Feeling as though I am now a seasoned veteran when it comes to free city walking tours, I feel like I have some authority to give advice as to signs of a perfect walking tour. So, before I share more about my walking tour through Santiago, let me share what makes a great walking tour.
Here is my guide to the perfect walking tour:
1. The guide is a great story teller. If a guide has the ability to have you on the edge of your seat, guessing what will happen next with a story right out of a history book, well then, they have done their job.
2. You stop to try local food!
3. A good walking pace through areas not traveled by tourists. Being guided through areas of the city that are not listed in the Lonely Planet is a travelers dream. I love being shown where the locals shop, spend their time, and go on dates.
4. They are tips based.
All tours listed above are free, and tips based. I usually prefer these tours because the guide is working extra hard to earn your dollar. Additionally, as you know, many paid tours still suggest tips for the guides at the conclusion of the tour, which can leave a feeling of being charged twice. Hence, my love for the free tours. All three tours listed above suggest a 5,000 peso tip, which is about $8 USD.
Here are my three signs of a mediocre/bad (because really, no one wants to waste time with a mediocre tour but I will share anyways):
1. The guide does not talk loud enough, or talks too fast.
2. The guide only knows surface level information about their topics covered in the tour.
3. The guide is a terrible story teller. This can be derived from sounding rehearsed or sharing canned stories or generally telling stories that end with a feeling of, “oh, guess you had to be there” to truly get the vibe of the story.
Well, now that that is out of the way, let me introduce you to the El Mercado Central and La Vega Central through the eyes of the fabulous tour guides from Wally Tours aka Tours4Tips. Who, let me be clear, hit all three of my criteria for a great tour! I loved their tour so much, I took both the morning and the evening tour with the Wally’s.
El Mercado is the historic fish market, while La Vega Central, you guessed it, is the fruits and vegetables market. Apparently there are 10,000 workers in La Vega Central and over 60,000 people visit on a Saturday!
Without giving away too much of the tour, I highly recommend the Wally Tour in Santiago. Their guides are approachable, knowledgeable, and make a concerted effort to be “smooth,” when collecting the tips and avoiding that awkward tipping moment.
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