What is a Free Walking Tour?
Well, exactly what it means: a walking tour where you are not forced to pay. Wait, are they really free? Yes… and no. Basically, these tours are free of charge, but the guide will ask you for a collaboration at the end. A lot of people abandon the tours, maybe because it was not so interesting for them or just to avoid giving a tip. Nevertheless, I think the biggest advantage of free walking tours is that the guide makes a bigger effort to keep his audience entertained.
There are different kind of tours: in general, a free tour will take you to the most touristic spots of a city. But there are also some more alternative options. In Berlin I found a free tour around the local street art and the story of their authors. In Sao Paulo I went to a free food tour. Cool, isn’t it?
There are also different business models in the free walking tours. Some of them are used by agencies to promote their paid tours. Others are organised and guided by local volunteers and they are 100% free, but it is expected a tip at the end of the tour. If you don’t, you will feel bad —even though some nationalities in particular don’t mind not giving money.
Also it’s very common that the guides take their audience for a quick break and a snack in a particular place, where they receive a commission for what the guided guys spend. You don’t have to buy anything if you don’t want, you can find yourself another spot to get a souvenir or a drink.
How much tip should I leave?
In general, the amount of money I give reflects how I perceived the quality of the tour and the motivation of the guide. Sometimes, the guide will suggest certain amount, but well, if the Norwegian guy next to you wants to tip $30, great! You should tip whatever you think it’s alright.
Now, I compiled a list of free walking tours around the world, divided by continents. Just keep in mind that this is a work in progress because there are a lot of new tours all the time. Most of them are in English, but there are also tours in Spanish, German and other languages.