"Free" walking tours in Eastern Europe

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Have just returned from a trip in Romania and found this great consortium of free walking tours. Tours are offered in Berlin, Prague, Budapest, Bratislava, Sofia, Ljubljana, Kiev and Bucharest. The tours are free, and you are welcome to tip the guide afterwards. This is the site for the Bucharest tour: www.guided-bucharest.com click on the "United Europe Free Tours" link at the top of the page to see tours in the other countries. The consortium also has a facebook page: www.facebook.com/unitedeuropefreetours --------------- Moderator note: heading edited.

These tours are only free if you elect not to tip the guide, in which case s/he doesn't get paid. I have heard that the guides for some of these "free" tours actually have to buy the right to guide, so if you don't tip they actually lose money.

Personally, unless the tour is organized by the city's tourist information center, or an outfit like Japan's Welcome Guides or Chicago's Greeters, I prefer to pay a company like London Walks, which is upfront about the cost.

Hi: I understand your position. Here is what it says on their brochure:

"Our Mission....... To provide the very best and most entertaining tour that is possible to all tourists regardless of whether they can afford one or not. The concept is both simple and logical: you get a great tour and you decide if and how much you want to tip. No hassle,no pressure. In most conventional tours, the guides get paid no matter how good they do their job, and as a result they have no special intention to provide a top quality tour and the prices are often ridiculously high. By contrast, United Europe Free Tour guides are very much aware of the fact that if they do not provide an exceptionally good tour, they get no tips. As a result, free tours promise to be interesting, entertaining, professional and fun. It is a win-win situation for all."

It is still misleading to call them free - true, you could just slip out at the end of the tour, but I hope most people don't. In fact, if many people did, the whole model would break down.

In any case, I hate the whole tipping concept. I much prefer an upfront price. (I'm much happier traveling in a non-tipping country like China or Japan, than in the US.)

Thank you very much, Adventuregirl, for this highly useful information. The Sept. departure of Adventures Abroad's Ukraine tour that I am enrolled in has finally been confirmed. I plan on spending 4 extra days in Kiev on my own before the tour begins , definitely will take several of the "free" walking tours listed on http://freetours.kiev.ua/free_tours.html, and upon completion will tip the guide in an amount commensurate with that charged by the many walking tours I have taken in Paris with Paris Walks (including the several more I am taking next week). The "free" walking tours of Kiev will be a better orientation to that very historical city than I had on either my two very brief visits there. If it wasn't for you I wouldn't have known about them.

Ada Green (currently in Monte Carlo)

We took a similar tour in Argentina organized by a group of retired teachers and thoroughly enjoyed it.
I thank you for sharing this information. For those of us that are "walkers" this is helpful.