Myths and Truths about being a Tour Guide in Lima

Thanks for visiting this article, I imagine that if you are interested in this topic it is because:

a) You have no idea what this profession is about, or you think it’s just a hobby 😒 (don’t feel bad, many people feel the same about it).
b) you know someone who is or wants to be a tour guide and you want to understand this profession a bit more.
c) you are interested in becoming a tour guide but you don’t know if it is for you.

Whatever the reason BE WELCOME, I hope enjoy this the article and clears up your doubts, by the way, if you want to know more about this topic feel free of leaving a message at the bottom of the page. Now yes, let’s start …

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After 14 years as a tour guide I can assure you that this is one of the most misunderstood careers out there. I have heard it all, from: working as a tourist guide is like being a painter, you will make no money, until this very famous one: the tour guides only seek to marry foreigners … I have also had many ups and downs in my profesional life, and there have been times when I have wanted to give up, but after this long time doing mainly what I love I have reaffirmed my love for the profession and above all things I have understood that the professional tour guide is so much more than just a guide, we are teachers, psychologists, artists with a comedian vein, storytellers, passionate defenders of our culture, we never runs out of words to say, hate uncomfortable silences, although we know that there are moments when silence during a long tour is part of a good service, and above all we are ambassador of our nation before millions of visitors who will pass through our hands during our active working life … – wow, all those this are tour guides? You may ask, and yes, we are that, and even more.

Some myths and truths about the tour guide career:

1 This is a very glamorous job:

yes, sometimes, especially when you go to those luxury restaurants and everybody serves you as a king because you are with “the group”, or when you travel and are given a 5-star hotel room and You feel like in a Hollywood movie; but when you have to be the one who puts the dishes on the table and helps to serve the food for your group because the restaurant is to busy, or when one of your passengers does not feel good because of altitude sickness and you have to run out of the hotel at midnight to get some medicines, or you have to comfort your client when his/her partner is ill, and what if this person has food poisoning? Who you thing will grab the plastic bag for this person to do what he has to do? Ok , ok, these things don’t happen every day, but in those moments the word glamour is completely forgotten and is replaced by your passion for service, we do all with dignity, pride, humbleness, charm, and all framed with a big smile.

2 It is a super relaxed job:

No, tour guides handle the emotions we project very well, we can be smiling and looking very calm talking to our group, and at the same time be handling X unpredictable events: the bus is stuck 20 blocks away in traffic and will not be on time to pick us up; there is a protest and the main square was closed and tourists will not be able to enter to see the “changing of the guards”; The restaurant reservation is for a specific time and we cannot be late… and as if all said was not enough, you have a client saying that in their tour information she has included a museum that is not within your budget… ayayayyyyyy…. this work is for someone with steel nerves.

Being a tour guide is like any other job, and I would said that sometimes even more demanding, most of my independent colleagues and I work during the high season in average from 10 to 12 hours per day, and it is like everything, you work more and you earn more.

3 You earn super well:

It depends, and it depends on many things, the first thing is your experience and resume, if you have years in the market your work will be valued and you will have work to choose from, literally! But first relax…remember that this has to do with your experience, and there are no shortcuts to it, if they do not know you they will not pay you well, so be patient, once you are there you can live well. I remember that in 2007 when I started, I earned $ 15 a day for a 4-hour tour 😭

4 Tourist guides eat delicious food:

yes, yes and a thousand times yes. Peruvian tour guides, and especially Lima guides, eat delicious every day at work, we go to the best restaurants, we are invited to eat often and we love food (maybe some of us love it too much, I gained 20 kilos since I started working as a guide, and I’m not the only one). This is one of the greatest pleasures of our profession.

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5 We receive gifts:

yes, but it is not always and this should not be your motivation to become a tour guide. It is true that some restaurants and shops where you go often with tourists generally appreciate you enough to show their gratitude by giving you a gift, invite you lunch or find another form of showing their appreciation, but this does not happen every day or to all the guides, and will definitely take time for you to be in that level. It is also true that tourists tend to give you a token or present as a way of thanking you for the tour, but these objects are generally more of sentimental value than monetary, I keep most of them: ¨thank you cards, magnets and some souvenirs. We can not forget the famous tips that are a sign of your client’s satisfaction with your service, BUT, don’t think that all tourists offer tips! In reality there are few countries where this is part of the culture, and you SHOULD NOT become a guide if you expect to live on tips.

6 tour guides work alone:

This is another huge NO, guides learn about teamwork since day 1, and you learn it the hard way many times. You arrive to the very pretty, very fashionable, to be the one who conducts the whole show, but once on the bus you meet who will be your buddy and best friend the rest of the day, the driver, who is the expert of the route; If you do “click” with him on the tour it will be the most entertaining and fun experience for all the participants. My driver–friends have not only transmitted me their knowledge, but also helped me to work with many tour agencies, their recommendation worth gold.

You will also find the TC (tour conductor), known as TD (tour director) too, the person in charge of the group, who can be a local or foreign tour guide, or the representative of the company that hires you, in many cases they know much more than you, and you must learn to be respectful, give the microphone as many times needed, and listen to their comments to improve the tour, many times swallowing your own pride. Many of my greatest friends in tourism are TCs who have taught me more on the field than what I’ve learned in my 3-year career on a classroom. Keep in mind that there is more people: the staff of the agencies that hire you (generally operations), restaurants, hotels and even museums, this is a job to socialize.

7 All tourists are wonderful people:

🤦🏻‍♀️ The answer is a big NO, we work with humans, humans are complex and there are all kinds of people everywhere. In my experience, 99% of my tourists have been kind, from which 50% have been very considerate and have even become friends. But that 1% !!…. That tiny group is the one I remember the most! 😂. Working with tourists can be easy if you are respectful of other cultures, to reach that level of respect you must investigate and be curious, but above all to be successful as a guide you must be empathetic.

8 you work when you want:

I’m not going to deny that before becoming a tour guide this was what attracted me the most about this job, but I can say that over time you learn to TAKE ADVANTAGE of every job opportunity that presents in front of you, after a while many people will start calling you workaholic, I have worked for years on my birthday, mothers day, national holidays, Christmas and New Year, and I am not the only one! My daughter was about to call me auntie 😩 😂 … Unfortunately this is not a rare mistake among us, which often ends up destroying friendships and family relationships … sometimes it is a silent problem, since you are always surrounded by people and never feel isolated, but eventually you notice that you were left behind for parties and you suddenly feel alone, my advise is to be careful with this.

As a guide you must learn to manage your income and time, we have a high season and a low one, this can be a problem regarding to loans or financial projections that you could assume in long term. In our business, speculation about the next year is normal, guides generally feel anxious about this topic thinking if next will be a good year. Here the secret is to “save bread for May” as we say in Peru, not to spend everything all your money even if you are doing super well and have bookings for the rest of the year, on this topic I imagine that most tour guides will always remember 2020 as the year that started with one of the best projections and that ended as a nightmare for the tourism industry in the world.

Remember that guides are ambassadors of our beloved country, you learn it the good way or bad way, it is very sad to think that many tourists leave with a bad image of the people of the country visited only because the treatment of their guide was not the friendlier, they will come back home and as time passes by will associate the treatment given by its guide as the way how we all are the treatment of his guide, for example, Limeños (people from Lima) are unkind, it sounds exaggerated but it is real in most cases, I hope you always keep this in mind if you want to be a guide because it is a big responsibility. Once you are one you are no longer just you, you represent us all. After reading this entire article, do you think you can be a tour guide? do you still think is an easy job?

Find out if you can be a tour guide by checking a check in the list below:

  • Are you sociable? Are you afraid to have all eyes on you? You will be the center of attention on every tour.
  • Are you creative ? remember that you will have to solve problems and you will have to deal with many complicated situations that do not come in “the manual”.
  • Do you know how to manage your time and money? Do you like to save money?
  • Do you love to read and learn? I remind you that you will never stop learning and you will never know enough, books will become your best friends.
  • And most importantly, are you empathetic? This quality will lead you to success.

If you marked yes to all, CONGRATULATIONS ! Remember that in Peru we have a law that protects us, only those who study the technical career called Oficial Tour Guide (3 years) or the university career of tourism (5 years) can work in this beautiful activity legally and without harming the formal tour guides

My last words: if you came to this article for option a). I hope that you have cleared up your doubts about our job and that you do not think of it as a hobby again 🤦🏻‍♀️, if you came for option b), congratulations, that person who wants to be a guide will have a beautiful job, please direct, advise and support him/her, it is the most needed in the beginning. And if you come for option c) and you are still interested, Good Luck future colleague! Receive a big hug, study, always innovate and never give up, remember that you should be the best ambassador of your country and prepare to live many adventures.

I hope you liked this article. A virtual hug to everyone.

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