#LoveSA: How to spot a legit SA tour guide

Cape Town - A good tour guide can make or break your holiday, and in South Africa it's the backbone of the tourism industry. And not anyone with knowledge about an area can just decide one day to become a tour guide. When you become a tour guide, you become an ambassador for your home. 

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You'll especially be doing your homework when you're planning on taking an extended tour, and you'll want to know you can trust the person guiding you through unknown places.

When searching for a decent tour guide in South Africa - be it site specific, provincial or national - there are a few questions you can ask beforehand to make sure that you are dealing with the right person.

In South Africa a tour guide is required by law to be registered with the relevant Provincial Registrars of Tourist Guides, which is different for each province, and in order to be registered, they need a valid certificate from an accredited training provider. 

Being a part of an association however isn't compulsory according to the Department of Tourism, although professional bodies must be accredited by the South African Qualification Authority. 

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Here are a few questions you can ask before you book your tour:

What qualifications do they have and where did they study?

In South Africa, tour guides require a 'National Certificate in Tourism: Guiding (NQF2)' qualification, but provincial and national tour guides who travel extensively with tourists require a NQF4 qualification. The qualifications are only valid from training providers accredited by the Culture, Art, Tourism, Hospitality and Sports Sector Education and Training Authority (CATHSSETA). They list accredited providers on their website.

Unregistered tour guides with lots of previous experience can still register if they are assessed by a CATHSSETA-accredited assessor. 

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What organisations and provincial registrars are you registered with?

Although tour guides are only required to be registered with Provincial Registrars, being a member of an accredited professional body gives the tour guide credibility. You can also check these organisations to find a trustworthy tour guide, as their membership is dependent on professional conduct. 

Here are a few websites you can check out:

Tour guides are also required to be older than 21, must have South African citizenship or a valid work visa and must have a First Aid certificate in order to be registered.

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Do they have code of conduct and ethics?

All registered South African tour guides must sign a Code of Conduct and Ethics in order to be registered, and gives you an idea of what is expected from professional tour guides.

According to the National Registrar of Tourist Guides, Morongoe Ramphele, "being professional goes beyond simply adhering to the legislation or belonging to an association, it also describes the inherent qualities that the guide possesses that relates to passion, dedication and commitment to the guiding profession."

"It is also a personal responsibility and interest in ensuring that one is in possession of the skills and knowledge necessary to meet the challenges and expectations of our dynamic tourism sector.”

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According to the code, a professional tourist guide:

  • Shall uphold the principles of the South African Constitution, especially its chapters one and two.
  • Shall at all times show willingness to provide optimum support and quality service to all tourists, and will give tourists an opportunity to enjoy or visit a desired destination.
  • Shall in no way discriminate in rendering service to any tourist on any basis, for example colour, gender, ethnicity, nationality, physical challenge, age, etc.
  • Shall be impartial, unbiased and positive, and represent South Africa objectively.
  • Shall be suitably dressed and presentable at all times.
  • Shall be punctual, reliable, honest, conscientious and tactful at all times.
  • Shall be a responsible driver, when driving as a guide.
  • Shall carry out the programme/itinerary of a tour to his/her best abilities and be loyal to the company/organisation that he/she is representing.
  • Shall deal with conflict in a sensitive and responsible manner.
  • Shall report any incident of injury or death to a nearby tourist authority or police station.
  • Shall be knowledgeable and shall assist tourists and not provide them with misleading information.
  • Shall in the event of not being familiar with, or being unable to provide information requested by a tourist, consult with the appropriate authorities for assistance.
  • Shall at no time be under the influence of alcohol or a narcotic substance while on duty and shall refrain from administering any medication to a client without proper medical consultation.
  • Shall never solicit for clients or gratuities.
  • Shall be concerned at all times for the safety of the tourist.
  • Shall wear the appropriate tourist guide badge and will carry his/her registration card.
  • Shall treat all people, cultures and the environment with respect.

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