How to Make Money as a Tour Guide

make money as a tour guide

Are you someone who enjoys traveling? Do you want to make someone’s travel experience more fulfilling? Then being a tour guide could be something you might enjoy doing. What’s more, you can also get paid while doing something you like.

Working as a tour guide has a lot of benefits. Money-wise, it’s one of the fun non-traditional ways to earn money while you’re in-between jobs or as a side hustle. You also get to explore different places while also sharing their culture and history with other people. If you have a passion for traveling and meeting new people, then you should give this a try. 

Read on and find ways on how to make money as a tour guide. 

What Does a Tour Guide Do?

You might have encountered a tour guide before — whether you’re on your school trip or a family vacation. But what does the job entail?

For starters, a tour guide is someone who gives guided tours to a group of people. These people are usually tourists or visitors who want to explore a place. A tour guide should be an expert or at least someone with advanced knowledge of an area. They usually share some basic information or trivia about the place to make it more entertaining for the tourists. 

They need to be equipped with different travel destinations in a location such as historic sites, museums, natural attractions, and even areas with good sceneries. As traveling today becomes easily accessible, more and more people want to go to places that could make a great photo. Hence, a tour guide should know these points of interest well.

How are Tour Guides Classified?

A tour guide’s job depends on their employer and location. They can either be self-employed or public- or private-employed. Self-employed tour guides frequent pubic travel destinations like parks or natural attractions where they don’t have to apply for a permit or other legal document to visit. 

On the other hand, those employed by a government’s office or a private travel agency have more options to offer. They usually have connections with other companies that allow them to work together through partnerships or sponsorships. 

Nevertheless, tour guides have three main areas of specialization, namely, historical tour guiding, corporate tour guiding, and nature or eco-tour guiding. Nowadays, however, more and more people are encouraged to become tour guides even outside of these three basic categories. 

Today, people want to have local experiences. In response to this, peer-to-peer travel experiences have become popular. Essentially, this means local tour guides are preferred to conduct local experiences that are more akin to their day-to-day lives. 

How to Make Money as a Tour Guide?

Tour guide

In a day, a tour guide can earn between $50 and $150. This depends on several factors like experience, locations, training, type of tour, and others. 

Most entry-level tour guides only earn about $8-$15 per hour. However, it can amount to as high as $60,000 per year as you grow your experience. 

For beginners, there are different platforms that you can use to test the waters as a tour guide. Here are some of them.

1. ToursByLocals

As its name suggests, ToursbyLocals connect tourists to the locals in a community. They do this by hiring local guides that can provide insightful travel experiences to its customers. As a company, they are already recognized by different travel platforms and even featured in different publications. They are known for their private and customizable tours.

When booking, travelers can cite their requests which are accommodated by the local guides for a more tailor-fit experience. Moreover, ToursByLocals handle all tour payments so that you can focus more on the client’s experience. Once you are accepted as an official tour guide under them, your responsibilities involve the following: 

  • Personally deliver the tours you’ve agreed to do in a friendly, professional manner
  • Respond quickly (within 24 hours) and professionally to customer inquiries and booking requests
  • Keep your availability and account up to date.

To apply, go to their website and complete all necessary requirements.

2. WithLocals

Another peer-to-peer travel experience provider, WithLocals feature three tour options — Withlocals Originals, Personal host offers, and Best of both worlds. 

Withlocals Originals

WithLocals Originals entail their best-selling tours hosted by multiple hosts. This is perfect for beginner tour guides who want to learn from experienced guides while also assisting the trips and tours arranged by the company. 

Personal host offer

On the other hand, personal host offers are tours you specifically developed. This gives you the freedom to plan the itinerary, set the price, and manage the agenda you want to deliver. This could be done if you already have enough experience as a tour guide or if you are already well familiarized with the area.

Best of both worlds

This is suited for those who want to have a combined experience of the initial options. With this, you can join a popular tour while also arranging your own hosting experience too.

Here are the responsibilities you need to watch out for as a WithHost tour guide,

  • Managing your bookings and timely communication with the customers
  • Making arrangements to provide services
  • Declaring your taxes as a freelancer according to the local laws
  • Arranging your personal insurance while providing the services (individual choice)

Another benefit of applying at WithLocals is their guaranteed payment. They have a payment system that assures your compensation, even with late cancellations and no shows.

To apply, go to their website and complete the application form and wait for them to contact you afterward. 

3. Shiroube

The word “shiroube” in Japanese means “to be a guide.” Compared with the previous providers, Shiroube is a relatively young company. However, it already has access to 3,000 cities worldwide. 

Their local guides can advertise their ad for travelers who frequent their website. Their local guides have different expertise so if you want to showcase a skill you have, this might be the right platform for you. Moreover, this is also available for almost anyone interested whether you’re a student or a professional, as long as you have the passion to accommodate tourists and showcase an activity, you can become a guide.

They originated as a company that wants to change the standard coordinated tours offered by most travel agencies. Instead, they allow their local guides to post about what they can offer and connect them with people interested to experience that activity. They also take value in making deals with guides so as to offer a more customized experience.

To become a guide, go to their website to apply. You will be required to create an account and place an ad for the experience you want to lead. A maximum of three ads is allowed for you — enough to showcase the diversity of your activities.

4. Rent a Local Friend

For those who want to start small, you can try this platform. Rent a Local Friend is a community of people who likes to travel and meet new people. They have over 1400 registered ‘Local Friends’ present in 294 countries.

To be a Local Friend, go to their website to create your own profile. Verify your identity first then proceed to the payment of $80 Lifetime Membership fee investment. You can have your own page where you can feature your services, price, and other details on what you can offer as a guide. Additionally, you can gain access to Local Friend’s global community where you can collaborate with other Local Friends. 

5. Airbnb Host Experience

Airbnb is known for its crafted local experiences. They are popular for offering short-term accommodations but they also have Airbnb Experiences. This feature was recently launched to cater to local hosts who want to lead an activity that they can share to tourists. These experiences range from a typical tour to classes on culinary, pottery, and almost any activities you can provide. 

What makes this enticing is the diversity of activities you can choose from. You can curate an experience with only your skills as capital. Some of the popular activities in Airbnb Experience include food tours, photography classes, and hiking. They have three main categories — culture and history, food and drink, and nature and outdoor. However, don’t be limited to these categories. Airbnb Experiences are known for their unique experiences so you can be as creative as you want.

Once accepted as a host, a dashboard for your own performance can be accessed to track your progress. This dashboard can give you insights on client feedback, how to advance your activity, how much you’ve earned so far, and other tools that can improve your experience. Airbnb also has insurance of up to $1 million to cover in case of emergencies. 

To apply go to their website to learn about their standards that can guide you in developing your own experience. Airbnb requires you to submit an activity proposal to them to screen their applications efficiently. Be prepared to have a draft of your activity with photos to capture the essence of your proposed experience. 

After submission, Airbnb will review your application based on the standards they have in place. Here’s a glimpse of what they are looking for in an experience:

  • Led by a knowledgeable and passionate host
  • Guests participate hands-on or are immersed in an activity
  • It gives guests access to a special place or community
  • It tells the story of a host’s unique perspective

How to Become a Better Tour Guide

Tour guide

What other steps can you take to enhance your credibility as a tour guide?

Applying to any of these platforms can give you the boost to enhance your skills as a tour guide. However, apart from being affiliated with them, there are also other steps you can take to improve your guiding and hosting experience.

1. Get licensed

Although it is not a requirement, there are several travel destinations that require licensed tour guides. An example is Washington D. C.. Research your community’s requirements for tour guides. This can give you leverage in getting more clients as they are reassured knowing that you are certified by the government to operate.

2. Create a blog or page for your services.

To expand your market, you can also try starting your own page. Compared to the limitations of a travel app’s platform, you can have more freedom in creating the content you want to have. If your page gains enough traction, you can even use it as your main source of clients.

It’s important to get as much feedback as you can from your customers. Let them post a review of their experience on your public account so that others can see the legitimacy of your services. 

If your page has enough followers, you can even use it as an additional income for you. Many travel personalities have been monetizing on their own content through social media ads and other promotional tools.

3. Start a vlog.

Don’t limit yourself with traditional ways to promote your services. Recent trends lean towards video marketing since they are easier to digest by the audience. It also allows you to showcase the sceneries of your locale better. 

With an entertaining script, your services could go a long way. Viewers can also see your personality from your vlog making them familiar with you even though you haven’t met them yet. 

Like blogs and social media page, vlogging can also earn you extra cash. Upload it in Youtube and other communication channels to gain more viewers. It can be tricky to start this, but if you have consistent content that is interesting enough for the viewers, its benefits could outweigh the challenges you encountered.

Final Thoughts

Being a tour guide is a rewarding job. Aside from the financial benefits, tour guides can meet new people, promote their local community, as well as create meaningful experiences of their own. 

If you meet the basic qualifications of being a tour guide and you’re willing to commit your time and effort to the job, you can even earn more. Being a tour guide is one of the jobs that pay under the table. However, this doesn’t mean it’s illegal but instead, it implies more flexibility to your work style. 

Whatever platform you decide to work with, always remember that your effectiveness as a tour guide lies on how well you articulate the experiences you want to share with other people.


C. James

C. James is the managing editor at Wealth Gang. He has a degree in finance and a passion for creating passive income streams and wealth management.