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People usually hire private tour guides when they want to take advantage of a guide's personal expertise and local knowledge, when they want personalized service, or when they have a particular itinerary in mind. Some private tour guides specialize in particular areas, such as wine production or local history, for instance, while others are skilled at leading activities, such as recreational excursions or adventure tours. Generally speaking, you can usually become a private tour guide by obtaining a license, after which you can either join a local tour company or work independently.
Regardless of whether you want to work in your home country or abroad, most places require tour guides to be licensed, which normally involves paying a fee and passing a licensing exam. The exam typically asks questions related to an area's history, transportation systems, and local attractions. To pass certain exams, it might also help to study additional information about recommended restaurants and other local businesses.
After passing the licensing exam, a logical next step for someone who wants to become a private tour guide is to apply for a job with a tour company that offers private tours. In addition to submitting an application, you should also be prepared to submit a resume, and most employers require personal interviews as well. Once hired, you might be required to gain experience by following along on tours before leading them yourself.
You also might choose to become a private tour guide as a self-employed independent contractor. Self-employed contractors can often charge higher rates for their services than company-employed tour guides are paid. Since many travelers use tourism websites to plan their trips, you might benefit by becoming a member of an online service that matches people with private tour guides. Members usually can post their experiences, special qualifications or licenses, and feedback from previous clients. Such sites also typically perform background checks and confirm the credentials of tour guides.
Some qualifications generally required to become a private tour guide include good customer service and leadership skills. You typically must be willing to deal with all types of personalities as well, since you likely will work more closely with small, private groups than you would with large tour groups. You also might encounter groups requiring special considerations, such as groups of children, seniors, or other individuals with special needs.
In general, private tour guides have more freedom to customize their services to accommodate specific clients. Many tourists appreciate the advantages of traveling with their own local "insider." A private tour guide can often provide unique services and personalize the tourist's experience, in addition to just leading tours. Some offer personal shopping services, for example, while others are qualified to act as interpreters for foreign visitors. Finding and utilizing your own unique talents is typically the best way to become a successful private tour guide.