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London Walks tours require reservation?

That's what their website says.

But since they list specific meeting points and times, has anyone just tried showing up, or maybe it was too late to reserve so they went and saw if they could join.

They say the guides carry contactless credit card readers so it sounds like they're prepared for any eventuality.

Thing is, I prefer to wait til the last minute, for weather and for various logistics reasons.

I've talked a lot of free tours in recent years and generally like them, that I can show up at last minute. Have never been denied since they are working for tips. Some websites make you pay some nominal fee like a couple of Euros to make a reservation.

I probably would not do some of these tours if it was raining but they hold the tours rain or shine so I don't want to financially commit to a rainy tour. Presumably they take your credit card number to do a reservation, though all their tours are £15.

Posted by
5687 posts

When I was there in October, I made a reservation just hours before online. The confirmation came within minutes; I am pretty sure it was automated. London Walks doesn’t ask for any credit card when you make a reservation. I think they are just making sure that they have an idea of how many people will take the tour. You could probably just show up, but it is pretty easy to reserve on the fly.

You pay on arrival with either cash (exact change) or card. I took 3 London Walks and they all worked this way. The guide did call out the names of those who had pre-registered and waited a few minutes if some of them had not shown up.

Posted by
27409 posts

I took at least one of the walking tours last fall--maybe two--by just showing up. There was no problem, but I assume there might be an issue if the pre-registered group is quite large. But I'm a solo traveler (what's one extra person?). I avoid time-specific commitments as much as possible because I hate the idea of having to stop on the middle of something to rush off to another activity. Laura's idea of making a last-minute reservation is a good one.

Posted by
14248 posts

"I assume there might be an issue if the pre-registered group is quite large."

I assume this is part of it. The one I took in May was a special event one related to the Coronation and they had 2 guides with about 50 people. I'd never done that large a group but the guide was easy to hear.

I am guessing they also want to know if anyone is going to show up so the guide has not wasted their time.

They do carry card readers so paying with contactless was fine although on my walk one of the guides was having trouble getting a connection and his reader was not working.

Posted by
2506 posts

As has been noted you can sign up on short notice and will probably be fine, except I believe some of their out of town day trips and walks with paid admission (e.g., Westminster Abbey) may have a cap on attendance. I did the Westminster Abbey walk last year and our group was split between two guides based on the advance sign ups. There were a couple of no-shows but I don't recall anyone being added to the group on the fly. The guide's card reader did have a glitchy moment, but she sorted it out.

And btw, here is the reason they no longer do drop ins, from the FAQ on their website:

For half a century London Walks operated on a No Booking basis. It was
convenience itself. You just turned up. Covid put paid to that. We
were required by law to set up and operate a track and trace scheme.
So, yes, now the walks do have to be booked. There’s no rigamarole –
it’s simplicity itself, just a couple of clicks and it’s a done deed.
And we’ve discovered that there are huge advantages that come with
that booking scheme. For one thing, it makes “advance communication”
with our walkers possible. If they have to be alerted to something –
for example, a “sprung on us” closure of the normal meeting point for
a walk, we can get the word out to the people who are planning on
going on that walk. We send them an email. Ditto if there’s something
super special going on on the route of a walk on any given day – it’s
nice to be able to put our walkers in the picture. They might well
like to know that there’s a “once in a lifetime event” taking place in
the area and perhaps they should give some consideration to staying on
after the walk and putting in to see said special occasion. Nothing to
it, really. You just make the booking. You get an email confirmation
from us. And hey presto all is taken care of. You simply meet the
guide on the pavement just outside the designated London Tube Stop
(Underground Station) at the time stated.

Posted by
14248 posts

@CL, I'd not delved into their website to see that, so thank you for that.

I'll add that at the end of our walk there was some kind of demonstration coming down Whitehall toward Westminster Abbey so they had to divert their walking route a bit. Both guides got people headed in directions away from the protesters at the end.

Posted by
130 posts

I went on the Hampstead and Hampstead Heath tour with London walks last month, and the Harry Potter tour last summer. They don’t require a credit card to book, just your email. The Hampstead tour guide, David, sent out an email the evening before with exact meeting details (what he would be wearing) and suggestions for places to visit before and after the tour. He also sent us a picture of our tour group the following day.

I heard one tour member mention that she booked that day. I would recommend bringing cash. The tour guide’s card reader wouldn’t work so several of us had to go to the ATM.

Happy Travels :)