Staying safe overseas
Travel can be challenging for everyone, but there may be additional preparations you can make which will help you have a safe and enjoyable trip.
BEFORE YOU GO
Booking a holiday
All holidays and travel benefit from a bit of advance thought and planning. So be realistic – begin by listing the problems you may encounter.
- Research your destination and the facilities that are available. Consult widely including good guidebooks, disability organisations in the UK and the country you plan to visit, specialist tour operations and tourist boards.
- Check our travel website: www.fco.gov.uk/travel or call 0845 850 2829 (See Note 1) for information to help British nationals make informed decisions about their safety abroad.
- When contacting holiday providers, airlines, hotels etc, be clear to all about your requirements, just saying you have arthritis is not sufficient.
- You might find it helpful to use a standard form: the Association of British Travel Agents provides a ‘Checklist for Disabled and Less Mobile Passengers’ at www.abta.com/disability.htm.
- Consider whether you will be accompanied by someone to provide personal assistance or whether you need additional support to be provided.
- Discuss your preferred means of communication with the travel organiser, for example information in large print or Braille
- Most disabled people do not need to get medical clearance before travelling. However, some airlines may ask for evidence of fitness to travel and the ability to attend to your own personal needs. If you have a medical condition, you may need to complete a Medical Information Form (MEDIF) along with your doctor.
- Frequent travellers with an impairment which is a stable condition, may be able to obtain a Frequent Travellers’ Medical Card (FREMEC). This gives the airline a permanent record of your specific needs, so that you do not have to fill in a form and make arrangements every time you travel.
- what are your needs during all parts of the journey, including at departure, whilst onboard, at stopovers, during transfer journeys and at destination. Try to pre-book your seat. Find out about toilet accessibility and special dietary requirements.
- what assistance is available, for example at check-in, moving around the terminal, on boarding and disembarking.
- What is the policy on taking an assistance dog? Are any veterinary certificates and identification required? What is the procedure for carriage of the dog? The dog may also be subject to quarantine regulations. You may be able to benefit from the Pet Travel Scheme (www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/quarantine/index.htm).
- What is the policy on taking the equipment you need such as wheelchairs, portable machines, batteries, respirators or oxygen.
Be specific about your requirements – ask for whatever you need to make your stay comfortable and ask for written confirmation that they are available. Your travel agent or tour operator should be able to advise you, but you may also decide to call the hotel, resort or cruise liner directly to speak to someone who is familiar with the rooms.
- if you intend to take or hire a car, the Blue Badge Scheme now operates throughout the EU . Adapted cars are now available for hire in many countries. Make sure you know the licence requirements, driving laws and driving conditions in the country you are visiting.
- If you are visually impaired, the Royal National Institute of the Blind has produced a sign to help hail taxis. The RBIB helpline number is 0845 766 9999 and their website is www.rnib.org.uk.
- Always make sure that you have full travel insurance. If not, you will normally have to pay the costs of any emergency yourself.
- Anyone travelling within the European Economic Area See Note 2or Switzerland should also get a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) which entitles you to some reduced or free emergency care – but you will still need travel insurance. You can apply for an EHIC on-line at www.dh.gov.uk/travellers, by phone on 0845 606 2030 or at the post office.
- Make sure your insurance is up to date, valid for the entire trip and covers everyone who is travelling. Check exactly what is covered, for example medical and repatriation expenses, all your luggage and equipment.
- Check any exemptions carefully, including any relating to pre-existing medical conditions. Always check the small print.
- If you have serious condition or a mental health problem, you may find that your best option is to seek cover from specialist insurers.
Health and medication
- If you take medication, you should ensure that you take enough with you to see you through the holiday and allow for possible delays. Always keep clearly-labelled medication and any medical documents in your hand luggage or in a place you can get to them easily.
- It may be essential to have a letter from your doctor stating your need for the medication just in case you lose your medicine or need to get more.
- The medication you take may contain ingredients, which are illegal in some countries. Check with the nearest Embassy or High Commission or Consulate of the country you are going to.
Point of departure
- Try to check in early and confirm any arrangements you have with handling agents at the time of check-in and ensure that the carrier crew are aware of any potential problems or concerns you may have.
- Make sure you label all your baggage, equipment, batteries and hand luggage appropriately so that it reaches you at your destination or is available for you to collect upon your return to the UK.
- When checking in your luggage, remember that crutches, canes, braces and small removable parts of wheelchairs (e.g. foot rests) may be carried as part of your hand luggage, although these will be included in your weight allowance.
Wheelchairs and other equipment
- Remember to take any necessary equipment such as spare inner tubes and tools, a voltage converter (check the voltage before you travel), an adaptor plug and transformer.
- You will be asked to transfer to another chair so that the wheelchair can be loaded onto the plane. Make sure you ask the crew for it to be made available at the door on arrival.
- This is important because even if you give handlers instructions at the start of your journey, you may not be able to do the same with the handlers when you arrive.
IF THINGS GO WRONG OVERSEAS
If you get into difficulty, such as falling sick, being a victim of crime or facing an emergency, approach the nearest British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate to find out how our consular staff can help you. Here is a directory of all our UK Embassies Overseas. Your holiday representative, local guide, hotel or local police should also have this information.
If you need help in a country where there is no British diplomatic or consular office, you can receive help from the diplomatic or consular office of another member of the European Union. There are also informal arrangements with some other countries, including New Zealand and Australia, to help British nationals in some countries
We have a leaflet called Disabled travellers, see 'Our Publications' page to order a copy.
Access to Air Travel for Disabled People – Code of Practice is available from:
Department for Transport
PO Box 236
West Yorkshire, LS23 7NB
Tel: 0870 1226 236
Textphone: 0870 1226 405
Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA)
68-71 Newman Street
London, W1T 3AH
Tel: 020 7637 2444
Fax: 020 7637 0713
Department for Transport (DfT)
Mobility and Inclusion Unit - for information on the Blue Badge Scheme
Room 4/23, Great Minster House
76 Marsham Street
London, SW1P 4DR
Tel: 020 7944 8021
Fax: 020 7944 6102
Disability Rights Commission (DRC)
Strateford upon Avon
Tel: 08457 622 633
Fax: 08457 77 88 78
Disabled Living Foundation
380-384 Harrow Road,
London, W9 2HU.
Tel: 0845 130 9177
Textphone: 0870 603 9176
Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC)
Secretariat, Great Minster House
76 Marsham Street
London, SW1P 4DR
Tel: 020 7944 8011
Fax: 020 7944 6998
Textphone: 020 7944 3277
DPTAC Information on air travel: www.dptac.gov.uk/planes.htm
Door to Door – the transport and travel website for disabled and less mobile people: www.dptac.gov.uk/door-to-door/13/index.htm
Holiday Care Service
Provides information fact sheets about travel within the UK and overseas for elderly and disabled people
7th Floor, Sunley House,
4 Bedford Park,
Croydon, CR0 2AP
Tel: 0845 1249 971
Fax: 0845 1249 972
Textphone: 0845 1249 976
The Vassal Centre
Bristol, BS16 2QQ
Helpline: 08457 58 56 41 (local rate)
Fax: 0117 939 7736
Textphone: 08457 58 56 41 (local rate)