Why You Should Take a Free Walking Tour in Edinburgh
We may be biased here, since free walking tours are the foundation of what we do here at Orange Tours, but we are genuinely passionate about them! They are an excellent activity to include in your itinerary when visiting a new city, and we’re going to prove to you why right now!
Why should I take a walking tour?
Taking a guided walking tour, whether free or paid, should be one of the first things you do when arriving in a new city. They’re a great way to get your bearings, and figure out how to get around in this unfamiliar place you’ve come to. You can tick off some of the most famous sights straight away, and take note of the top attractions that you want to come back to see more of later on. Most walking tours are designed to give you a general overview of a city, its people, culture, and history, which is all great knowledge to have from day one of your trip, to better inform the rest of your stay.
And while informative and interesting, walking tours are also quite relaxing, as it’s a couple of hours where you don’t have to plan everything out or decide where to go next – you’ve got someone doing that for you! Tour guides are invaluable people to meet and get talking to as well. The best guides are local experts who are passionate about their city, so who better to answer all your questions and give you plenty of recommendations for the rest of your trip? After all, what’s the use in hearing about an amazing restaurant on the last day of your holiday?
How do free tours work?
While there are some free tours that are run on a voluntary basis, or funded by local councils or organisation, the vast majority of free tours are “pay what you want” tours – yes, we know that sounds a little contradictory, but don’t look at us, we didn’t pick the term “free tour”!
Free walking tours are completely free to join upfront, then at the end of the tour, you will be asked to evaluate for yourself how much you think the tour was worth, and donate that to your guide. The guides themselves are not employed by the tour company either, but work in cooperation with them as freelancers. Guides pay a fee to the company (usually per person in the group, regardless of what each customer pays in the end) to market the tours for them, and then keep the rest of the tips they earn from their guests.
The beauty of the system means that you know you’re getting your money’s worth, since you’ve already had the experience before you pick your price. This is great for travellers on a budget too, who perhaps can’t afford pre-paid tours, but are still willing to offer something for the guide’s time and effort. And of course, if you really didn’t enjoy it, then you are not obligated to pay anything at all. However, this is rare, as most free tour guides will ensure you have an enjoyable time!
What makes free tours better than paid ones?
Of course, there are plenty of excellent paid tours available, and they do come with some advantages – for example, they may be able to visit locations that free tours cannot, if entry tickets are included in the tour price or if they have licences to do so, whereas free tours must stick to public spaces only. However, we really do believe free tours offer plenty of reasons to choose them instead!
It’s a common belief that ‘you get what you pay for’, and therefore free tour guides aren’t as good as paid ones, but we beg to differ. You might join a paid tour, and by the end, you feel like it wasn’t actually worth what you paid at the beginning. Free tours hold no such risk, as you are totally in control of how much you want to donate to the guide at the end. And because their income is reliant on their guest’s enjoyment, free tour guides are always motivated to give their best performance every time. Their earnings are directly proportionate to their knowledge and skill as a guide, so they have to be good at what they do to keep doing it!
Since free tour guides are not employees, but freelancers, they are able to craft and design their tour themselves. They are all self-taught, not just memorising a script, so they are highly well-informed on their tour’s subject matter, and the city as a whole. Many of them will be on expert guides on their own specific areas of interest, so they will be able to pour all their passion and knowledge on it into their tour, to give guests an exciting, engaging experience. They can also adapt and alter their tour at any time to see what works best, and what appeals to their customers – if you have any particular areas of interest, it’s worth asking the guide at the start of the tour, as they may be able to include something about it, if it’s not already part of the tour. Free tour guides are the best people to ask for personal recommendations, the best-kept secrets and local tips, based entirely on their own day-to-day lives, so don’t be afraid to ask them any questions along the way!
Free tours also offer a good deal of flexibility – while it’s recommended to book to secure your place during busy times of year (guides can only take so many customers, so if the group is full from bookings, you may not be able to join), it’s often possible to just show up at their meeting point and join there. And if you do book but then need to cancel or reschedule your tour, there won’t be any fee or penalty to do so, since there’s no upfront cost – we’d just suggest sending a courtesy email to let them know!
What free walking tour options are there in Edinburgh?
When visiting Edinburgh, the best place to start when you arrive, is the Free Edinburgh Tour, which covers the main historic Old Town area of the city, and gives an overview of the history and culture of Edinburgh, as well as some fun stories and lots of recommendations along the way. It covers a little bit of everything, and is perfect to get your bearings and a broad overview of Edinburgh at the start of your stay here. Our tour starts by St Giles’ Cathedral, on the Royal Mile, right in the heart of the Old Town, and as much as possible, we use local guides, who know their city better than anyone else!
Of course, we cannot possibly fit everything of interest into one 2-hour tour! Which is why we have various other free tour options available on different topics. For Potterheads, we offer the Free Harry Potter Tour, showcasing all the ways in which Edinburgh inspired J.K. Rowling, and places around the city where she visited and wrote the famous book series. And for the braver souls, join us as night falls for the Free Ghost Tour – Edinburgh is said to be the most haunted city in the world, with ghosts lurking around every dark and mysterious corner. It also has a history rich in criminals, murder, torture, witches, cannibals, and all sorts of grisly, gruesome stories to make your toes curl! We can also combine any of our tours to suit your preference if you wish to book a private tour with us.
Orange Tours was originally founded as The Orange Free Tour, and all our walking tours were free at that time. Now, we have expanded our range of tours, providing even more options to suit people’s tastes and interests, but it simply wasn’t possible to make all of them free, due to costs that have to be covered. The Edinburgh Castle Tour includes the price of your skip-the-line castle entry tickets, while the Food Tour and Pub Crawl both include food and drinks in the price. But, we have made sure that our original trilogy of walking tours has, and will always remain free!
OUR EDINBURGH TOURS
Free Edinburgh tour
- Daily at 11am
- 2 hours
- In English or Spanish
A tour to help you to discover the history and culture of the city, but also provide you with the best insider tips for making the most of your time there.
Free ghost tour
- Daily at 6pm
- 1.5 Hours
- In English or Spanish
Discover tales of paranormal activity, bodysnatchers, witchcraft, cursed locations, and the many ghost that roam these streets during this adventure! Dare to join us?
Free Harry Potter Tour
- Daily at 1.30pm
- 1.5 Hours
- In English or Spanish
Come along to our Free Harry Potter Tour and let us show you the real places where J.K. Rowling got the inspiration to write her impressive series!
edinburgh castle tour
- 12:30pm Sat & Sun
- 1.5 Hours
- English or Spanish
This tour includes skip-the-line tickets & expert local guides, to show you this must-see attraction, with over 3000 years of history inside! Discover it all with us!
edinburgh food tour
- Daily at 12:30pm
- 3.5 Hours
Discover the secret delights of Scottish cuisine! Join us for The Orange Food Tour of Edinburgh, as we show you some of the best that Scotland’s larder has to offer!book now
edinburgh pub crawl
- Daily at 8pm
- 6 Bars & Clubs
- All are welcome (18+ Only)
Our Edinburgh Pub Crawl is the perfect activity to complete your experience! With us, you will discover Edinburgh’s exciting nightlife after dark.