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Handicap travel in Europe

Are wheelchairs easily available or how can we manage getting around the tours that require a lot of walking?

Posted by
11136 posts

Where in Europe and what sort of 'tours' are you referring to?

Posted by
2 posts

I’m planning on doing the Paris tour then headed towards Belleau Woods. I’ll be traveling with a Marine who can’t stand or walk long distances due to an injury received during battle.

Posted by
8419 posts

If you're referring to the Rick Steves tours, I think the answer is no. Read the tour conditions. Inside the cities, its all walking, riding the metro and standing - no bus rides to and from sights. You're expected to be active and capable of handling that without accommodations. If in doubt call the tour office.

Here's the info from the Paris tour page:

Physical Demands
Our tours are physically active! It's an essential part of the Rick Steves tour experience. On our Best of Paris in 7 Days tour — among other things — you'll need to happily…
Carry your luggage up several flights of stairs to reach your hotel room.
Be on your feet, walking and standing, for up to three hours, indoors and outdoors, in all weather conditions.
Sleep with street noise and no (or weak) air conditioning.
After orientation and transportation lessons, be able to navigate around the city on your own.

Posted by
15778 posts

Hi and welcome to the forum, warrennatalie!
Do you mean a Rick Steves Paris tour? If not, which tour, or tours, exactly?
And how are you planning on getting to and visiting Belleau Woods?

As much information about your master plan as you can provide would be helpful to posters who can offer assistance. If you've not yet been to Europe, getting around with mobility issues requires pre-planning for more than just tours, such as being sure to book accommodations with elevators (a fair amount don't have them) or which have handicap-accessible rooms on main floors. So what else can you tell us about you and your Marine that might be good to know? :O)

Editing to add; it does appear as if you're considering the RS "Best of Paris" Paris tour, and unfortunately it doesn't look like your companion could be accommodated but, as suggested, call the office, and see my next post!

Posted by
1584 posts


That is the best, most informative reply to any question that I have seen in quite awhile.

Posted by
23230 posts

That can be a problem as compared to the US. A few years when my mother was still alive, we explored the possibility of bring her on one of our trips. At close to 90 she had some mobility issues so a wheelchair was fairly critical for most of the day. So on a prior trip we did some scouting as to what may be available for her. Unfortunately our assessment was not good. Europe, generally, simply has not made the accommodation for handicap travel. While some hotels will have elevators, often you have to climb a flight of stairs to get to the elevator and/or the lobby. The conditions of the streets, cobblestones, sidewalks makes for more difficulty with a wheelchair. It can be done but would be more of a struggle, inconveniences, than you would find in the US.

Posted by
6299 posts

Travelling with a wheelchair is certainly possible, especially if the person in the wheelchair can walk at least a couple of metres. But it might require a bit of planning ahead. There are accessibility laws all over Europe, but making a 16th century building fully accessible is not an easy task. However, if you ask many hotels might have a side entrance that can be used by people in a wheel chair. And there are newer buildings that are fully accessible as well so you don't have to stay in an old hotel.

Getting around is not that hard. Public transport is in general pretty good. I haven't seen a bus that wasn't wheelchair friendly in many years. Low floor buses are the norm and they often have ramps for wheelchairs. The same with trams and metros. Modern trains are also fully accessible but there are still many older trains around, but they are often rebuilt and fitted with ramps or lifts.

And for sights, many are more accessible than you might think, and sending an email and asking about it might be all that's needed. So it's certainly possible, but planning ahead is crucial. And I don't know about tours though.

Posted by
19 posts

Wife is in a wheelchair and we did a 3 week trip last summer by renting a relatively light folding electric chair that went anywhere and everywhere. But it does take a degree of planning not otherwise necessary. We did guided tours of the Ufizi and Louvre, made sure the guides knew we were mobility challenged. A wine tour in Tuscany, again found a tour operator that said they could handle mobility challenged guests. A boat tour of the Seine, again make sure they can handle a wheelchair. A Rabbies tour from Edinburgh. And above all, make sure as has been previously noted) that accommodations are on ground floor or have a lift. Had a great time, the biggest challenge and most annoying thing is that seemingly everyone is staring at their phones and it was a constant battle not to run into people or have them walk into you. And I can't stress enough how frustrating that aspect was.

Posted by
27039 posts

I'm sure this can be done, but I believe it will require a specialty tour or a great deal of pre-planning if you travel independently. One issue no one has mentioned here is the common situation of having restaurant toilets in the basement or on the second floor with no elevator available.

Posted by
15778 posts

Yep, there are any number of things to be aware of if an escorted tour is of interest. The right ones can help manage potential stress points! Bathrooms located down a steep, narrow flight of stairs, in the basements, of quite a number of European restaurants is just one of those but that's why a tour put together by folks who understand special needs can be worth the price!

Posted by
888 posts

And something no one wants to say --- but those who take a group tour that clearly states it's for people with good mobility but who in fact have mobility issues can cause problems for the rest. I've see it go both ways. Those who went anyway and didn't care they were holding others up or causing problems and those who were prepared and caused little or no problems.

Posted by
15778 posts

A little bit of insight here?
I don't think our OP will mind if I share that, according to a nice PM, she has previously traveled with Rick Steves so I'd guess she has some idea of what managing Europe with a disabled Vet might entail. Let's just say that she's not a first-timer?

Posted by
24 posts

I have mobility issues and have found most tours do not work for us. Which is terrible because we always wanted to do one of Rick's tours. We have learned to travel differently. We usually rent a car is we are going long distances or have a lot of stops along the way. We are chronic 2 lane travelers and love the back roads. What the rental does is allow for my foldable wheelchair to come from home and stay with us. We can pick hotels that offer an elevator (we have researched for these ahead of time or we go and look around a town if we have no schedule). As you probably know accessible does not mean the same when in Europe as it does here.I can still get over a step if I need to so we can make it work. Europe is getting more and more accessible but you just have to have some patience and lots of research ahead of time.