Tour Guide

Tour Guides work in the travel industry, giving guided tours to individuals or groups of tourists. They have expert knowledge regarding the history of locations and offer travellers interesting and insightful information about a destination, historic or cultural attractions and any other travel sites. Guides may give a variety of tours, from walking tours to bus tours. Often hired by travel companies, Tour Guides are usually residents of the area in which they work.

When picking a Tour Guide, tourists are generally cautious to pick someone who is accredited or recognized. This way, they know that they are in safe hands and that they would make the most of the experience. Local Tour Guides in Sri Lanka not only speak the native language and English, but generally also speak a foreign language like German or French. This helps them narrow the type of guests they cater to.

Very often tourists would pick a guide professionally trained and authorised by Sri Lanka Tourism, and categorized as National Tourist Guides or Chauffeur Tourist Guides. These are referred to as licenced Guides.

Pursuing a career as a Tour Guide

Find out what formal training and professional qualifications are required to pursue a career as a Tour Guide.

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Job Roles

There are no entry, supervisory or executive grades in this category. Instead, the differentiation is based on experience.

National Tour Guides: Cater to large groups of tourists travelling in luxury coaches driven by pre-reserved or hand-picked drivers. These guides are experienced or seasoned enough to take any number of people to any location in the country.

Chauffeur Guides: Would often be guiding small groups conveyed in small vans and luxury cars. These groups can range  between one and seven people. The guiding is done by the Chauffeur/Guides, who drive their own vehicle.

Excursion Guides: A National Tour Guide or Chauffeur Tour Guide is authorised to take groups on excursions in the country and are allowed to guide in the main tourist sites.

Career Progression

Career progression in this trade is optional and not one that many are eager to pursue, simply because those who get into this trade do so by choice. Most Tour Guides are content with what they do. Some even have multiple jobs to sustain themselves as Sri Lanka has peak seasons for tourism.

Knowledge & Skills

Like many other fields in the tourism trade, you need to have completed your Ordinary Level examination to embark on this career. If not, you can do a foundation course that would make up for it.

Even if you have completed school and your Ordinary Level exams, you still need to be registered or licensed in order to function as a guide. You are required to complete a training program in order to register or be licensed as a Tour Guide.

Sri Lanka Tour Guides are trained, certified and licensed by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA). This is the sole authority in Sri Lanka for tour guides. Guides trained for touring throughout the country are called National Tour Guides and those who are trained in specific spaces or places are referred to as on-site-guide.

SLTDA awards licences to participants, following a full-time intensive training course in geography, history, archaeology, culture, nature, wildlife and Buddhism in Sri Lanka. The program runs for four months and is followed by an examination.

There are two nationally recognized courses in Sri Lanka for Tour guides, which you will also find in the courses section of this website.

  • National Tourist Guide Lecturer (NTGL) – Duration: 4 Months
  • Chauffeur Tourist Guide Lecturer (CTGL) – Duration: 3 1/2 Months


A Tour Guide’s skills are divided into two categories:

Interpersonal Skills

  • Multilingual
  • Effective communication
  • Excellent narration skills
  • Great organisational and leadership skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Patience
  • Passionate
  • A sense of humour
  • Professional conduct

Technical Skills

  • Proper planning
  • Be able to tackle difficult or angry guests
  • Use storytelling to convey the message
  • Punctuality
  • Be able to start and finish a tour on time
  • Anticipate guest needs
  • Create memorable experiences
  • Tailor make tours
  • Be able to handle basic video recording equipment
  • Knowledge of basic mechanics, if you are driving a vehicle

Hiring Process

Once you have completed your certifications, you can either opt to work for a hotel, a tour agent, a resort or any other establishment within the tourism and hospitality sector that has an influx of foreign guests. This can even be casinos, tourist resorts that are not located in urban areas, tour companies, rent-a-car companies, airports, etc.

You will need to dress the part when facing an interview, ensure you are well groomed and that your clothing is neat and tidy. You will need to tell the hiring manager why this job interests you.

Salary Scale

The average salary would range from Rs.25,000 to Rs.30,00 per month if you are working for a company. You may also get something called ‘bata’ which is a coverage expense to cover your food and miscellaneous costs while on tour. The rate of coverage offered varies from one establishment to another.

In addition to the monthly salary, Tour Guides in Sri Lanka often get good ‘tips’. You can get tips ranging from Rs.1,000 to Rs.1,500 a day. If you have done impressively well, you may even be paid in foreign currency, depending on the generosity of the tourists you have toured with.