A couple uses a map to explore historic downtown on their own

Self Guided Tours

August 28th, 2020

Tours are great. Sometimes there is no better way to get the detailed and complete information about a destination without an experienced consultant leading you along the way. Unfortunately, tour guides aren’t always the “experienced consultants” we expect them to be. Very often they’ll be reading from a script and have lost the passion for the location their guiding months or years before you actually arrive there. On top of that, tours can be expensive. Oftentimes they will double or even triple the price of your entrance just to read you the information from the brochure. Reasons like this are why self-guided and audio tours are becoming the new normal when visiting famous tourist attractions.

One of the most common options for a self-guided tour is internet research on site. This involves going to a new place or attraction and then googling the interesting facts and information about the spot as you walk around. This has the great benefit of the internet’s infinity at your disposal. If you’re walking around famous cave paintings in France or a crowded market in Mumbai you can pretty much guarantee the internet has the answers you’re looking for. However, one of the negatives of this is, of course, data availability. If you’re in a more remote location doing the research on site might not be readily available and can cost a fortune in international fees if you don’t have a local data plan. If you know that the place you’re visiting won’t have internet or you don’t have a local or roaming data plan then it's probably best to do this research at home or at your hotel and then bring your knowledge with you during the visit.

If you’re more of a “skip to the good parts” kind of traveler, an alternative to doing your own research is to download a self-guided tour application. There are plenty of market-leading applications that can turn any casual walk into a learning experience. BiteMojo, for example, will allow you to do culinary tours in scores of different cities around the globe by recommending local and specialty cuisines in a tour style format. Future History allows you to point your phone at famous historical sites, buildings, and statues and will immediately spew the story behind it along with interesting factoids. If you want to walk around a new city on the best route then try GPSMYCITY. The application works with 1000+ cities worldwide and will take you on a path that has the most relevant things to see for tourism and casual curiosities. If you’re looking for an audio tour then try downloading VoiceMap which will give you a full oral history of the places you’re seeing. There’s also a number of electric scooter companies like LIME which cooperate with self-guided tour sites to provide tours of the cities while you ride around in style.

I remember when I was in Italy last summer I had so many questions about the piece of history I was seeing. Whether it was the Pompeii or the Roman Forum every building and statue seemed to have a story that was eluding me. I was traveling on a budget so expensive tour guides didn’t really seem like an option. I even purchased an audio tour for my trip to the Coliseum. Imagine my surprise when I found a much more informative and original tour online later that night? This is the information era, the things you want to know are almost always available to you. It’s just a question of hopping online and taking a look.