Monday, 16 September 2013

A Few Thoughts on Guiding Walking Tours…

Here's David Tucker with a few GUIDELINES…

If it’s too good to be true it probably isn’t…

All that glitters isn’t free…

This is highly personal (it’s David writing this). But punting it up here because I suspect that it might well be of use/interest to some of you.

Mary and I have been getting out and about a fair old bit of late. (How does that American “home truth” go: your spend goes up in your 60s because you’re travelling a lot; it goes down in your 70s because you’re staying home; goes back up in your 80s because it’s all going to doctors!)

Anyway, yes, we’re travelling a fair old bit these days.

And on those travels walking tours are right up there – very high on our list of must-dos. (If you really want to get to know a place you have to walk it.)

And we don’t cut corners – financial or otherwise – in our “shopping” for walking tours.

There’s usually not much of a financial consideration because walking tours are inexpensive. But if getting the best costs a bit more we go to the well, that’s money well spent.

It’s money well spent because we want every last bit of our holiday to be special – we want it to be the best we can possibly make it. The line of thought runs: this is likely to be the only time we get to see this place – we’ve only got a few days here, maybe 100 hours of “consciousness time” – we’re sinking 5-10 percent of our time here into walking tours we want the best guides this place has to offer. We want great guides, star guides.

So while the “financial spend side” of it isn’t usually much of a factor, the two “time factors” – the “time spends” – are a big deal.

It’s two “time spends” because it’s – as I’ve indicated above – the percentage of our precious time in Seville or Shanghai or Bali or Copenhagen or Budapest that we’re “handing over” to local guides, to walking tours; but it’s also the “time spend” here at home in London, planning, preparing, finding out who the best guides are in any given city that we’re heading off to.

Casual – heading off to Madrid or Venice or Croatia thinking, “yeah, we’ll rustle up a couple of walking tours when we get there – pot luck will be ok” – ain’t how we do it.

It’s important to us to get it right. We call it the brain surgery principle: if I’m going to have brain surgery I don’t want some schlubber with a scalpel and a copy of Gray’s Anatomy.

Same goes for walking tours.

So we’ve actually got a checklist.  We “vet” ‘em according to that checklist. Stands to reason, I suppose, because we do this professionally – we know about walking tours, understand how important it is to have a top flight guide.

And that’s what I’m going to set out here. The London Walks Checklist. How to sort the wheat from the chaff when it comes to picking a guide. When it comes – in other words – to deciding who you’re going to give your most precious jewel to – your time.

And, yes, this will be a series. One checklist point per day. And, hey, it’s not three points and out, this one. We scrutinize. Bears repeating – this is important to us. Our checklist – which runs to double figures – reflects as much.

Okay, here’s the first pass we make with the London Walks scanner:

1.     Experience. Is he or she an experienced guide? Yes, experience – the best teacher of all.  We want somebody who knows what they’re doing. Who’s been doing it for a while. Someone who’s paid their dues. A guide who’s done his or her due diligence. It’s a pas de deux. I.E. we do our due diligence to get top flight, really experienced guides. Think of that scalpel.  That copy of Gray’s Anatomy.  No thanks. Not with my time. Not on my holiday.

To be continued…

A London Walk costs £9 – £7 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at


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