How to discover as much as possible if you only have 6 hours in the city?
You’re travelling to point B but have to spend 6 hours in point A before departing to your final destination. How do you spend your time there? My first thought is always if they have a ‘Free Walking Tour’? Have you heard about it before or even used it? I thought I’d tell you today why I’m such a big fan of it myself.
‘Free Walking Tour’ concept was created by Chris Sandeman in 2003 in Germany, Berlin. His company is currently offering tours in more than 13 countries and works with more than 400 guides. For example, freetour.com offers today tours in more than 250 cities and 90 countries and it’s getting more and more popular as it’s directly connected with demand and known for its high quality. If in the beginning it was more targeted to young people (especially backpackers and budget travellers), then now more than ever older generation has picked up on it and understood that these tours work better than the traditional alternatives thanks to the always ensured high quality and sustainable business model.
‘Free Walking Tour’ are not actually free. Unlike traditional tour guide service providers, there isn’t set price for the service that you have pay regardless of the experience. Instead, you pay your guide at the end according to how much you consider the experience is worth or how much you can give. It’s very rude to not pay at all or walk away before the end so that you wouldn’t have to pay. I have been to a ‘Free Walking Tour’ at least 10 times myself and have seen that the amounts paid vary from a few euros to around € 20. Since the value-price ratio is set by yourself, you will not feel that you overpaid for something or that the quality was not consistent with the price.
What does it mean that there is no fixed price? This means that the guide is much more enthusiastic. He or she knows that the income depends heavily on how many of the participants are enjoying it. Since this work is generally done alongside main income, these guides really enjoy their work and are invested in it. In general, guides are relatively young people. They are local, or have lived there for a long time, or enough to know about it and can share recommendations – from what is a good price-quality ratio dining place to what and where and where to buy for souvenirs and where to go to party in the evening. Each tour has its own guide, and often there is no strict company written plan for them, but they speak about the main places and draw attention to what they consider to be important.
Depending on the location, there are tours in different languages – English often some other languages (especially in Western Europe) such as French and Spanish. So far, I’ve found a ‘Free Walking Tour’ in every European capital, as well as other larger cities – lastly with the Amsterdam tour, the guide pointed out that to have the tour in a city it has to have historic value, different places to show within walking distance for 2-3 hours and all year round tourism. My best experiences so far have been in Tallinn, Brugges and Amsterdam. You can find the Free Walking Tour either by looking from Google or by searching from TripAdvisor. Often, the guides ask to leave feedback in the latter one, so that they are the first choice for the city’s tours.
As the ‘Free Walking Tour’ concept gets more and more popular day-to-day, it is necessary to pre-register in several of the cities. For example, in Amsterdam, they have group limit of 20 people, otherwise they would be fined by the city as they would interfere with traffic because of the big group. Keep this in mind and, if necessary, sign up early.
In larger and more visited cities they have tours several times a day, and they also have different topics – food tours, history tours, general informative tours, street art/urban tours, etc. For example, I took a night/evening tour in Brugges, where you walked a little further from the city center and beyond the main sights. In Sofia, however, I went to a food tour, where we talked a bit about general history and information, but also stopped at various places and street food stops where we could try traditional food samples.
Have you tried ‘Free Walking Tour’ before? If not, is it something you would like to try the next time you go on a trip?