How Prague's homeless are guiding travellers round the city

author photo
Andrew Day
3/30/2020

1. Beyond Prague: homeless tour guides in other cities

Beyond Pragulic there are plenty of similar initiatives where homeless tour guides are employed to offer an alternative view of their city. Here, we’ve picked four of our favourites:

1. Shades Tours, Vienna

Launched in 2015, the aim here is to change the way tourists experience Vienna, whilst reducing the stigma associated with homeless people. As founder Perrine Schober puts it: “Nobody leaves with the same picture of homelessness they harbored before.”

Professional and often personal two-hour tours (available in English and German) introduce small groups to a hidden side of the city via soup kitchens and emergency night shelters. You’ll learn how the Viennese social system works and gain insight into the many “shades” of homelessness that exist.

2. Los Angeles Mission, Los Angeles

Bang in the center of downtown LA, groups of 10 to 25 people can experience “24 Hours of Homelessness" on the streets of Skid Row – the city’s sprawling homeless encampment.

Ivan Klassen, director of the neighbourhood's non-profit Christian mission, hopes to “communicate the reality of homelessness, in a safe and informative framework” and encourages participants to “engage” at the drop-in centres and dining halls visited on the tour.

The programme costs $75 per head and visitors must be 14 years or over.

3. Hidden City Tours, Barcelona

With these tours, formerly homeless guides offer a fresh perspective on Barcelona. In-depth, two-hour tours aim to “show the hidden layers of the Gothic and Raval quarters”, interwoven with personal stories revealing the daily challenges of homelessness in the city – from making money to seeking out a sleeping spot.

Guides speak English, French or German (as well as their native Spanish and Catalan), and earn fixed hourly salaries, plus pocket 100 percent of tips.

Meeting points and times vary so phone ahead.

4. Unseen Tours, London

In a city not short on guided tours, these explore a different side to London, with not-for-profit neighbourhood walks that cover Brick Lane, Camden Town, Covent Garden, London Bridge or Shoreditch.

Themes include street art and music; but beyond Banksy and Britpop these award-winning strolls – designed and led by the capital’s homeless or formerly homeless people – touch upon the causes behind social injustice and provide guides with paid work for food and ultimately housing.

Most walks last two hours and dogs are welcome.

Andrews trip to Prague was supported by EasyJet who offer flights from London Gatwick, London Stansted, Manchester and Bristol; find out more at easyjet.com.

Image credits top to bottom (left–right): Smichov waterfront © RTeo/Shutterstock; Railway in Prague © luciezr/Shutterstock; Robert Pochop © Andrew Day; Street in Prague © buruhtan/Shutterstock; Robert Pochop © Andrew Day; Robert Pochop © Andrew Day; Robert Pochop © Andrew Day; Brick wall in New London, Connecticut © Iv Art/Shutterstock; Shades Tours © Patrick Sabitzer; Hidden City Tours © Vincenzo Rigogliuso.

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