A tour guide's job is to add to a traveller's understanding of a landmark, a city, a country, a culture.
Not only that; they must corral different people of various backgrounds and diverse ages. Guests often have sharply contrasting expectations, or are totally entitled, or are completely outside their comfort zone.
Tour guides, present and former, recently flooded a Reddit thread with their horror stories of bad tourist behaviour.
MugsandCoveve was working on a tourist island in Australia when a man pulled out almost all the back feathers of a peacock because he wanted to keep one.
"He sneaked up behind it, and grabbed a huge handful and yanked them all out. He was immediately escorted off the island. The peacock had a huge bare patch and most of its beautiful feathers were gone."
ChasingSnowflakes work in the backcountry ski guiding industry and says, "Guests are always trying to kill themselves" but one story stands out.
"One particularly deep day I'm sweeping a tree run and all of a sudden there's a man digging frantically in the snow towards a pair of legs . His wife had fallen head first down slope in a flat-ish area. Her husband thought it was a good idea to stand where her face obviously was and start digging near the exposed part of her body. I guess in the moment he forgot about human anatomy and where her head might be!?
"At this point I was maybe 3 minutes behind them so she'd had her face under the surface for a while. I told him to stop and move, yelled 'STOP YOU'RE ON HER FACE!', nothing. I finally had to grab him by the backpack and [push him] down the slope. I uncovered her face in under 10 seconds. She gasped for air, had a cry and then told him [what she thought]."
ScreamingPict's best friend was a tour guide on an island off the Australian coast, "he saw one of the tour ignore the huge signs warning people not to go to the edge of the water.
The tourist who broke the rules was hit by a huge wave and swept out to sea.
"I know it was the worst thing the tour guide ever saw because he and my best friend both went into the sea to rescue the tourist. And they both died. Funniest guy I ever met. Miss him most days.
"The tourist who caused it all? Predictably he survived. Pretty sure he doesn't feel too good about the whole thing."
FoldFold is a tour guide at a university and deals with a lot of guests that really, really don't want to be there, "Mostly misbehaved kids from a poor area of the city.
"We toured at all times, even during finals week. As many may know, sound can travel oddly in a in lecture centers. Our lecture centers have windows around them, and like 6 kids thought it would be hilarious to smash on the windows.
"From the inside it sounds like gunshots are being shot from outside, or at least muffled gunshots. Watched 100+ students flee the classroom during their final exam. We got a lot of shit for that."
Eifos added, I'm in the middle of talking and someone's phone rings. Ok, that happens sometimes, and usually they'd just cancel the call or step outside. Nope, this guy answers the call and starts talking on the phone, only a few metres from where I'm standing. I think, 'Oh he'll just quickly explain he's busy and end the call', nope! He starts a conversation... The rest of the group glare at him and I'm put in an awkward position because my workplace put a huge emphasis on politeness. So I suggest to him to continue his call in the hallway, just outside the room we were in, to which he replied 'No, I'm fine here', and went back to his phone conversation. I'm doing my best to talk to the rest of the group (about 25 people), but he's so loud! Eventually a woman yells across the room at him 'shut up, we want to listen to the lady, not you' which worked. But I just couldn't imagine the nerve to ruin everyone's experience like that, cos you're too selfish to talk on the phone outside."
Manbearnoodle claims that his cricket mates went on a school trip to Auschwitz and decided to steal a small pair of glasses and some buttons they found half buried in the ground.
"They were detained by Polish police while they were leaving the site. Hard to know what goes through people's heads sometimes."
[deleted] said; "On the subject of Auschwitz, I work with a dude who's go to badass story is that he snorted coke while walking around Auschwitz. I've probably heard him tell 25 people or so the same story and every person kind of looks at him like he's a f***ing piece of s*** and then they try and change the subject. To this day I don't think he understands why no one sees it as badass."
b771 is a former whitewater rafting guide whose quick actions prevented a disster,
On our trip there's a calmer section of the river where people can swim through. They wear life jackets so they can just float through it.
"This woman decides she wants to try it and hops out. After she pops up she slowly tilts forward until just the back of her jacket is out of the water and she's completely still. After 5 or so seconds of this I start to realise this might not be intentional and paddle over and physically pick her head up above the water, which was followed by her gasping for air. I haul her in the boat and ask what happened.
"She said she didn't know what to do as she'd 'never been submerged in water before'. I want to know:
1) Why are you on a whitewater rafting trip?
2) Why didn't your strategy involve moving your body?"
WindInTheGarden was in Australia, visiting Uluru. "There was a section where it was so sacred that photographs were not even permitted; I leave this couple alone to take in the scenery and I come back approx 7 minutes later to see them full blown naked [having sex]."
TourGuideOutback agrees it is tough out there; "The amount of times I've yelled 'Oi, get back on the path' to hear back 'F***ing make me' was enough to drive me mental."
NipponNiGajin was a penguin warrior, "I was 7 months pregnant and it was the week before I went on maternity leave. I was driving out to one of our sites and to get there I had to drive (on the road of course) through our penguin colony. This particular species of penguin burrows underground and stays hidden in their burrow during the day, and comes out at night.
As I'm driving out to the site I realise the parking lot up ahead is full and people have started parking up and down the road. And that's when I see a giant SUV pull off the road, drive between the bollards and into the penguin colony.
"I pull over as what seems like 20 non-English speaking tourists start to pile out of the vehicle and take selfies with the ocean backdrop. Staying as calm as possible I point out the no entry signs, the burrows they have collapsed and inform them they may have killed penguins.
Once I got them out of there I started digging out the collapsed burrows to check for penguins. The first four were luckily empty but the last one had a breeding pair. I get the girl out, check her over for injuries, and having no where else to put her I follow protocol and tuck her under my left arm against my side. I get the boy out and put him in the same position on the right side and start to check him over. Remember how I said I was pregnant? Well normally, you hold a penguin down low almost on your hip, but because of my round tummy I was holding him more at the bottom of my ribcage. So when I turned my head to start my health check, the bastard reached up and grabbed my top lip with his beak and ripped straight through the middle.
"It was about this time that the tourists walking along the road realised this ranger was holding on to two penguins. I had five or six tourists sprint through the colony towards me and start snapping pictures. While at the same time potentially collapsing more burrows.
"Happy ending, I chased away the photographers, popped the two uninjured penguins in a nearby unoccupied burrow, and radioed for back up to help with the parking situation. My lip healed without a scar, and both penguins left the following morning for a well deserved day in the ocean."
GoodfellaGandalf went to Ajanta caves in India as part of a class trip. "We were looking at all these beautiful paintings and the guide was showing us the details in them.
"We enter the next cave where most of the paintings can only be seen through glass. These paintings were vandalised pretty bad, people had written, chiseled their names onto them. One of my friends asks the guide, 'Why are these paintings vandalised worse than others?' and the guide says that it is human nature to break beautiful stuff.
"We were content with the answer. But our history teacher goes, 'No, no, it is Indian nature'. The guide immediately shuts him down by showing names written on the walls of people of other nationalities and even the name of the British guy that discovered them.
"It amused us to see our history and homeroom teacher to get shut down like that for making racist generalisations."