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Rémi Deligeon
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Free Tour versus Guided Tour: watch out for unpleasant surprises!

Are you planning on visiting Toulouse soon and are thinking about booking a Free Tour to explore the city. Free, cool ..... When it comes to reviews, there’s no shortage of compliments to describe the Free Tour. 

Here at the Tourist Office we prefer, and will continue to promote, genuine guided tours led by competent, enthusiastic guides. We will explain, in 5 points, why they have more to offer visitors than a Free Tour.

First of all, what is a Free Tour?

It’s a popular walking tour that’s been running for a few years. It’s advertised primarily as a free, one-of-a-kind visit compared to the traditional guided tour. 

1. So a Free Tour is free

You don’t pay anything at the start of the walk but at the end you’ll be pressured into paying a cash tip. So a Free tour is not free. The basket (or envelope) that’s circulated at the end of the visit ensures the guide receives some sort of remuneration for his work... but that’s not all. The guide will have signed up to one or more on-line platforms which he relies on to boost his visibility. So he will also give them a percentage of what you have “voluntarily” donated.

2. Why not take a Free Tour? 

A Free Tour will probably be led by one or several pleasant, motivated individuals but their business is conducted within an unregulated framework. A tour guide, whether self-employed or employed, is a qualified professional: he/she will have degree-level training, and hold an official card governed by the Tourism Code of Conduct which gives him/her the right to conduct guided tours in French or a foreign language. S/he is passionate about history and heritage and knows how to share this passion with visitors using skills that s/he’s learned.

3. A Free Tour is fun

Normally, there’s no restriction on the number of participants joining a Free Tour: because there’s no fixed price and the guide needs to secure an income (although, let’s face it, it's a rather precarious one.)  That raises questions about comfort, difficulties moving around in large groups or whether you’ll be able to hear the tour guide commentary. Our Tourist Office has chosen to limit group numbers to a maximum of 30 people. Any more than that and we form a second group led by another tour guide.

4. On a Free Tour, you’re guaranteed top tips and good information

Given that Free tour guides don’t need qualifications or certificates, how can you be sure that the information given is correct and accurate? You can love history, heritage, know good bars and restaurants, but that doesn’t mean you’re a tourism professional. 

5. Taking a Free Tour, means visiting with a local guide

Our specialist tour guides are motivated, dynamic and...guess what? They live in Toulouse all year round! But most of all, they’re a team of individuals who love their job. Did you know that Free Tour guides are not allowed to provide commentary inside an historic monument?

If you really want to experience the city, help the local economy and meet passionate, professional, committed individuals, then we encourage you to take a specialist guided tour. 

Visite guidée Graff tour à Toulouse
Visite guidée château de Reynerie
© Rémi Deligeon
Visite guidée de Toulouse
© Laura Drifford