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Best virtual tours

Best Virtual Travel Experiences You Can Enjoy at Home During Quarantine

When the deadly pandemic took over the world, life as we knew it was over. Millions of people were forced to stay at home. Cities that were normally bustling with life became eerily quiet. Tourism was pretty much non-existent, with countries across the globe shutting their borders.

Today, while some countries are showing signs of recovery, so many are still struggling, and it seems unlikely that travel will return to what it once was — at least not in the near future.

I have had five trips cancelled (none of them refunded) and now Malaysia is in full lockdown… for the third time. We haven’t been able to cross district borders for many months. So, how do I deal with the blues in self isolation?

Like a lot of other travel addicts, I tried to make the most of the situation and turned to virtual travel.

Virtual travel tours are an online simulation of a real tour of a place using photos and videos. In many cases, these are self-guided tours that allow you to navigate your own way through the location. Think Google Street View but inside museums or famous attractions around the world.

And then there are also guided tours and experiences, which are conducted by real people, live from the locations. On these tours, you will be able to interact personally with your guides and other participants.

Apart from city / museum tours, other online experiences you can join are cooking classes, art & craft tutorials, farm tours (where you get to meet and greet the animals), dance lessons, and many more.

Why You Should Join Virtual Tours

Judging from the current situation, it may be a long, long time before we achieve herd immunity and tourism goes back to normal. For those of us who travel frequently, this can be a huge bummer. Virtual tours help to alleviate the cabin fever.

And for those who have never had a chance to travel abroad, these tours give you the opportunity to experience the world without having to leave home. You can tour the city of Paris with a Parisian, learn to make pasta from a nonna in Italy, and watch an Argentinian tango concert — all from the comfort of your couch.

Airbnb online experiences
Virtual tour with a guide. Credit: Airbnb

The tours are usually suitable for groups, so you can get the people in your household to join you in front of the laptop. Or, you can invite your friends to join separately in their own homes. It can be a great family-bonding or team-building activity, and an educational one at that.

In addition, by joining these tours, you are also helping the people in the travel industry who were badly affected by the pandemic. Most of the hosts that conduct these experiences are former tour guides and other professionals who had to find another way to cope after losing their main source of income.

How Much are the Virtual Travel Experiences?

A lot of museums, art galleries, parks, and tourist attractions around the world are offering virtual tours for FREE.

But interactive experiences that are conducted by real people usually cost some money, starting from as low as $1 per person!

Where to Find Virtual Travel Experiences

There are many travel apps and websites that offer these virtual experiences, including Airbnb, Viator, Get Your Guide, and Klook. You can also find free ones on Google Arts & Culture, as well as on the official websites of museums and attractions around the world.

I personally prefer Airbnb because the experiences seem better curated and you get to learn from real experts in the field. It’s also the most popular platform — a lot of the experiences already have thousands of reviews.

Here are some of the top-rated virtual travel experiences on Airbnb:

Best Virtual City Tours

Paris virtual tour with a Parisian
Paris city tour with a Parisian. Credit: Airbnb

Did your trip get cancelled? Don’t give up on the idea just yet. If you can’t get to the destination in person, visit it virtually! That way, when you finally get to visit those places, you will be better prepared, and it will be all the more meaningful for you when you can see it in a new perspective.

Understand the history and culture and get some insider’s tips from a local on one of these tours:

  1. A Fabulous Day in Paris with a Parisian – Learn why the Eiffel tower shouldn’t be standing today and find out the funnier side of the Louvre museum. You will be taken to offbeat places where Parisians like to hang out, visit an open-air market, and finish off with a picnic at the park.
  2. Zoom around Panoramic Barcelona – Experience Barcelona like a local and visit hidden attractions, starting with a breakfast in a traditional market hall, and ending with a flamenco show in a cozy bodega.
  3. Explore Jaipur, the Royal City of India – Through interactive storytelling, you will be taken back to 16th-century Jaipur and into the palaces and forts of the Maharajas. This will be followed by a tour of a local market and an introduction to Jaipur cuisine.
  4. Tokyo Online Tour All in One – Learn about Tokyo’s modern culture and daily lifestyle, as well as practical info to help you plan your future trip better, such as the public transports in the city, where to find the best sushi and ramen, and Japanese table manners.
  5. Follow a Plague Doctor through Prague – Travel back in time to the 17th and 18th centuries when Prague was plagued by the Black Death.

    You will follow the footsteps of Dr. Alexander Schamsky, an 18th-century plague doctor as he takes you to the city’s famous landmarks and hidden gems, and tells you the forgotten history of the pneumonic and bubonic plagues.

Best Online Cooking Classes

Pasta with Grandma virtual cooking class
Pasta with the Grandmas. Credit: Airbnb

One of my favorite things to do when I travel is joining cooking classes. Not only do I get to learn a new skill, I also get to eat everything that I cooked in the class.

For online cooking classes, you will be given a list of ingredients and tools you need to prepare. Most of these will be easy-to-find items. If something is not available where you are, they will suggest a substitute.

During the class, your host will guide you through the entire process, check on how you’re doing, and help answer any question you may have. Impress your family and friends with your new culinary skills from these online classes:

  1. Pasta with the Grandmas – Make traditional authentic pasta from scratch, learn Nonna’s culinary secrets, and listen to her stories. An entire village of women is involved in this project.
  2. Taste of India – Learn to make vegan samosa with coriander chutney in a cooking class that claims to be the only one in India that is recommended by BuzzFeed & Tasty. Other popular Indian dishes like chicken tikka masala, biryani, naan, and masala chai tea are also available.
  3. Easy Balinese Indonesian Home Cooking – Transport yourself to the paradise island of Bali as you learn to prepare tasty Indonesian food, such as gado-gado (vegetables with peanut sauce), soto ayam (Indonesian chicken soup), and ikan mesantan (spiced seafood curry).
  4. Make Mexican Street Tacos with a Pro Chef – With over 2,700 five-star reviews, this class offers a unique opportunity to learn to cook a Mexican street taco and all its parts from scratch, including the traditional red salsa, taco filling, and flour tortillas.
  5. Cooking with a Moroccan Family – This experience invites you into the home of a traditional Moroccan family, where you will discover Moroccan cooking techniques in preparing delicious traditional food, such as pastilla, Friday couscous, lamb Tajine, and fresh Moroccan salad.

Best Online Music and Dance Experiences

Cello meditation concert
Cello meditation concert. Credit: Airbnb

Another thing I like to do when traveling is getting acquainted with the local music and performing arts. Whenever possible, I would join a class, like this traditional Balinese dance lesson I attended in Ubud.

Music and entertainment often play a huge part in our lives, and especially now when we are stuck at home. But we sometimes underestimate the therapeutic effects that come from those beautiful melodies.

These experiences will uplift your spirits and take you to lands far, far away: 

  1. Cello Meditation Concert – Combining years of classical music training and studies in Vipassana meditation, the Amsterdam-based cellist will take you on a journey of deep cello vibrations and sweeping melodies that will leave you feeling more grounded and emotionally connected.
  2. An Evening with a Flamenco Composer – Enjoy an intimate flamenco guitar concert in Madrid, discover its history, and learn to differentiate all the different codes used by flamenco musicians to communicate with each other during improvisations.
  3. Dance Salsa and Latin Music from Scratch – Learn from scratch the basic steps of Colombian-style Salsa and other Latin rhythms in this one-hour class. By booking this experience, you help to support 17 dancers in Bogota who were affected by the pandemic and 5 month dance training scholarships for impoverished children.
  4. Tango Concert from Latin Grammy Nominee – Part cocktail party, part history lesson, part live concert, this experience lets you delve into the soulful, intimate world of tango in Buenos Aires.
  5. Sing Songs with a Broadway Star – Whether you’re an aspiring professional or you just want to sound better in the shower, this experience promises to make you a better singer. Your host will also tell you about his journey from growing up in a tiny English village to starring in the most successful show in Broadway history.

Best Online Art & Craft Workshops

Espadrille workshop
Barcelona espadrille workshop. Credit: Airbnb

There’s something empowering about creating something from scratch. I remember the sense of accomplishment I felt when I made my own earrings in Rwanda.

And now that most of us have extra time on our hands, there’s no more excuse not to learn that creative skill you’ve always wanted to learn. Not only will you get to add a new skill to your repertoire, you will also gain a new way to stay sane during lockdown.

So, get your creative juices flowing with these online art & craft workshops:

  1. The Barcelona Espadrilles Workshop – First, you will be introduced to the history of these traditional shoes, the materials needed to make them, as well as the many different ways to lace them up. Finally, you will design the espadrilles of your dreams, which will be stitched LIVE in the workshop and then shipped to you at no extra cost!
  2. How to Paint with Red Wine – Bring out the artist in you by learning to paint with only red wine — a rare technique used by very few artists in the world.
  3. Creative Smartphone Photography at Home – Born out of boredom during quarantine, this class will teach you creative techniques to take nicer pictures with ANY type of smartphone and edit them faster using free mobile apps.
  4. Origami and the Essence of Japan – This workshop will not only teach you how to make the traditional paper-folding art, but also its history and the meanings behind the shapes.
  5. Intuitive Writing Workshop – Taking place in a sunny, star-studded West Hollywood writing studio, this fun writing workshop will help you connect with your intuition using a method called psychometry. You will write, share insights, give and receive supportive feedback with other participants, and get professional writing guidance from the instructor.

Best Online Health & Wellness Workshops

Trigger point therapy workshop
Trigger point therapy workshop. Credit: Airbnb

Being stuck at home, it’s all too easy to forget about self-care. I had pretty much abandoned all my workout routine because why bother? Who’s gonna see my bikini body anyway?

Sometimes you need a live online class to motivate you to care about your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. The new skills and knowledge gained from these lessons will remain an invaluable asset for life.

  1. Trigger Point Therapy with an Olympian – Using different sizes of balls and household items, this workshop will walk you through trigger point therapy to relax contracted muscles, improve blood, oxygen, and lymphatic circulation, and relieve any kind of pain, even if you’ve had it for years.
  2. Happiness Meditation with Chocolate – Break the myths about meditation and discover how it can help you create more inner peace, gratitude, happiness, and love — especially if you add snacks into the equation!
  3. Fall in Laugh – Forget your worries for one hour during this mass laughter session. You will be taught techniques like Pranayama yoga, mindful breathing, and exercises that trigger laughter. Don’t worry if you’re shy — even forced laughter will turn into a real one within 10 seconds and helps activate the mood-boosting serotonin and dopamine in your brain.
  4. Qigong – De-stress and Re-energize – Developed more than 400 years ago, this ancient practice is suitable for anyone, regardless of age and physical ability. It helps relieve stress, aches, and pains, and improve energy level. The instructor is a former wheelchair user who can now hike mountains, thanks to Qigong.
  5. Relax with a Foot Massage Workshop – A massage therapist for 15 years, the instructor will share with you how to prepare and massage your feet using oriental techniques and mindfulness.

Best Online Experiences with Animals

Guided Meditation with Sleepy Sheep
Guided meditation with sleepy sheep. Credit: Airbnb

Even for introverts like myself, going for weeks or months without human contact will eventually take a toll on our emotional well-being.

Those who own pets can turn to their furry friends for company and cuddles, but for those who don’t, virtual experiences involving animals can be the next best thing.

  1. Guided Meditation with Sleepy Sheep – Taking place in a peaceful farmyard with stunning Scottish views, big skies, and melodious birdsong, this live interactive podcast will help you de-stress with the company of Hamish, Dougal, and Lochie (the sheep). Get to know them and become part of the flock as they come up to the camera for snuggles.
  2. Fun Giant Panda Time with a Nature Guide – Through a selection of amusing panda photos and videos, you will have a fun and interactive discussion about a panda’s lifecycle from a cub to an adult, their diet, and their unique skills that have helped them survive on earth for millions of years.
  3. Meet and Draw a Llama – First, you will meet Cadbury the amazing llama, tour his paddock, and observe how he moves, eats, etc. Then, you will start drawing the llama together, using your observation and imagination. The instructor is a children’s book illustrator and animator for Walt Disney.
  4. Meet My Bees – Get up close and personal with a colony of bees on this live streaming from an apiary in Lisbon. Through a fun quiz, you will learn about bee anatomy and behavior, as well as their super pollinating powers. At the end of the session, you’ll take part in a special spring tradition for the bees.
  5. Go on a Leopard Safari in Sri Lanka – Whether or not you’ve been on a safari before, these graceful and powerful big cats will still mesmerize you. Throughout this experience, you will learn about the secret lives of these elusive leopards and stories that you’ll never find on Google.

Best Family-Friendly Online Experiences

Harry Potter magic tour
Harry Potter magic in Edinburgh. Credit: Airbnb.

I personally don’t mind self-isolating and social distancing as I quite appreciate the alone time.

But with schools closed, it must be a challenge for parents with restless kids in the house who all crave some entertainment. Why not take the opportunity to engage in some family-bonding activities?

These interactive online games will guarantee belly laughs and unforgettable memories:

  1. Harry Potter Magic in Edinburgh Tour – This tour will start with a Hogwarts House test for all the muggles. There will be a Harry Potter trivia competition at the end of the tour, so everyone has to be sorted. Using moving images, you will tour Edinburgh and see the places where J.K. Rowling got her inspiration, including the school believed to be the inspiration for Hogwarts.
  2. Family Magic Show and Magic Lesson – Watch a magic show performed by a professional magician from Japan using only everyday objects without any special boxes or assistants. After that, you will get to learn some mind-blowing but easy-to-master magic tricks to impress your family and friends.
  3. “No Spain No Game” – The Fabulous Game – A mix between a scavenger hunt, trivia, true or false, and other wacky challenges, this game will show you Barcelona & Spain in a hilarious way. At the end, there will be a winner, who will get the funniest prize ever.
  4. Tiny Theater Interactive Murder Mystery – Somebody killed millionaire Zolan Mize. But who? Take this goofy interactive ride with professional actors as they play all the roles and you decide the outcome.
  5. Living Room Legends Scavenger Hunt – Compete with people from other parts of the world to win this virtual home scavenger hunt game, where you will get outside your comfort zone to complete creative, challenging, and wacky missions.

Other Unique Virtual Experiences You Should Try

There are literally hundreds more online experiences you can find on Airbnb. Here are some of the most interesting ones that caught my eye:

  1. World’s Top Coffee Masterclass (Mexico)
  2. Meet a Real Life Shark Scientist (South Africa)
  3. Meditation with a Japanese Buddhist Monk (Japan)
  4. Learn about Space with an Astronomer (Norway)
  5. Aurora Hunting in Iceland (Iceland)
  6. Hula Hoop with a Circus Artist (Canada)
  7. The Art of Penguin Conservation (South Africa)
  8. Mindfulness Tea Ceremony (Japan)
  9. Conversations with a Psychic (United States)
  10. Learn How to Analyze Handwriting (United Kingdom)

Free Virtual Tours

If you prefer free self-guided tours, there is a plethora of resources you can find online. Many museums around the world are offering free tours on their websites, including:

Apart from that, you can also browse Google Arts & Culture, which is an online repository of art and cultural expressions, such as paintings, music, and performing arts from across the globe.
 
If you’re more of a nature lover than a history buff, check out the National Geographic YouTube channel for breathtaking 360° videos of nature, including animal encounters and deep-sea dives.
 
Or visit the Niagara Falls website to watch VR videos of the falls, either from a bird’s-eye view or from ground level. There’s also a virtual ziplining adventure for a unique view of the falls.
 
To satisfy the child in you, take an interactive virtual tour of Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, and more at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando.

Additional Tips for Virtual Tours

  • Most of the virtual tours will require you to have a stable internet connection and a device with functioning audio and video.
  • All online experiences on Airbnb are conducted on Zoom, so make sure you have that installed and an account registered.
  • While you can certainly use your phone, it’s recommended to use a laptop for the best experience. The bigger, the better!
  • Airbnb accepts most major credit, prepaid credit, and debit cards, as well as Apple Pay, Google Pay, and PayPal. Other payment options may also be available in specific countries.
  • You can pay with one of the various currencies supported on the website.
  • Check the experience guideline before you book. Some of them may require you to prepare certain items for the experience.
  • Most of the cooking classes can cater to vegans and vegetarians and other dietary restrictions. Just check with the host before you book.
  •  

Final Thoughts on Virtual Travel Experiences

While virtual travel may not be as good as the real thing, it’s the best we can do right now to satisfy our wanderlust even as we stay at home and practice social distancing.

We’ve never had this much free time and probably never will again, so let’s take the opportunity to learn something new and do things we’ve always wanted to do. If this pandemic teaches us anything, it’s that we should always try to make the best of the situation.

Have you joined any virtual tour in lockdown? How did it go? Share your experience in the comment section below.

Best virtual tours

Best virtual tours

Posted in Travel Tips

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45 Comments

  1. Elyse

    Virtual tours are such a great idea. Last year I did a city tour of Buenos Aires and it was awesome. Got to work with what we have at the moment 🙂

    • ummi

      That’s so cool, Elyse! Buenos Aires is one of the cities that I want to visit the most, so I also did a virtual tour last year, but mine focused more on the street art in the city. 😀

  2. Susan

    Awesome round up of virtual experiences that will transport and cure wanderlust until travel resumes fully. Sadly, I think there are a lot of places that will be off limits for some time.

    • ummi

      I’m afraid you’re right, Susan. My own country is still struggling to get everyone vaccinated. Hopefully things will take a turn for the better soon, but in the meantime, we could take these virtual experiences to stay connected with the rest of the world 🙂

  3. Amy

    Cooking is definitely my way of travelling right now, I would love to do a cooking class online at some point! 🙂 This post was amazing, I hope we can travel again in the near future.

    • ummi

      I hope so too, Amy. Do check out some of the online cooking classes available on Airbnb. I like how well-curated the online experiences on Airbnb are and how potential hosts have to go through extensive interviews and auditions, to make sure that they are true experts in their fields. 🙂

  4. Erica

    This is a fantastic list, thank you very much! I love the variety, you have something for everyone. I completely agree that there are still a lot of things we can do and learn related to travel while we are at home. You’ve highlighted just how fun and interesting they can be!

    • ummi

      You’re welcome, Erica! And thank you for your feedback. You’re absolutely right on how fun and interesting they can be. It’s amazing how much variety there is. 😀

    • ummi

      It certainly has, Teja. I hadn’t logged on to my Airbnb account since the last MCO and was surprised to see so many interesting new experiences. I’m gonna try one of those murder mysteries/escape room games. 😀

  5. Lena

    What a wonderful idea!!! I wish I knew your post when we were still under lockdown 🙂 Luckily things are opening up again, but I do hope that virtual experiences remain a thing – so many more possibilities to create an exciting every day life!

    • ummi

      Ah yes, this post is a little overdue, I know. But it’s still not too late to give the virtual experiences a try. 😉 I hope they’re here to stay too. They help bring the world to people who can’t travel, be it due to the pandemic or other personal reasons.

  6. Marcella

    Such a lovely original post, thank you! I really like the idea of a virtual cooking class as you can literally get a bit of a taste of a different culture at home.

    • ummi

      Well said, Marcella. And I like that you can choose to learn from professional chefs or real families cooking in their homes. I hope you’ll try one soon. 😀

  7. Alison

    Absolutely brilliant post, and so comprehensive. I’m quite excited about it. It’s an amazing resource and I’m looking forward to diving in.

    • ummi

      Nanti kalau boring2 cuba la satu, Bae. Memang best sebab kita boleh berinteraksi secara live dengan orang dari pelbagai negara.

  8. Pingback:How to Deal with the Blues When You Can’t Travel – Ummi Goes Where?

  9. adianiez AIDA

    haven’t join mana2 pun, ummi.
    wow! camni pun ada ye? terbaik!
    aida minat tu join virtual tour tu, cooking and art&craft. these boleh buat kita isi masa di rumah. nowadays semua kan virtual. why not join semua ni jika ada kelapangan.
    tq for sharing. satu ilmu baru utk aida.

    • ummi

      You’re welcome, Aida. Nanti bila free2, try la satu cooking class atau art & craft tu. Tentu menarik bila dapat belajar seni masakan / kraftangan dari negara lain. Live pulak tu. 🙂

    • ummi

      Takde cash refund, tapi dapat credit. Cuma tak tau la kan bila boleh guna credit tu. Entah2 dah expired pun border belum bukak lagi. Hmm.

    • ummi

      True, Kelly. It’s definitely better than nothing, and can also be a great option for those who have never had a chance to travel abroad. 🙂

  10. Kitkat Nelfei

    Interesting virtual tour ya to try them out especially those that I have visited before.. refresh bit of my memories.. thinking to explore virtually ahead also to few places that I have the plan to visit in near future too.. brilliant idea of this..

    • ummi

      Great plan, Kitkat. It’s a good idea to do a virtual tour of the place you’re planning to visit. Then you can ask the host any question you have about the place, and you may even earn a new local friend! 😀

  11. Tekkaus

    Guess for those who have been yearning to travel again, this serves as the ultimate getaway list. Thanks for sharing this list. Now we can all go to different places albeit virtually.

    • ummi

      You’re welcome, Tekkaus. Virtual travel is a great alternative now for those who can’t travel, but I do hope this trend is here to stay. Not all of us are able to travel abroad even when the borders open. 🙂

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