The term tour guide carries several different meanings. Sometimes the person is a local who is familiar with the customs and culture and language of the area or a specialist in a certain field such as archeology or architecture. Often, they are an on-site guide perhaps in a museum or art gallery. The big tours have an escort who remains with the group from the starting point to the destination and back, which usually includes longer tours of one or more nights on bus tours, cruise ships, trains or walking tours. All of this makes a difference in the service that you as a tourist might receive from them.

Keep in mind also that when you are on a bus tour, your driver may be the guide who offers both commentary and transportation, or there may be an on-site guide conducting the tour and giving a running commentary while the vehicle is in transit.

Having traveled for many years, in countries all over the world, I have learned through observation that there are many things tour guides, no matter how well they have mastered the art of walking backward and talking at the same time, are often too polite or better yet, civil to tell their listening audience. They need to remain professional and approachable at all times, and most of them are also hoping for a generous gratuity. From tipping to harassment to odd questions, here are 20 things tour guides are too polite to tell you!

20 20. A Tip Is Expected

As a tourist, one might think that this is a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how many people assume that since they’ve paid for the tour, an extra tip is not required. Your tour guide will never ask for a tip, but it is most certainly proper travel etiquette. There are many travel sites and a lot of other information online to guide you through the correct gratuity percentages.

Tour guides aren’t paid all that much and are banking on tips to make their work worthwhile. Keep your tour guide happy and you can guarantee that you’ll have an amazing time during your trip!

19 19. Google Will Never Replace Them

There are many travelers who believe they can do a tour guide’s job better than the actual licensed tour guide. These are usually younger, less experienced folk who prefer to learn about the area by looking at their phones and although that may work to some extent, the personal anecdotes and local knowledge of the tour guide are missed. There is nothing better than the personal interaction full of humorous storytelling that your guide can share.

As a bonus, tour guides know where to find the best deals when it comes to dining and shopping and receives steep discounts to cultural sites!

18 18. They Don't Like Personal Questions

Many cultures find personal questions impolite and your tour guide prefers not to answer queries such as ‘Do you have a real job?’, ‘Are you married?’ or ‘How much money do you make?’

Even asking about their family or upbringing can sometimes be awkward. Depending on where you are, these types of personal questions can run the gamut from slightly annoying to outright dangerous. Official tours in China are heavily regulated by the Communist Party, and questions like these can be very uncomfortable for tour guides. Personal questions in India or Eastern Europe can seem invasive and brash. Your best bet is to simply not ask.

17 17. Too Many Questions Are Annoying

It is difficult when working to an itinerary to have to stop and answer questions about information that may be shared later in the tour. Sometimes it is best to save one’s questions to the end – usually when the tour guide asks, ‘Any questions?’

So, when tourists are constantly asking questions about mundane things, it can throw the tour guide off their itinerary and become extremely annoying. You can always tell the rookie guides from the grizzled veterans by how they handle questions. If the guide just keeps letting people rattle on, they’re probably new, while an experienced guide will never give people the chance to interrupt until the end!

16 16. They Would Rather Hang Out With Nice Tourists

Although they are officially expected to pay equal attention to every individual on the tour, they would really like to hang with the good-looking blonde guy or gal in the middle. It is important for tour guides to work for their group equally and pay attention to everyone and get to know each individual a little. The fact is that the wealthier, better dressed, better-looking ones will probably tip better and often that’s where the attention ends up. The same is also true in reverse; the better looking the tour guide, the better the tips.

15 15. It’s Difficult To Not Make Generalizations

It is difficult to NOT make judgments, generalizations and political comments about the countries tourists are from out loud. We all know that around the world, generalizations are made about American, Canadian and British tourists, for example. The Brits don’t like the food, the Canadians keep apologizing and the Americans don’t like anything, and these stereotypes are hard to keep to oneself. A tour guide worth a tip will approach such stereotypes on two levels; one will be on a self-censorship level and the other will be to gently discourage generalized comments from his/her group members.

14 14. Sometimes They Make Stuff Up

Tour Guides would rather incorrectly answer a question than look foolish not knowing the answer. I once had a tour guide state that the Titanic sank off the coast of Ireland. Now I know that 400 miles from the Newfoundland coast may seem like Ireland to some, but I can see why the guide guessed the answer rather than admit that he really didn’t know. The question and answer segment of an excursion can be stressful for a tour guide. Listening and responding confidently can lift some of the anxiety as well does admitting to not having an answer.

13 13. They Want To Take You To Their Local Bar Or Restaurant

Of course, there is always a set route and schedule for any tour whether it is a few hours, or a few days and any local tour guide knows these places inside out. Their Uncle Joe’s restaurant may serve the best food in town and the only way for you, as a tourist, to know that is to ask.

If you decide to eat later at an out of the way place, invite your guide and pay for his/her meal. That will be a better tip than they’ve probably ever had in their entire career and guarantees a great tour next time around!

12 12. They Don’t Care If You Can Hear Them Or Not

Many tour guides carry a megaphone or a personal microphone but still spend a lot of time yelling things such as “Can you hear me okay at the back?” The truth is they really don’t care. If you can’t hear them, then move up. They guide so many different people every day that they don’t really consider it their problem if you can’t hear anything. They can’t force everyone to listen to them.

It may not seem very nice, but it’s just another one of those things most tour guides would be too polite to tell you!

11 11. Making Everything Sound Fresh And New Is Exhausting

Imagine being a tour guide and sharing the same stories, the same historical facts and the same information day in and day out. Every day they need to make it sound fresh and exciting as if this tale had never been told before. Tour guides are part authority and part actor. It’s exhausting and requires an enormous amount of energy to stay in character and keep the same old, boring tour exciting and fun for the guests.

There are many reasons the tour guide career has an incredibly high turnover rate and making everything sound fresh and new is one of them!

10 10. Keeping Cool Around Jerks Is Difficult

There is always one traveler in every group that knows the answers, but you will never see a good tour guide lose their calm demeanor, shake their head or roll their eyes. They deal with rude people, provocative comments, harassment, and show-offs every day, in every group, and it’s only with thick skin that they get through the tour without losing it. Why some people act this way is something we may never know.

Newer tour guides may blush a little or stammer as they recover from something off-putting, while the experienced guides have heard it all before and are rolling their eyes inside.

9 9. There Are Such Things As Stupid Questions

Tour guides are great at fielding questions. After all, that’s part of their job, but what they don’t want you to know is that there are such things as stupid questions. Some questions seem redundant, but a good tour guide will always politely answer. Why is it called Castle Hill? Because it’s a castle built on a hill. Where’s the snow? Why is the boat rocking? These have all been asked of a tour guide.

I was in a cave in Santa Domingo when someone asked the guide why it was so dark. His answer was in Spanish, but I am sure that it was polite.

8 8. Sometimes They Lose People

20 tourists start out and only 19 return. Ask any tour guide if they have ever lost anyone from one of their groups and they will always answer ‘of course not!’ Keep in mind that this may or may not be true and stay close to your group. Tourists leaning over the edge of Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon to get that perfect camera shot makes a tour guide anxious and given the median age of those who sign up for guided bus tours and cruises, a sudden medical emergency or a fall is never that far away.

7 7. Accidents Do Happen

Sometimes accidents happen. Sometimes bad accidents happen. This fact is often overlooked by tourists who are having fun and traveling to new and exciting places, but a good tour guide never forgets that sometimes accidents do happen whether it be a flat tire on the motor coach to an all-out crisis requiring emergency measures. Your tour guide is fully trained in emergency policy and will do their best to remain calm and composed while carrying out their backup procedures, so listen to what he/she tells you to do and stay with the others in your group.

6 6. They Are Not Babysitters

Your tour guide has a job to do and having rambunctious children demanding special attention or running about touching things that they perhaps shouldn’t i.e.: in a museum or gift shop or while parents are busy shopping, listening, chatting or Googling can be off-putting at best. Unless you’re at Disney World, your tour guide is not there to babysit but will do their best to incorporate child-friendly statements and facts into their stories. It’s your duty as a parent to keep your children under control. Help everyone on your tour have a good time, including your tour guide.

5 5. Mocking Their Language or Accent Isn’t Funny

We all know how difficult it can be to learn about a country’s culture and surroundings when we do not speak their language. Your tour guide is usually adept at the language and may even be a local and the last thing we need to do as visitors is mock or parody the language in any way. Better to try some form of sign language or lots of nodding and smiling.

That being said, most guides will appreciate your efforts to speak the language and pronounce words correctly if you’re genuine. Ask for help when you have a moment.

4 4. They Don’t Control The Weather

Asking your tour guide why it is raining or if it is always this hot grants your tour guide more power than they could ever wish for. A good tour guide will be well ahead of the weather person on the tv and plan for any upcoming storms or weather conditions that may wreak havoc with the day’s tour. They may even change the itinerary to compensate for an incoming thunderstorm by switching the outdoor market excursion with an inside museum tour. The most annoying thing tour guides deal with is when people start complaining to them because of the weather.

3 3. Some People Smell Really, Really Bad

Tour guides need to look presentable and be well-groomed and clean in order to do their job. Unfortunately, there are no such requirements for the people in their tour groups. One thing that all tour guides can agree on is that bad body odor is extremely distracting and unpleasant. A smelly person who tags along not only makes the other guests uncomfortable but also ruins the trip for the tour guide.

The best way to avoid being the person who stinks is to shower, use soap and wear deodorant. The guide is never going to tell you that you stink but may try to put room between you two!

2 2. Costumes Are Really Uncomfortable

Some tours require that the guides dress up in period costumes or military uniforms or even full-on Mickey Mouse outfits. These costumes are usually very uncomfortable, especially in warm weather. Imagine wearing a wool uniform from the 18th century while walking 40 miles a day in the middle of July, talking the entire time?

The guides will never let on that they are about to pass out, however. Most guest will allow themselves to believe that the guide loves what they are doing, although the four gallons of sweat the guide has dripped on the floor might say otherwise.

1 1. They’re Not Paid Much

According to Sokanu, the career site, tour guides in the US make under $24,000 a year. Guides in other countries make even less, yet tour guides all over the world are expected to put in long, hot hours, act excited with every tour and to study their subject matter on their off-hours. Breaks are far and few between and often involve remaining with their tour group, so they can’t ever really rest. The worst part about being a tour guide is that very few of them receive any type of benefits. Remember that the next time you’re wondering how much you should tip!