Organized Tours: To Tip or Not to Tip?

To Tip or Not to Tip

In general, Arienne and I prefer visiting sites on our own in lieu of traveling in the cramped setting of an organized tour. For the most part, we have found that tours charge excessively more than the value of their expedited services. Obviously, tours do offer: the ease of not having to plan how to get there, door-to-door service, (usually) a guide for the particular site, and from time to time a meal thrown in to stop the masses from revolting. This is what draws people (especially those on a schedule or with disposable income) to use organized tour services. But for us, enjoying a particular site on our own schedule, with fewer people clamouring for the same photo-op, and paying less in the process makes organized tours the less preferred mode of site seeing.

However, there are absolutely situations where necessity or rational thought dictates that an organized tour is the best way to go. It happens. On occasion there simply is no reasonable way to get to a site, or the tour package offered makes more sense than trying to go-it your own. There’s nothing wrong with taking the road most traveled (as long as you’re okay with it), and sometimes Arienne and I relish in the simplicity of just “clicking” and going.

But there’s always a catch isn’t there? One thing that wasn’t included in the tour itinerary. It usually comes at the end of the tour, somewhere just before you arrive at the final destination. What I’m referring to is, of course, the request to tip the tour guide or driver.

Throughout our trip, oft times we have relied on an organized tour to boldly take us where we wouldn’t have gone alone. We appreciate the services rendered, and there have definitely been occasions when the tour guide has gone above and beyond the call of duty, absolutely deserving a little extra (tip) due to the little extra (humor, info, personality, etc) he/she added to the tour. And, there have definitely been times when the tour or tour guide has… well… er… sucked.

Going with the masses.

Below, we have amassed a list of some of the faux pas committed during organized tours throughout our journey in Asia. Obviously, small miss-steps will occur, but if you find that your tour guide has done at least 3 of the following, you might consider forgoing the tipping process.

  1. Tours shouldn’t end 1 hour early because of “good traffic”. Good traffic will result in maybe a 15-minute (20-minute max) early completion time. A tour that ends one hour early did so because the tour guide or driver has a hot date, and you were the “good traffic” that allowed him/her to get there on time.
  2. Tour guides should not explain the same singular idea 5 different ways (only rearranging the words in the sentence) and then move on feeling that he/she has provided a wealth of information.
  3. Tour guides should not use “shock and awe” (yelling) as their means of sharing information. Yelling at a person doesn’t mean that the information is any more or less valuable.
  4. Tour guides should not occupy the best position for viewing or photographing a particular site, and then vacate it only when announcing, “moving on!”
  5. It is definitely a bad thing if you have to ask the tour guide repeatedly to slow down so you can actually see what he/she was talking about.
  6. Tours that begin with, “this part is really boring” should consider revising their itinerary.
  7. Tour guides who use the phrase “when you bombed my country,” in complete disregard of the nationalities of the tourists present should not be considered as adding “a little extra” to the tour.
  8. Unfortunately, if a tour guide cannot speak the language of the tour comprehensibly, they haven’t even achieved the value that you have already paid for (harsh… but true).
  9. Tour guides who break park rules, such as yelling at the pandas when the sign clearly says, “don’t yell at the pandas”, should not be rewarded for their transgressions.
  10. It’s really bad if your tour lacks seat belts, life jackets, or includes a driver who talks on a cell phone while driving a “packed like sardines” minivan on the wrong side of a pot-holed road. Remember, you can’t tip if your body is ejected from a moving vehicle.
  11. Tour guides who arrive at the sight and then say, “okay, you have 20 minutes… now go!” are not going above and beyond.
  12. Finally, if a tour guide approaches you with the selling point of, “you don’t know anything,” “you won’t enjoy you’re time without me,” or “you will only stay for 30 minutes, but 3 hours with me,” then forego paying in the first place.
  13. Bonus tip for tour guides: The term “the enemy” is a much more sensitive term to use when talking about killing someone. Saying to a tour group of Americans, “when we killed the Americans” does not go over as well with the tour as it might amongst your friends.

In the end, the choice to tip or not to tip is completely your own, and should not be influenced by anything beyond your own sense of services rendered. If you choose to give someone money (at any time), then that is your own business and you should be commended on your generosity and sense of selflessness. At the same time, if you feel that you have only been given what you have already paid for, then don’t feel bad that you chose not tip someone for a job (not) well done.

What bad tour guide experience(s) have you had?

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