Guide jobs in Canada
The profession of a tour guide is very much in demand. And it's also good that anyone who can and loves to communicate with people can start working as a tour guide here.
If you are planning to move to Canada and are wondering what profession you can work in, be sure to consider becoming a tour guide, even if you work as a cook or kindergarten teacher at home. What matters for becoming a tour guide in Canada is not your education, but your language skills and your ability to communicate with people. That is why almost anyone can master this field of work.
However, as in any job, there are subtleties, which Canadian tour guides Alex Sein from Toronto and Margarita Kobetz from Montreal will be happy to introduce you to.
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In this article you will learn:
- how much guides earn in Canada;
- who works as a tour guide in Canada;
- the pros and cons of the profession;
- an interview with Alex Sein;
- an interview with Margarita Kobets;
- how to start working as a tour guide;
- immigration guide programs.
Not all of Canada is equally easy to get a job as a tour guide. According to the official data of Job Bank, the largest number of vacancies for guides are in large cities: Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, Montreal.
According to official data, the average rate of guides and tour guides who work for tour companies is $16.25 CAD per hour. But guides who work for themselves may ask you for $35 per 1.5 hours or more, depending on the tour. Often the price of the tour includes the price of extras, such as food if it is a culinary tour. In the case of a guided car tour, gas and parking are often paid for. The most expensive tours are multi-day tours, where guides can make over $300-400 CAD per day. But this type of activity is also the most difficult, because they work practically from morning to night accompanying groups.
You can search for jobs for tour guides in Canada on the following websites:
Who goes as a tour guide?
Many immigrants from the former Soviet Union work as guides in Canada. Most of them are people who were interested in history, geography and culture, art and architecture back in their homeland. They are fluent in English and/or French, enjoy travel, make friends easily and quickly establish important professional relationships. Good guides strive to explore Canada from all angles and put together unique travel itineraries. Those who have already practiced the profession in their home country, or who have dreamt of doing so, stand a good chance of becoming a top tour guide in Canada.
But you don't have to have a college degree or be a historian to succeed in this profession in Canada. You don't need to be trained as a tour guide: all you need is a good knowledge of English and/or French. And, of course, it is important to be a contact person, always striving to learn something new and be able to talk about it in an interesting way.
Pros and cons of working as a tour guide in Canada
There are serious advantages in this job. In addition to the fact that this field of activity is interesting, it is also very popular, because the tourism business in Canada is developing every year more and more. It is not only foreigners who like to travel to Canada in the fall, admiring the indescribable beauty of its orange and crimson maple forests. The locals also enjoy all kinds of excursions through their vast country to discover something new each time.
The job of a tour guide in Canada pays well. It is also a great opportunity to start your own business in the tourism industry and work on an individual schedule.
But as in any business, there are pitfalls, too. Guides rarely have a regular schedule: tours often have to be held at weekends, in the evenings, or on holidays. Sometimes they may have very many clients, and sometimes there is a lull or, worst of all, total calm, as in our difficult times, which require quarantine measures.
The disadvantages of the profession are the seasonal work schedule — most tours are in the warm season (except for special winter tours). In addition, guides and tour guides have to walk a lot and talk loudly, straining their vocal cords.
It is important to note that the work of a guide also involves serious responsibility for human life.
Alex Sein is a guide from Toronto
If you are looking for an individual or group tour of Toronto, then you should definitely turn to Alex Sein, a passionate enthusiast and high-class expert. Alex knows a lot about Toronto that you can't read in guidebooks or find in the public Internet. For more than 12 years he's been giving different excursions in this city which he's known since the age of 14: though born in Kiev, Alex spent most of his life in Toronto, that's why he considers it his native city.
Getting Started as a Tour Guide
— (Alex) I started my career in Canada by working in a restaurant, helping my father, and then I went into the restaurant business myself. But from a young age I was attracted to hiking, walking, rafting, and skiing. So I graduated from college, where I received several certificates entitling me to lead groups of up to 15 people on hikes. At first my work in this field was not professional, but volunteer. Together with my colleagues I would gather all those who wished to and set out for 10-30 days into the woods, lived in tents, rafted down rivers on boats. So to say, we were doing extreme tourism. Such activity both fascinated me and strained me at the same time, because it required a very serious commitment.
So after a while, Alex settled in Toronto and continued volunteering as a tour guide around the city, giving tours during the Toronto International Film Festival, which has been held there every year since 1976.
— (Alex) That's how my serious fascination with the profession began. And I started thinking about how to not just tell people about something, but to explain in detail different events related to Toronto. I delved into local history, I went to libraries, and I talked a lot to learn new and interesting things. When I was taking my first steps in the profession, I did a lot of Toronto tours myself and learned a lot from professional tour guides. Today, the Internet and social networks are a great help in finding information: there is always someone who can help.
What tours Alex conducts
Alex Sein currently works as a tour guide for the Toronto Tourist Guide Association. During his work at the Film Festival Alex has compiled several individual tours, and then added new things to them all the time.
— (Alex) I now do 12 different tours in Toronto. One of my favorites is talking about graffiti art, using our Graffiti Alley as an example. I tell and show how this art originated, how it evolved, and what it is now. Many art and design college students and high school students come to hear this tour.
I also have Urban History Tours "The First 100 Years of Toronto's History" and "The Last 100 Years in Toronto's History. An unconventional tour, Dirty York Stories (York is one of the first names the English gave to Toronto), in which I talk about the deaths and epidemics and fires that took place in Toronto.
Right now I'm working on a tour called "A History of the Jewish Diaspora in Toronto. Many of my clients are Jewish, so they are interested in learning everything about Jewish life in our city.
— (Alex) Tourists who come to Canada for the first time especially like the Canadian Food Tour.What dishes do we imagine when we talk about Canadian food? First of all, Beaver Tail flat doughnuts with syrup and chocolate; the poutine dish (with an accent on the i) is French fries with meat sauce. Back in the 19th century our city was famous for having the largest pork factory in the entire British Empire, which is why pork dishes and bacon in particular are so popular here. Canada came up with their own version of bacon; it's not greasy, but dry and meaty. This is one of my most expensive tours — $80 CAD for 1 person, this includes the cost of the food.
Toronto is Canada's New York
Alex notes that the main problem for Toronto guides is the seasonal nature of the job. The main attractions tourists want to see in Canada in winter are ski resorts, which Toronto doesn't have. But in summer there is definitely something to see here.
— (Alex) I take tours of our famous financial district, where there are a lot of skyscrapers and the main symbol of our city, the 553.33-meter tall CN Tower, is located.
Many tourists say that when they come to Toronto, they feel like they are in New York City. Indeed, these cities are very similar. Many Hollywood movies have been shot here that are set in New York or Chicago or Boston, because it's cheaper to shoot here.
I take several tours in a very beautiful place, located on the shore of Lake Ontario, where in the 19th century there was a psychiatric hospital. In the old buildings of this building, the famous movie "Police Academy" was filmed.
I live this city, I study it extensively, and it helps me make interesting tours. I consider myself a good local historian because I know so many details about Toronto that you would never hear on a general bus tour.
How to ignite visitors?
Alex tries to engage all of his visitors in conversation during the tours.
— (Alex) I like interactivity. It's important to me that the visitors during the tour have a "light bulb on" — that is, an interested light in their eyes. When I see that I was able to seriously engage people with my story, then I understand that the tour has taken place. And this is the most important moment in my work.
I remember telling the story of our Toronto Film Festival to a group of high school kids. I was wondering what I could do to interest them, and I remembered how I had met Andrew Garfield, the actor who played Spider-Man. As soon as I told the story, one of the teenagers gasped in amazement!
I once took one of my acquaintances, a Canadian native, a tall, handsome Indian, on a private tour. He was born in the countryside, and that was the first time he had ever been to a big city and seen skyscrapers. And I knew that on television this man liked to watch the Formula One races we had in Toronto. So I took him to see the racetrack, the finish line. There was no racing that day. But nevertheless, the very sight of the real track shook him to his core and completely captivated him.
That's the kind of moment I work for — to give people an unforgettable experience and a great mood!
You can contact Alex at 1(416) 616-66-92 or by Alex Sein on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, Discord, Ameno, Snapchat, Linkedin, WhatsApp, Viber.
Margarita Kobets is a guide from Montreal
Margarita Kobets lives in Montreal and has been working as a Canadian guide for 8.5 years. Margarita is an example of a person who found her vocation, she loves her profession and knows Canada very well despite the fact that she came here only 9 years ago. She has no idea how she can do anything else with the same enthusiasm.
— (Margarita) I started working as a tour guide back in 2007, when I emigrated to Israel from Russia. The work fascinated me a lot. When I moved to Canada, I decided to continue developing in the same professional field.
Living in Russia and being a linguist, Margarita taught German at the Polytechnic University, as well as several subjects from the field of tourism, including sightseeing. Even in those years, due to the nature of her work, Margarita communicated a lot with foreigners and often went abroad with students. Therefore, when she emigrated first to Israel and then to Canada, she realized that she wanted to develop further as a tour guide.
Now Marguerite takes tourists all over eastern Canada: from Niagara to the Gaspésie Peninsula, but distant tours are rare; more often tourists book tours of Montreal, Ottawa and Quebec.
Features of working as a guide in Canada
As Margarita notes, if she has to take not foreigners but Canadians on tours, it is not enough for them to get superficial information about an interesting place, and they love to learn such small details and details that do not lie on the surface. That is why Margarita prepares for each tour in advance and takes into account all the requests and needs of her clients:
— (Margarita) I specialize in individual tours or gather a few people together so we can fit in a minivan and go on a trip. I do group tours on request of my clients.
In addition to one-day familiarization tours, Margarita also conducts very exciting tours that take 10-11 days.
— (Marguerite) We usually start such trips from Niagara and gradually reach the city of Quebec. We often stop at picturesque places, go boating, fish in rivers with Indians, visit national parks, study the rich flora and fauna of eastern Canada, and see many sights along the way.
Our work is seasonal. Winter in Canada is very long, so you can't go very far in the cold season and you can't see many sights. When I plan city tours in the winter, I do it so that my clients always have a chance to stop by and get warm.
How the pandemic affected the guide's work
In the last year, when the world was overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic, there were some changes in Margarita Kobets' work:
— (Marguerite) For the first few months all the tour guides were out of work, then we were gradually allowed to do tours for 4-8 people. During the same period, foreigners stopped coming to us, and locals hardly went anywhere, so I switched to 2-hour tours of Montreal. They are not expensive: 2 hours for one person costs $30-35 CAD. Even new residents of Canada who do not yet have a high-paying job can afford such an orientation and educational tour. They will be very interesting to learn the history of the city in which they plan to live, and not just look at the sights, but also learn some unusual facts about them.
As it turned out, these excursions were also in great demand among Montrealers themselves — the pandemic helped them get to know their city better, because cinemas, theaters, various exhibitions, restaurants, and spas were closed to visitors. But people wanted to go out and learn something new and interesting. People often come to such tours with children, some celebrate their birthdays with a sightseeing program.
Another plus to these short city tours is that they can be visited at any time of the year, not just in the summer. I think they would be interesting.
Margarita is happy to invite everyone to her tours. Contact her at: 1(438) 992-64-83 (mobile, WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram).
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