I’ve worked as a tour guide with See Your City for just over a month, but have been in the Visitor Experience, tourism and customer service industry for almost 15 years with loads of different roles and brands. I chose to work with SYC for their flexibility in hours while I try to work on my own projects and develop some ideas outside tour guiding.
In my experience, SYC are the best brand I’ve worked with for keeping their focuses honest and open. All decisions I’ve seen being made are in line with three thoughts; how do we make people happier, more engaged and give more value to products? This is unrivalled in my experience. The two objectives remain as the tour guides and the guests. It means that every SYC product and guide is given time, energy and opportunity to develop before being delivered to guests with a personal touch. It’s brilliant and I love working in this way – we’ve got some fantastic reviews on Trip advisor and Get Your Guide websites to name a couple, please have a read of them if you get a chance.
This blog is an attempt to showcase the value on offer from SYC and give a few tips for those people thinking of, are about to, or want to visit London. There’s so much history and richness in this city, SYC offer a few different products that encompass so much more than their title describes.
The Harry Potter tour is great for those people who are super fans, but we’re encouraged to give a lot more to our guests than trivia and photo opportunities. The Cheese crawl takes you through the heart of London and is packed full of facts along a beautiful walking route through some of London’s finest and most famous shops, but also hidden gems. The SYC Ghost tour is a brilliant one for getting a feel for London and is a lot of fun to be a part of.
When I lead a group on a tour, I tend to find that making a couple of extra stops along the way and pointing out great restaurants, cheap bars, travel tips or personal experience goes a long way. It keeps people engaged and offers something extra other companies don’t. We’re encouraged to find new stories, ideas or offers for people – other tour companies, as far as I know, don’t give this autonomy to their guides.
So, what can you expect from a SYC product? A genuine good time. Our guides are all English speaking, but a great deal of work has been put into offering translation options along the way and the relaxed feel to everything really helps you to take in the city. Personally, I find I’m walking through streets I grew up on and so can offer a real insight you don’t tend to get elsewhere. We’ve got a really eclectic team with different backgrounds and interests that means each tour is slightly different and offers a different opinion on the subject – we’ve got some real experts among us too.
I’d encourage you to book a tour based on the following:
It’s a passionate company, only two years old, that focusses only on improving their products rather than sales and profits. I’ve never been part of a conversation about upsales, tickets or numbers. Instead, they’re about reviews, value and new ideas.
Our guides are excellent. Not traditional, but honest. It’s a great team full of experience, enthusiasm and fun. We often go for a pint when we finish and love inviting the group along afterwards. It’s great when people take an interest beyond the script or route and personally, I love talking to people about what they want from their holiday and how best to do it for cheap or get a more authentic ‘London Experience’.
The products they offer come from hard work, genuine interest and a love for their city. We also operate in Edinburgh and York, I’ve never worked there before, but know some of the guides and the company directors are from York. It’s real value and a real product for a proper price, rather than inflated London tourist trap prices.
The tours I do are often very relaxed, fun and open. They’re not rushed and you don’t spend time in queues, you’re not crowded and everyone is given an opportunity to take part (or not if they don’t want to).
Best London tips
In my experience it’s best to start your day at the big tourist spots. Leicester Square, Buckingham Palace, Oxford street etc. They’re all really close by to one another and will be quieter early on. This gives you the best amount of time to see everything and then get lunch somewhere nice.
The best nights out are in East London (Hoxton, Haggerston, Shoreditch, Old Street) an easy tube from central London. It’s more pricy than it used to be, but much better value than Central London (in my opinion).
Use the Drinki/Dusk app – free drink offers.
Cash your oyster card in before you go back home. Not easy information to come by. Take it back to a station and you’ll get your balance + £5 for the card back.
Karma App – really good for opportunist foodies looking for a bargain.
Areas that have recently become far more welcoming and interesting are below;
Peckham – hipstery, great bars, nice cafes (Dulwich next door is very fancy!)
Little Venice is a hidden gem.
Camden Market is still going very strong and comes alive at night.
Spitalfields market is also a lot of fun, and some great places to eat round there.
Columbia Road flower market isn’t very famous but worth a visit.
You can spend a whole day in London learning loads and not spending any money beyond a travel card.
Museums, galleries, parks – more than enough to spend a day and really, really interesting.
National rail offer a 241 for a lot of attractions – cheapest way to do so is to buy a rail ticket for 1 stop, take it to the attraction and collect a free entry ticket there.