Work Abroad

What Is It Like?

Your job as a tour leader is an uncertain cross between guide, organiser, baby sitter, nurse and entertainer.

You would normally accompany a group from their arrival in the country until they fly out at the end of the tour, and more often than not you are solely responsible for their welfare. You make sure things happen on time and as planned, trouble shoot the problems that come up and generally make sure everyone has a good time.

From the moment your clients emerge in the arrivals hall, clutching their phrase book and digital cameras, you’re waiting with your clip board. You wipe the drool from their lip, welcome them in and whiz them off to the first hotel.

From giving them the spiel on the bus about the local area, to coordinating all the logistical arrangements (itinerary, hotels, transport, visas, local staff etc.). You’ll wine and dine them in the evenings, and then slink back to your hotel room to balance out the books and update your reports.

On the bright side it is an excellent opportunity to travel. You can visit those places you’ve always dreamt of and, working closely with the local and indigenous people, you’ll get to know them in a way that’s beyond the average traveller.

In many places you’ll be treated as royalty. In Egypt, for example, the local vendors recognise the power of the guide who decides where fifteen Western tourists with money to burn are going to eat, drink and shop. The locals will shower you in freebies so that you never spend a penny of your own money.

Many guides use tour leading as means to developing an interest (photography, or archaeology) or learning a language. With extended periods in buses, trucks or trains there’s ample time for reading, writing, putting the world to rights or becoming a soduku grandmaster.

And best of all, when you’re having a bad day and the last person you want to talk to is your boss, rest assured that he/she is usually a continent or two away.

On the other hand, tour leading can be incredibly hard work, and requires enormous patience. You’ll smile through gritted teeth as your clients continually compare your lifestyle to a holiday, oblivious to the fact that you’ve been awake all night sorting out problems on their behalf.

Tour leading is not a job for summer, or a season but a profession most engage in full time for at least two or three years before moving on. Because of the large amount of time spent ‘on the road’, keeping ties with friends back home requires a great effort, and maintaining a relationship requires a very trusting and understanding spouse.

But for the young and single man or woman with the appropriate temperament it has the potential to be a very fulfilling way to see the world.

But for the young and single man or woman with the appropriate temperament it has the potential to be a very fulfilling way to see the world.

Tariq El Kashef

Tariq El Kashef is the author and editor of – The Online Egypt Travel Guide