Last month I wrote about the many reasons why you should go on a tour while you’re in Paris. Did I convince you? Great! Now that you’re booked, I want to make sure that you have a truly fantastic time on your tour. Rest assured, myself and my fellow tour guides will always strive to give you the best possible experience, but to do that we need your help. Below are some tips and advice on how to get the most out of your tour while you’re in Paris. First and foremost…
Nothing is more dispiriting for a tour guide than trying to make history come alive for a group of people who are just staring at you blankly. I’m not saying you have guffaw with laughter at all of my corny jokes, but just an acknowledgement here or there to let me know that you’re listening can go a long way to keeping the energy up. That being said…
Don’t be a Wannabe Tour Guide
Have a question? Great! I’ll do my best to answer it. Have an insight or comment? That’s fine too. All I ask is that you wait for an appropriate moment to interject and don’t interrupt me mid-sentence. But whatever you do, don’t try to prove how much you already know about a topic. I mean this in the nicest possible way, but the rest of your group have paid to hear the tour guide speak, not you, and constantly interrupting will not endear yourself to your fellow travellers. Or your guide for that matter.
Always Be Prepared
I can’t stress enough how important it is that you come prepared for your tour. This means bringing the appropriate supplies and clothing for your activity, as well as checking the weather forecast the night before so that you know what to expect. If you book a two hour walking tour outdoors in December, please bundle up. If it’s going to rain, bring an umbrella. Scorning sun? Water and sunscreen are a must. It sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how many people I’ve had on my tours who are miserable because they didn’t plan ahead. I truly want you to have a good time, so for your own enjoyment, please come prepared.
Stand Where You’re Told
This may seem like a no brainer, but if I tell you to stand in a specific place, there’s a reason for it. I could be trying to position you into a prime viewing location, or I could be trying to get you out of the way of other tour groups. If I tell you to move closer, it’s usually because I want to make sure you can hear me. There’s dozens of reasons why I will tell you to stand in a specific spot, but there’s always a reason and it’s always with your best interest in mind.
Read the Fine Print
Before each tour, be sure to read the instructions carefully, especially the meeting point. If your tour is for a specific site (eg. the Eiffel Tower), the meeting location will often be somewhere else in order to avoid trying to find each other amongst the hordes of other visitors. When you receive your confirmation email, always read all of the information thoroughly.
Remember that You’re in a Group
If you book a group tour, do not treat it like a private tour. While tour guides are constantly adjusting tours on the fly to suit the needs of the group, the key word there is group. If you want to spend 20 minutes at each stop setting up the perfect photo op, no problem. Book a private tour and I will happily customize an itinerary that is tailored to your exact wants and needs. But always remember that if you choose to book a group tour the majority rules.
Be On Time
If your guide gives you a time to meet back up with the group, do not treat this time like a suggestion. Tours often have a complicated logistical schedule behind them that has been tailored to maximize your time and enjoyment at the sites. However, these schedules only work if people are punctual, so always be aware of the time. Set an alarm, figure out a reminder, do whatever it takes, but be on time. If you’re late, at best you will miss out on the full tour because your guide will have to cut out bits to make up for lost time. At worst you will be left behind. Either way, it’s not a great outcome, so take my advice and don’t be that guy. Be on time.
Your Tour Guide is Not Your Babysitter
You would think this would be common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people see a tour guide as a free babysitting service. Keep an eye on your children and let your guide concentrate on doing their job.
Not Everything is in Our Hands
I will always bend over backwards to ensure that the people on my tours are having a great time. That being said, sometimes things happen that are truly out of our control. There will always be traffic jams, bad weather, and/or vehicle breakdowns to contend with, and when these happen, the impact on your tour is often out of our hands. Please remember to keep this in mind when leaving a review after your tour is over. If your guide was terrific but the tour itself was not what you expected or something went wrong that was out of the guide’s hands, please do not punish your guide in your review.
You may be wondering why this is important, but you have to remember that we now live in a review based society. The amount of work a tour guide gets is often directly proportional to how many five star reviews they receive. In many cases, a four star review is the equivalent of saying that you didn’t like the tour. I realize that sounds absurd, but that’s the way the tourism industry operates today. Therefore, if you have an issue with your tour that did not include the guide, my advice is to forego the review and email the tour company directly. This way you’re more likely to get a satisfactory resolution to your problem, and you won’t be effecting a good guide’s ability to pay their rent.
See you on Tour!
I hope that this behind the scenes peak at what goes on during a tour will help you to have a fantastic time with your guide. We all want you to have a great experience, but as I said, my fellow guides and I need your help to give you the best possible tour that we can. By working together, we can all have a wonderful day in Paris and beyond. See you on tour!
Laura Moore is a professional storyteller who loves history and the many stories that make Paris one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Join one of her signature tours to learn the story of a city.