Tour Guide

Tour guides escort groups of tourists on bus or minibus trips and provide them with factual and interesting information about the sights they see. A group of tourists has probably previously been on several guided tours, so a guide’s presentation has to be dynamic to hold their interest.

Tour guides may be allocated half-day sight-seeing tours or longer tours, in which case the guide will be responsible for ensuring adherence to the tour itinerary. They also need to provide tourists with information regarding currency, drinking water, restaurants and tipping, and should always be able to deal with enquiries from their tour groups.

Other tasks required of tour guides may include: meeting members of a tour on arrival and making introductions; coordinating pre-arranged accommodation and transport, and make sure that tour members are comfortable; attending to such problems as booking errors and amendments, lost luggage and treating illness or providing first aid.

Being a tour guide is often physically demanding. During a tour, guides must be available at all times to answer questions and sort out problems. Manual work such as loading or unloading baggage or other equipment may be required. Tour guides are often required to spend time away from home, especially those fulfilling the role of Tour Manager.

Tour guides may specialise in the following areas:

  • Adventure guide who requires guiding skills plus specialist recreational skills such as white water rafting, hiking or mountaineering
  • Bilingual guide who offers interpretation of language as well as guiding skills
  • Guide coordinator who is usually one who has worked as a guide and now supervises, coordinates and trains guides
  • Indigenous guide who conducts tours with a special cultural emphasis and which requires a deep understanding of their culture
  • Local guide who specialises in a particular city or region
  • Nature-based and eco-tour guide who conducts day or extended tours and requires guiding skills and specialist environmental knowledge
  • Site guide who may work, for example, in museums, cultural centres, theme parks and sporting facilities
Tour guides need to keep abreast of all new developments in the country; thus, constant reading and updating of knowledge is of vital importance.

Personal Requirements

  • have an excellent knowledge of South Africa’s places of interest, geography, its unique history, politics and flora and fauna
  • have good communication skills
  • have organisational skills
  • enjoy working with people
  • good health and stamina
  • be able to control groups of people and deal with unexpected situations
  • be neat and appropriately dressed at all times
  • not have a criminal record

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

National Senior Certificate

What to Study

Most tour operators provide in-service training by an experienced tourist guide.

In order to register as a tour guide, a person must have successfully completed an appropriate training course or courses with a SATOUR accredited trainer.

Gold Reef Guides and Waterfront Guides offer practical training for tourist guides.

Tour guides must be registered with SATOUR and be assessed by this body for the purpose of granting a licence. Licences are granted on three levels:

  • for a particular city only
  • for a wider region
  • countrywide
Diploma: N.Dip: Tourism Management or Travel & Tourism - NMMU, UNISA, DUT, CPUT, CUT, UJ, TUT, VUT.

Certificate: Tourism - FET colleges such as Boland, Ekurhuleni West, Port Elizabeth, SW Gauteng and Umgungundlovu.


A few large tour operators employ tour guides on a permanent basis, but the work is seasonal and the majority of tourist guides work on a freelance basis.

Further Information

Association of SA Travel Agents (ASATA)
Suite 6, Lower Ground Floor, Block A,
Hurlingham Office Park
59 Woodlands Avenue (just off Republic Rd)
Hurlingham Extension 5
Tel: (011) 327-7803

Tourism Business Council (TBCSA)
P O Box 11655
Centurion, 0046
Tel: (012) 654-7525

The Registrar of Tourist Guides
SA Tourism Board
Private Bag X164
Pretoria, 0001
Tel: (012) 347-0600

South African Tourism Board (SATOUR)
Private Bag X10012
Sandton, 2146
Tel: (011) 895-3000

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation or part-time work in a tourist resort
  • take guided tours yourself
  • arrange to speak to tour guides about this type of career and ask to observe them at work

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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