That one time I went to Italy, I noticed that all of the tourist attractions there had these little pre-recorded voice guide things that you could hire, and it would tell you about the place while you’re walking around. It’s basically a guided tour, without the public humiliation of being part of a group of overpaying tourists and an actual human guide. Because we’re all on holiday to play it cool, right?
A voice guide would actually have been super useful when I went to China with my mum when I was 13, who kindly booked us into a Chinese-speaking tour, forgetting that her Australian-born-and-raised daughter only understood English.
But if you’re a tightass like me and don’t want to pay, your options are basically:
- Be that tourist reading out of a Lonely Planet guidebook in your hand. You probably also have a loud voice with an obnoxious American accent, and eat snacks from the hotel room minibar.
- Use up all your data by reading about the tourist attraction on Wikipedia on your phone, and get hit with a huge roaming bill when you get home.
- Wander around aimlessly with no fucking idea what you’re looking at, until you give up and go to Maccas to console yourself with €1 cheeseburgers.
You could download a free podcast audio guide that you can listen to from your phone even while you’re offline!
That’s right – people actually record hours and hours of this stuff and put it online for free, just for your benefit. And guess what? They’re mostly pretty damn good.
I did this for the Roman Forum and Colosseum, and even though the concept is a bit daggy, it actually made the whole experience much more interesting. It also saves you time because the tours give you directions, so you don’t end up getting lost trying to find things. Entertaining and efficient!
The ones I downloaded in Italy were the Rick Steves Audio Tours, which were really comprehensive. They also came with PDF maps that you can save to your phone, with notable areas marked to correspond to a chapter in the guide.
There’s no shortage of free guides out there on the internet, for basically every destination imaginable. Just do a google search for the place you’re visiting followed by the words “free audio walking tour”.