Affordable and Portable Private Tour Guides

Listen up! Audio tours offer a convenient, do-it-yourself alternative to crowded tour groups.


Anyone who hates gimmicky walking tours or, for that matter, has a kid who’d rather be caught dead than follow some earnest guide around town, an audio tour is just the ticket. You can download any number of city tours to your computer, cell phone, iPod, or other electronic gadget and listen at your leisure.

For my part, I like to listen to tours before I go somewhere, to get a real feel for a place in advance. Many audio tours are free, which lets me save my money for other things on my trip! Here are five audio tours I recommend. And a word to the wise, try to listen to a sample before you buy one. Listening to a voice you dislike doesn’t make for a fun walk.

1. National Geographic Traveler Magazine’s Walks of a Lifetime

Currently, you can find 25 of the major cities of the world covered by travel expert Rudy Maxa. As you’d expect from National Geographic, the tours delve deep into history and culture. They last anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes and give explicit walking directions as you learn about the city. The tours are free to download.

2. Rick Steves 

Even if you’ve never left your backyard, you’ve probably heard of Rick Steves, who has dozens of travel books, plus a radio show and television series. You can download free podcasts about all sorts of travel topics, such as walking tours, traveling with kids, even art-focused travel, plus all of his radio programs. Steves is very conversational and interviews guides and experts in the city he’s covering.

3. Travel Audios of U.S. National Parks 

Park lovers will enjoy this series, which has been approved by each of the parks covered. The tours are narrated by local rangers and Native Americans and include personal stories, with music and nature sounds recorded on location. Parks covered are the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona; Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado; Crater Lake in Oregon; Glacier National Park in Montana; and Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming (although Yellowstone crosses into a total of three states). This site sells CDs for $14, but you can download some from for $12 (see below).

4. Walk Talk Tours 

This U.K. company offers audio tours of London, Manchester, York and Edinburgh for about $10. The two-hour tours come with a downloadable map and are narrated by locals with extensive voice-over experience (which means they sound great). A nice touch is that each tour has a “Where and When” page, which tells you venue hours of operation, contact details, including Web links, and admission fees.

5. Tourcaster

This site is basically an online library where you’ll find more than 100 city tours from various companies for destinations around the world. Most walking tours come with a downloadable map; prices and lengths of tours vary. If you hunt around the site, you’ll find some free ones to download. A similar site is  

Themes: Family Travel

Activities: Sightseeing

User Comments

Have iPhone will Travel Thanks for the update on audio tours. My iPhone recently became my tour guide when I was down soaking up the sun in Mexico last month. It is so great to break free of the crowds and see the sights on my own. Downloaded from lodingo. Easy to download and interesting tours.

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