While you’re out there traveling the world, there is no better or quicker way to get yourself oriented in a new city than a walking tour. As luck would have it, these tours are gaining popularity, and many big cities are starting to offer free walking tours. These guided tours will provide you with a few hours of entertainment and information, as well as the opportunity to meet new people and learn the ropes in a new place. These tours are tip-based, so typically the guides are entertaining and full of information and stories of the city, ready to provide a laugh or answer your questions in order to earn a tip at the end. By the time the tour is over, you will know the lay of the land and will probably have a smile on your face and a new friend at your side.
My first experience with a free walking tour was in Sydney, Australia. I had never even heard of such a thing, but I was immediately intrigued when a friend of my local host suggested it. I utilized my trusty pal, Google, to find the details about a time and meeting place, and the next day I set off, unsure of what to expect. The tour met in the morning, and over the course of the next few hours I made my way all over the city, laughing and learning along the way. By the time the tour ended, I not only had a great overview of the large city, but I had also ended up meeting a new travel partner as well. To the delight of many, the local walking guide was branching out with his business and was starting a pub crawl tour too, so that night many people of the tour reconvened for a chance to be led from one cool bar to another to experience the city’s nightlife.
After having such a fantastic experience with my first free walking tour I decided to keep this method of exploration in mind as I set out to travel the world. While traveling through Central and Eastern Europe I came across multiple free walking tours in Budapest, Bratislava, Prague and Ljubljana. Budapest was heavily into the free walking tour scene, offering a General City walking tour, as well as more specific walking tours to cover the Jewish Quarter, and Communist times, and each night a local guide hosted the ever-popular walking tour of the Ruin Bars. In my short time there I participated in nearly every one of the tours and learned a lot of useful information along the way. Each day I made new acquaintances and oftentimes we would continue to explore the city together long after the tour ended.
When traveling alone and on a budget, there is no question that a free walking tour will be a useful tool to help you maximize the enjoyment of your time in a foreign city. My advice would be to research and see if the city you are going to offers a free walking tour, and if so, get started your first day there! Tours are typically held in the mid-morning and early-afternoon. By checking out a free walking tour you have nothing to lose, but the amount of information, entertainment, and friendships you may gain are priceless.