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Tales of a Tour Guide



You may be aware that I am a Tour Guide during my university holidays. I give open-top bus tours of London three times a day showing people the likes of Big Ben and the Tower of London. It could be a repetitive job if it weren't for the customers: they constantly amaze me with new facts, incredible questions or acts of kindness. Below I'll tell you some of the more unusual stories and questions.

1. A thoughtful man - Once, in the Summer of 2012, we were stuck just before Tower Bridge as the bridge had opened to left a shift through. One of the customers asked me if he could get off the bus to buy something from the shop across the road. I said something along the lines of "You'd have to ask the driver downstairs but I don't see why not" as we were going to be stuck there for 10 minutes or so anyway, and I had checked and there were two ships passing so it could be even longer.  It was a hot day and it was a completely open bus so it was a nice opportunity to sunbathe whilst telling people all about the bridge, the Tower of London on the other side, and the river cruise they could catch from the next stop.

The man hopped off the bus and walked over to the shop across the road. He same back a few minutes later with two bags filled with bottles of water and cans of coke and proceeded to hand these out to everyone on the bus. I was dumbfounded to be honest. What a lovely gesture.

2. A thoughtful girl - It's always nice when guests show an appreciation of your tour, by thanking you and even tipping you (all tips must be split 50/50 with the drivers). This is always nice and appreciated. It took me by surprise one day when a little girl, maybe 5 or 6 years of age, came up to me in my seat on her way out one day and gave me a big hug and said "Thank You." I've never felt so appreciated in the job as at that moment.

3. A generous tipper - In contrast to what I've said above, a good tip as always appreciated as having to pay for travel and food every day adds up to about £50-60 a week which is a substantial portion of my wages. This is fairly normal for a job but being in a position where you have the potential to be tipped is always nice. One man after paying over £25 for the tour thought I was so good that he tipped me £20 extra. Amazing.

4. A curious game - One day we were approached Big Ben on the bus and I remember saying the word 'downstream' as I was referring to the river Thames. At that same time a teenage boy on the other side of the bus shouted 'YES' in the same way as if he'd just won an achievement on a game. Turns out he had, the parents had asked their kids to draw up a bingo grid and write words down that the tour guide might say, turns out 'downstream' was the last word this guy needed. Bingo!

5. A backwards mentality - So it was the Summer of 2012 and we were on the bus, one of the many marches or parades that happens every year is Gay Pride in London. The group were loving the tour until I mentioned that we were going to be diverted because of the gay pride event as we wouldn't be able to go down a particular road as the march was walking down and the bus obviously wouldn't be able to get through as the roads were closed. 5 minutes later, we found ourselves in crawling traffic with the march surrounding us. A lot of very skimpy and hilarious customers were around including one transvestite man dressed as a urinal which I thought was hilarious. The man opposite me didn't, he said this was disgusting and we shouldn't encourage gay people to express their rights and continued to made rude remarks. I told him he couldn't say that in the UK and it was a hate crime. After almost an hour of being stuck moving slowly with the parade, we eventually got onto a different road and to the next stop. He got off and tipped me. What a backwards mindset.

6. A scribbled note - We had just reached the Tower of London, the point where most people hop off the bus to get the river cruise. One lady asked me to hold on a second as her daughter was just getting something, so I asked the driver to wait. The girl handed me something in my hand on the way out, I said my usual "Thank you, I really appreciate it", assuming it was a note, it felt like money or paper. It was paper, I turned it over and to my surprise there was a phone number - an Australian phone number for me to call. The girl was a bit young for me, she looked about 15. This wasn't going to happen and she never did receive a phone call.

Interesting questions that have been asked over the years:
  • Do I get off here for the river cruise? 
    • No. While at Oxford Street - with no river in sight.
  • How do I get on the bus? 
    • One guide apparently told a customer there was a ladder round the back. They went searching for it.
  • Was the Tower of London built by Walt Disney as a prop for a film? 
    • No, it is about 950 years old!
  • Is there an elevator on this bus? 
    • No. You use the stairs.
  • Does Sweeney Todd really kill everyone who comes to the London Dungeon
    • No. He's not alive, the story based on him is most likely fake and that'd surely not go down too well with the authorities.
If you would like a private London tour guide look no further than Private London Tours.