Due to the COVID-19 pandemic some of our job opportunities information may have changed. 

Tour Guide

Kaiārahi Rōpū Haere

Tour guides escort people on sightseeing, educational or other tours, and describe points of interest.


There are no set pay rates for tour guides, but they usually earn

$42K-$60K per year

Source: Trade Me Jobs, 'July-December 2015 Salary Guide', 2015.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as a tour guide are poor due to lack of demand.


Pay for tour guides varies depending on how many hours they work.

  • Tour guides usually earn up to $60,000 a year.
  • Tour guides are usually self-employed and work on short-term contracts.
  • Many tour guides do not work all of the year.

Source: Trade Me Jobs, 'July-December 2015 Salary Guide', 2015.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Tour guides may do some or all of the following:

  • escort people on trips or tours, including tours into natural areas
  • describe and explain points of interest on the trip or tour
  • arrange entry to places such as museums, government buildings and exhibitions
  • answer questions and give out written information
  • arrange or prepare meals and accommodation
  • drive a vehicle such as a bus or coach
  • act as an interpreter
  • market their business (if it is a privately owned tour company).

Skills and knowledge

Tour guides need to have:

  • knowledge of the area they cover and its features or attractions
  • knowledge of New Zealand culture, history, society, geography, flora and fauna
  • knowledge of other cultures
  • good driving skills
  • leadership and public speaking skills.

Working conditions

Tour guides:

  • may work a 40-hour week, do shift work including evenings and weekends, work part time, or work only during the peak season
  • may work outside in all weather conditions, or inside a museum or other attraction
  • may travel for their job, locally or nationally.

What's the job really like?

Eva Vaughan

Tour Guide

Tikanga sets the scene

"We practice basic Ngāpuhi tikanga (protocols) to honour where we are, to especially honour our manuhiri (visitors), and to set the kaupapa (order) for the tours."

"Overseas and New Zealand visitors are given a similar tour, delivered in a way they can relate to. We give them an understanding of who we are, who Māori are, and the area's significance."

Unveiling the past for locals

Eva particularly enjoys running trips for local school pupils. "The tour covers Māori and European settler history, archaeology – so they can make more of a connection to the place they live in. For instance, the majority of walkers on Parihaka, our ancestral Pa, go past the kumara pits and don’t realise what they are - and there are over 300 kumara pits."

An ancestral connection

Eva thrives on sharing the knowledge and stories passed down by her elders. "Being connected to the spirit and history of your hapū (tribe), brings the tour alive for your visitors – it’s fantastic, I love it. It’s a part of my life; it’s like the blood that runs through my veins." 

Eva Vaughan is of Ngāpuhi descent.

Entry requirements

There are no specific requirements to become a tour guide, as skills are gained while working. However, tour guides can complete on-the-job qualifications such as the National Certificate in Tourism (Tour Guiding).

Tour guides who drive passengers need special licences

Tour guides who drive passenger vehicles need to have:

  • a full Class 1, 2 or 4 driver's licence (depending on the size of the vehicle). Class 2 and 4 are heavy vehicle licences
  • a 'P' (passenger) endorsement on their licence, which shows they can carry passengers. Drivers need to have their full licence for at least two years before they can get the P endorsement.

You may need to apply for a visa through Immigration New Zealand

If you are not a New Zealand citizen or resident, you may need to apply for a specific purpose work visa before you arrive in New Zealand to work as a tour guide.

If you are a tour guide who is a Chinese national, you may be able to apply under the China Special Work Category. You can apply from within New Zealand if you hold a valid work or student visa.

Secondary education

Useful subjects include English, maths, Asian or European languages and Māori.

Personal requirements

Tour guides need to be:

  • good communicators
  • friendly, outgoing and able to put people at ease
  • polite, patient and professional
  • helpful and perceptive to visitors' needs
  • able to relate to people from a wide range of cultures and backgrounds
  • good at planning, organisation and time management.

Useful experience

Useful experience for tour guides includes:

  • work in the tourism and hospitality industries
  • experience as a volunteer host at museums or other attractions
  • work involving contact with the public and people from other cultures
  • public speaking
  • travel experience.

Physical requirements

Tour guides need to be reasonably fit as they may do a lot of walking or physical activities. They may also need to lift heavy luggage onto buses or coaches.

Find out more about training

0800 863 693 - www.serviceiq.org.nz
ProGuides New Zealand
info@proguides.co.nz - www.proguides.co.nz
Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA)
(04) 499 0104 - info@tia.org.nz - www.tia.org.nz
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

COVID-19 pandemic decreases demand for tour guides

Job opportunities for tour guides are poor because the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced demand for workers.

Demand may improve as restrictions to control the spread of the pandemic ease.

According to the Census, 2,640 tour guides worked in New Zealand in 2018.

Types of employers varied

Employers of tour guides include:

  • private tour companies
  • museums
  • wildlife sanctuaries and some government departments such as the Department of Conservation (ecotour guides).

Tour guides may run their own business and market their services directly to the public or tour companies.


  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
  • ProGuides New Zealand website, accessed June 2016, (www.proguides.co.nz).
  • Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
  • Tourism New Zealand website, accessed June 2016, (www.tourismnewzealand.com).

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Tour guides can progress to work as:

  • consultants to tourism businesses
  • managers, marketers or owners of tourism businesses
  • tour package co-ordinators.
Eve Vaughan standing and speaking in the forest

Eve Vaughan explaining to her tour group how Māori used native plants

Last updated 12 May 2021