Audio tours for the independent traveler

Today I thought I'd review a few sites that offer downloadable audio tours for cities around the world.

  • Soundwalk very specifically positions itself as a hip alternative to what it seems to consider extremely uncool regular audio tours. I found tours such as a hip hop tour through the Bronx and a one of the Marais in Paris. You'll have to dig around to find out how much the tours cost, and though I poked around for a while, I couldn't find any free tours.
  • Tourcaster offers both free and paid audio tours for cities around the world. The website layout includes a chart that displays the tour name, description, and the audio length and approximate tour time, which is nice. It looks like most of the free tours are introductions to cities (Getting to know Chicago, Getting to know Dublin, etc.), while the tours that cover a particular neighborhood or attraction generally cost between $10 and $15.
  • Audiosnacks is a newcomer with the added twist: tour providers can sell their tours through the site just as easily as tour takers can download them. As with Tourcaster, it's a mix of free and paid audio tours, though at least for cities like Melbourne and Chicago, there seems to be a wide variety of free options (I found free tours for Downtown Chicago's Art Loop and Death, Dirt, and Disease in Melbourne).

What none of these sites do, but which Audiosnacks seems like it might be working toward, is collect free podcast tours from more visitors bureaus, so that if you're looking for an audio tour to download, you can see all your options in one place. Not all visitors' bureaus offer free audio tours, but I know Philadelphia, for instance, has a bunch that aren't on any of these sites.

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If you've never tried an audio tour, but are comfortable wandering around a city plugged into an mp3 player, I'd encourage you to try it out. It's a fun way to familiarize yourself with a new place while taking in some local history and trivia, and audio directions spare you the hassle and embarrassment of opening up a map at every street corner.

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