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Call of the Wild: Learn how to be a tour guide or driver

Being a tour guide is the best job in the world
Being paid to travel the globe is the ideal job. Driving around exotic places having amazing adventures while seeing the sights and meeting new people – what could be better?

However, don’t be fooled into thinking it’s an easy ride – being a tour guide or expedition driver goes hand-in-hand with huge responsibilities.

As an ambassador for your company, it will be down to you to ensure travellers and holidaymakers have a memorable trip – for the right reasons.

You’ll be able to easily build up a rapport with people and you’ll be expected to be able to grasp local knowledge quickly.

That said, if you’re lucky enough to land such an exciting role, be prepared to have a “once-in-a-lifetime adventure”.

Necessary Skills

So what skills do you need to ensure you make the grade?

Zoe Brooks, head of recruitment for operations at Tucan Travel, says: “More often than not our tour leaders will have significant experience travelling independently in non-English-speaking  countries. They will likely have had some experience of a group tour too, which really helps in understanding the dynamics of the tours we operate.

“They need to display a clear ability to think on their feet and employ a high level of common sense to deal with situations for which there is no guiding manual.”

 Most tour operators will advertise available positions and expect you to send in a CV and form – or apply online. Should you be lucky enough to be offered an interview, be ready to impress.

And, if you make it through that, many companies have intense training courses that last as long as two months, which you may have to fund yourself.

But the hard work will be worth it, says Claire Hanney, recruitment and operations supervisor with Contiki, describing being a tour guide as “the
best job in the world”.

“We are looking for people who relate well to others and who are enthusiastic, passionate, excellent communicators and professional,” she says.
“We interview a lot of people, and anyone who has those qualities, and has the right to work in the UK, is offered a place on our training trip.

“The trip goes for just over two months and they’ll learn how to be the best tour manager in the business.”To be a successful tour operator, you’ll need to be personable, but whether you get an interview doesn’t always come down to having an outgoing personality.

Tiggy Nathan, recruitment manager, and Monique DeHaan, crew manager, from Topdeck, say they look for a number of traits when recruiting.

“We need to make sure they fit in with the Topdeck culture and they must want to provide the experience everyone in the company wants to provide,” they say. “They must be at the right time in their lives – no ties, as we look for total commitment.

“They will want to share the experience of travelling with people of a similar age and they must be interested in Europe.”

Pru Goudie, PR & business development at On The Go Tours, says, in terms of tour guides, they employ locally within the countries they operate, however, they do recruit Westerners for office roles.

“There are opportunities for Westerners to work in the countries we visit but they would more likely be in an office environment which is a great experience as they get to really live the culture and mix on a daily basis with the locals,” she says. “It’s a fantastic way to see a different country and live the lifestyle and immerse yourself in a foreign culture in a way that many tourist wouldn’t have the opportunity to do.”

What it's really like
Todd Sinclair
Age: 39
From: Canada, living in London
Job: Worked as a tour leader for Tucan Travel for nearly two years

What countries did you visit?
I travelled throughout South and Central America.

What’s your best memory?
So many! A lot of it comes down to the people
you meet. In terms of places, the World’s Most Dangerous Road in Bolivia was pretty spectacular.

And your worst?
It’s usually when things are out of your control . I was once stuck due to protests and road blocks, but, as a tour leader, it’s up to you to get your group to the next stop.

Advice to wannabe tour leaders?
You need leadership and organisational skills. You have to prove that you will be able to keep the show on the road. Pull those things out of your background. You also need to be a real people person.

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