How to Start a Tour Guide Business

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Tour guides provide tours for people interested in visiting popular locations or exceptional scenery. While tour guides may offer kayak, hiking, horseback, boat and driving tours, one of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to start a tour guide business is with a walking tour. If you enjoy venturing out and meeting others, starting a tour guide business could prove to be a rewarding endeavor. Though startup costs are minimal—according to, you can get started from home for about $2,000—to help you hone your niche, start with a business plan.

Contact your state’s Department of Consumer Affairs or licensing department to obtain a tourist or sightseeing guide permit, if necessary. If operating a vehicle for more than 16 passengers, including yourself, obtain a commercial driver's license.

Find your niche and select a tour setting that will interest both you and your clients. Look for areas that garner public interest, such as scenic locations, haunted territory, tourist spots, historical settings or the birthplace of a famous politician or celebrity. To cater to nature enthusiasts, select terrain that includes rare or special plant or animal species. If you’re more interested in the exercise aspect of touring, look for complicated terrain in which to challenge your clients. Or, start an informative outdoor survival tour.

Learn everything you can about your location, taking note of odd, unusual or particularly interesting information.

Insure your business. Purchase liability insurance and design liability release waivers for your clients to sign. Have an attorney help you draft your waivers.

Procure the required supplies, safety equipment and method of transportation—if applicable— for your business or require clients to provide their own. Always have a first aid kit available.

Contact travel agents, who may hire you as an extra perk in their vacation packages. Ask restaurants, hotels and other destinations along your route to supply you with free coupons and brochures to give to your clients. Contact your town’s tourism or main street department about getting listed on the town website, and seek listings with business event planners and limousine companies.

Design a website and brochures for your tour guide business that detail the type of supplies and equipment needed for the tour, such as snacks, sunscreen, sunglasses, hiking shoes, water, special clothing or bug spray.


  • Get certified in CPR and first aid.