Planning an international journey￼
If you are planning an international journey, it is always wise to research your destination and mode of transport in advance. The following general advice may help provide peace of mind and ensure a smooth journey.
The Foreign Commonwealth Office lists travel advice for each country which includes vaccination/ immunisation requirements, visa entry requirements and up to date safety advice.
You should discuss your accessibility requirements, for your departure point and your destination, with your tour operator or travel provider at the time of booking.
Remember, all countries accessibility standards and laws vary, so try to find all relevant information in advance.
The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) has a useful accessible travel checklist.
You should arrange travel insurance before your trip, but it is worth obtaining and comparing several quotes.
Think about the level of cover needed and consider if this cover provides for coronavirus-related events. Always read the policy’s small print for exclusions.
Always take your insurance documentation with you whilst travelling. It is worth keeping a separate note of your policy number and your insurance provider’s contact details.
Global Health Insurance Card (for travel in Europe)
These have replaced the European Health Insurance cards (or E111 forms). They are not a substitute for travel insurance. To apply, visit the NHS website.
You can check passport and visa entry requirements for another country via the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website. You can search countries alphabetically and find out how long your passport should be valid for and if an entry visa is required. Do this in advance so that you have plenty of time to renew your passport, if necessary.
If you are a British National and need a passport to travel within 6 weeks, you may have to apply for an emergency travel document /passport. There will be a fee to pay and it is normally ready within 2 working days. More information can be found via this link.
This NHS travel map will tell you the vaccination requirements for the country you are travelling to.
Medical requirements/ carrying medicines
Some airlines may require a fitness to fly letter from your GP.
Some prescription drugs and over the counter medicines available in the UK are banned overseas. Some countries have a strict list of medications which you cannot bring in.
The NHS advise you contact the embassy for the country you are visiting.
British Embassy contacts
Contact details for the British Embassy and British consulates can be found on https://www.gov.uk/world by searching the country, you are travelling to. Information on emergency help for British Nationals can also be found here.
The following coach organisations travel from the UK to destinations in Europe. If travelling in Europe, passengers with disabilities are covered by EU Passenger Rights regulations for Bus and Coach Travel Section 181/2011.
Passengers with disabilities and those with mobility requirements must notify the coach company of their requirements in advance of booking – at least 36 hours before travelling. Please check directly with the coach company for accessibility needs, as not all coaches will have accessible toilets.
Contact: 0371 781 8181
Destinations include Dublin, Amsterdam & Brussels.
Destinations include Paris, Prague, the Netherlands, Czech Republic & Berlin.
Eurostar trains travel from London and Southeast England to cities in France, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Operate ferries to Calais.
Operate from Portsmouth to various ports in France and Spain.
Contact: 0330 159 7000
Dover to Calais and Dunkirk routes.
Operate ferries to Calais.
From Liverpool to Belfast.
Contact: 03447 707 070
Help with cost
Over 60s can get 10% off European rail travel – including Eurostar with the Eurail Pass
There are also Youth discounts for under 27s.
Disabled travellers who need a companion to support them can apply for a free companion pass.
For all modes of transport, you have the right to free assistance at terminals and onboard vehicles within Europe. You cannot be refused transport because of your disability or reduced mobility except for reasons of safety or the design of the vehicle or infrastructure.
If you are travelling to and from the UK and require special assistance while at the airport, you should inform your airline, tour operator or travel agent at least 48 hours before you fly. It is best to give as much notice as possible both for your outbound and return journeys, so the necessary arrangements can be made to give you the assistance you require.
Your airline will pass on your special assistance booking prior to your arrival at the airport. If you arrive at the airport and have not booked in advance, all reasonable efforts will be made to assist you.
The Sunflower Lanyard is for people with hidden disabilities to be able to wear, and for staff to discretely support. According to the scheme, there are five airlines and over 180 airports across 26 countries who recognise this Hidden Disabilities Sunflower, helping to make air travel more accessible.
You can find further information and see which airports around the world support the scheme via this link.
To ensure the best assistance if travelling by train to and within Europe, it is recommended you contact the train company you will be using in advance.
Eurostar tickets must be booked in advance and if special assistance is needed then you should pre-book the assistance 48 hours in advance. This may include help getting to and from a train or the use of a ramp. If it is not possible for you to pre-book, you can turn up on the day at least 75 minutes before departure and Eurostar will do their best to help.
However, if you are travelling between any of the stations below or have a connecting journey, you must book assistance before you travel.
- Disneyland® Paris (Marne-la-Vallée)
- Lyon Part-Dieu
- Avignon TGV
- Marseille Saint Charles
- Amsterdam Centraal
- Rotterdam Centraal
- The French Alps (Moûtiers, Aime-la-Plagne, Bourg-Saint-Maurice)
To book assistance, call 03432 186 186. Monday to Friday, 8.00am – 5.00pm.
Further Eurostar accessibility information can be found via this link.
If you require additional assistance at a port or getting on board and around a ship, you should inform the ferry operator or your booking/tour operator at least 48 hours in advance. This level of assistance can be subject to high demand.
- Contact P&O Ferries: email@example.com
- Contact Stena Line: 03447 707 070 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Contact Brittany Ferries: 0330 159 5015 or email@example.com.
- Contact DFDS via their website.
Many operators provide free lanyards which are a discreet and easy way for you to make staff aware of invisible disabilities or needs without having to verbally communicate them. For example, you may have hearing difficulties and wish staff to speak clearly or remove face coverings.
Travelling with mobility equipment
Remember to take any equipment you use daily but also to pack spare parts that you might need, such as tools, inner tubes, a voltage converter, and adaptor.
Attach instructions to your wheelchair or scooter so it can be handled properly, for instance by airline luggage handlers, and remove any cushions or spare parts to take with you on the plane.
Some airlines will not take certain types of batteries or oxygen cylinders. It is a good idea to check policies and procedures in advance.
You can travel on planes with up to two items of mobility equipment free of charge, if you are disabled.
The Civil Aviation Authority provide further information on their website.
Plane travel with assistive dogs
Airlines must accept all assistance dogs for air travel without charge. A safety harness should be used to secure your dog during take-off and landing.
An airline may ask for confirmation that the dog has been trained to a standard that allows it to travel safely by air.
An assistance dog will need to comply with the rules of the Pet Travel Scheme, on international flights to other EU countries. If you are travelling outside the EU, you will need to check local quarantine rules.
The Civil Aviation Authority provide further information on their website.
Flixbus can carry folding wheelchairs and mobility aids for people with limited mobility in their luggage compartment, but they require 36 hours’ notice and passengers should complete a form in advance.
If you are a wheelchair, powerchair or mobility scooter user and wish to travel in the coach using your equipment, you must check your equipment conforms with EU standards concerning crash testing – DIN EN 12183 and DIN EN 12184.
Wheelchairs cannot exceed 70cm in width and 120cm in length. The weight of the equipment and user combined must not exceed 300kg.
Passengers with disabilities are covered by EU Passenger Rights regulations for Rail Section 1371/2007 which gives them the right to access and assistance.
Most European trains can accommodate wheelchairs which are no wider than 70cm and longer than 120 cm.
This EU guide provides an indication of passenger rail rights in Europe.
If travelling around Europe via train – this Eurail guide is useful in explaining what countries offer.
All mobility scooters must be battery-powered and must fit the wheelchair space (70cm x 120cm). Ramps are only guaranteed if you are travelling in the wheelchair space.
To book passenger assistance, contact: 03432 186 186
If travelling with specialist medical equipment, you should inform Eurostar beforehand to make sure you can take it with you. In some cases, you will have to provide a formal confirmation of your need to travel with specialist equipment.
For further information on accessibility & assistance, visit the Eurostar website.
Many ports and boats provide accessible facilities and services. However, some are inaccessible to wheelchair users.
Facilities may include wheelchair-accessible cabins, accessible toilets, passenger lifts and ramps. Wheelchairs may also be available for loan whilst on board or in the port.
You should check in advance and inform your booking operator of any requirements you have.
Many ferries have lifts on the car decks but vehicle parking close to the lift can be limited. You should inform your operator at the time of booking, and they will try to ensure the vehicle you are travelling in is placed close to the lift.
If you are travelling with a registered assistance dog, you should notify the operator at the time of booking and you must carry proof that your animal is an assistance dog.
End destination accessibility
Be as clear as you can be about your disability and any requirements you may have at the booking stage and obtain confirmation in writing.
You might wish to consider whether any accommodation you book:
- Has step free access to facilities such as main areas and toilets. Access that suits your needs to the bar, pool and any other amenities that are offered.
- Has special aids available such as rails, special mattresses.
- Can cater for dietary needs. Be clear about your specific requirements.
It is worth considering the location you are staying at, in relation to other places that you might wish to visit. Research local hire schemes for mobility equipment, taxi services and facilities that can be of use to you during your stay.
In Paris, for instance, G7 taxis provide an accessible service. Contact + 331 4739 0091 to book in advance.
The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) has more advice and a useful checklist for disabled and less mobile passengers, which can help you prepare for your holiday.