immense pleasure. I was having luscious affairs with many cities; each time they revealed more to me, just as a person does when you get to know them. I was seeing their most attractive parts, eating their best food, walking their streets and then discarding them as I moved along to different cities.

Early on in my guiding years I discovered that being able to facilitate unforgettable experiences for others was one of the best parts of the job. To know that I was a small part of someone else’s journey in finding their own identity, broadening their horizons or being able to muster the courage to do something that they never thought they could, was not only humbling but also immensely satisfying.



Guiding allowed me to unconsciously search for moments that left me feeling breathless; upon further reflection these moments were pivotal points in my life. I knew that I had hit the daily jackpot; knowing this allowed me to have the most incredible time coupled with some unforgettable experiences. I never had to deal with the pressure of only having two weeks a year to have the time of my life.

I owe my best years to being a tour guide. I took a leap of faith and was prepared to work as hard as I possibly could to get the job. In return, I’ve been left with memories that I know I will cherish forever, stories I will share for years to come and friendships that transcend borders and time.

Becoming a guide was never part of my ‘grand plan’ but as I have since discovered, the best things in life aren’t part of this ‘grand plan’ that we make for ourselves as life is passing us by. 

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