Coronavirus: information and updates

Planning accessible holidays abroad

Planning a trip abroad can be exciting and daunting. It can feel like a big task when you have access needs. But the more you plan and book in advance, the more comfortable and enjoyable your trip will be.

Warning Changes and disruptions to travel

The Government is advising people not to travel to some other countries unless it’s essential. There is no set list of what is considered ‘essential’. This depends on your circumstances. This advice may change.

Latest information on travelling abroad and coronavirus (GOV.UK)

Countries have different travel restrictions. Some are not included in the advice about essential travel and are opening to tourists.

Countries without travel restrictions (GOV.UK)

Before you book a trip

Speak with your doctor or consultant to make sure that you’re fit to travel before booking. If you cancel a trip, it may not be covered by travel insurance. Check before you book about changes to:

  • safety and quarantine rules
  • the airport, flights and other transport
  • luggage and equipment allowance
  • travel insurance
  • your GP surgery and medication
  • accommodation, hotels and attractions

Airport assistance must be provided. But it may be different from what you are used to.

Choosing a destination

Think about where you want to go and research how accessible it is. You can find ideas of where to travel and see what’s possible through:

  • travel bloggers who have similar access needs to you
  • accessible travel groups and forums online
  • travel and tourist videos on YouTube

Accessible Travel Online Resources (Lonely Planet)

Join the Accessible Travel Club (Facebook)

Get travel advice from other disabled people

If you’re travelling abroad for the first time, you may want to:

  • check the country’s legislation about and attitudes towards disability and discrimination
  • contact organisations there that are specific to your condition These might help you decide if a country is more or less accessible than another.

See disability laws and acts by country (United Nations)

A specialist travel company can help you plan at an extra cost if you’re anxious about travelling and can afford it. You may want to consider an all-inclusive holiday where travel, accommodation, food and trips are organised for you.

Travelling abroad

There are different ways you can travel depending on your condition and destination:

By plane

You can book ‘special assistance’ when you buy your tickets so the airline knows what support you need at the airport and during the flight.

Most airports and airlines offer support and facilities for disabled passengers, including:

  • accessible toilets and changing rooms at airports
  • buggies and hover buses to help you get across the airport and to your gate
  • rooms or lounges that can be quieter for people with anxiety and sensory issues
  • pagers that let you know when you can board your flight
  • Sunflower lanyards that let airport staff know you have a less visible condition or impairment

Different staff may support you at different points in the airport.

See what’s available at your airport and airline (Civil Aviation Authority)

Warning Book assistance in advance

You must book special assistance at least 48 hours before your flight to make sure that the airline can meet your needs. You can also let them know if you have allergies when booking your airline meal.

You may need to organise transport to and from the airport separately.

Air travel for disabled passengers

Booked airport assistance

By train or coach

Contact the rail or coach service to explain your access needs before you book. Some rail services like Eurostar provide:

  • assistance with luggage, security and boarding
  • wheelchair spaces
  • wheelchair accessible toilets
  • Braille buttons on train doors
  • quiet carriages
  • discounted fares

Some tour operators also provide accessible coach journeys which may include:

  • adapted seating
  • wheelchair lift and seating
  • accessible toilets
  • plenty of breaks

Accessible transport and planning journeys

Disabled Persons Railcard

By car or ferry

If you’re planning to drive, check that:

  • your car insurance allows you to take your car abroad
  • your breakdown cover is included for any country you’re visiting
  • you meet any rules that apply, like carrying a high-visibility jacket in your car boot

If you use the Motability Scheme, you will need a Vehicle on Hire certificate called VE103. Contact RAC Motability Assist for a certificate at least 3 weeks before your trip.

Taking your car abroad (Motability)

Driving abroad (GOV.UK)

If you are going by ferry, tell the company about your needs before booking. Ask if there are any restrictions for equipment you can take on deck.

Transport if you’re disabled (GOV.UK)

Warning Travelling with an assistance dog

You have the right to travel with an assistance dog, but you must follow the rules for the country you’re travelling to. Check with your travel provider and accommodation.

Taking your assistance dog abroad (GOV.UK)

Where to stay

One of the most important things to book in advance is where you will stay. Make a list of your needs in terms of access, sleeping and toilet facilities. This might include things like:

  • a ground floor room or lift access
  • wide doorways
  • raised toilet seats
  • wheel-in showers space to use and store portable equipment like a hoist
  • the height of the bed
  • a quieter room away from traffic noise
  • good lighting
  • plenty of power sockets to charge devices

It can be useful to read reviews but what works for someone else may not work for you.

Getting travel advice from other disabled people

For hotel stays, check their general facilities like restaurants, bars and swimming pools. Contact them to explain your access needs and ask for details. You may be able to negotiate a discount for things included in the price that are not accessible to you.

Warning Ask for photos of the room

Hotels do not usually put photographs of accessible rooms on their website. Ask them to send you pictures of the room and bathroom to see if it will work for you before you book.

You may also be able to see photos posted in guest reviews on Tripadvisor.

Transport and sightseeing

Researching the area where you’ll be staying is a more exciting part of planning. Discover what there is to do and how you can get around.

Getting around

Check public transport options to see if they’re accessible to you. If they are not suitable, your hotel or host may be able to help you arrange a private car or taxi service.

Attractions

Research attractions and activities in the area like places to eat and drink, museums, galleries, historic sites and beaches. Check their websites.

Use Google Street View to see how accessible they are for you.

Look out for things like:

  • steps or ramps to get into buildings
  • ramps and matting for wheelchair access to the beach and sea
  • cobblestone streets, narrow pavements or barriers
  • steep hills or slopes
  • quieter visiting times
  • audio tour guides
  • information in Braille

The Accessible Tourism Directory

Guided tours and day trips

You may get a better deal using a local tour operator than providers in your home country. They know their country best and can answer questions about access.

Medication and safety

Give your doctor details of your trip so they can make sure that:

  • you have enough medication
  • it’s safe for you to have any vaccines or medication for the country you’re visiting
  • you have the generic names of your medication, not just the brand names

Ask them to provide a letter about any medication you take.

Check if you can take your medication into the country you’re visiting.

It can be a good idea to bring twice the amount of medication you need. Try to keep some with you, in case your luggage gets lost.

You may also want to:

  • share your itinerary with family and friends so they know where you’re going
  • get contact details for emergency services like the ambulance and police
  • keep family contact details and your health information in your bag or wallet

Warning Explaining your condition abroad

Find words and phrases related to your condition in the local language. For example, you may need to explain allergies in restaurants or what support you need at your hotel.

Download the Accessible Travel Phrasebook for free (Lonely Planet)

Best translation apps for travelling abroad (Mashable)

Equipment and luggage

Check how much disability equipment and luggage you can take if you’re flying or going by rail or coach. Ask your travel provider if they offer an additional luggage allowance.

Get mobility equipment like your wheelchair serviced before you go to make sure it’s in working order. Find local providers that can repair it or give you a replacement if you need it. You may want to take spare parts with you.

Check what power adaptors you’ll need to charge your electronic equipment too.

Buying travel insurance

Travel insurance policies cover things like medical costs, equipment and cancellations. This should cover some of the costs if something happens before or during your trip.

Buy insurance as soon as you book your trip.

Travel insurance for disabled people

Last reviewed by Scope on: 26/08/2020

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