Get to Know London Tour Guide Beatriz Leal

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Beatriz Leal, who was born and raised in northeast Brazil, went to London on a dream holiday — and never left. Leal says she fell in love with London at first sight (and met her future husband). Showing friends and family around the city led to the creation of her own company, Bem em Londres. And she now shares her passion for British culture, history and the monarchy as a London tour guide for both private and open-group tours.
How did you get into guiding?

When I moved to London I began guiding for friends and family members who were visiting the city. I enjoyed it a lot and that made me want to (learn) more and more about the history and culture of London. By that time, I developed the idea of guiding families around.

Why did you move from Brazil to London?

At first I didn’t plan to move permanently — I came only for a 17-day holiday. But when I came to London after my dream of (coming here), I met my husband and now I am growing my roots here, as now we are a proper family with our little daughter.

What type of tours do you offer?

Mainly I offer tailor-made, exclusive tours using public transport, but sometimes I offer small open-group walking tours around London where we talk about the various aspects of living in London, its history and culture.

What’s your favourite tour?

I love talking about the historical places in London, especially the ones involving the monarchy.

What does a typical day look like for you?

There is no typical day for me, as every customer is individual. Although I visit the same places most of time, each family or group receives it in a different manner, making my everyday very different.

What’s the best part of your job?

I love every bit of my job, (from) the planning of people’s holidays to being with them, and helping them to realize their dream of knowing London.

What’s the most bizarre experience you’ve had on a guided tour?

As a private guide, you need to be a bit of everything: doctor, psychologist, peace-maker. The most difficult situation I had while guiding was to deal with a couple who just had an unexpected (miscarriage). It was difficult to make them forget what was happening to them during their dream trip. … But about a year later they sent me message (to say) they managed to have another baby!

Are there any aspects of your job that you aren’t keen on?

I don’t enjoy shopping, but sometimes I do it if it keeps my customers happy — they (might) need some help with conversion of sizes as most of my customers are Portuguese or Spanish speakers.

What are the benefits of hiring a guide to get around London?

Time, knowledge and, if you think about it, savings. Without a guide you take more time getting to know the city, as you need time to understand the public transport system, look at maps or applications, whatever … so you end up wasting time and paying for more nights in a hotel, more days of public transport tickets, more meals. If you have a local guide you can enjoy more in less time and save money.

In your view, what makes a good tour guide?

You need to be responsible. You need to be clear in what you are selling and deliver exactly that, and on time! The customer who hires a guide knows his time is precious and you cannot waste it. It is important to be polite and flexible if you are a private guide. Flexibility unfortunately cannot be applied when on an open-group tour; otherwise you don’t get anywhere. But in an exclusive tour, you need to have all the information to support your customers’ decisions in (case of) changes to the planned route.

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