What Does It Take to Be a Rick Steves Tour Guide?

After sharing the fun of our annual guides’ summit, we wanted to answer the most common question we hear: “What does it take to be a Rick Steves tour guide?”

To be honest, we don’t have a set procedure. We have about 130 lead tour guides. Most are Europeans, but plenty are Americans. Many are already professional guides working with (or fleeing) other tour companies. A few are friends of our company who have been with us since they were kids, packing boxes in our mailroom. These days, our guides are mostly established professionals who come to us with impressive experience along with an enthusiasm for guiding “the Rick Steves way.”

For an insight into the way our guides are managed, here’s an interview with Steve Smith. Steve was one of our very first guides (#4, to be specific), and now he oversees our entire team.

How did Steve start? Back in the 1980s, he was nicknamed “pack man” for the phenomenal way he sold our suitcases and backpacks. He’s our in-house Francophile, who single-handedly established our France program (co-authoring my France, Paris, and Provence guidebooks, and turning this sandwich-munching Viking into a person with a love of France). And all along, I count him as one of my best friends. With the short interview below, I’d like you to meet Steve Smith.

If you can’t see the video below, watch it on YouTube.

There’s no one recipe for how to become a Rick Steves guide. But our current crop of guides has set the bar extremely high. All of our guides have several things in common: They are very well-traveled, they love Europe, and they’re excellent teachers who can convey their passion and in-depth knowledge of Europe, its history, and its culture to a group. Most of them spend extended periods of time in Europe, studying or working; most currently live in the country where they guide, speak the local language, and have a lifestyle that allows them to be on the road for up to three months each year. And every single one of them excels at organizing, leading and teaching people .