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U.S. Department of State

U.S. Department of State


Tips for Travelers With Disabilities

Foreword: This brochure has been prepared by the U.S. State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs to provide general information for persons with disabilities who plan to travel abroad.

Each year, thousands of persons with disabilities travel the world by planes, trains, automobiles, cruise ships, and even bicycles. With the proper planning and attitude, travel can be rewarding and adventurous.

Each person with a disability has his/her special needs. Individual countries have their own standards of accessibility for disabled travelers. Some countries have nondiscrimination laws that help to protect travelers with disabilities, while other countries have no such laws. Preparing before you go can often prevent difficulties and ensure that your planned destination will be accessible, safe and enjoyable.


For information concerning passports, visas, or travel tips in general, see our publications Your Trip Abroad and A Safe Trip Abroad which can be found on our web site at http://travel.state.gov.

Choosing Your Destination: Some countries make every effort to provide accessibility for all travelers, including those with disabilities, while other countries do not have the resources to do so, or do not consider it to be necessary. Before you travel, research your planned stops and ask detailed questions about the services that are provided. Also, be prepared for a certain amount of culture shock. Some cultures are not very accepting or open about their citizens with disabilities.

Once you have decided on a destination, you may also consider local transportation needs to and from the airport, luggage assistance and whether assistance will be needed to leave the airport terminal. Some suggestions for finding resources are: contact the airport management office; work with a travel agent who specializes in travel for persons with disabilities; search the internet, call local disability organizations; or check with various travel guides.


Another aspect to consider when planning your trip is the level of health care available at your planned stops.

Your Doctor: Talk to your physician about the activities you have planned and your general physical condition, any immunizations that might be needed, and medications, whether prescription or over the counter, that you might need for your trip.

Medication: If you take prescription medication, make sure you have enough to last the duration of the trip, including extra medicine in case you are delayed. Pack your medication in your carry-on bag. Delays can occur, and checked baggage occasionally becomes misdirected or lost. Always carry your prescriptions in their labeled containers as many countries have strict narco-trafficking laws and might be suspicious of pills in unlabeled bottles. Bring your prescription information and the names of their generic equivalents with you just in case. Double-check one last time before leaving home that you have your medication with you in your hand luggage.

Health Insurance: Make sure you have adequate health insurance coverage while abroad. Your policy might not cover such things as medical evacuations. Ask what coverage your plan provides and how you can reach your insurance company during times of emergency. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. But many travel agencies and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas, including emergency services such as medical evacuations. Be sure to check our publication Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad for further information. This publication is available at http://travel.state.gov.


Service Dogs: Travelers should be aware that some countries have restrictions on service dogs traveling through or arriving in their countries. If you intend to travel with a service dog, be sure to check on possible restrictions with the embassy or consulate of each country that you will visit. (This and other country information may be found on each country’s Consular Information Sheet at our website http://travel.state.gov). If service dogs are permitted, learn about quarantine or vaccination requirements.

Find out what documents are needed, including international health certificates, rabies inoculation certificates and if the documents need to be translated. Talk with your vet about how to travel with your dog and how travel will affect the dog. You may also want to ensure that hotels will accommodate your service dog and that there will be an adequate area for the dog to relieve itself.

Equipment: If you require a wheelchair, scooter or other equipment, consider having a maintenance check done on it to ensure that everything is in working order before you leave. You may want to research the availability of wheelchair and medical equipment providers in the areas you plan to visit before you depart on your trip.

Airline and Hotel Travel Arrangements:

When making your travel arrangements, you should think through air travel plans, considering flight lengths and plane transfers.

In the United States, the Air Carrier Access Act prohibits airlines from discriminating on the basis of disability. This law affects issues such as denial of service to persons with disabilities, seating, accessible features in terminals and aboard aircraft, requirements regarding attendants, medical certificates, and transport, storage and liability of mobility and medical equipment (such as wheelchairs, scooters and other assistive devices). Unfortunately, the Americans with Disabilities Act does not follow you when you leave the United States.

The Department of Transportation outlines helpful information in New Horizons for the Air Traveler with a Disability and Plane Talk: Facts for Passengers With Disabilities. Both of these publications are available at the Department of Transportation’s website www.dot.gov.

When making your reservations, inform your travel agent or the carrier of the following:

  • Assistance that will be needed while flying and at the airport;
  • Type of disability and equipment used for mobility, such as crutches or a wheelchair;
  • Request for a manual or electric wheelchair to be stored and brought to the airplane door/gate upon arrival;
  • Special diet requirements.

These airline suggestions might be adapted when making your hotel reservations. You should make sure that foreign hotels will be able to accommodate you and your needs as well.

In all cases, ask that your needs and requests be documented as part of the reservation and take down the name of the agent. That way, if there is a problem, you will have a clear record of what you requested, in the event it is necessary to take your complaint to a customer relations office.

It is to every traveler’s advantage to know the policies of the airline before arriving at the airport. Arrive extra early to allow plenty of time for any last-minute problems to be administered.


Carry with you your written itinerary and directions of where you wish to go. These can be shown to people who might be able to help you if you are lost. This little step will make it much easier when trying to get help from someone. Another tool that some have found useful is a point-and-conversation guide.

Your journey can be the most rewarding experience. There is a wealth of literature available both on the Internet and in books with information and advice for disabled travelers. Take the time to search the web and your local bookstore. By taking the time to research and educate yourself about travel opportunities and considerations for persons with disabilities, you can enjoy your adventure and have memories to last a lifetime.

Additional Resources:

These internet sites offer excellent starting points. They are by no means the only sites available. The following is provided for informational purposes only and in no way constitutes an endorsement, expressed or implied, by the Department of State.

Mobility International USA (www.miusa.org)
The Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality (www.sath.org)
Moss Rehab Resource Net (www.mossresourcenet.org)

There are a number of other publications that also provide useful information for all travelers. Please feel free to check out the following pamphlets, which are all available on the Internet on the Consular Affairs web site at http://travel.state.gov:

Your Trip Abroad
A Safe Trip Abroad
Medical Information for Americans
Crisis Abroad
Overseas Citizens Services
Tips for Older Americans
Tips for Students
Tips for Women Traveling Alone
Tips for Americans Residing Abroad
Tips for Travelers to Canada
Tips for Travelers to the Caribbean
Tips for Travelers to the Middle East & North Africa
Tips for Travelers to the People’s Republic of China
Tips for Travelers to Russia
Tips for Travelers to Mexico
Tips for Travelers to South Asia
Tips for Travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa
Tips for Travelers to Central and South America

U.S. Department of State Publication 10941
Bureau of Consular Affairs
September 2002

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