There’s no better feeling than exploring a new destination. Seeing everything a place has to offer, from its historical attractions to its delicious cuisine, you’ll feel fully immersed into the culture of the area in no time. And the best way to do this is by a cruise holiday, which will stop off in several different destinations along the way, giving you a taste of each city.
But if you have a disability, the thought of visiting new places might be daunting. This is reflected according to data from GOV.UK, which stated that people with disabilities travel 75% less frequently than those without disabilities and that 25% of people reported different challenges they faced when it came to travelling.
Whether you struggle with your mobility, or you have another type of disability, you’ll want to ensure ahead of time that a destination is suitable for your requirements. That’s why it’s so important to conduct thorough research into each destination you’ll be visiting, paying attention to whether there are fully accessible attractions and things to do that aren’t limiting.
We’ve rounded up some handy top tips to use whilst planning your getaway, along with the top 10 global disability friendly tourist destinations that you should visit!
Read on to find out more.
- Top Tips for Planning an Accessibility-Friendly Getaway
- Top Disability-Friendly Tourist Destinations
Top Tips for Planning an Accessibility-Friendly Getaway
Alongside researching the destinations in advance, there are several other things you should do ahead of your trip to ensure that it’s as enjoyable as possible. Whether you’re considering taking a trip around the UK or further afield, here’s our top tips that you can use to make your holiday planning run as smoothly as possible.
Make Sure You Have the Correct Travel Insurance
Although this should always be on your checklist when planning a holiday, when you’re travelling with a disability, travel insurance is even more important. You’ll need to ensure that you have the right cover, which includes information about any medical conditions/illnesses and medicines, along with protection for any mobility aids you have.
Plan Which Mobility Aids to Bring
If you require a wheelchair or another mobility aid, you’ll need to consider how these will be transported with you. If you’re going on a cruise and you’re sailing from the UK, you’ll be able to bring your wheelchair with you. If you’re flying, you’ll be able to store your wheelchair in the hold and you’ll have assistance from an airline worker when getting on and off the plane.
When you get to your destination, you can then use your wheelchair or if you prefer, you can always rent a wheelchair/a mobility scooter that you can use throughout your time in your chosen destination.
Special assistance will also need to be pre booked with the airline or cruise line ahead of time. And in order to take a wheelchair with you on holiday, the airline/cruise line will require the dimensions of the wheelchair when folded and unfolded, and the battery type if applicable. For guests with a mobility scooter, it is worth bearing in mind that cruise lines can only carry a small number of scooters on board.
When travelling with a disability, if you have a smartphone, it’s worth seeing if there are any apps you can download to assist with your journey. Here are a few that might come in handy:
- Autism Village - a free app that assists parents travelling with children that are on the autistic spectrum. On the app, you’ll find suggestions for autism-friendly places, tips and more
- App2vox - designed to enhance communication with those on the autistic spectrum, it has text to speech capabilities, phrase building and other helpful tools that can be used when travelling
- Wheelmap - this handy app suggests wheelchair-friendly landmarks, restaurants and other locations
- Be My Eyes - a Danish mobile app that assists visually impaired and blind people to cope with everyday situations. Providing an online community, there is a live chat ran by volunteers
- RogerVoice - an app for hearing impaired travellers that converts audio to a text format using speech recognition software
Ensure All of Your Medication is Packed
Make sure ahead of time that you pack all of your medications. You don’t want to reach your final destination only to realise that your essential medications aren’t in the bag after all! It’s also important to keep in mind that you'll also want to ensure that the country you're visiting allows all the medications in too.
Top Disability-Friendly Tourist Destinations
Although Lisbon is often thought of as a hilly destination, it’s actually one of the most accessible, with a variety of hotels, attractions and restaurants that are fully accessible for visitors. This includes the Lisbon Story Centre, which has wheelchair access throughout (including an accessible bathroom), alongside the flat neighbourhood of Belem where there are lots of fascinating landmarks and monuments. Lisbon also has an accessible public transportation system and lifts across the town which connect the lower and upper parts of the city. Free to use, they are convenient for those with mobility issues.
In Lisbon, there are an array of companies that can also offer tours for those with either reduced mobility, visual impairment or other disabilities.
Discover Iglu Cruise’s variety of cruises to Portugal.
Next up on the list is the beautiful and historic city of Rome. Although it has cobbled streets and a lot of landmarks dating back 100’s of years, it has an impressive selection of fully accessible hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions. To reach these attractions, there are wheelchair accessible tour buses and taxis. In terms of attractions, the Pantheon is one of the most wheelchair accessible landmarks to visit, along with the Vatican.
If you are travelling with someone on the autism spectrum or with another developmental disability, keep in mind that Rome can be very busy - especially in the summer months. Therefore, if they do not feel comfortable in a large crowd, it’s probably best to avoid landmarks such as the Trevi Fountain, the Vatican or the Colosseum in the middle of the day. Instead, it’s recommended to visit these attractions early in the morning or at night, when the crowds have subsided.
Discover Iglu Cruise’s variety of cruises to Italy.
A favourite for holiday-goers around the world, Paris is a very flat city, making it one of the most accessible for those travelling in a wheelchair or with a mobility aid. Also offering a variety of hotels, attractions and restaurants to choose from, it’s clear you’ll have a fantastic time there. Examples of accessible attractions include The Louvre and Musee d’Orsay. For those that require a quiet area, Paris has an array of parks that are perfect to escape the hustle and bustle, such as the Square du Vert-Galant park. There is also a series of accessible bus lines in Paris, making it easy to travel around it.
Discover Iglu Cruise’s variety of cruises to France.
If you’ve opted to cruise around Iceland, you’ll not be disappointed when it comes to the variety of disability-friendly activities there are to choose from in and around the capital of Reykjavík. With accessible hotels, restaurants and disability-friendly attractions/leisure activities, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
An example of an attraction that’s disability friendly is the Blue Lagoon. Not only does it offer a multi-sensory experience, but it’s an accessible attraction with a private changing room, shower, adult-sized changing table, ramps that can take you in and out of the water and an ‘amphibious’ chair. Enjoying a swim in the water is a relaxing activity that will leave you feeling refreshed.
Reykjavík also hosts several events throughout the year that are bound to impress, such as art installations. One example is a multi-sensory immersive art installation within the Höfuðstöðin art and culture centre that contains different colours and textures.
Transport in Reykjavík is wheelchair accessible, but you’ll have to keep in mind that you’ll need to enter and exit the bus without assistance. Outside of the capital, buses aren’t accessible, so it’s important that you plan ahead if you’re looking to explore further afield during your time there.
Another European destination that’s known for being disability friendly, for both those with mobility issues and developmental disabilities is Dublin. The capital of Ireland, it’s a wheelchair accessible city, with 95% of the curbs either lowered or cut- making it easy to get around it. There is also a large number of accessible hotels, accessible restaurants, and disability-friendly attractions to explore.
If you’re arriving in Dublin by plane, there’s even a purpose-built sensory room in Terminal 2, which is designed with sensory activities and quiet spaces. One of the popular attractions in the city, the Aviva Stadium, is also not only wheelchair accessible, but also has a sensory hub which can be used for up to 10 minutes and will offer a welcoming break from the loud noises and crowds. Sensory ‘cubbies’ are also available in the Walkinstown, Cabra and Coolock libraries.
Guinness Storehouse, Dublin Castle and the Dublin Zoo are all wheelchair accessible attractions within easy reach of the city centre. And to reach them, there are wheelchair accessible taxis available throughout the city which include ramps and wheelchair anchorages.
Discover Iglu Cruise’s selection of Iceland cruises here.
Not only is this one of the most picturesque cities on this list, but the amount of restaurants, hotels, attractions and leisure activities that are disability friendly make it a great option. There are even wheelchair-friendly taxis that can transport wheelchair users around the city.
Top accessibility friendly attractions include the Rijksmuseum (which has an accessible lift entrance, lifts on each floor and flat surfaces) and the Nxt Museum, which has an accessible restaurant, toilets and ramps/alternative routes around it for visitors with mobility issues.
As Amsterdam is largely made up of canals, it’s good to know that several canal cruise operators have wheelchair lifts, such as the Blue Boat Company. And if you want to head out and explore the city in another way, companies such as Star Bikes offer adapted bicycles such as electric bikes and bikes that can incorporate a wheelchair at the front.
Attractions such as the Artis Zoo and Vondelpark offer quiet spaces around the city, alongside beautiful scenery and the chance to get up close to some of the world’s most incredible animals.
Discover Iglu Cruise’s selection of Amsterdam cruises here.
Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina
The capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarajevo is a hidden gem that’s often overlooked when it comes to getaways. Nestled between the Dinaric Alps, it’s a bustling city that’s full of vibrant markets, picturesque scenery and friendly locals. Although it has accessible hotels and restaurants, it has less accessible attractions and leisure activities than others on this list.
There are certain attractions, such as the Baščaršija market, Sacred Heart Cathedral and the Sarajevo City Hall that are wheelchair accessible, but you’ll need to keep in mind that a lot of the town is quite chilly and has cobblestone streets.
Dating back thousands of years, Athens is a city that’s filled with historical landmarks, from the Parthenon to the Theatre of Dionysus. Throughout the years, Athens has evolved to become more and more accessible to visitors, with wheelchair access across the city. For example, at the Parthenon there is a lift you can use to get to it.
Athens has accessible hotels, restaurants, attractions and leisure activities throughout that will tick all of the boxes. Other wheelchair accessible attractions include the National Archaeological Museum, Vouliagmeni Beach and Flisvos Marina.
Alongside wheelchair accessible attractions, throughout the city there are attractions offering experiences for those with developmental disabilities. For example, the National Museum of Contemporary Art has sensory resources from sensory maps to educational activities.
Discover Iglu Cruise’s selection of cruises from Athens here.
Prague is rapidly becoming more and more popular with tourists due to the amount of historic sights, bustling bars, incredible scenery and cheaper prices. Throughout the city, you’ll find an array of accessible attractions, including the National Museum of Prague, Prague Castle and the Zizkov Television Tower.There is also an accessible public transportation system and accessible restaurants.
Prague also offers sensory experiences, such as the Museum of Senses, which features over 50 exhibitions for both children and adults.
And finally, we have Bern in Switzerland. A scenic city with origins that date back to the 12th century, it’s situated on the breathtaking Aare River. Bern’s Old Town, The Parliament Building, its Botanic Garden and the Bern Concert Theatre are all examples of attractions throughout the city that are accessible for those with limited mobility. There is also a variety of restaurants and bars that are accessible.
For those that are visually impaired, there are guided tours offered by a range of vendors that take you around Bern, tailored specifically to your needs. There is also the sensory experience at a nearby amusement park (the Sensorium at Ruttihubelbad) which offers exhibitions for people of all ages.
Book with Iglu Cruise Today
It’s clear that the above destinations have a wide variety on offer to explore. And with so many cruises available visiting them, you’re guaranteed to find a getaway that suits your budget and preferences. Discover Iglu Cruise’s wide range of cruise deals available.
We have also written a blog about autism friendly cruises that are offered by a range of cruise lines, from Disney Cruise Line to Royal Caribbean!