to publish: 13/11/23 | November 13, 2023
I love walking tours. The first thing I do when I get somewhere is take a walking tour. It’s a great way to learn about a new place, see the main sights, and adapt to the local culture. You can also meet a local expert guide who can answer your questions and give you tips on other places to visit (always ask for recommendations on where to eat, for example).
But sometimes the dates and times offered for walking tours don’t work with my schedule, especially if I’m only in a place for a few days or if I’m visiting when there’s a local holiday. I also like to be spontaneous, and often tours are already full for the day or don’t allow for last-minute registration. Plus, I really like to go at my own pace when exploring a city, and I don’t always feel like tying into a three-hour tour.
In the past, this meant I was out of luck. But today, there’s another option available: self-guided audio tours.
With the proliferation of smartphones, it is now possible to access guided walking tours from your mobile device, giving you a great deal of freedom when it comes to taking a walking tour.
I’ve done acoustic tours around the world, and they can really play the full range in quality. around It aims to take the guesswork out of finding quality audio tours by vetting local guides and compiling tours from cities around the world in one place.
In this Around review, I’ll share everything you need to know about using this new travel marketplace!
What is it about?
around It is a platform where travelers can find and take self-guided audio walking tours in major cities around the world. About local vets create the tours and list them on the website, so you always know you’re getting a quality tour guide. (Around does not organize tours itself, but relies on local experts.)
Tours generally last between 60 and 90 minutes, although longer tours (e.g Complete immersion verona) lasts for more than 180 minutes. Keep in mind that the estimated times don’t take into account how many times you stop and start (and they certainly don’t take into account the delicious pastry break!).
Because Around’s tours are created by local experts, there is a mix of detailed tours around a particular topic (e.g A tour of 19th century skyscrapers in Chicagoled by a professional Chicago tour guide specializing in architecture and design) as well as overview tours geared toward first-time visitors (e.g Berlin special tour).
Tours are primarily offered in English, although there are some tours in Spanish and Italian, with the goal of adding more languages soon.
How does it work around?
Whatever you take Walking tour It is a smartphone with GPS and an Internet connection (no need to download a new app). Instead of the traditional tour model where you pay per tour, with Around, you can purchase an all-access pass that allows you to take as many tours as you want over a period of time, from 24 hours to 14 days.
This is great value when you consider that taking a single walking tour usually ranges between $5 and $20, and for most towns in the immediate area, there are at least three tours currently on offer. If you’re visiting for the weekend, a three-day pass is perfect, as you can do all the tours you want for just $14.99. Purchases on Around can be made in five major currencies (USD, EUR, GBP, CAD and AUD) to avoid exchange rate fees.
If you’re a slower traveler and are staying somewhere longer, or visiting several different cities in one trip, there are one- and two-week passes as well.
Once you purchase a ticket, you will be able to unlock all About tours available for that time period. The company also started ItalyYou will see the largest number of cities represented there:
You’ll also find tours in the US, Canada, Australia, and throughout Europe, with new cities being added all the time. In fact, since I started writing this article, new cities have been added!
On each tour page, you will see useful information including duration, recommended starting point, information about the expert guide, a map of the stops and a brief description of the tour topic:
I really like how you can listen to a 30-second preview of the tour. This way, you can quickly familiarize yourself with the guide before you decide to embark on a longer audio adventure with them.
Each tour page also shows some of the highlights in visual form, which is very useful to know if the tour covers major city landmarks that you might not want to miss:
While all tours come with a recommended starting point, you can start anywhere on the tour. When you start, you’ll follow a path, guided by your map and the voice of your guide. Once you reach the selected stop on the tour, an orange button will pop up. Press the button to hear the guide’s experience at the station.
You can pause and replay each station as many times as you want, which is useful in busy cities that can be noisy or distracting.
In fact, while you’re in the city where the tour is taking place, you can play the audio for each stop whenever you want. Not only is this useful if you’re using an older device that might struggle with accurate GPS (so it might not recognize if you’re standing at a sound station), but if you don’t have time to finish the tour while walking around, You can still learn the information while relaxing at your hotel or hostel later.
As long as your pass remains valid, you can do the entire tour again if you really want to!
Pros of using about
around It takes the guesswork out of finding quality audio walking tours, and there’s a lot to like about this newcomer to the tour company scene.
I particularly liked how, using the Around feature, you can:
- Take expertly guided walking tours at any hour of the day
- Stop, start, restart, and return to tours in a truly self-guided tour experience
- Enjoy as many tours as you want for one price, with an unlimited access pass
Disadvantages of using about
About is still in development, which means they’re still working out the kinks. Although they’re off to a great start, here are some areas I’d like to see them improve on:
- Show more cities (something they are actively working on)
- Downloadable tours because you currently need an internet connection to take the tours, which you may not have while you travel
- Short biographies of the guides to highlight their background and experience (most are professionally licensed guides)
around It is a great, affordable platform with a lot of potential. While there are plenty of companies offering walking tours these days, there isn’t much focus on audio tours. It would be great to have a place you could go to find curated audio tours led by experts around the world. I’m looking forward to seeing them flesh out some of the features and add more cities as well. If you’re somewhere that offers guided tours, definitely check them out!
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