Ever travelled a city on one of those big bus ‘hop-on, hop-off’ tours that take you round all the hotspots in a day? Me too, they’re a great way to see a city quickly and get your bearings. However, they can be super expensive, with a London bus tour costing £39 for an adult and £29 for a child (you can get discounts online, but it’s still pricey).
Another option you have is to do a free walking tour in London. I’ve done free walking tours in Paris, Barcelona, Krakow and Edinburgh, and all of them were excellent. The guides are always super knowledgeable about the area, and you might get a ‘local’ recommendation or two about great spots for dinner or drinks.
Free walking tours in London are not actually completely free unless you decide to not tip your tour guide anything- which is bad form FYI. Instead, you tip your guide an appropriate amount for the time that they have spent showing you and your family and friends around the area.
Best Free Walking Tours in London
There are SO MANY different types of free walking tours in London- from Westminster, to Jack the Ripper and Graffiti tours.
Tours are often managed by companies that offer several tour routes daily. If you opt for a managed tour you will often need to sign up to go on the tour beforehand, whereas some more casual tours will just tell you to turn up at a given location at a given time.
Free London Ghost Tours
This free London ghost tour by Strawberry Tours takes you through central London’s spookiest spots. Find out more about the ghostly goings on in Green Park, the West End theatres, and even haunted Victorian pubs.
Free tours by foot also offer a ghoulish free London walking tour which takes you through a historical journey- from the Black Plague to tales of murder and hauntings.
Free London Jack the Ripper Tours
Jack the Ripper tours can often be pretty pricey, with many tours starting from £10 per person. This free Jack the Ripper tour by Footprints Tours is led by a ‘ripperologist’ and lasts for two hours. You will be taken to several murderous locations, whilst learning more about the suspects and the victims themselves.
Strawberry Tours also do a great Free Jack the Ripper Walking Tour. This tour currently takes place twice a day, every day. Discover the theories behind who Jack the Ripper really was, alongside the gruesome details that makes Jack the Ripper the most famous London serial killer.
Free London WWII Walking Tour
WWII and The Blitz had a devastating effect on London, and every Londoner will have a family story to tell. Free Tours by Foot have a fantastically detailed tour about the memorials, tragedies and heroics of one of the most terrifying times in modern British history.
Free Central London Walking Tours
There are several brilliant free walking tours that take you through different areas of central London. From the Royal London and Changing of the Guard Tour by Free London Walking Tours, to the Old City of London tour by Free Tours by Foot, there are several brilliant tours available if you would prefer to walk around some on London’s most iconic landmarks.
Free Harry Potter Walking Tours
Strawberry Tours have yet another fabulous walking tour- all about Harry Potter. This tour starts in Leicester square, and operates twice a day, every day. The tour is available in English and Spanish, and you will not be disappointed. Walk down Diagon Alley, and float through the key London streets and places which inspired J.K. Rowling herself.
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Free Walking Tour Etiquette- FAQs
What should you pay for a free walking tour?
When you embark on a free walking tour, you should be aware that the expectation is that you ‘tip’ your tour guide at the end.
How much you should pay for a free walking tour depends on your own circumstances. When I went on my first walking tour, I was interrailing with a friend and we were 20, at uni, and without much money to our names. We paid around 15-20EUR each for the free walking tours that we went on- one of which lasted for around 5 hours!
If you’re at a stage in life where you have got a little more income, pay a little extra. Consider the time that the tour guide has spent taking you to various sights, the time they have taken to learn about the history of the area, and even the local recommendations that they have given.
You will often get a lot more information from a walking tour than you might do on other more organised tours- keep this in mind when you are paying your tip to the guide.
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Can I leave a free walking tour halfway through?
You can absolutely leave a walking tour if you have something else to get to, or if you have already seen the area that is about to be covered by the guide leading the tour. Make sure that you go up to the tour guide at an appropriate moment, thank them for their time and give them some money for their expertise.
It is considered rude to leave a tour halfway through without thanking your guide for their time- I’ve been on tours before where people have left without saying goodbye and, really, it’s just bad manners.
Walking tours can go on for HOURS. So it’s completely up to you if you decide to come along for just a couple of hours, or you see the tour right through to the end. I’ve done both in the past, and in both instances I have tipped the tour guide.
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Is it ever ok not to tip during a free walking tour?
In essence, no. It’s never ok not to tip your guide on a free walking tour. They are giving up their time, knowledge and recommendations to you, and so to follow good etiquette you should tip your tour guide. How much you decide to tip them will depend on your own circumstances and financial position.