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What Is a Walking Tour?

By K. Kinsella
Updated May 23, 2024
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Walking tours are day trips or sight seeing holidays on which the participants primarily travel on foot. A walking tour has a designated start and end point and in many instances, the tours are lead by travel guides. Some tours are focused around visiting particular landmarks or popular tourist destinations while other tours are aimed at hikers who wish to explore particular regions of a nation.

Many travel companies organize tours that last for several days or weeks. On such a walking tour, the travel company typically arranges accommodation for the participants at various points along the route. Lengthy walking tours often take place in rural areas or places of natural beauty such as mountain ranges or wilderness areas. Travelers on these tours sometimes camp because hotels and other types of accommodation are not always located within easy reach of the tour route. Some companies offer travel holidays in which participants embark on several walking trips in different areas but travelers are transported by bus or coach between each walking tour.

Tourism firms often arrange walking tours in major cities; these tours typically last for a few hours. A city walking tour may be structured around visits to certain tourist sites such as city palaces, museums or churches. The participants normally have a certain amount of time to tour each landmark before the tour resumes. Tour organizers may include the cost of visiting tourist sites into the walking tour but some firms just charge a flat fee for the tour and participants may or may not choose to pay entrance fees to the attractions along the route.

Walking tours are either guided or self-guided. On a guided tour, the participants normally pay a flat fee to the travel company but people on the tour are often encouraged to tip the tour guide. Firms that promote self-guided tours usually print maps that detail the best walking routes and highlight the major landmarks that travelers will see during the trip. Some firms charge a fee for these maps but in many cities, municipal tourism agencies distribute free walking tour maps to travelers so as to encourage visitors to tour the city.

In the absence of a human guide, some firms that operate self-guided tours rent out recorded audio guides that travelers can listen to during the walk. Tourism agencies may charge a rental fee for these devices but in many instances tour operators just require walkers to pay a deposit for the audio sets and travelers get the deposit money back if they return the audio guide. Some audio guides involve compact discs or digital audio recorders and the recordings are timed to last for the duration of the trip. Other firms use satellite radio and Global Satellite Positioning (GPS) technology to ensure that participants hear relevant information as they pass each landmark along the route.

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Discussion Comments

By Fa5t3r — On Jul 12, 2014

@MrsPramm - That's one of the reasons I prefer to take a paid tour, rather than one of the free ones. They usually have fewer people and it's much easier to hear the guide, so you don't get so distracted. And they often have more specific themes, which can be nice.

I took a ghost themed walking tour of Prague a few years ago and it was amazing. You learn about parts of history that you'd otherwise never know.

By MrsPramm — On Jul 11, 2014

@Iluviaporos - I've done that in a few places too and I would just caution people to be careful about which tours they take and how much attention they pay while on them.

A couple of the tours I took were pretty terrible. But the worst experience I had was when I was taking a walking tour in Dublin and I had my pocket picked and lost my wallet. I was probably an easy mark, because we were in a crowd of strangers and I was paying attention to the guide.

I ended up having to spend half the day at the police station and then reordering all my credit cards, which was not much fun.

By lluviaporos — On Jul 11, 2014

There are some fantastic free walking tours in cities around the world. I traveled around Europe with a friend of mine for a few months and we did a lot of walking tours in that time. We would do one on the first day in a new city and use it to orient ourselves and figure out what else we wanted to do.

Often they were taken by locals or students and they were more than happy to give you all kinds of advice about food and drinking and money exchange and basically anything else you needed to know. And they could tell you all kinds of stories about the city that you probably would never have known otherwise.

The tours are technically free, although you're expected to tip the guide at the end, which is a good deal for everyone. The guide is usually showing around a good twenty or thirty people so it's not like they don't get compensated for their time.

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