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Hire A Licensed New York City Tour Guide

Updated on July 4, 2017

A Licensed New York City Tour Guide Is Key

I am a Licensed New York City Tour Guide and love to share my knowledge of one of the greatest cities in the World: New York City. I've lived here all my live, after about the 25th person tells you "You should be a Tour Guide!" you start to think to yourself, hmmm, maybe I should be a Tour Guide. Lol

NYC Licensed Tour Guide
photo © by Judy Ferony

There is no better way to see NYC than to hire a professional Tour Guide who can give you their personal perspective of one of the most intense cities in America. I'll discuss the choices that are out there, it's up to you to decide what's right for you. While many of you will choose an open air Double Decker Bus, and others an enclosed somewhat smaller coach and some a Walking Tour; I'll help you make a wise decision so you can make the most of your time. There is something for everyone and no one can expect to see it all in one visit; this is why it's important to plan ahead, have a Plan B (and maybe even a Plan C). The intro photo is a fellow tour guide who was nice enough to let me sit in on a tour; notice he has his Department of Consumer Affairs Tour Guide License around his neck, this is very important, it's against the law to conduct tours without a license in New York City. It's also a good idea to make sure that the company or tour guide you are using has insurance (just a thought).

The New York City Tour Guide Test

Department of Consumer Affairs Gives the Test

A few years ago the DCA decided that the Tour Guide Test for Licensing Tour Guides needed to be revamped; apparently Tour Guides were getting to be a dime a dozen and many were giving tourists a lot of misinformation. The test is made up of 150 questions and you must get 97 correct to pass; if you get 120 you get a star next to your name on the Mayor's List of Licensed Tour Guides. Most people fail it the first time around (not me) and then you get about 10 working days to retake the test without having to pay again. Check with the Department of Consumer Affairs if you are interested in taking the test, just in case they change the criteria in the interim.

Walking Tours

There are an astounding array of Walking Tours to choose from; some are General, some specialize in Food, Architecture, Ghosts, Rock-N-Roll or Ethic Neighborhoods to name a few. Central Park gives a few different tours, Grand Central Station has an audio self guided tour for $7.00, Yankee Stadium and Woodlawn Cemetery (in the Bronx) also have Walking Tours of their properties. Pizza tours, gay, red light and just about everything under the sun; just make sure that you use a licensed tour guide so there is some type of accountability there. Also, it's a good idea to hire a guide that has insurance; that's why a tour guide association is a good place to start (or just ask the guide if they have insurance). Reviews on travel sites are a good way to gauge if you're guide is right for you, however, beware sometimes the competition will write unsavory things about the competition.

To go the Tour Bus Route or Not? - That is the Question!

      photo © by Judy Ferony


There's no denying that you can cover a lot of ground by buying a ticket for a open top bus and it's a great way to see the city (especially at night); however, it is hit or miss as to if you'll have a good experience doing so. Traffic can be a nightmare in the city, especially if the President is in town or there is a UN General Assembly Meeting; so do your homework, if any of these things are happening you can and will experience "Frozen Zones" where traffic stops in all directions for a head of state to get from Point A to Point B. I'd also recommend that you go to a site like "Trip TripAdvisor" and read all the reviews, some of which are very negative. Greylines and City Sights are the main Open Air Tour Bus Companies.

I went on an interview with Greylines and they didn't hire me, oddly, I was the only one in a room full of Tour Guides who passed the test the first time around; I guess they didn't like my answer when they asked me how I felt about giving a Tour in 100 degree heat (I told them I'm okay with it as long as I can drink some water and go to the bathroom every three hours).

I've heard mixed reviews about how it is to work for these companies, most people I spoke to didn't last a year and said they were treated horribly. I was also told that the drivers are mostly Chinese and don't speak a word of English, and that they don't work in unison with the person giving the tour; I was also told that they don't maintain their buses well. There have been quite a few news stories about accidents involving these buses and pedestrians and lastly when I was on my interview with them, they advertised that it was a union job and when I asked them "What union?" the interviewer didn't know and wouldn't provide me with any information on the union. If you read the negative interviews you'll see that the tour bus companies can be quite rude and arrogant with customers that weren't satisfied; these companies bank on the fact that people are only going to be in town for a finite amount of time and chances are they wont bother to take them to small claims court. Bottom-line Let The Buyer Beware!!!; also, the tickets aren't cheap, they start at around $50 per person and the agents always try to talk you into more expensive tickets like the hop on hop off option.

New York City Museums

One of the best features of New York City is all the museums we have, 5th avenue has a section called museum mile; many museums are closed on Monday, some are by donation and some have a fixed price, call or visit the museum's website for details on prices and exhibits.

New York City Helicopter Tours

There were a few horrible crashes involving helicopters over the years, as a result they are probably safer than before; as is the case with many NYC disasters, it always takes the loss of life for laws to be reviewed and tweaked to make something safer. I recommend you look up each of the companies that give these tours and try to review their safety records to make a wise decision, as well as read the reviews on other travel sites. The prices vary and at the time of the writing of this lens they seem to be around $150. per person.

If you know you're going to be visiting New York City feel free to contact me via this comment section and I can arrange to talk with you by phone or via email. Thanks for reading and participating on this Lens; you're more than welcome to just say "hi" if you'd like, I always love to hear from my fellow Lensmasters.

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