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Tourism in the Digital Age: Free Tours vs. Walking Tour Apps

Turismo urbano Madrid

In the digital age, tourism in Spain has undergone a remarkable transformation. Free tours and walking tour apps have become prominent players, often replacing traditional guided tours.

Free Tours Offered by Platforms like Guruwalk or Civitatis

In recent years, it's common to see groups of tourists in any Spanish city following guides with colorful umbrellas. These guides tell stories and anecdotes, trying to keep the tourists engaged until the end of the tour to earn a tip. However, this type of tourism has its downsides that deserve exploration.

At first glance, free tours seem like a tempting option for travelers who want to explore Spanish cities economically. But as we all know, "free tours" are not truly free; at the end of the tour, participants are expected to pay a tip, typically between 10 and 15 euros per person, usually in cash. Additionally, the guides must pay taxes as self-employed workers and give a portion of their earnings (around 3 euros per visitor) to platforms like Civitatis or Guruwalk, which were used to book the tours.

Free tour guides face precarious incomes in a sea of competition. To attract users and increase tips, they must offer entertaining tours, often including anecdotes that are not always rigorously accurate. In fact, in many cases, specific training in history, tourism, or art is not required to be a free tour guide. What is really needed is charisma and charm, qualities that allow them to offer an engaging tour and receive good online ratings, thus attracting future users.

Furthermore, guides may direct tourists to restaurants and venues that offer them commissions (not always the best options), or sell additional services, such as paid excursions or tickets, to generate extra income. Essentially, free tours have become a form of the "gig economy" in tourism, where guides operate as precarious workers while the platforms take most of the benefits.

Advantages of Walking Tour Apps

In contrast, walking tour apps offer a simple and transparent alternative.

These apps provide tours similar to free tours but allow users to explore at their own pace using their own mobile phones. They offer clear, concise, and rigorous descriptions of each point of interest, allowing users to delve deeper into the places that interest them most and skip those that do not appeal to them.

Walking tour apps enable travelers to explore cities economically and independently. Their interactive maps leverage mobile technology to guide users to various points of interest, include audio guides, and offer useful recommendations, such as nearby museums, restaurants, and bars, to enrich the user's experience. These recommendations are made independently, as the quality of the venues can be reviewed in advance. Additionally, the apps are available in several languages.

Another advantage is that these apps are frequently updated, incorporating new routes and points of interest based on current trends and events. They also allow users to pause and resume the tour at any time, offering total flexibility to fit the traveler’s plans and pace. Moreover, they enable users to prepare for their visit in advance, as they can download routes and information at any time, even before arriving at their destination.

Traditional Paid Tours

On the other hand, traditional paid tours conducted by professional guides remain a valuable option for those seeking a more rigorous and detailed approach. These tours typically offer deep and precise knowledge of points of interest, backed by guides with specific training in history, art, or tourism.


In summary, tourism in Spain offers options for all types of travelers:

- Free tours: ideal for those seeking entertainment and a more relaxed experience, though not always rigorous.

- Traditional paid tours: perfect for tourists who value rigor and precision, guided by well-trained professionals.

- Walking tour apps: an excellent option for digital and modern tourists who prefer to explore at their own pace with all the advantages of mobile technology.

Exploring Spain has never been so accessible and personalized. Whether opting for the authenticity and charm of free tours, the rigor of traditional tours, or the independence and flexibility of walking tour apps, travelers have more options than ever to enjoy their trip. Discover the option that best suits you and start your adventure!

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