Homeless People Give Tours In UK City

Homeless people can often be found outside of many landmarks in Bath, England – but now instead of begging for change they’re leading tour groups.

The initiative is the brainchild of Dr. Luke Tregidgo, a former student at the University of Bath, who is working to solve one of Bath’s biggest social problems by leveraging the city’s greatest asset – its tourists.

Dubbed Secret City Tours, the new program promises, “the most entertaining guided walking tours of Bath, combining the city’s most popular destinations with hidden gems and undiscovered stories that you won’t find anywhere else.”

Bath’s homeless are already biting at the chance to become guides, and a local theater group is helping to train them. And don’t worry: they won’t be showing off the underside of bridges or abandoned buildings – the homeless guides will actually be taking tourists through Bath landmarks like the Crescent, the Roman Baths and the Abbey. And soon, the guides will hopefully earn enough money that you can’t call them “homeless” after all.

[Via Skift]

[Photo credit: Flickr user Andy Welsher]

Bad Trip: How To Annoy Your Tour Guide

donkeyWe’ve all been there. Maybe we’ve been one. The person on a guided tour or trip who’s a complete, utter, pain in the ass.

Perhaps it’s unintentional. Maybe it’s due to deep-seated issues that would cause empathy in another situation. Or just possibly, it’s because the person in question gets off on being a jerk. Does it matter? Whether they provide unwitting entertainment or seething aggravation, that person manages to disrupt others’ enjoyment of the experience. The person who really suffers, however, is the guide.

I’ve had good guides, bad guides, guides who should be nominated for sainthood, but regardless of their skill, they have a difficult job. It’s not easy to wrangle any combination of clueless, headstrong, enthusiastic and grumpy tourists, and get them to points A, B and C on schedule – ideally with an unfailingly polite attitude and unwavering smile on your face. It’s a gift, being a guide possessed of technical, personal and mental skills.

Even those who love to travel solo occasionally require the services of a guide. Thirteen years as a travel journalist has given me a lot of material (in part because my favorite thing to ask guides for are bad client stories).

As a holiday gift, I’m providing a list on how to annoy your guide. Follow it, and I promise you’ll always be remembered – just not fondly.

Wear inappropriate clothing/shoes
I had an absolutely priceless two days in the Atacama Desert last year with two middle-aged Chilean couples. Read: they were such drunken louts, it was painful for the rest of us to keep our mouths shut. My favorite experience with them was on a late-afternoon hike of the stunning Kari Gorge.

The key word here is “hike.” To which one of them, a spoiled Santiaguino physician’s wife, wore staggeringly high boots with a narrow wedge heel. She was also completely shit-faced, so when she wasn’t face-planting on the rocky floor of the gorge, she was screaming at her worthless husband to help her climb up the craggier parts of the trail. The rest of our small group finally broke down and pitied her as we summited a steep, mile-long sand dune. She was openly weeping at that point, clutching her chest in panic (a chain-smoker, she thought she was having a heart attack; ironically, her cardiologist husband was the least concerned of all of us).

Because we had to spend so much time waiting for her, we nearly missed the highlight of the excursion, which was watching the sunset from atop a cliff. By not bothering to check what kind of outing she was taking, she kept the rest of us at her mercy, tested our guide’s patience, and subjected us to her marital issues. Um, awkward.whiningOverstate your abilities
Along the same lines, this woman wasn’t fit enough to master a climb up a flight of stairs. It’s not just inconsiderate to fail to accurately access your physical abilities; it can be deadly. At best, it will ensure you and your guide (who will have no choice but to coddle and devote extra time to you) have a miserable time; at worst, you may well end up having that coronary in a sand dune. Don’t be that person.

Bring your bad attitude with you
True story from a sea-kayaking/orca-watching trip I took last summer. We were on the northern tip of San Juan Island, just miles off of Vancouver Island (i.e. Canada). Our guide pointed out this interesting fact to us, which elicited the following response from the one unfriendly person in our group. She was a taciturn woman in her 30s, a self-professed “bird-lady” who owned 12 parrots.

Annoying Client: I made a promise to myself to never leave this country for any reason, whatsoever.

Hapless Guide: That’s an interesting promise. Why?

AC: Because I believe in America. I don’t ever want to support another country’s economy. Why should I? I even go out of my way to buy products made here.

HG: Aah….hmmmm. Okaaay.

I’m not sure what I love most about this incident: that this woman knowingly took a trip to the Canadian border, or that she supports exotic bird smuggling from foreign countries.

Be late/unprepared
A great way to piss off your guide, and everyone else in your group. Also helpful in ensuring you won’t get your money’s worth from your trip or tour, since the schedule will be compromised. This one’s a winner!

Whine
Because nothing is better for group morale than someone who complains about everything.

Engage in excessive PDA with your significant other
It may start off as amusing for your guide and fellow travelers. Trust me, by trip’s end, they’ll be ready to kill you. Get a room.
camping
Don’t pitch in
Hey, Princess. I know you paid a chunk of change for this (fill in the blank: raft trip/backpacking trip/guest ranch stay). So did everyone else. But your guide and support staff are working their fingers to the bone for very little pay because they love what they do. You know what else they love? Guests or clients who make even the smallest effort to help them out. Ask where you should stash your gear, collect firewood, help chop vegetables or cook dinner (right). Not only will you gain their respect and gratitude, you may even enjoy yourself.

Be high-maintenance
It’s not all about you. You have a pretty good idea of what you’re getting into when you sign up.

Forget to mention your “dietary restrictions”/preferences
Travel companies are savvy enough these days to always include a section for this on their registration forms; I’m not talking about legitimate food allergies or intolerances. But please be honest, not ridiculous, and if you don’t like what’s being served, be polite about it – especially if you’re in a foreign country.

Refuse to interact with your group
I can be a bit of an introvert, so I get how hard it can be to socialize with a group when you’re just not feeling it. But guides tend to stress about the lone client, and feel pressure to ensure they’re having a good time. If you really don’t feel like socializing, assure your guide that you’re just shy, but having a great time. Otherwise, I really recommend faking it till you make it. Once I come out of my shell, I’m usually grateful, because I end up meeting fantastic people who make my experience that much more interesting.

[Photo credits: donkey, Flickr user jaxxon; sign, Flickr user frotzed2; cooking, Laurel Miller]

Host and experience budget-friendly local tours all over the United States

budget travel central park new yorkHipHost, a new “peer-to-peer marketplace for socially-hosted local tours“, not only gives travelers a way to experience new cities from a local’s point of view, but also gives people an opportunity to make extra cash.

Anyone who wants to share their local knowledge can be a HipHost and design a tour based on anything they find interesting. Some tour topics include art, culture, fitness, architecture, history, hiking, markets, music, and more. It’s free to sign-up and guests pay for tours in advance, so hosts don’t have to worry about losing money to no-shows.

Moreover, anyone interested in learning about a topic can search for affordable tours and see a region from a local perspective without paying big tour company prices. Afraid you won’t enjoy your tour? HipHost guarantees a full refund if customers are not satisfied.

Some of the many tours being featured right now include:

And many, many more. Click here to sign-up for and/or host a tour.

Rama: a smartphone app for history lovers

rama smartphone app for history travelers Rama is a smartphone app that not only guides you through your favorite cities while giving you historical details, it also makes the past come alive through archival photographs that show users exactly what a particular destination or site once looked like. See the rocky swamp that is now Central Park, walk through Chicago right after the Great Fire, experience the wild atmosphere of Mardi Gras during the Depression, or visit the few lonely buildings in San Francisco after the Earth quake hit in 1906.

Some of the available tours include:

And, many more. Click here to view a complete list of guided tours. Tours cover Africa, South America, the Middle East, Asia, Europe, and North America.

Available on iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Price ranges from free-$2.99 depending which tour you choose. To download the app from iTunes store, click here.