Advice for travellers with a disability
Many countries don't have the same access, services or support for people with disabilities as Australia. It doesn't mean you can't travel, it just means you'll have more challenges to overcome.
You may also face other risks unique to you and your disability. Whether it's physical, sensory, psychiatric, neurological, cognitive or intellectual.
Explore this page to learn about:
- getting medical advice before you go
- travel insurance that covers your disability
- accessible air and sea travel
- taking equipment or service animals
- accessible hotels, tours and activities
- getting around with a disability
Get medical advice before you go
See your doctor
See your doctor, before you go. Get your vaccinations and health check.
If you're advised not to travel by a medical professional, then don’t go. You’re putting yourself and your family or other travelling companions at serious risk.
If you're fit to travel, talk to your doctor about:
- how you'll manage your health while you're away
- health checks and vaccinations you need
Medical care overseas
In some countries, you may not have access to the medical care or medications you need. If you need specialised care, it may be more expensive than more common medical services.
Before you go, find out if any specialised medical care you need is available in your destination.
Make sure you know how you can access medical care over there. See the 'health' section of the travel advisory for your destination.
Get travel insurance
You need insurance to travel overseas.
The Australian Government won’t pay your medical bills, or other costs if things go wrong. It’s your responsibility to have the right insurance, that covers your disability.
Read our general advice about travel insurance.
Declare your disability
You must declare your disability to your insurer. Even if you don't think it will affect your travel. If you don't declare your disability, your insurer can deny any claim you make.
Insurers can't deny you cover. That would be discrimination. However, it may cost you more to get coverage for your disability as it does with any pre-existing health condition.
Check your policy
Policy rules may vary for different disabilities. Check if your policy will cover items or services you may need, such as:
- replacing medical devices, aids or equipment if they're lost, damaged or stolen
- seeing a local doctor
- filling prescriptions or getting new medication
- medical evacuation costs
Choose a policy that covers your disability
Accessible air and sea travel
Some medical equipment may be restricted on flights. Talk to your airline. Know what you can take on your flight or what you have to do to prepare your equipment for boarding.
Research your travel provider and the airport or seaport where you will depart and arrive. Know what to expect and what you can ask for at the port, when you board and during the journey.
Read the more about flying safely with a disability (Civil Aviation Safety Authority).
Taking equipment or service animals
Check what you can take with you. You might also be able to access some equipment overseas.
Read the Department of Home Affairs' advice for travellers with specific needs.
Take adaptors to charge your equipment. Electrical outlet voltages and plugs aren't the same overseas.
Ask your airline about their policy on wheelchairs. You may have to put it into checked baggage. Some airlines may restrict battery-powered wheelchairs on the flight.
Your airline or cruise ship may have onboard exemptions for service dogs or other assistance animals. Your animal may need to meet specific conditions to use these exemptions.
To take an animal overseas, your animal may have to:
- be in quarantine for a specific period
- get vaccinated before you travel
- travel with supporting documents from a vet
This could apply when you enter or leave Australia and your destination country.
Check what you have to do before you travel. Read advice on the Department of Agriculture website.
Accessible hotels, tours and activities
Research your destination, before you go. There's many online resources on accessible tourism.
- Accessible Travel Online Resources ebook (Lonely Planet).
- European Network for Accessible Tourism (traveller tips and experiences).
- Travellers with disabilities (US Department of State).
- Foreign travel for disabled people (UK Government).
Research local hotels before you book. Not all hotels will offer the same accessible facilities as you're used to in Australia.
Talk to your hotel or travel agent, airline, cruise ship or tour operator. Also, ask them about disability access and services at your destination.
Find tour operators that offer accessible options.
Consider the types of activities that suit your needs. Look for advice on travelling with a disability in your destination country.
Also see our general advice for the activities you plan to do.
Getting around with a disability
You may have difficulty getting around. Many countries have poor infrastructure. For example, there may be:
- poorly paved paths that are unsuitable for walking aids, or people with a visual impairment
- hazards, such as unmarked pot holes, or sharp objects or exposed electrical wires
- inaccessible public transport and buildings
- minimal sign posting, making it hard to find your way around or to a facility
- lack of accessible toilets
You may encounter very different treatment overseas than you're used to in Australia. In some countries, there's a social stigma about disabilities. People may discriminate against you.
It may be legal to discriminate. In many countries, people with disabilities have little or no legal protection or rights.
How the Australian Government can help you overseas
You're responsible for making sure you have the support you need when you travel.
Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can’t do to help you overseas.
What we can do
- We can provide emergency consular assistance.
- We can give you a list of local English speaking medical professionals if you need medical assistance overseas.
- We can provide a list of local lawyers that speak English if you're in legal trouble.
- We can, with your permission, contact your family if you suffer a medical emergency.
What we can't do
- We can't intervene on your behalf if you have trouble accessing facilities or services.
- We can't provide specific advice on disability services or access at your destination.
- We can't give you medical advice or pay for your medical expenses.
- We can't guarantee your health and safety overseas.
- We can't get you out of trouble if you've been arrested or jailed.
It's illegal to carry some medications overseas. You must check and meet these laws. We can't help you if you break local laws.
Read more about getting help while you're away.
Final tips before you go
- See your doctor. Get their advice on what vaccinations and other measures you should take to ensure you can travel safely. Ask what medication and other supplies you'll need while you're away.
- Get a travel insurance policy that covers your disability, and your specific needs.
- Check that you can take the medical equipment and medication you need. Check your items are legal, and also that you're airline will let you take them.
- If you have a service animal, ask your airline or cruise operator about any requirements to take them with you.
- Talk to your travel companions about any physical or emotional support you'll need overseas.
- Tell your travel provider about your disability. They may have in-depth knowledge of your destination. They can suggest options that work with, not against, your disability.
You can also read the guide to travelling with a disability (CHOICE).
- Read about getting travel insurance that covers your disability.
- Learn about reducing the risk of infectious diseases.
- Understand what is covered under reciprocal health care agreements.
- See our advice for mature travellers.
- Read our advice for people travelling with children
- Research the health risks for all destinations you're travelling to or through.
- Read advice about air travel for travellers with a disability (Civil Aviation Safety Authority).
- Australian Government advice for travellers with specific needs (Department of Home Affairs)
- Read about disability travel and accommodation (Independence Australia).
- Learn practical tips for people travelling with a disability (CHOICE).
- Read guidance on foreign travel for disabled people (UK Government).
- See advice on traveling with disabilities (US State Department).
- Read about accessible tourism in Europe (European Network for Accessible Tourism).
- Ten tips for travelling with Autism (Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality).
Getting medical assistance overseas can be challenging and expensive, especially in an emergency. Read our advice on what to do when when you need help.
When you go overseas, you may be exposed to a range of infectious diseases. Before you go, learn about the health risks in your destination and see your doctor.