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Free Tours by Foot London vs London Walks

Do some of you folks out there have a preference between these two tourist services and why?
How "free" are the Free Tours by Foot company? They say you "pay what you feel (the tour) deserves" ? Not sure
what to think about that...I've looked at the websites of both but would like to hear what the good folks on the Forum
have to say about either one, yay or nay. We would like to book a walk while in London (September).
Thanks again.

Posted by
24810 posts

Rick has explained the situation with the commercial "free" tours. The info may be in all his guide books at this point. Here's the deal: The organizer signs people up as guides and does whatever marketing is done. The guide is charged for each person who shows up for a tour; that money goes to the organizer. Based on what Rick said several years ago (it was well before the pandemic began, so maybe 5 years ago), the guide has to cough up close to 5 euros per person now. He or she starts out significantly in the hole. Then couples show up for the tours and tip 5 or 10 euros for two people!

I avoid "free" tours whenever I can, because I don't like the business model. If they are the only game in town, I take them and tip about what I would pay for a regular walking tour--typically about 15 euros. In London I guess it would need to be 15 GBP.

I know nothing about the Free Tours by Foot Company, but I wonder about the quality of those guides. I know the London Walks guides are licensed, which is not a quick or cheap or easy process to complete. I think the courses/testing cost over 1000 GBP, maybe considerably more. The London Walks folks are real professionals.

Posted by
8026 posts

I’ve been traveling to London for years.

Try to take a London Walk each visit. Last trip (2022) took the Inns of The Court. As always, excellent, well informed guide.

Posted by
929 posts

On two trips we've taken a few tours by London Walks and they have been uniformly excellent. If I'm back in London again in the future I'd take more from them.

Posted by
95 posts

I agree with Claudia and John. London Walks tours I have taken have been excellent, and I will take other tours from them next time I’m in London.

I would not choose to take a “free” tour, for the reasons acraven (above) explained.

Posted by
31007 posts

London Walks are the pros. They have been doing it for a long time, they do it very well, and the guides are the top of the game. I wouldn't consider anybody else. They know what they are doing.

This "we won't charge anything and if you like it you might like to tip us" idea is as close to a scam as you can get without going over the line.

I have never heard of Free Tours by Foot London. They would not be my top choice.

Posted by
13801 posts

You know the old saying......."You get what you pay for."

Anyone can sign up to lead a "free" tour. Mostly college students trying to make a buck. I mean a pound.

London Walks, on the other hand, gets licensed guides who know something about the subject matter they are leading. I've taken a few London Walks tours. They were all excellent. Look at some off the bios of the people leading their tours. It's on their website.

In the future, I will take more walks with London Walks. I don't plan to take any "free" tours anywhere..

Posted by
9763 posts

We took 3 London Walks tours last year and enjoyed each one.

Years ago we took a “free” tour in Paris. The “guide” was a young American guy who had won Big Brother and took his winnings to go to Paris. He took particular notice and gave a lot of attention to our 20 year old daughter. His knowledge of Paris was questionable, his French pronunciation was terrible and he took us to a restaurant for a break mid tour. He returned with a case of wine and plastic cups and the rest of the tour he generously refilled the cups. I’m sure the plan was to get people tipsy so they would tip well. It was New Years Eve during the day.

Posted by
24 posts

Thank you acraven and others for the explanation of how these "free" tours work. We have been watching the Free Tours by Foot London YouTube channel and were intrigued by their videos that they upload, but never really could figure out the "free" part, lol.
From the responses I have gotten it looks like London Walks would provide the better experience for us. Such glowing reviews cannot be dismissed!
Thanks again from Kansas USA

Posted by
3972 posts

And the London Walks tours are not expensive.

Posted by
273 posts

Just to add a fine point - some free tours are perfectly legitimate, such as the Mayor's tours in Bath - they are upfront that gratuities aren't accepted. We took this tour several years ago and the docent was amazing. So it would be helpful to qualify the use of "free," which was done early on but then was simplified later in the thread.

Posted by
31007 posts

yes, truly free - the way TI tours used to be - versus we'll say it is free but we want your money and will remind you several times tours.