There are a few questions we get asked a lot as a guide, so I thought I’d write a little bit to quell that curiosity. Some of these are personal to me, but a lot of them will be accurate for guides across Europe.
How long have been a guide?
This is my second year with Busabout, I started training in April 2016 and haven’t looked back once.
Is it hard to be a guide?
It can be challenging at times, there are some long days (and some long nights) but overall we do it because we enjoy it. If I didn’t find it rewarding I think I’d stop being a guide
Does it pay well?
It pays enough, we don’t become guides for the money that’s for sure. There’s plenty better ways to earn lots more money, but we do it for the love of travel, and the rewarding nature of the job. If you guys are happy, then I’m happy, and that’s not many jobs that can be so pleasant so often.
Do you get loads of freebies?
Nope, Busabout provides us with accommodation, the rest is on us. I’m sure some guides are good at flirting and getting things for free, and there are occasions when we get to join you on excursions, but mostly we pay our own way.
Do you love it?
Yes – 100%
What’s your favourite tour?
Each guide has their own favourites for various reasons, for me though I love the HOHO Coach Network. I love the structure of it, meeting people, passing on information and setting them up to have a great time, then leaving them to it. It’s best once you’ve been going a week or so and you have some days off – your passengers catch back up and you can chat about the amazing experiences they’ve had. However Greece allows us to get to know our customers so much better, the 11 day tour means we can really get to know everyone and make some good friends. Each tour has its own benefits.
Should I be a tour guide?
If you want, then absolutely. I have worked in a lot of sectors, and tourism is by far the best, and being a guide is my favourite job of them all. It’s a rigorous training process, and I put in more effort to become a guide than I ever did for anything else, including my degree!
Does it get lonely?
Sometimes yes, it can be hard when you’re constantly meeting new people and struggling to make a strong bond, but that’s where your colleagues come into play. The drivers on the loops are in the same situation, and all the guides are happy to pick up the phone and have a chat if it’s what you need. You might be on your own, but with the Busabout team you’re never alone.
Do you have a girlfriend/boyfriend
Some guides do, and they make it work out there on the road. Personally I don’t, I’m a big fan of tinder! When I get days off I try to connect with some of the locals and get some time away from work. It may not be a very orthodox approach to exploring a city, but it’s been amazing for finding secret bars and restaurants I couldn’t have any other way.
Where’s your favourite place?
In Europe, I love Slovenia and think Lake Bled is one of the most amazing places in the world. I can’t recommend it enough.
Do you miss home?
Rarely to be honest, I have moved around so much over the last 10 years that I don’t have anywhere that really feels like home. I do miss English sausages, Cornish pasties and roast dinners though, along with my close friends and my family of course. The thing I crave most often though is pretty nerdy – I miss video games!
With the time off I get in Athens, it gives me a lot of chances to see more of Greece, so I decided to do an actual tour. I wanted to see some of the real history of the country, so Delphi and Meteora were a must do. Epic scenery and some great stories as well
I booked through a website called GetYourGuide.com which was pretty good, their price was about 30EUR less than if I’d booked direct, and the company I went with was called Key Tours. It’s a two day tour, and the price included a stay in Kalambaka at the base of the Meteora cliffs.
I was picked up, transferred, fussed around and faffed about until eventually I was on a coach heading up to Delphi for our first stop. The guide was an impressively knowledgable lady called Anastasia, talking almost constantly all the way out of Athens, and then from Athens the whole way to Delphi. Honestly it was very hard to listen to her talk for such a long time, there was just too much chatter that didn’t interest me, so I fell asleep. The service breaks were depressing tourist traps full of over-priced tat and rubbish food, but we didn’t get much choice.
Once we got to Delphi there was a little more fussing, then the group followed our guide on a rather uninspiring tour of a hugely inspiring location. The site itself is incredible, ruins of treasuries, a huge temple, a stadium and so much more, all built around the Oracle, on the side of a mountain. The views in all directions were wonderful, the valley spreading below us and the mountain peaks above, while the ruins showed how the ancient holy location functioned. The story goes that Zeus released two crows who would meet at the centre of the world, then hurled a rock down in that location to mark it for mankind. There is a fissure in the rock there, where sulphuric gasses rise from the depths of the planet, and they found that breathing this gas caused strong hallucinations. They would use a virgin, who sit atop the fissure, breathing the air and explaining what she saw (or just mumbling nonsense) and priests would translate this into advise and prophesy for the leaders of the various city-states. The most well known of the prophecies is the story of Croesus who was told that he would destroy an army if he went to war. He went to war, and his own army was destroyed.
It was a holy location, so nobody lived there, meaning there are no remains of homes, just the main temple of Apollo and various treasuries, or gold supplies for the city-states. The location at Delphi meant it was close to the coast and accessible relatively easily by all. The formed a council of elders, and it was at this location they could make decisions for the entire nation. The Oracle features in several movies, including 300, which depict it as a truly mystical place – It’s unlikely to have been quite to fantastical, but the Ancient Greeks certainly believed in the power of Oracle.
We missed the museum, which contained many of the statues and more delicate artefacts in order to get going towards Meteora. We did get a brief stop at the monument to the Spartans who died Thermopylae. A mighty spartan warrior stands atop a wall, with a carved depiction of the battle of the 300 against the immense Persian army. Since the water level has lowered the narrow passage shown in the movie is now much much wider, and would be impossible to defend with so few men.
We switched out guide when we left Delphi, and I had been hoping that our new guy would make the journey a little better, with shorter talks about the most important sights, however he also decided to expel every nugget of information he could about the regions we travelled through, including a wonderful 20 minutes on a special cheese, 40 minutes of the plains of mid-greece and plenty more that I was more than happy to sleep through. I expect I missed a lot of the interesting and relevant information, but trying to concentrate was just impossible. We arrived at Kalambaka tired and drowse, but a reasonable feed and a stroll around cleared my head before bed.
An early start meant we were on the cliffs before most of the tourists, and actually had a chance to view some of the very impressive sights of Meteora. The place is famous not only for the high cliffs rising out of the plains below, but also the monasteries and nunneries built upon them. Built by religious hermits who had been residing in the caves, the cliffs gave the monks the solitude to worship and act according to Gods will. Nowadays there are roads up there, and tourist crawling all over the churches and holy areas, so I imagine the solitude is less effective, but the idea of constructing entire buildings on rock outcrops and effectively inaccessible cliffs, back in the 11th Century is just unimaginable.
We visited two of the main complexes, and viewed one from the outside (it’s closed on Tuesdays) and each had it’s own charm, and was an impressive structure when you consider the challenge of building on the pure rocks. The views were possibly the most spectacular, although our guide insisted on teaching us about every mural in each chapel, which took up most of the time inside. I decided to skip out of tour to enjoy the location without being surrounded by other tourists, and there’s something about musty church air that makes me feel pretty bad (I must be a sinner).
The trip home was long an uneventful, I tried to sleep as much as I could, I had certainly had enough of the guide. At least the ride was smooth and there was minimal faffing around.
I’d absolutely recommend the sites, they’re excellent, and good value for entry, but if you can find a way to see them without doing a tour do so. Greek guides have to go to school to qualify, and the school teaches them to talk as much as they can, for as long as they can, and it’s exhausting to listen to. I’m surprised they can still talk at all.
I decided a while ago to apply for a few positions as a guide as I wasn’t overly satisfied with my work at Flight Centre. I wanted to get back to the source of the travel, to be truly involved in making peoples holidays, talking to the people having fun, not just booking their flights. Of all of the positions I applied for, it was Busabout that I wanted most (although a position in Africa was pretty tempting as well). The Hop-on Hop-off style is how I would want to travel Europe, with a guide to help out, but no restrictions time wise. With so many cities visited in so many countries, it allows you see the best of Europe, and gives you the tools to see the rest of it as well. Plus the coach gives people a chance to meet new friends, much more sociable than the trains.
I got through the interview process with a hastily written presentation on Barcelona FC, and wowed them with my one on one, which meant I got invited to join the 7 week training trip – visiting every city on their loops, through 14 countries in Europe. So I handed in my notice, packed up all my things and hit the road again.
It was a gruelling 7 weeks of coaches almost every day, rushing around cities to find out as much as we could, bike tours, pub crawls, cooking classes, boat trips and much much more. There were some late nights, some stressful situations but I felt it was all manageable, they tested me, but I never felt like I would fail. Once I got into a routine of having everything prepared a day before, I could hop up and give a talk on cities and countries I’d never even been to. It was a lot of fun in fact, meeting so many like minded people, learning huge amounts about European history and every city on our network. Now I’m sure all my friends will complain about the constant barrage of facts.
Then as the end was in sight, they told me I’d be flying off to Greece for an extra 10 days of training on the Greek Island Hopper adventure product. While I was craving some rest, I jumped at the chance to educate myself in Greek gods, mythology, and how to avoid sun burn when it’s 40+ everyday. As we experienced the product I learnt how much fun it would be, parties every other night and some beautiful islands to explore.
I am now happy to say that I am employed by Busabout as a European Guide, and have started with my first sector just two days ago – Munich to Paris with just 10 passengers. Tomorrow I will be hitting the road with many more, heading to Amsterdam. Time to brush up on my Dutch history.
I have to thank all of the trainers who helped me prepare for this, pushing me to my limits, making sure I’m ready for silly questions, difficult questions, and everything else they can throw at me. Here’s to a wonderful summer in Europe.
The other day I took my jaunt into Central Europe, visiting Prague in the Czech Republic and Berlin, Germany. With the exception of a couple of snowboarding trip to Austria, I had not explored this part of Europe, so I arrived with open eyes ready to soak in the sights and culture.
First things, Prague is a stunning city, huge buildings everywhere in the city centre, and an unbelievable amount of history, from Medieval castles and Gothic churches it’s really very impressive. The city wasn’t attacked during the Second World War, so it didn’t suffer the damage that so many other cities did. One thing that is fascinating is that the ground floor of the city, was original the first floor. Due to years of floods the city, deliberately and not, has slowly buried it’s ground floor, so buildings are actually shorter than they would have been when built. This means there plenty of underground cellars, and some go pretty deep where the building was actually built with a cellar. There are a few places where you can see the original street level, and it’s amazing to consider that the ground has literally been raised throughout the city.
So first day I set about exploring, walking from the place I was staying, my lovely friends apartment in Prague 2, down to the river and towards Petrin Hill where I came across a very strange art gallery. Filled with the fairies and unicorn style paintings, but also modelled to match the artwork the gallery was a work of art in itself. Highly unusual, but fascinating and very cheap, so if you ever come across it (it’s better to find it by accident) you must have a look.Further up the hill are the walled gardens, another church and the mini Eiffel tower. The tower is well worth heading up, and with a lift up the centre is very accessible, although it’s a bit of a scramble at the top to get photos out of the few open windows. The views are excellent, the whole city stretching away from you in all directions.
From here it was a short walk on to the castle, past the tourist restaurants and through more original cobbled streets (this city isn’t much good for zimmer frames). The castle is a huge complex, with the Cathedral in the centre being the main attraction. It is almost unbelievable to think that such a grand structure could have been built so long ago. Entry is free into the church, although you need a ticket to go past the entrance area, but just from that you can feel the grandeur that comes with such an impressive building.
One interesting effect of the raised street level, and the old architecture of the city is that a lot of the buildings feel closed off, and rather intimidating to enter. Unlike the big windows and open doors of more modern cities, Prague has the opposite, and while inside may be warm and friendly, the giant buildings put out a less than welcoming atmosphere. Perhaps this was also due to the cold in the city in November. However that evening I certainly felt very welcome as I visited a bowling alley with my host and a couple friends. The bar across the road was also very friendly, with plenty of people having a good night.
So the world of Snowsports has thousands of different bits of kit and snow gear that someone will insist you can’t be without – here’s a little list of technical gear we think you actually need. (There’s a list of everything you’ll need for your uni trip here, for those who are going the first time)
Skis/Snowboard – Yeah, you’ll need this one,pretty essential snow gear, we’ve got you covered here
Boots – Perfect fit, before you get to the resort, that’s why we’re here
Poles – Only for the skiers, and we’ll get you sorted as well
Socks – Your feet are where the action happens, and where the pressure is so you need good socks to protect your tootsies. Football and rugby socks really won’t cut it, and wearing two pairs is just going to be blister city. Get some decent ski socks and they’ll keep your feet toasty and free of blisters, and we have plenty for you to buy
Helmet – Long gone are the days of yore, when helmets were for Groms and Gapers, these days we all wear them, all the time and we don’t like people who don’t. We’re not wasting time making friends with suicidal people. Hire and helmet, save a life. 100% essential snow gear.
Jacket and Pants – We’ve got these for you as well, and it’ll do you fine. You don’t need a £200 jacket if you’ll just be hitting the greens and blues, but don’t go buying the cheapest jacket you can find, it probably won’t do so well. Please buy something though, your leather jacket might look cool on the streets, but on the slopes you’ll look rather special.
Gloves – Again snow specific gloves are essential, but the cheapest will tear within days. If you want the cheap option without the tears, hire them from us with the premium clothing rental package.
Goggles – there’s a lot of variation here, but if you’re only out for a week a year, you probably don’t need a pair of low lights, mid lights and blue bird goggles. Stick with something in the middle and you’ll be grand.
There’s a lot of cheap gear out there, and eBay can be very good at tempting you with stuff you don’t need. Be wary of deals that sound to good to be true, they often are.
Keep an eye out for keen salesmen as well, we’ve seen people wearing fluffy socks that the ‘guy in the shop’ swore were professional riding socks, and wooly gloves with the same recommendation.Check the brand is something you’ve heard of before, or take a buddy who’s got some experience so you don’t get a bad deal. Decathlon don’t seem to have much clue about snowsports, while Snow + Rock will be pushing the expensive stuff in our experience.
But even easier than all that, just get the clothing rental packages from us and we’ll supply good quality gear for a budget price. If you like it enough, you can buy it from us and it’ll cost you less than the full RRP!
The following is an edited version of an email guide I emailed to a couple of friends who I met in Thailand. I have improved the language and added a couple little points, but left it essentially the same. This is not a formal review, but it gives you an idea of what I was doing while working in Australia.
Things to do:
Great Barrier Reef – this is the big one, have to do it. Currently a special with Ocean Free that’ll do you a dive for $20 and it’s a sweet boat. Bungy Jumping here, only place in Aus. Don’t bother with Cape Tribulation (Cape Trib) it’s a bit shit, but the Atherton Tablelands tour is good. Uncle Brians is the best tour, but Captain Matty’s is good too (and a bit cheaper) White Water Rafting, this is great, but a bit of a drive away from Cairns, you can use this to transfer down to Mission Beach though, which is a nice spot, and it’ll knock about 2 hours off the journey down to your next stop
Places to see:
The lagoon, lots of girls, sometimes topless. There’s another one at Gilligans which is smaller, but less kids/old people so better for the ladies.
Where to go out:
Gilligans is king here, it’s got a massive nightclub in the complex, during the week it’s quiet and they do some stupid backpacker things, including wet tee-shirt comps and other stupid stuff. At the weekends it packs out with Aussie locals, the atmosphere take a bit of a dive, but altogether it’s still good, and it’s a good time to meet some aussie chicks too. The Woolshed has a similar vibe, and allows people to dance on the tables, which people like. It seems to be the main competitor of Gilligans, nowhere near as big, but still a good party, and cheaper than gillis. Worth a night. Everywhere else… not a clue!
Cairns – Mission Beach = 2 hours
White Water Rafting – same as above. Sky Diving [EDIT: It’s possible to skydive up and down the East Coast with these guys, and if a jump is cancelled due to weather, they will transfer your booking to another day and location]- a great place to skydive onto the beach. This place is really small and chilled out, a nice rest from Cairns, and some really friendly people in the hostels, but you’ll get bored after a day or so, not much going on here at all.
Mission Beach – Townsville = 3 hours
Townsville is an Aussie tourist hotspot, but very few backpackers here, it’s only used as the port to get over to Maggie Island. This is a place that wants to be Thailand! They have a full moon party, but people have said it’s a bit tame, so don’t bother with that, but you can check it out for a day or two. Seems to be highly recommended by the Irish, so maybe head over and check it out. You can get deals that include your ferry ticket, accom and some meals at the Base hostel if you go to Peterpans. Again, it’s small and chilled, but I’ve been told it’s really good so up to you guys!
Townsville – Airlie Beach = 10 hours (overnight)
The Whitsunday islands are beautiful, and you’ll want to be on the Clipper to have the best time, it’s the biggest boat, it’s got the best vibe and the biggest party atmosphere. Slide, diving board and hot tub on board, it’s for getting loose and having fun. But you’ll still get plenty of time to see Whitehaven beach and do plenty of snorkeling and see the fish! Just don’t get too drunk and a hangover on a boat is no fun. [EDIT: Having been on the Clipper since writing this I would recommend New Horizon, the sister boat. I found the games and attitude on board a little too childish for me, so if you’re over 25 stay away. However if you’re happy to dress up, and run around like a fool, this is the boat for you]
Airlie: Stay somewhere cheap, that’s not nasty (Beaches is nasty, everywhere else is pretty ok [EDIT: Nomads has nice rooms, good facilities and a great atmosphere] Party anywhere you want, there’s one road in Airlie, and it’s pretty short. You can wander up and down fine and you’ll see where is busy and where’s not. Beaches is pretty good and Mambos in the middle is pretty cool. Mama Africa is the only club and stays open pretty late. Just keep it easy, and when you meet a chick who’s game, take her home quick!
Airlie – Agnes Water/1770= 10 hours
This place has two names, it’s confusing. This is a good place to stop for a night or two, they really want to bring more people in here, so you can usually get a free surf trip or something while you’re there. Most of the hostels have free wifi, so make sure you get one of those. The best thing here is that it breaks up your journey to Rainbow beach, saves a long stop over at a bus stop in Hervey Bay, which you don’t want!
Agnes – Rainbow Beach = 8 hours
RAINBOW BEACH/FRASER ISLAND
Rainbow is a cool little town, good place to chill, but with enough backpackers coming through to keep it fun. Most people just rush through though, so it might not be a great place to spend too much time. The best thing here is the DINGOS tour of Fraser Island. This is rad, driving a 4×4 around on the beach and down sand/dirt roads, then jumping out to see some cool shit, or go for a swim in some really nice lakes. It’s the best things I did in Oz, so do it! it’s 3-day 2-nights, camping next to the beach, and pretty high chances of a lay.
Rainbow Beach – Noosa – 2 hours
This place is cool, and crawling with Canadian chicks, definitely worth a stop over, and possibly a good place to stop for a while, work for accommodation get into things a bit more. A good place for surfing as well, so give it a shot. Don’t stay in Dolphins! The town is also near Australia Zoo, which is the biggest and best, so hit that up on your way down to Brisbane
Noosa – Brisbane – 2 hours
Boring. Good botanical gardens, great modern art museum, not much else. Some people love it, I was bored.
Brisbane – Surfers = 2 hours
Not my cup of tea at all! But, very good night life, a little more dressy than other places (no flip-flops or vests) and lots of Aussies on the pull. A good place to meet Aussie chicks though, especially if you get out of the backpacker bars. Has Wet n Wild and Dreamworld, the biggest theme parks in Aus, so give them a blast, but not in the school holidays.
Surfers – Byron = 2 hours
There’s three places to stay in Byron 1) Backpackers Inn – the cheapest place, about 10 mins from the town, not great though 2) Nomads – right in the middle, big party hostel, but one of the most expensive 3) Arts Factory – funky place, lots of people love it, but it’s about 20mins from the town Very cool place, very hippy, loads of people love it, and it’s rad. Great for surfing, and even free board hire if you find the right place, but the boards are made of rocks, [RDIT: it’s worth hiring a decent one if you’re actually serious about giving it a go]. The town is EXPENSIVE though, it’s popular, and expensive to match. You have to go to Nimbin, it’s fun and cool.
It’s a surf camp, nothing else there! Just surf, chill, flirt, and eat. All food provided, and it’s good food!
Spot x – Sydny – 8 hours
SYDNEY…. I’ll finish this later…”
I didn’t ever finish it for my friends, but there is a very brief guide on the Aussie East Coast. It’s good for those only planning a short trip, as it covers all the best bits and basics, so if you want to go for anywhere between 3 and 6 weeks, this will work out well for you.