The best way to get your bearings in a new city is to join a walking tour. In practically every city we traveled, we took a walking tour to learn our way around and get insights from a local. But even more than suggesting everyone take a walking tour in a new place, we suggest a free walking tour. Yes, we understand the obvious reason, but there are many more!
1. Yes, They Are Free! Of course, getting something for free is better than paying for it. Although they are free, however, guides work for tips, so you should tip if you enjoy a tour. Still, this is cheaper than a paid tour.
2. They Have Better Guides. Ignore the old adage that you get what you pay for. Free walking tours are often provided by history or art majors who have a vast knowledge of what they are going to show you, versus someone taking a job as a guide and following a script. And, because they work for tips, they work harder to provide you with a fabulous tour.
3. You’ll Get Recommendations. We have found the guides on free walking tours are more than happy to provide their personal recommendations for a great meal, nearby park, cool shopping, or an off-the-radar site or attraction — almost your city concierge.
4. It’s Easier to Book. With so many tour operators in heavy tourist areas, those who are less-traveled will turn to the big names and often don’t realize free tours are available to them. Most free tours require you to stop by a certain location versus having to book a reservation and find a booth to pay.
5. You Don’t Have to Plan. Spending up to three hours on a tour means a full morning or afternoon when you don’t have to plan a thing, and you can trust someone else to lead the way. However, with a free tour, they typically have multiple times throughout the day so you also have tons of flexibility.
6. You Can Reschedule. If you have a morning where you just can’t quite get your kid out of bed and out of the hotel and can’t make the 10 a.m. tour, just try again the next day. Stumble upon a museum that you’d rather see instead of meeting a tour group? Again, try the next one. You won’t lose your money if you have to miss a tour and aren’t held to a strict itinerary.
We’ve given you the reasons why you should skip the expense tours for a free one, but if you worry your child is too young to handle a walking tour, be sure you read 7 tips to survive a walking tour with a toddler.