Tourists with guide in lower canyon, Petra


Guides assist individuals or groups on any art facility, travel or sightseeing tours or through places of touristic interest, such as museums, monuments and public places. They help people to interpret the cultural heritage of an object, place or area and provide information and guidance in the language of their choice.

The duties of a tour guide include, but are not limited to:

  • Providing information about the history of specific landmarks or locations so that visitors can gain a better understanding of the site’s significance
  • Helping customers plan their itineraries and deciding which activities would be most interesting to them
  • Conducting historical research in order to provide accurate information about sites, buildings, and monuments
  • Reviewing historical documents such as letters, journals, photos, or maps in order to provide information about historical events that occurred at the site
  • Providing visitors with an understanding of the significance of each site they visit
  • Coordinating group tours to ensure that everyone is together at all times
  • Explaining the significance of historical sites and artifacts
  • Offering suggestions for additional activities in the area, such as shopping or dining out, that will increase customer satisfaction
  • Accommodating special needs of visitors such as physical disabilities, language barriers, etc.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to guide:

tour leader
museum guide
tour guide
tour escort
palace guide
tourist guide
city guide
castle guide

Working conditions

Guides typically work in the tourism industry, leading groups of visitors on tours of historic sites, natural wonders, museums, and other places of interest. They may work for tour companies, hotels, or other organizations that offer tours. Some tour guides are self-employed.

Most tour guides work full time, and many work more than 40 hours per week. Many tour guides are required to work on weekends and holidays, when most tourists visit the sites.

Some tour guides may have to work in all weather conditions, indoors and outdoors. The work can be physically demanding, and tour guides may have to walk long distances and stand for long periods of time.

Minimum qualifications

Tour guides are typically required to have at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Many tour guides choose to pursue a college degree in a related field, such as history or hospitality. Some tour guides choose to earn a bachelor’s degree in tour guiding, which takes about four years to complete.

Tour guides typically receive on-the-job training. This training may include shadowing a current tour guide, learning about the history of the area and practicing giving tours. Tour guides may also receive training in public speaking and customer service.

Some employers may require tour guides to pass an industry-specific certification to show their general knowledge of the field.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Guide is a Skill level 2 occupation.

Guide career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to guide.

park guide
tour organiser
tour operator representative
travel consultant
hotel concierge

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of guide. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of guide with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

mountain guide
tourist information centre manager
hospitality entertainment manager
tourism contract negotiator
accommodation manager

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of guide.

  • Create solutions to problems: Solve problems which arise in planning, prioritising, organising, directing/facilitating action and evaluating performance. Use systematic processes of collecting, analysing, and synthesising information to evaluate current practice and generate new understandings about practice.
  • Monitor visitor tours: Monitor visitors’ touring activities to ensure compliance with legislation and safety practices.
  • Maintain working relationships: Ensure effective working relationships with colleagues and others. Maintain them over long periods of time.
  • Provide visitor information: Provide directions and other relevant information to visitors.
  • Select visitor routes: Examine and select points of interest, travel routes and sites to be visited.
  • Collect visitor fees: Collect fees from visitors and group members.
  • Speak different languages: Master foreign languages to be able to communicate in one or more foreign languages.
  • Use different communication channels: Make use of various types of communication channels such as verbal, handwritten, digital and telephonic communication with the purpose of constructing and sharing ideas or information.
  • Manage health and safety standards: Oversee all personnel and processes to comply with health, safety and hygiene standards. Communicate and support alignment of these requirements with the company’s health and safety programmes.
  • Maintain customer service: Keep the highest possible customer service and make sure that the customer service is at all times performed in a professional way. Help customers or participants feel at ease and support special requirements.
  • Conduct educational activities: Plan, perform and supervise educational activities for a variety of audiences, such as for school children, university students, specialist groups, or members of the public.
  • Ensure health and safety of visitors: Take the necessary precautions to ensure the physical safety of an audience or people visiting an activity. Prepare actions in case of emergency. Administer first aid and direct emergency evacuations.
  • Escort visitors to places of interest: Bring tourists to places of interest such as museums, exhibitions, theme parks or art galleries.
  • Perform clerical duties: Perform administrative tasks such as filing, typing up reports and maintaining mail correspondence.
  • Assist clients with special needs: Aid clients with special needs following relevant guidelines and special standards. Recognise their needs and accurately respond to them if needed.
  • Register visitors: Register visitors after greeting them. Distribute any required identification badges or safety devices.
  • Handle veterinary emergencies: Handle unforeseen incidents concerning animals and circumstances which call for urgent action in an appropriate professional manner.
  • Train guides: Give training to fellow guides and volunteers.
  • Inform visitors at tour sites: Distribute booklets, show audio-visual presentations, give guidance and relevant comments at tour site locations. Explain the history and functionality of tour highlights and respond to questions.
  • Assemble visitor supplies: Collect and check all required supplies and equipment before departure.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of guide. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Sightseeing information: The sightseeing information of a particular touristic site.
  • Local area tourism industry: The characteristics of local sights and events, accommodation, bars and restaurants and leisure activities.
  • Natural areas maintenance: The methods to maintain the assets (both natural and constructed) of natural areas, including program development and implementation.
  • Tourism market: The study of the tourism market on a international, regional and local level and considering worldwide tourist destinations.
  • Plant species: The variety of plants, trees and shrubs and their special characteristics.
  • Environmental impact of tourism: The study of the environmental impact of travel and tourist activities on tour destinations.
  • Tourism sector policies: The public administration and regulatory aspects of the tourism and hotels sector, and requirements necessary to create policies.
  • Local geography: The range of physical and geographical properties and descriptions of a local area, by street names and not only.
  • Animal species: The characteristics of different species and breeds of animals (relevant to the occupation).
  • Geographical areas relevant to tourism: The field of tourism geography in Europe as well as the rest of the world in order to point out relevant tourism areas and attractions.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of guide. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

ISCO group and title

5113 – Travel guides

  1. Guide – ESCO
  2. Tourist guide | Explore careers – National Careers Service
  3. Tour Guide Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More – Climb the Ladder
  4. Featured image: By Daniel Case – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
Last updated on November 9, 2022

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