How to Earn $50 an Hour as a Tour Guide in Your Own Town

Use knowledge of your home turf to help travelers have a great visit. You can earn $50 to $75 an hour. Here's how to get started.

Out-of-town family or friends likely turn to you for advice before they visit your area. But why stop there? Turn your knowledge about your town into extra cash as a tour guide for other visitors.

Tour guides are paid well, too — some earn $50 to $75 an hour.

Of course, it helps to live in an area that has a continuous stream of visitors from around the world. But if you’re in a smaller city, don’t despair. Smaller cities are perhaps even more in need of such guides because less tourist information is available, which makes do-it-yourself tours more difficult.

Create themed itineraries

Successful tour guides think about themes that prepare them for different types of travelers. Consider activities or destinations that are:

Kid-friendly: Where would you take your kids or grandkids in your town? Water parks, children’s museums, tours by horse-drawn carriage, amphibious vehicles and double-decker buses are often good bets. Think like a kid: Are you home to a Legoland theme park, a deer park or a beach with seals?

Historical: Are you in a city of monuments, old gold mines or antebellum mansions? If there are many sites to choose from, become an expert in the ones that offer the most value to travelers. Also, learn those sites’ business hours and discount ticket days. Know when they are overcrowded.

Centered on nightlife: If seeing your city at night from the top of the tallest building is a must-do, learn all the details and best times to go. If that experience is overrated, think about recommending a rooftop restaurant, Ferris wheel or park on a hill. If there’s a unique, off-the-beaten-path watering hole, suggest it to travelers who want a truly local experience.

Focused on the outdoors: If your city’s climate and amenities lend themselves to sports or outdoor activities, know the best venues. Where are rental bikes located? Is there a place to kayak or an especially scenic hike?

Food friendly: Every city and region has its specialties. Whether it’s pulled pork, dim sum or pizza, know the most iconic spots and where locals go. Some travelers want the T-shirt from a famous restaurant, while others are looking for the most authentic food. Find out the time and place for your town’s best farmers market, too.

Offbeat: Point people toward things that are just plain original to your town. Is it home to the world’s largest ball of yarn? A haunted house? A gum wall? The last stand of Bonnie and Clyde? These things may not make a tour unto themselves, but they are a good way to help spice up the trip for visitors.

Build your business

Advertise and market yourself, or use a site like one of these to connect with clients:

  • Rent a Local Friend: It costs $119.99 per year to become part of this website, which describes itself as “a community of people who love to travel and be in touch with different cultures.” Once your application to become a “Local Friend” is accepted, you can create a profile and market it to travelers.
  • ToursByLocals: If this site accepts you, it will provide free training, marketing and payment processing, among other benefits. There are no upfront costs. Instead, the website takes a percentage of your tour booking fees. That percentage is set when your application is accepted, according to the site’s tour guide agreement.
  • Vayable: This site is for “independent people who create unique experiences to share with others.” Known as “Vayable Insiders,” these people include tour guides as well as taxi drivers, teachers, chefs, writers, farmers and dancers, for example. Insiders offer cultural, educational and recreational experiences to travelers. Vayable receives a 25 percent commission that comes out of fees paid by travelers to its Insiders, according to the site’s terms of use.

What great activities and places do you share with out-of-town visitors? Share with us in comment below or on our Facebook page.

Nancy Dunham
Nancy Dunham @NancyDWrites

Nancy Dunham is a freelance journalist based in the Washington, D.C., metro area.


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