In 1992, Williamsburg City Council passed an ordinance requiring the testing and licensing of tour guides operating in the restored area of the city. In spring 1999 a committee was formed to study the effectiveness of the ordinance. That group concluded that the 1992 ordinance needed more specific criteria to permit its equitable implementation. To this end, several changes were made to the ordinance.
On January 10, 2019, the City Council amended the tour guide licensing ordinance to provide for voluntary testing. Due to testing now being voluntary, the tour guide licensing fee was reduced to $25 every three years.
Steps to Tour Guide License Issue
- Upon receipt of an application for a tour guide license, a criminal background check is conducted.
- To facilitate enforcement of the ordinance, tour guides must display their license when conducting tours.
- The ordinance includes criteria for suspension and revocation of licensing as well as an appeal process.
- Prior to the issuance of a tour guide license, proof of a business license or an exemption must be obtained.
The amended tour guide ordinance is effective on March 25, 2019. Testing will be conducted at the:
Williamsburg Police Department
425 Armistead Avenue
Williamsburg, VA 23185
The test coordinator is Major Ashley Nichols.
Applicants must call Major Nichols for a testing appointment. Testing facilities are limited to 10 people at a time. Payments must be made in the form of cash, credit card, check, or money order to the Finance Department.
Studying for the Test
View a study syllabus, a public safety information sheet (PDF), and a copy of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation's General Mechanics Guide for Independent Tour Companies (DOCX). Please note that test questions have been developed from these materials and the textbooks identified in the syllabus.
Submit Your Application
If you are not taking the test, bring your notarized and completed application form to the Police Department. We will review it, complete a criminal background check, and create a Tour Guide License for you. We will call you when it is completed and issue it to you upon proof of payment to our Finance Department and Business License if required.
The application for the Tour Guide License (PDF) can be downloaded. The application must be completed, signed by the applicant, and notarized.
Obtain a Business License or Exemption
Note that, if application and testing result in the qualification of the applicant for licensing, a copy of a business license or exemption must be obtained from the:
Williamsburg Commissioner of the Revenue
401 Lafayette Street
Williamsburg, VA 23185
Please address questions to Major Ashley Nichols by phone or email. For more information, consult the Testing Materials page where Tour Guide Ordinance Number 26-99 (PDF), the license application (PDF), and other relevant material are posted. We welcome your continued participation in the sharing of Williamsburg's colonial history with your clients. We believe that the revised city ordinance will enhance the visitor's experience here.