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How to Become a Tour Guide In South Africa

Tourist guides in South Africa are some of the most important people in the travel trade. They interact on a personal level daily with tourists, and a good tourist guide can make a holiday visit really memorable.  In this article, we investigate how to become a tourist guide in South Africa, what makes a good tourist guide, and how and where they find work.

What is a Tour Guide?

Any person who, for monetary or other rewards, accompanies people who are travelling through or visiting any place within a country, and who furnishes those people with information or comments concerning a place or objects visited is defined as Tourist Guide. Many tourist guides may also wish to run their own tour operations in which they are both tour guide and tour operator.

Categories of tour guides

There are three categories of tourist guides:
Site Guides – these tourist guides have attained the minimum qualification in order to guide in a “limited geographical area” i.e. Hiking in the Drakensberg, visiting the Natal Battlefields,  taking a day tour of Cape Town, visiting Soweto;
Provincial Guides – are qualified to take tourists around an entire province i.e. Limpopo or Gauteng;
National Guides – are permitted to conduct tours around South Africa, crossing all provincial boundaries. These guides would accompany people taking a comprehensive tour of South Africa, say, by coach.

Tour Guide in Africa

National Guides – are permitted to conduct tours around South Africa, crossing all provincial boundaries. These guides would accompany people taking a comprehensive tour of South Africa, say, by coach.

Classification of Tour  Guides

Adventure Guides – conduct a guided adventure experience e.g. rock climbing, paddling, abseiling, etc.
Nature Guides – conduct a guided nature experience in areas such as  Game Reserves, National Parks, nature conservation areas, trails, and the like.
Cultural Guides – conduct a guided cultural experience in a limited geographical area such as a  museum, community, wine farm, town or city.


Qualifications for tourist guides are governed by the National Qualifications Framework (NQF).

There are only two qualifications registered on the NQF:

  1. National Certificate in Tourism: Guiding (NQF2)
  2. National Certificate in Tourism: Guiding (NQF4)

Note that a new NQF 4 qualification has recently been registered and this replaces the 20155 qualifications.

Several unit standards, within the different areas of specialisation, have been clustered together to form skills programmes addressing areas of specialization, and aimed at persons wishing only to complete the specialized minimum area of learning required to guide.

These skills programmes are registered by CATHSSETA (The Culture Arts, Tourism, Hospitality and Sports Sector Education and Training Authority )for certification purposes. The applicable unit standards are registered on the NQF.  In order to register as a site guide specialising in culture, nature, or adventure guiding you need different combinations of unit standards.  These rules of combination can be accessed on the CATHSSETA website, at

To register as a provincial or national guide you need, as a minimum, qualification at NQF level 4 plus the required unit standard for your area of specialization – You can also view these on the CATHSSETA website as given above. Note that the requirements for guide registration, including what learning programme or course is needed for which category of guiding, is the competence of the Provincial Registrars of Tourist Guides.

Tourist Guiding Training and Assessors

All tourist guide trainers and assessors have to be accredited by CATHSSETA to be able to train according to the nationally recognized standards and qualifications network.

Assessors cannot issue certificates as they have to be working for/with an accredited training provider who will then issue certificates from CATHSSETA, upon completion of the assessment. The duration of the course, course content, dates and time of training, fee structure is determined by each training provider.

The guiding qualifications are made up of a collection of unit standards or building blocks. Each unit standard represents knowledge that a person must have, specific to his profession. These unit standards were devised in close consultation with tourist guides and other stakeholders. Each guide will be assessed against these standards.

Tourist guides are free to choose any training provider or assessor to work with. Details of accredited tourist guide training providers and assessors are available on the CATHSSETA website at or can be obtained by calling their offices on 011 217 0600 or sending an email to [email protected].

Recognition of prior learning (RPL) is the type of assessment used for those who have been working as unregistered guides in the past as it takes into account all the qualifications, work experiences, life skills etc. for a particular guide and fits these into the current NQF for guiding. The assessor may point out the areas/unit standards to which extra attention needs to be given. Once the tourist guide has completed this a meeting with the assessor will need to be arranged in order to complete the assessment.

The registration process

No tourist guide may work without being registered.

NB: CATHSSETA does not register tourist guides. CATHSSETA  gives accreditation to training providers so that they can train guides.

According to the Tourism Second Amendment Act no 70 of 2000, any person who wishes to be registered as a tourist guide shall apply to the relevant Provincial Registrar.

In order to be registered as a tourist guide in South Africa, a person must meet the following minimum requirements:

  • must be at least 21 years of age;
  • must be a South African citizen or be in possession of a valid work permit;
  • must have undergone training with a CATHSSETA-accredited training provider;
  • must be in possession of a valid first aid certificate from an institution accepted by the Department of Labour;
  • submit 4 passport size photos;
  • pay a registration fee of R240; and
  • must submit a completed and signed registration form and a code of conduct and ethics upon registration.

Proof of registration

The old SATOUR badges and ID cards became null and void on 31 May 2002. Registered tourist guides are now identified by new ID cards which all tourist guides are required to have in their possession whilst guiding. Official tourist guide badges must also be worn whilst guiding. The Provincial Registrar will issue badges and ID cards to new guides only once their application for registering as a tourist guide has been approved. The ID cards indicate the category of guiding, the regions for which the tourist guide was found competent to guide, as well as specialties that the guide might possess.  The ID cards are very important because the various policing authorities will request tourist guides to produce these during tourist guide spot checks conducted at various parts of South Africa to identify illegal/unregistered tourist guides.

Renewal of registration

Any person registered as a tourist guide, may before the end of the period for which he/she is registered, apply to the Provincial Registrar for renewal of his or her registration and his/her registration shall, upon submission of application forms and other documents and the payment of R240, be renewed. For a full list of Provincial Registrars refer to the table at the end of this article.


Failure of a tourist guide to complete the NDT registration and CATHSSETA accreditation process but continuing to guide will result in that tourist guide being liable for prosecution. Fines of up to R1 000 can be imposed on illegal guides. Operators found to be using illegal guides can be fined amounts up to R10 000. The process for lodging complaints about unregistered/illegal guides as well as registered/legal guides is outlined in the Second Tourism Amendment Act, 2000. Copies of these can be obtained from NDT offices or from any of the Provincial Registrars’ offices.

Tourist Guide Code of Ethics

A Professional Tourist Guide must conform to the Tourist Guide Code of Ethics. The code states that a guide:

  • Shall be welcoming and demonstrate an enthusiasm for South Africa.
  • Shall at all times show a willingness to provide optimum support and quality service to all tourists, and will give tourists an opportunity to enjoy or visit the desired destination.
  • Shall in no way discriminate in rendering service to any tourist on any basis, e.g. race, 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/organization 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.

International Declaration for Tourist Guides Around the World

At the World Federation of Tourist Guides Association 15th International Tourist Guide Convention, held recently in Macau, China,  the  2013 Macau International Declaration for Tourist Guides Around the World was signed.


Cape Tourist Guides Association Field Guides Association of Southern Africa Gauteng Guides Association KwaZulu-Natal Tourist Guides’ Association Nelson Mandela Bay Tourist Guide Association Off-Road Guides and Tour Operators of South Africa Provincial Tourist Guides Association of KwaZulu-Natal Battlefields Region


Tourist guides are the ambassadors of South Africa’s tourism industry. They are often the first, and invariably the last, person that tourists come into contact with and are therefore responsible for creating lasting impressions and fond memories of the country.

This being the case, are tourist guides remunerated in accordance with their importance in the tourism value chain? Many tourist guides say that they are not, but some Tour Operators argue that a tourist guide’s remuneration should be in proportion to his or her experience, qualifications and aptitude.

List of South African Provincial Registrars’ Contact Details

1. Limpopo
Depart of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism
Registrar: Moses Ngobeni
Tel: (015) 293 8510
Cell: 082 800 2666
Fax: (015) 291 1085
Postal: P/BAG X 9486, POLOKWANE, 0700
Email: [email protected]

2. Mpumalanga
Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency
Registrar: Musa Mahlangu
Tel: (013) 759 5328
Fax: 086 603 6766
Postal: P/BAG X 11338, NELSPRUIT, 1200
Email: [email protected] 

3. Gauteng
Gauteng Tourism Authority
Registrar: Mpho Moeti
Tel:(011) 085 2101
Cell: 082 803 1124
Fax: 086 609 3941
Postal: P.O. BOX 155
Email: [email protected]

4. KwaZulu-Natal
Department of Economic Development and Tourism
Registrar: Peggy Dlamini
Tel: (033) 264 9324
Cell: 082 952 7575
Fax: (033) 264 9316
Physical Address: 217 Burger Street, Calder Street, PMB, 3201
Email: [email protected]

5. North West
Department of Economic Development and Tourism
Registrar: Bella Gumede
Tel: (018) 387 7883
Cell: 082 674 1788
Fax: (018) 387 7886
Postal: P/BAG X 15, MMABATHO,2735
Email: [email protected] 

6. Eastern Cape
Eastern Cape Tourism Board
Registrar: Thembeka Mbanga
Tel: (043) 701 9645
Cell: 082 771 3462
Fax: (043) 701 9600
Postal: P.O. BOX 18373, QUIGNEY, 5211
Email: [email protected]

7. Western Cape
Department of Economic Development and Tourism
Registrar: Leigh Pollio (Acting)
Tel: (021) 483 9130
Fax: (021) 483 8754
Postal: P.O. BOX 979, CAPE TOWN, 8000
Email: [email protected]

8. Northern Cape
Department of Tourism, Environment and Conservation
Registrar: Andries Mokgele
Tel: (053) 830 4875
Cell: 084 689 7251
Fax: (053) 830 4889
Postal: P/BAG X 6102, KIMBERLEY,8300
Email: [email protected]

9. Free State
Department of Tourism, Environmental and Economic Affairs
Registrar: Mfundo Ngcangca (Acting)
Tel: (051) 400 9598
Cell: 082 773 8275
Fax: (051) 400 9590
Postal: P/BAG X 20801, BLOEMFONTEIN, 9300
Email: [email protected]

10. National National Department of Tourism
Postal: P/BAG X424, PRETORIA, 0001
National Registrar: Victor Tharage
Tel: (012) 444 6478
Email: [email protected]

Director – Tourist Guiding: Uveshnee Pillay
Tel: (012) 444 6386
Email: [email protected]

Information compiled with acknowledgment to Adventure Qualifications Network – and the South African Department of Tourism – Tourist Guiding.

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