Step-on Tour Guide Jobs

While the sightseeing guide is situated in a single city or works across multiple cities, the step-on tour guide is in a similar situation, but more restricted. Like the sightseeing guide the step-on guide is an expert in his or her field. They are meant to “show off” their knowledge of a specific item or area in a city or town.

As a step-on guide, however, you are not a part of a tour from start to finish, and you may meet hundreds of new people on a daily basis.

This is why the step-on guide, like the sightseeing guide, is ideal for those who do not want to leave their home town, but who are still passionate about meeting new people and showcasing their city’s famous attractions. Most of the time, a step-on guide works for himself or herself on a freelance basis, but it is not uncommon to see a step-on guide work as a part of a tour company. This could be due to the fact that you have unique, detailed knowledge about a certain place that no one else does which is why you are chosen to lead that section of the tour, or it could be due to the fact that there is a part of the tour that the tour company wants to highlight, where they require an additional guide to retain very specific and thorough information about.

Step-on guides can also work for a specific attraction, for example a museum. Step-on guides can work for museums, national parks, and other large attractions where they study and research information pertaining to that specific place and will meet with various tour groups throughout the day to show them around. At the end of the tour, you will take them back to their coach where their sightseeing guide will once again take over the tour and they will continue on their journey.

Did You Know? A step-on tour guide will sometimes have to wear a specific uniform or costume to tie in with the tour they are leading, for example, the Sedona Tours in Northern Arizona has step-on tour guides dress in traditional cowboy/cowgirl outfits.

Job Responsibilities

There is not a lot of planning or preparation as a step-on tour guide as far as the entire tour is concerned. While you may work for yourself, you do have to follow the instructions of the sightseeing tour guide or land tour guide, who follows the itinerary set out by the tour manager. The step-on guide is a sort of relief for the full time tour guide, and steps onto the tour bus when it enters into the guide area. This allows the permanent guide to rest, while the step-on guide takes over narration of that specific area.

While you are following a set plan you have to make sure that you have a planned itinerary of your own for your part of the tour. Say you are a step-on guide for a national park. You will have to plan where the tour goes and what is seen by the passengers while you are in charge of the tour. Step-on tour guides can take a tour on foot, up mountains or even on river cruises, so you will have to plan all aspects of the tour you will be taking, including food, water and whatever supplies are needed.

Your main responsibility is to provide more in depth information about a part of the tour that you are in charge of. You have to ensure that you know and can explain in a lot more detail than the sightseeing guide leading the tour about the area in question. You must provide the visitors with some very precise, detailed information that they would not have otherwise known, so plenty of research and study is required.

Job Requirements

To be a good step on tour guide you need to be well versed in the area you will be working in. You will need to know what people want to see and how they may want to experience it, or what the best way to experience the area is, whether it is in a hot air balloon, a train, by foot, on bicycles or in motor vehicle.  Let us take a look at an example of a tour of Old Montreal as set out by a Canadian Tour Company:

Walking Tour of Old Montreal – Let our Step On guide unlock the door to the city’s history with a walk through its most historic neighborhood: Old Montreal.”

In this tour, the step-on guide provides an in depth historical account of the development of Old Montreal from its origins as a trading post, taking guests through the old narrow streets, where they get to marvel at the architecture through the ages from the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. One of the exciting sights on this tour is the Notre-Dame Cathedral at the Place d’Armes, which is Montreal’s oldest church dating back to 1829, and set alongside the Sulpician Seminary which was built between 1684 and 1687, and is the oldest building in Old Montreal. Guests are also told stories of the various old buildings and what they once were. The tour continues down the winding lanes to the Old Port where there are parks, museums, and various forms of entertainment for everyone. Other sights during this step-on tour are the Place Jacques-Cartier, the Seamen’s Chapel, the Bonsecours Market, Chateau Ramezay, and the classic City Hall where Charles De Gaulle made his famous “vivre le Quebec libre” speech.

As you can see from the above example, this will form a part of a larger tour, and is very specific in nature to the historic Old Montreal neighborhood. A tour like this requires an expert in the field to take over and lead the group, which is where you, as the step-on guide, would come in.

Salary & Benefits

As an entry level step-on guide, you will earn $8 to $15 an hour. If you are going to go into this field as a freelancer, you may be able to set you rate a bit higher, but this is something you will have to gauge depending on your area, the expertise you offer and the sights you are providing tours to.

If you are able to offer your expertise on more than one sight, and meet different tour groups in different locations, there is the possibility for you to earn between $20 and $25 an hour. Again, as a freelancer, you may be able to get a bit more depending on the situation. On a tour you will not need to pay for your drinks or food, and your transport is free too. You will also get free or discounted tours if you work for a tour company.

Quick Summary:

  • As a step-on guide you get to concentrate on only one or a few sight instead of the entire tour.
  • You earn up to $25 working for a company with the potential of earning more as a freelancer.
  • You are based in one area, and sometimes work for one particular sight, such as a museum.
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