Showing interest in a career as a guide

Tourist guides show visitors around places of interest, such as towns and cities, historic buildings, gardens, religious sites or museums and art galleries.

As a guide you could work in one place such as a castle or historic house or accompany groups on day trips to interesting places or sites.

You would escort groups around the site or area and give information about history, purpose, architecture and other points of interest.

Guided tours could be sightseeing trips, tours for special interest groups or themed walks.

You could also work as a ‘driver guide’, taking small groups of tourists on guided tours around places of interest in a car or minibus.

Your hours would vary depending on the job. Seasonal work is common and you may be able to work part-time. You could work 40 hours a week or more during the tourist season.

As a guide in an historic building, you may have regular hours while for other types of work your hours will be more variable.

You are likely to work at weekends and sometimes in the evening.

You would usually spend most of your working time on your feet, and could work indoors or outdoors.

Rates of pay vary depending on the employer and the location.

Most tourist guides are self-employed and charge fees. See the Association of Professional Tourist Guides website for details of recommended fees for qualified guides.

You would not normally need any set qualifications to start training as a tourist guide, but you would need a good standard of general education.

It would be an advantage if you have experience in jobs that involve dealing with the public and giving presentations. It could be useful if you speak a foreign language fluently, but this is not usually essential.

You can do courses and take exams which are accredited by the Institute of Tourist Guiding. Depending on the type of guiding you want to do, you could work towards qualifications such as:

l Level 2: Fixed Route Commentary, Interpretation and Presentation – for paid or voluntary work, guiding visitors round attractions such as galleries, cathedrals or stately homes, or on fixed route tours such as river trips and open top bus trips

l Level 3 Flexible Route Commentary, Heritage Interpretation and Presentation – for work as a guide in areas such as city and town centres, or in visitor attractions, historic buildings or heritage sites

l Level 4: Blue Badge in Tourist Guiding – for all aspects of guiding.

In some places, such as Westminster Abbey and York Minster, Blue Badge guides are the only guides allowed (apart from in-house staff).

Courses are run by local and regional tourist bodies, colleges and other institutions. Visit the Institute of Tourist Guiding website for details of accredited courses. See the Guild of Registered Tourist Guides website for details of regional tourist boards.