Last updated 23 December 2019: Please note that below information only relates to guiding in EU or EEA countries. Other European countries may also regulate guiding.

Individuals from EU countries have a general right to provide professional services in other EU countries, subject to the provisions of the Professional Qualifications Directive 2005/36/EC.  

This directive is intended to support cross-border services and the single market; it affects professionals who wish to provide services in other EU/EEA countries, whether permanently or on a temporary and occasional basis and sets out formalities that must be observed if an individual from one country wishes to work, on a temporary and occasional basis, in a country that regulates the specific profession.  

Tour guides providing their services in EU/EEA may be in one of the following three categories: 

      A. Established in an EU/EEA country that does not regulate guiding 
      B. Established in an EU/EEA country that regulates guiding 
      C. Established in a non-EU/EEA country 

Established typically means the country in which individual is registered to pay tax, and/or is a legal resident (whether the individual is a citizen of the country or not). 

Individuals established in an EU/EEA country wishing to provide guiding services on a temporary and occasional basis in another EU/EEA country that regulates guiding may have to make a prior declaration to the competent authority in any country requiring it.  

It is not obligatory for regulating countries to require a prior declaration. In practice, it appears that Italy is the country that pays most attention to this. It is important to note that evidence of making a declaration is a necessary pre-condition for a successful appeal to a fine that has been unjustly imposed. 

The drop-down menu below contains an overview of the 13 countries in the EU regulating tour guiding, further information about the three categories tour guides may be in when providing services in EU and an overview on how the ETOA Tour Guide ID card may assist the individual tour guide in providing their services in Europe. 

If you are a member of ETOA and one of your contracted guides have been unjustly fined, the fine can only be opposed if it has not been paid. Please contact tourguide@etoa.org within 48 hours after the fine has been imposed. 

EU countries regulating guiding

A search of the European Commission’s database of regulated professions variants of tour(ist) guide lists 13 countries that regulate a variant of tour(ist) guide (excluding mountain and ski guides). As of December 2019, the following EU states regulate guiding:  

The EU database listing all regulated professions is available here 

While professional regulation is a ‘national competence’ there can be regional variation. For example, in Spain, Comunidad Autónoma de Andalucía regulates, but other regions do not. 

Furthermore, the description of the profession as well as geographical location where the regulation is applied may vary. In France the regulated activity is described as follows: “to deliver commented visits for groups of people in national museums or monuments”, while a tour guide in Hungary is described as “a person who provides – within the framework of gainful business activities – detailed interpretation at tourist sites and other venues of significant interest to visitors of such sites, and who guides visitors and provides assistance and information with a view to helping in their orientation in a place with which they are unfamiliar”. 

Note that some countries regulate more than one profession that overlaps with the normal services provided by a tour guide, and domestic definitions as to the specific activity vary. An example of this is Italy where both guida turistica and accompagnatore are regulated professions. You can read more about guiding in Italy here. 

Non-EU countries

We are currently assessing which other European countries are regulating guiding. We will update this page accordingly.

Update June 2019 – Bosnia, Sarajevo: It has been reported that the Association of Tourist Guides of Sarajevo “Vučko” has been handing out flyers to tour managers leading groups in the city. The leaflet warns guides of a fine of up to BAM 5,000.00 for illegal guiding. It is important to note that the people handing out the flyers are not from the authorities. We have been in contact with Vučko and they have reconfirmed. It is illegal to work as a local guide in Bosnia without an appropriate licence, but visiting tour guides may lead groups through the city (e.g. to booked restaurants) so long as they do not provide cultural information. More information (in Bosnian) can be found here.

Tour guiding in a country that regulates guiding 

As mentioned above, individuals established in an EU/EEA country wishing to provide guiding services on a temporary and occasional basis in an EU/EEA country that regulates guiding may have to make a prior declaration to the competent authority in any country requiring it.  

The individual should either provide proof of relevant qualification in their declaration or assert that they have at least one years’ experience of tour guiding in the last 10. 

Benefit of the ETOA Tour Guide ID card 

The ID card is an evidence of profession. It has proved to be a convenient form of photo-ID that shows the holder is a professional tour guide contracted by an operator to lead tours.  

As such, it can provide reassurance to officials tasked with controlling commercial activity, especially if the holder is established in a country that does not regulate guiding and therefore may not have an accreditation or licence. Wearing a visible badge in a country that regulates guiding has proven to reassure officials that the activity is legal. 

Furthermore, it helps distinguish the holder from an individual offering guiding services directly to visitors without appropriate authorisation, as distinct from providing services on behalf of an operator consequent to a contract made between visitor and operator. 

If you or your contracted guides have applied for an ETOA Tour Guide ID card, an email would have been sent with important multilingual counterpart documents to support the Tour Guide ID card. If you have not received this email, please contact tourguide@etoa.org. 

Tour guiding in the individual’s country of establishment 

Individuals in category B wishing to carry out tour guiding in their country of establishment must meet domestic requirements. For example, if established in Italy, they must have a patentino or risk a fine, regardless of whether the individual is an Italian citizen or not. 

Tour guiding in another country that regulates guiding 

As mentioned above, individuals established in an EU/EEA country wishing to provide guiding services on a temporary and occasional basis in a country that regulates guiding must make a prior declaration to the competent authority in any country requiring it.  

If the country requires a prior declaration, the individual must be able to prove that they have met the domestic regulations of their country of establishment, e.g. have the correct licence for guiding legally in their country of residence. 

Benefit of the ETOA Tour Guide ID card 

The ID card is an evidence of profession. It has proved to be a convenient form of photo-ID that shows the holder is a professional tour guide contracted by an operator to lead tours. Furthermore, it helps distinguish the holder from an individual offering guiding services directly to visitors without appropriate authorisation, as distinct from providing services under a contract already made between visitor and operator. An example of this is the current enforcement focus in Rome on ‘informal’ guides who are offering services on the spot and street trading (unlicensed individuals selling services, tickets etc. direct to consumers). 

While the card has no formal legal significance in relation to professional qualifications for individuals established in a country that regulates guiding, its utility in the respective country also includes practical benefits, e.g. some attractions and other service providers may choose to recognise it and allow free entrance (for example, to a tour guide researching a tour). 

If you or your contracted guides have applied for an ETOA Tour Guide ID card, an email would have been sent with important multilingual counterpart documents to support the Tour Guide ID card. If you have not received this email, please contact tourguide@etoa.org. 

General principles apply to individuals who enter EU, whether on a visa or under a visa waiver scheme,  according to the specific arrangements in place between the individual’s country of establishment and the Schengen or non-Schengen countries in which the professional will provide services.  

Care should be taken not to exceed staying longer than permitted number of days, typically 90 days per 180 days, subjects to above arrangements. 

Benefit of the ETOA Tour Guide ID card 

The ID card is an evidence of profession. It has proved to be a convenient form of photo-ID that shows the holder is a professional tour guide contracted by an operator to lead tours. It also includes practical benefits, e.g. some attractions and other service providers may choose to recognise it and allow free entrance (for example, to a tour guide researching a tour). 

Especially important for tour guides established outside the EU, holding the ID card confirms that the bearer is working as a professional tour guide conducting a closed-circuit tour. It serves as evidence that when accompanying a group, the tour guide is performing this activity as a business visitor, being contracted for a limited period to travel within the EU in order to perform this task. 

If you or your contracted guides have applied for an ETOA Tour Guide ID card, an email would have been sent with important multilingual counterpart documents to support the Tour Guide ID card. If you have not received this email, please contact tourguide@etoa.org. 

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