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Tour Guide Pay and Benefits

So let's get down to the nitty gritty of what land tour guides and tour directors earn. This industry is by far catered to those who have a passion for travel as opposed to becoming rich, but there are some exciting benefits for those who work hard and acquire various skills over the years, including learning new languages, receiving advanced training, and learning some sporting skills for adventure tours.

Generally speaking, tour guides can earn between $50 and $150 per day taking a lot of factors into consideration such as experience, locations, training, type of tour, and others. Aside from this, many tour companies encourage their passengers to tip the tour guides, so this can bump up your salary dramatically. Some of the more experienced tour guides earn anywhere between $30,000 and $60,000 per year. A regular tipping policy offered is explained by this tour operator:

"Tipping is a big part of the job - the pay anyway. Our policies differ depending on the tour, and we've got two types. The first is the all inclusive tour, where the company gives the guide extra pay as tips and the guests are not expected to pay any form of gratuities, as it is added into the price of the tour. The tips are normally $20 per day as a minimum, but you do get benefits, and these types of tours offer a salaried pay. The other type of tour is the one where guides get paid per day instead of a monthly salary, but then the guests will tip you at the end of every day according to how good you were. Customers almost always tip, and this is a great incentive to keep them happy the entire day of the tour. The last tour I worked, I made over $350 in just 5 days!"

Pay and Benefits

Receptor Service: This is where you meet tour groups at the airports or assist them at the train depot. This job normally pays around $10 to $15 per hour.

Tour Guide: An entry level tour guide or tour director without training will make about $8 to $15 per hour depending on the type of tour, and you get a free trip somewhere for the day. The more experienced tour guides will earn about $20 to $25 per hour with extra pay being offered after 8 hours.

Tour Directors/Managers: Trained and experienced tour directors normally earn between $250 and $350 per day and you also get paid time and a half if you lead overnight tour groups. These can last anywhere from 7 days to 27 days, so you are earning a good salary at the end of the tour.

DMC Tour Guides: The experienced highly skilled tour managers working for incentive houses and DMC's can earn anywhere from $300 to over $400 per day.

Tips are then added to these payments, so the larger the group, the more money you will make. Take note that there are very generalized figures as the pay varies quite a bit depending on where you work, the company you work for, what benefits you get, how the tipping works, and how much experience and training you have.

Benefits: These include travel opportunities, meeting new people, paid board and meals on long tours, free lunch or dinner on day tours, days off. Let's look at these benefits in more detail:

  • Travel opportunities exist for all tour guides. Whether you are leading domestic tours around your home city, or managing long distance or international tours, you still get the opportunity to travel and see new places. Visiting attractions, beautiful villages, restaurants that you wouldn't normally go to, attending shows and more can be realized as a tour guide.

It can be hard, however to juggle the responsibilities of finding lost luggage, keeping the group happy, organizing accommodation, booking shows and making restaurant reservations, while trying to find the time to travel, but you have to think that you will be doing all of these tasks while in Hawaii or Bali, India or Australia, so both can be accomplished at the same time in many instances.

  • Meeting people is an exciting part of being a tour guide for many people. They enjoy hearing traveler's stories and networking with people from all over the world, whether they are CEO's, students, families, or retired couples. This is an integral part of being a tour guide and if you don't get along with people, then this job is not for you. One tour guide explains: 

"Let's face it. You go to a destination once and you're nervous and excited, twice and you love it, but three times and you're already getting bored. That's why it's important to really get along well with the passengers and enjoy their company . . ."

Did You Know? Some companies do not allow tipping, so make sure you find out this information when you apply for jobs.

Land Tour Guide Salary Details

The following table highlights the hourly wage and annual earnings for tour guides and escorts in the U.S. per state according to the U.S Department of Labor:

State

Average Hourly Wage

Average Annual Salary

Florida

$15.43/hr

$32,080

Oklahoma

$15.03/hr

$31,260

Tennessee

$14.81/hr

$30,810

Alaska

$14.64/hr

$30,450

Hawaii

$14.5/hr

$30,170

Connecticut

$13.39/hr

$27,850

Colorado

$13.3/hr

$27,660

Missouri

$13.07/hr

$27,190

Alabama

$12.78/hr

$26,580

New Jersey

$12.72/hr

$26,460

Montana

$12.7/hr

$26,420

Guam

$12.5/hr

$26,010

Iowa

$12.45/hr

$25,890

North Carolina

$12.34/hr

$25,670

Arkansas

$12.19/hr

$25,360

Nebraska

$12.15/hr

$25,280

Nevada

$12.13/hr

$25,240

North Dakota

$12.09/hr

$25,150

Indiana

$12.01/hr

$24,990

Utah

$11.94/hr

$24,830

District of Columbia

$11.8/hr

$24,540

Virginia

$11.76/hr

$24,470

Ohio

$11.65/hr

$24,230

New York

$11.53/hr

$23,990

California

$11.5/hr

$23,920

Idaho

$11.36/hr

$23,620

Mississippi

$11.2/hr

$23,290

New Hampshire

$11.16/hr

$23,210

South Dakota

$11.09/hr

$23,070

Michigan

$10.93/hr

$22,740

Massachusetts

$10.91/hr

$22,690

Wisconsin

$10.86/hr

$22,580

Maryland

$10.86/hr

$22,590

Puerto Rico

$10.84/hr

$22,550

South Carolina

$10.77/hr

$22,390

Washington

$10.47/hr

$21,770

Louisiana

$10.42/hr

$21,680

Maine

$10.37/hr

$21,570

Wyoming

$10.34/hr

$21,500

Kentucky

$10.02/hr

$20,840

Delaware

$9.94/hr

$20,670

West Virginia

$9.67/hr

$20,120

Pennsylvania

$9.43/hr

$19,610

Oregon

$9.3/hr

$19,340

New Mexico

$8.74/hr

$18,180

The average hourly wage in the U.S for a land tour guide is $13 per hour, while the average annual salary for a tour guide is $23,000 in America.

Although the pay might seem low, there is a huge incentive to travel to exotic locations and although you're working long hours, sometimes 12 to 15 per day, you have very few out of pocket expenses. Your meals are free, your transport on the tour, whether by bus, train or ship, is free, and your accommodation, if required, is also paid for.

Quick Summary:

  • Entry level land tour guide pay starts at $8 per hour
  • Tour Managers earn up to $400 per day