How to Hire a Guide for Washington DC Tours

How to Hire a Guide for Washington DC Tours
The nation's capital is well-known for its rich history and political importance, but there are many unique outdoor attractions as well. Whether you're looking for a botanical adventure or hoping to get a glimpse of the nation's massive monuments, Washington, DC has a lot to offer. If you want to make the most out of your trip to the district, you'll need to hire a qualified tour guide that specializes in what interests you most.

Instructions

Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Determine What You Want to Do.

Step 1
There are quite a few places to visit in DC, so you'll need to determine what you're most interested in before you choose your guide. If you're more interested in exploring the city's wide collection of interesting plant and animal life, you should look into the National Zoo (nationalzoo.si.edu), the US National Arboretum (www.usna.usda.gov), and the United States Botanic Gardens (www.usbg.gov). Each of those locations offers tours at various times throughout the year.
Step 2
If you're interested in hiking the trails of DC, check out the National Park Service for a list of the parks in the area. Rock Creek Park (www.nps.gov/rocr/index.htm) offers a number of ranger led hikes. Be sure to bring appropriate boots if you're hiking a more demanding trail.
Step 3
For an outdoor tour of the city's deep cultural and political history, several companies offer guided walking and hiking tours of the monuments and historical areas. Check out Tours By Locals (www.toursbylocals.com/washington-dc-tour), DC By Foot (dcbyfoot.com) and Washington Walks (washingtonwalks.com) for various tour options. Some organizations like Guide Service of Washington Inc. (www.dctourguides.com) offer niche tours.
Step 4
If you'd prefer to cycle through the city, Bike and Roll (http://bikeandroll.com/washingtondc/index.html) offers tours of the city via bicycle. From the seat of your bike, you can explore the city's gorgeous cherry blossoms and the district's most inspirational monuments. If you'd prefer not to bring your own bike, the company offers a wide range of rental options for various types of trek-worthy bikes and strollers.
Step 5
For those who like to see the city from every angle, DC Ducks (http://www.dcducks.com/) provides tours of the city on amphibious vehicles that function as both buses and boats. These tours are not as physically active, but they do offer a unique adventure on both land and sea.

Find the Right Guide for your Trip.

Step 1
Make sure the company is qualified to give you the tour you want. Most national parks offer their own tours, which are typically led by well-trained park rangers. However, when you're looking into other types of tours, it's important to check to see how qualified the organizations are. Research how long the organization has been around; check out their reputation. You may want to shop around before making any reservations.
Step 2
Ask if the guides have an up-to-date Class-A Tour Guide License. The DC Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs requires that applicants have a solid knowledge of DC's history and architecture, as well as good character references before providing these licenses. Licensed guides have been trained to provide you with the safest and most informative tours available. There may be highly qualified guides available without licenses, but hire them at your own risk.
Step 3
Book the tour. Be sure to speak with the tour provider over the phone to make sure the option you want is available. Sometimes the tours are seasonal, and sometimes new tours are available that may not be listed online.

Tips & Warnings

 
Some tours offer discounted group rates. Be sure to check beforehand to get the appropriate discount if you're traveling with a group. Certain walking tours are actually free. If you're on a tight budget, the free tours may give you everything you want without emptying your wallet.
 
Some tours offer discounted group rates. Be sure to check beforehand to get the appropriate discount if you're traveling with a group.
 
Certain walking tours are actually free. If you're on a tight budget, the free tours may give you everything you want without emptying your wallet.
 
Beware of scams. If a tour guide seems shady for any reason, remember there is no shortage of well-qualified, legitimate tour guides to hire instead. If you're going on an all-day tour, bring some extra money for food and drinks. Some of the more physically demanding tours may not offer the chance to stop for food, be sure you have extra food and water if necessary. Some guides work for tips, and you'll need to have spare cash on hand for those.
 
Beware of scams. If a tour guide seems shady for any reason, remember there is no shortage of well-qualified, legitimate tour guides to hire instead.
 
If you're going on an all-day tour, bring some extra money for food and drinks. Some of the more physically demanding tours may not offer the chance to stop for food, be sure you have extra food and water if necessary.
 
Some guides work for tips, and you'll need to have spare cash on hand for those.

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