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  • Writer's pictureSpain Walking Tours

The Rise of Self-Guided Audio Walking Tours.

Updated: Jul 3, 2023

A route map from a Voicemap walking tour
Route Map, Barcelona Walking tour

It may be hard to believe, but compared to 50 years ago, we now enjoy nearly an extra hour of leisure time each day. Thanks to new technologies, we can utilise this time more efficiently. Over the past decade, we have witnessed the evolution of recreational activities to cater to a new generation. From riding electric scooters or utilising bike-share services for city exploration to streaming our favourite TV shows online, hailing an Uber, or using a range of apps and gadgets to enhance sports performance and maintain health, our leisure experiences have become more enhanced to make the most of that additional hour.

Today, we are witnessing the transformation of our vacations and walking tours. It's only natural, we find ourselves in unfamiliar cities with limited time, seeking enjoyable experiences that are flexible and personalised. In this context, self-guided audio tours seem to tick all the boxes, with minimal downsides.

Now, don't get me wrong, I would never downplay the value of a group walking tour where a knowledgeable professional guides you through incredible attractions. They offer an amazing experience and are a lot of fun. However, there are some "big tourist" cities where they can become a bit overwhelming.

Take Barcelona, for example. In such cities, group tours can accommodate up to 50 people at a time, and you often find yourself among 3-4 large groups vying for space at the same location. It can be challenging to hear what the guide is saying, and the lack of flexibility, such as strict meeting times or the inability to spend extra time at places that interest you most or take a break, can be limiting.

Enter apps like Voicemap, which provide self-guided audio tours across the globe. This app utilises your phone's GPS to guide you through the route, almost as if Google Maps were a personal tour guide. Simply put on your headphones, press play, and follow the directions. The tours on Voicemap are often created by local residents who possess an intimate knowledge of the area they guide you through, allowing their passion to shine through in the audio narration.

So, what can a self-guided audio walking tour offer that a group tour cannot?

  1. No specific appointment time to begin the tour.

  2. A more affordable alternative to group tours.

  3. Perfect for lone travellers or weekend getaways.

  4. A high-quality audio experience that can incorporate effects and music, especially delightful with noise-canceling headphones.

  5. Flexibility to spend as much or as little time at each destination.

  6. Utilises phone GPS for precise guidance, similar to Google Maps. Audio is triggered automatically as you arrive at each destination.

  7. Pause the tour at any time for rest or refreshments.

  8. Often accompanied by pictures on your phone to enrich the storytelling.

  9. The chance to preview the tour before making a purchase.

  10. Visit the interior of attractions along the way by pausing, then resuming afterwards.

  11. Local personal recommendations.

  12. A warning system if you veer off the designated route.

The technology behind Voicemap and similar platforms is just scratching the surface. The potential for its future development is endless. Nevertheless, even in its current state, this technology feels like the obvious next step in enhancing the walking tour experience. I wholeheartedly recommend giving it a try.

For a selection of Spanish self guided walking tours, see the selection from Spain Walking Tours.


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