They say that the best things in life are free. Unfortunately, travelling, although considered to be one of the best things in life, is not. However, exploring your destination can be. Snapping picturesque views, people watching and my (our) favorite–walking with a local.
The first time I heard about free walking tours was from my colleague in retail. He said he always did a Sandeman tour in all the cities that he’s travelled to and immediately I just associated it with someone that puts people to sleep. (But they don’t.)
My first free tour was in Barcelona. I first turned to good old Google to check if it was available. These companies usually have a couple of tours throughout the day, one in the morning or one in the afternoon. Starting points will always be somewhere central or in front of a statue.
Ever since my first one, I got hooked. (Even with the paid ones! ) Walking tours just feel very authentic because more often than not, your tour guides are locals and will know a lot of fun facts, important pieces of history and where the good pubs are. Sure, you’ll forget 70% of it when you get home. But in that moment, when you are trapped in your travelling bubble, soaking in all the culture, soaking in all the bits of info, you feel at one with wherever you are.
The beauty of these walking tours is that it’s always a win-win situation because it’s tip basis and they try and earn your love and euros (or whatever currency). Regardless of how little you give, you won’t be judged. (Sometimes.)
And it’s always nice to meet new people from all over the world.
The free tour concept was pioneered by a Yale student, Chris Sandeman back in 2003. (From my research.) Since then, loads of companies have started up doing the same thing.
Back in May, we went to Helsinki and did a free walking tour with Green Cap Tours. I emailed them recently and luckily, I got a reply from their CEO.
(1) How did you hear about free walking tours and what made you become a tour guide?
I’m Jouko. I started Green Cap Tours by doing only Free Walking Tours. I had my first summer free of work since I was a kid and I decided to spend it doing something different. I had travelled quite a bit myself previously and I had come across the concept in various cities I visited. For example Prague, London, Saint Petesburg, Cusco, Areiquipa and others. Especially when travelling in South America I was asked a lot of questions how is Finland? Most people I met had never really heard about Finland and they were curious. Trying to always say something different and interesting about my homeland developed the idea to start guiding once I came back.
(2) Describe your worst customer.
Customer who makes the tour unpleasant for other customers. For example with massive amount of uninteresting questions.
(4) What’s the biggest tip you ever got?
100 USD from a single customer.
(5) Have you ever been drunk giving a tour?
(6) What are the three things you learned on this job?
A lot of Finnish history and cool things about my City, Public Speaking ability. Leadership
(7) Has anyone ever corrected you?
Of course 🙂 a good tour guide also learns a lot from the customers
(8) Do you go on free walking tours yourself?
Below are some awesome pictures from their awesome tours and Jouko, you are awesome for sharing them! (That is a lot of awesome in one sentence. x )
If you happen to be in Helsinki, don’t miss out on Jouko and his team to make your trip more memorable.
Hoping you’d still explore the world with me,