Free walking tour in Prague – the three magic words that make you want to grasp your hat and go exploring the city. For many travelers, this is a great way to explore the capital of the Czech Republic without breaking their budget. However, there are some things you should consider before joining one of these tours.
In this blog post, I’ll provide an honest review of the free walking tour in Prague that I took back in 2016. Yet many things have changed ever since, and I’ve learned more about the so-called free walking tour concept in the meantime. So, read on and be sure to take my conclusions into account before you embark on a free walking tour in Prague in the future.
Prague Free Walking Tour – A Brutally Honest Review
Updated in February 2023
First of all, let’s start with my experience of the free walking tour in Prague. I booked that Sandemans Prague free walking tour through their website, and the meeting point was just a few steps from the Astro Clock at the Old Town Square.
We met at 10 am, and some groups were waiting for other group members. In fact, there are many tour companies providing Prague free walking tour in German, Prague walking tour in Spanish, and several other languages. My group included two students from Turkey, a couple from Brazil, a Canadian couple, an Estonian girl, and an Aussie guy. Plus me, of course. We started at around quarter past, starting from the Astrological Clock, Týn Church, strolling around the old town.
The tour was quite OK in the beginning, and our guide was very knowledgeable about the history. He explained a lot of interesting facts about the city, which gave me a better understanding of its past and present.
At noon, we had lunch at a restaurant in the Old Town, then went down to Josefov (the Jewish Quarter) and around (sorry, it was almost seven years ago my memory is not that clear). After walking for about 4 hours on cobbled streets, we stopped near the castle.
And I am so so so sorry to say that it was the most boring day I’ve ever spent in Czechia! Why?
The guide was nice and friendly, but the problem was that he spoke English very fast. By “fast,” I mean ridiculously fast, with a strong Eastern European accent, making it difficult for me—a non-native speaker—to follow. Of course, this is neither his fault nor that of the company, but it was simply too hard for me to keep up.
And as you can imagine, there were many people there at the same time, many tourists traveling in groups, and hundreds of tour guides using loudspeakers while explaining things! I failed to listen to him, let alone understand what he was saying.
One more thing to mention—it was my second day in Prague, meaning I already had my first day walking around and learning things myself (travel guidebooks are really my thing, BTW). So, it felt kind of like a “been there, done that” situation. Had it been on my first day, I would certainly have a different opinion.
Enter the Question: Are Free Walking Tours Really Free?
Back in 2016, I had to admit that I totally had no idea what a free walking tour was before I went to Prague. It seemed like such an amazing concept—get a local expert guide and explore the city without spending any money. But is it really true?
No, not exactly. Free walking tours are actually “pay-what-you-want” tours. Although you don’t have to pay anything upfront or sign up, you’re expected to tip at the end of the tour. Depending on your satisfaction and budget, you are free to decide how much you should tip. However, when I took another free walking tour in Amsterdam in 2017, the tour guide made it crystal clear to us in the beginning that tipping should be at least 5 euros per person. But anyway, that was another story for another blog post.
Back to my free walking tour in Prague.
As tips are something people do willingly and the local guide did NOT say anything at all in the beginning, I was quite shocked when he asked for tips at the end. I felt like it was a bit too pushy, though I understand how hard it is to live and make a living as a tour guide.
The Brazilian couple started first, giving him 100 CZK. He looked at them, hesitated a little, and said: “Thank you, it’s very nice of you, but since you are a couple, I expect you to give me 200 CZK!”
I was speechless. I planned to give him 100CZK, but then I didn’t want to. Personally, I don’t think it’s a good idea to ask for more money than what people are willing to give you, because it will ruin your reputation and make people feel uncomfortable. Maybe the couple had no idea as well, hence that amount of money, but they didn’t look comfortable when they were asked to pay more!
The guide turned around, asking for tips from the rest of the group. I could see that people were already feeling awkward, and so was I. There was a big battle field in my head, and I could not decide what to do.
Finally, after a few seconds of silence, I decided not to tip, as I already felt bad about it and thought it wasn’t worth my money. Instead, I chose to shake his hand, said thank you for the tour, and wished him the best. There were an awkward pause and a strange look in his eyes, but that was all I could do and already did in this situation.
Honestly, I don’t like to be misled in that way. I mean, I’d love to pay for a great tour experience, but if they advertised it as a free walking tour and then asked for money at the end, I just don’t feel comfortable with it!
So, back to my experience with that free walking tour in Amsterdam. With all the experience I gained from this time, I lowered my expectation and instead was ready to pay. As the tour guide made it clear in the beginning that tipping should be 5 euros per person, I was more comfortable with this arrangement—we knew what to expect!
How Much to Pay for Free Walking Tour
The whole experience of that free walking tour in Prague (and Amsterdam) taught me a lesson—free doesn’t always mean free of charge. In this case, it means free to join, but you have to pay the tip at the end. So, one should always check with the tour company beforehand and decide how much they want to pay for their experience.
In some cases, the guide will just make it clear in the beginning, and if you don’t feel like taking it, just leave. Just like my tour in Amsterdam, 5 euros was OK for me (and the rest of the group), so we stuck with him until the end. I even ended up learning that tip is a real thing in this industry. In fact, it’s the guides’ primary income, i.e., they live off tips.
However, in other cases, maybe you’re free to tip how much you feel like, so the rule of thumb here is to not just go with the flow but really think it through and decide how much you are comfortable with.
My Prague Free Walking Tour Review
All in all, I believe free walking tours can be a great way to explore a city without spending too much money—just make sure that you know what you’re getting yourself into before taking the plunge.
To be fair, taking this type of free walking tour was a great experience overall, as I loved exploring the city and learning more about its culture. I met new people, learned new things (both good and bad), and can definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a budget-friendly way to explore a city.
If you travel to Prague for the first time and have no idea what to do in Prague at all, then you can take this tour to see the city and know what you want to do later. Prague is pretty much a walkable city if you stick to the city center. It has enough attractions that won’t require you to take public transport.
I wouldn’t recommend this type of tour for people who want to explore the city in-depth, as there are other better options out there that provide more comprehensive information. But if you just want a quick summary of the city, then it is worth taking a free walking tour in Prague.
Alternative Prague Tours by Locals
In case you’re planning for your trip to Prague and have read this post and thought about what you should do instead, here are some alternatives. I didn’t take any of them, yet they’re all worth looking into.
The locals always know best! A great way to explore Prague is by joining a local’s tour. You can find many experienced guides from websites like Airbnb Experiences or Viator Tours that provide in-depth insight into the city and its culture.
Then, if you have extra time, why not take one of the many day trips from Prague to nearby cities like Cesky Krumlov or Karlstejn Castle? This way, you will get the chance to experience more of what Central Europe has to offer.
- 4-Hour Guided City Tour with Tram Ticket – this tour has the same itinerary as mine but faster since they use the tram to move between places (mine was 100% walking).
- Small-Group Segway Tour with Included Taxi Transport – segway is everywhere in Prague. I’ll give it a try next time.
- Prague Castle: Small-Group Tour with Local Guide & Admission – highly recommend since you’ll learn a lot more than just going with a guidebook yourself.
- Ghosts and Legends 1.5-Hour Walking Tour – I didn’t try this last time I was in Prague, but I’ve had it on my checklist now.
- Medieval Dinner with Unlimited Drinks – you must be really hungry after having hunted some ghosts. Well, come and have a three or five-course medieval dinner with unlimited drinks. You’ll be entertained by an exceptional medieval performance that includes swordsmen, jugglers, and belly dancers, all accompanied by music.
I kept thinking about the tip as a matter of personal ethics—we should always pay our debts, even if it’s just a small amount of money. In the end, if we can afford to pay for something, and the tour was enjoyable, then why not?
At the same time, I don’t think it’s right to be pushed into buying something you’re not comfortable with or to feel obligated to donate money for something you don’t believe in.
Therefore, carefully consider your experience with free walking tours before deciding on the tip. When in doubt, ask for clarification from the tour guide beforehand—that will help you make a more informed decision.