How to be a legal tourist guide 

  Understand the law... no excuses, get qualified, be professional! 

"Any person who, for monetary or other reward, accompanies people who are traveling 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 tourist 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, Paddling the Orange, Climbing on Table Mountain.

  • Provincial Guides – are qualified to take tourists around an entire province i.e. Limpopo

  • National Guides – are permitted to conduct tours around South Africa, crossing all provincial boundaries

It does get a little complicated as most Adventure guides tend to operate nationally although they are site guides, this is due to the site descriptor which is generic to the activity and not the geographical environment.


Types of Guiding

Tourist guides can be classified into:

  • Adventure Guides – conduct a guided adventure experience i.e. rock climbing, paddling, diving, etc..

  • Nature Guides – conduct a guided natural experience in a limited geographical area i.e. Game Reserves, National Parks, nature conservation areas, trails, etc..

  • Cultural Guides – conduct a guided cultural experience in a limited geographical area i.e. museum, community, wine farm, etc.



 There are only two qualifications registered on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF):

  • National Certificate in Tourism: Guiding (NQF2)

  • National Certificate in Tourism: Guiding (NQF4)

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

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 to only complete the specialized minimum area of learning required to guide.

These skills programmes are registered by CATHSSETA (the old Theta) for certification purposes. The applicable unit standards are registered on the NQF.  In order for you 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 (Culture Arts, Tourism, Hospitality and Sport Sector Education and Training Authority) website,

If you want to register as a regional on national guide you need, as a minimum qualification at NQF level 4 plus the required unit standard for your area of specialization – view these on the Theta website

Please 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 Registrar of Guides at provincial and national level.


Tourist Guiding Training and Assessors

All tourist guide trainers and assessors have to be accredited by Theta to be able to train according to the national recognized standards and qualifications network. Please note that assessors cannot issue certificates as they have to be working for/with an accredited training provider who will then issue certificates from Theta, 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 registration process

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 registrar. (PLEASE NOTE THIS: THETA DOES NOT REGISTER TOURIST GUIDES.THETA GIVES ACCREDITATION TO TRAINING PROVIDERS SO THAT THEY CAN TRAIN GUIDES).

The following documents must be provided when applying for registration: 

  • Signed code of conduct

  • 2 ID sized photos

  • Registration fee of R240

  • Certified copies of the following:

  • SA Identity document

  • THETA/CATHSSETA Certificate of Competence (Competence Certificates are ONLY issued by THETA/CATHSSETA)

  • Valid first Aid Certificate

  • Drivers license and/ or PDP where applicable.

No person shall be registered as a tourist guide in terms of the Tourism Second Amendment Act, 2000 unless he/she-:

  • Shows proof of competence;

  • Is within the Republic;

  • Has no criminal record;

  • Has permanent residence or work permit in the Republic;

  • Has pass the prescribed quality assurance process that a tourist guide shall complete not later than two years after the date his/her last registration.

Upon registration, the tourist guide will receive a badge and an ID card. The ID card will indicate which province/region/area the tourist guide is allowed to operate in, his/her period of registration.

Renewal of registration   

Any person registered as tourist guide, may before the end of 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 the payment of R 240 be renewed.








Above text and information taken with thanks from Adventure Qualifications Network's website...