Discovering Tourio – the downloadable audio guide to destinations

posted in: Asia, India, Tips | 0

In my last post on the Qutub Minar in Delhi, I mentioned how I found the unseen facets of the destination through an audio guide. I have always enjoyed audio guides at destinations like the Colosseum in Rome, the Mysore Palace in India, the Royal Albert Museum in Jaipur and even the Kelkar Museum in Pune. These guides allow me to get the right information at the right time while allowing me the liberty of exploring at my own pace. Tourio – the audio guide that I used in Delhi, too, appealed to me on different fronts. Through this post, I share my experience with this downloadable audio guide in India.

Qutub Minar information on Tourio indicates at least 13 spots to be visited
Tourio, the audio guide that can be downloaded onto your phone

I was invited by the Tourio team in Delhi to try out two of its offerings. The first was the Red Fort in Delhi while the 2nd one was the Qutub Minar. There was plenty that I figured during these trials. In this post, I break down my experiences into various parameters that will help you understand the guide better. From ease of use to information shared and unique offerings, here is Tourio from my perspective.

Installation of the Tourio Audio Guide

Tourio does not need you to buy a separate device. It can be downloaded right onto your phone. It is available for Android phones in the Google Play store. The IOS users will just have to wait a bit as their app is currently being tested. It will be in the Apple store soon.

Screenshot of the Tourio App
Screenshot of the Tourio App

The app is pretty lean in terms of size.  It only took 10-12 MB of my phone storage and was  fairly non-intrusive. Once I had downloaded the app, I could browse through the various tours it had on offer. A few of the tours like the Qutub Minar and the Humayun’s Tomb are free-of-charge. The others like the Red Fort one were nominal in charge. One can just pay through the app store, select the language and genre and start downloading the guide. However, the only thing you will be able to access is the map. The rest of the audio tour is activated at the venue as it is GPS enabled.

In the case of the Red Fort tour, I had pre-downloaded the tour on the hotel Wifi. However, for the Qutub Minar, I chose to download the tour on the spot. Even with the patchy 4G data, the download was smooth.

Ease of Use

Location aware Audio Guide

With the download complete, I was all ready to explore the two destinations. This is where I actually enjoyed the Tourio. The self-intuitive map on the Tourio app showed me all the places that I need to visit. All I needed to do is plug in my earphones, put the phone in my pocket and walk towards the first point. The moment I reached the point, the audio guide started telling me the story and history about that particular point. So basically, the right content at the right place at the right time!

Exploring the Qutub Complex handsfree with the Tourio App
Exploring the Qutub Complex handsfree with the Tourio App

Almost handsfree, I had the complete liberty to focus on the various audio cues and decipher the place with the story that the app unfolded. I took my own time to absorb the place and take as many pictures as I wanted to without being hurtled to the next point of interest. For me, that was the biggest plus.

Start, Stop, Rewind at your convenience

The Khas Mahal at the Red Fort - When the details are overwhelming, you can manually, start and stop the Tourio App
The Khas Mahal at the Red Fort – When the details are overwhelming, you can manually, start and stop the Tourio App

The smart audio guide also, has manual buttons for you to stop and start the story (essentially, the audio clip) at your convenience. This is pretty handy, especially at places where there is a lot to absorb. I used this a lot to decipher the Quwwat Ul Islam mosque in the Qutb Complex as well as the Rang Mahal and Khas Mahal of the Red Fort.

Track your Tour on The Map

The map of the heritage destination is not just about the points of interest in Tourio. Walking around them and listening to the guide at that point, automatically marks them as complete. This helps people like me to beat the FOMO that a place with tons of things to do gives you. However, there is no defined pathway that it suggests. For some that would mean complete autonomy.  I would have preferred a suggested route as it does help clear the confusion of the best way to navigate with the audio guide.

Information shared by the Tourio

There is a lot of general information about the heritage destinations that are shared for each site, even before you have downloaded a tour. This includes the entrance fees, the opening and closing hours and the facilities available. In some cases, it tells you the best time to visit as well.  The information is just enough to get you geared to that particular attraction.

The story part of the Tourio takes you through the history of that place. It highlights certain individual facets of the point of interest that you are on. For example, at the Qutub Minar mosque – it pointed towards a pillar that had the etching of a woman holding a mirror. It explained the Hindu context to that image and the reason why those pillars appeared in that place. These nuggets keep your interest peaked throughout the journey.

The play of light and shadow within the Alai Darwaza
The play of light and shadow within the Alai Darwaza – as advised by Tourio, you should catch it at Sunset.

The Audio Guide, especially the Qutub Minar one, also, shared interesting points of photography. At the Alai Minar, it prompted me to look at the Qutub Minar and its slight tilt. At the Alai Darwaza, it indicated that the light and shadow play of the lattice windows was best captured at Sunset. To make it convenient, you can access your phone camera with a single touch on the site-map!

On the whole, it is almost like listening to a live human guide. However, there was a difference in the narration of the two destinations. The Qutub Minar one was just perfect in terms of the speed of narration. The warm tone and the voice modulation added to the Qutub Minar sightseeing experience.

As against that, the Red Fort tour felt a little hurried. The warm tones still existed but the delivery was too rushed. Incidentally, I shared the feedback with the Tourio team and they did mention that they would be redoing the guide soon. The current guide was one of the first guides that they had made and hence, required the appropriate change of pace. Having said that, I would say that this was a minor issue for you can still pause and play at your will. The depth of information is still quite good.

Pros and Cons at a glance

Unlike the audio guides that you get at the venues in India, this one does not need a separate device. You do not have to give a deposit and there is no hurry to return it. In case you are a slow traveler and like to return to the historical attraction the next day, the same tour is available to you. For me, these are some of the biggest pros of Tourio Audio guide. Here is a table that shares my view of Tourio as a traveler.

 

Useful tips for the Tourio Audio Guide

I am sure that by now you are pretty convinced to give Tourio Audio Guide a try. Just click through this link to download it to your phone.  Based on my experience, sharing a few useful tips to get you the best of Tourio.

  • Currently, the Tourio audio guides are available for various tourist attractions in Delhi, Rishikesh, Agra and Jaipur. Keep checking the app for new additions – by the end of 2019, it will soon have Khajuraho, Orchha and Amritsar.
  • It is best to download your tour before you get to your destination. While there is no issue in doing so on the mobile data, it just takes away the uncertainty owing to patchy network.
  • Carry your headphones and wear an outfit with pockets or have a sling bag to keep your phone. This frees your hands completely and allows you to focus on the destination. Working your camera while you listen is also, a great idea.
  • The audio guides that you download are valid for 90 days.  You do not have to pay again till you attempt it for the 4th time within that period. So three-times over 90 days!

So go on and head to the app store to download your first guide. In case you are planning to do it later, just pin this up as a reminder.

 

I visited the Qutub Minar and Red fort by invite from Tourio. The experiences and opinions expressed above are honest and based on my personal experience

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