Surviving abroad when your travel plans go wrong

When making travel plans, the idea of things going wrong tends to be at the back of our minds. We’re too busy thinking about the cocktails we’ll be sipping on the beach, and the temples we’re going to explore.

It may not have happened to you yet, but it’s all too easy for things to go wrong abroad. The anxiety of having your luggage going missing or losing your passport can too much for some travellers, especially if they have decided to go away alone.

Some of these situations can be prevented with a bit of preparation, but not all. Here are some tips on how to survive when things don’t go to plan.

Preparation is key 

Whether you’ve been to your chosen holiday destination ten times or never before, it’s vital to do some research about the country you’re visiting. The latest scams you need to watch out for may be completely different, or there could currently be a reason why it is unwise to travel to that country. Check the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) website for any travel warnings – don’t just rely on news reports. Media outlets may claim that tourists should not travel to Egypt at the moment, but what they likely mean is there is just one area of the country that needs to be avoided.

If you’re travelling somewhere particularly exotic, you need to check that you get the right vaccinations. It’s best to speak to your doctor, as if you’re on any medication you can ask them for advice about travelling with your condition – there may be things you need to avoid or be more aware of. Double check that your medication will be allowed into the country and that you have plenty of it before you leave.

Buy travel insurance

You should never go abroad without buying travel insurance – even if you’ve been lucky in your adventuring so far. Don’t buy insurance just because it’s cheap either; you may find it doesn’t cover something important until it’s too late. Medical costs in other countries, particularly the US, can be astronomical – even for the most minor injuries and problems.

Insurance can also cover you for lost luggage, flight cancellations, theft and more. It’s not just for medical emergencies!

Dealing with theft

Being mugged is never a nice experience, and it often leaves the victim feeling shaken and vulnerable. Some people take a dummy wallet with them abroad, which is full of old/expired cards, so if they are mugged they can hand this over rather than their real purse. However it is all too easy to turn your back on your camera bag or rucksack whilst you’re on a train or sat in a café. The next thing you know, your passport or wallet is missing.

The important thing is to stay calm – double check your possessions have actually been taken, as you may have moved them to your coat pocket and forgotten about doing so. If you’re sure something has been taken, report the incident to your nearest police station within 24 hours. Take your passport – or a photocopy of it – with you so you can prove who you are.

Coping with travel delays and cancellations

We can all aim to get to the airport several hours before our flight, but no matter how prepared you are, travel delays and cancellations can lay ruin to all of your plans. If your flight/train/boat is cancelled or delayed for any reason, try not to get too stressed. Remember, it’s not something that’s within your control, so there’s not much point getting overly worked up about it. Why not pass the time doing something that you can control instead, such as brushing up on the local language or reading a relaxing book? It may help reduce some of the anxiety.

What to do if you get sick

unwell couple

There is always a chance you could come down with a virus or get food poisoning whilst abroad, as the food and hygiene standards in some countries can differ hugely from what you’re used to in the UK. If you’ve been suffering from vomiting, diarrhoea or both for more than eight hours you should go to A+E, as you will likely be seriously dehydrated.

Of course, if you have a pre-existing condition, it may flair up or become particularly bad whilst you’re away too. Your rule of thumb should be this: if you feel so unwell that you would normally go to the doctor at home, then you need to do the same when you’re abroad. All your medical costs should be covered by your travel insurance.

Keeping your money safe

Some of us take a huge amount of spending money away with us on holiday – after all, there are so many souvenirs to buy! No matter how safe the destination you’re going to is, you need to have a back-up plan in case you lose all your money.

We suggest that you take at least one credit card with you – make sure it will work in the country you’re going to and that you tell the bank where you’re going beforehand. Read up on the charges too; you don’t want to withdraw money abroad only to return to a huge bill when you get home.

Although it can be stressful when things go wrong, it can also be a blessing. Sometimes the unplanned turns out better than expected. Remember that holidays are an adventure, and you should be able to take almost any problem in your stride. If you do need assistance, contact your insurance provider and they should be able to sort out a solution.

Destination Availibility Guide: Barcelona

Ever since the 1992 Paralympics were hosted there, Barcelona has worked hard to make sure it’s an accessible tourist destination for all. Over the years, it has introduced dropped kerbs, tactile paving and audible, flashing crossings. The transformation of its transport facilities and most popular attractions, however, is particularly remarkable.

Barcelona Park Guell

Simply put, Barcelona is the perfect location for disabled visitors and travellers with visual or hearing impairments. Here’s why:


All of Barcelona’s buses, of which there are more than 1,000, are fully accessible. They have ramps, low floors and reserved spaces for passengers with reduced mobility. The bus shelters are also slowly being adapted too – eventually, all buses and shelters will provide both audio announcements and visual information on screens.

Taxis are another great way for disabled people to get around the city, as many of them have been adapted. By law, all drivers must allow guide dogs in their cabs for no extra charge.

Barcelona’s metro system may be 100 years old, but recent updates to its stations and trains means that the service is becoming increasingly accessible for all. The ticket barriers emit audio and visual signals to let travellers know if their ticket has been accepted or not, and at the newer stations there are platform screen doors to help ensure the passengers board the trains safely.

In some stations, disabled tourists may need help with getting on and off of trains. However, ramps are being fitted to solve this problem, and eventually all lines will be fully adapted just like Barcelona’s bus service.


Font Màgica

Barcelona fountain

Known as the largest ornamental fountain in the city, Font Màgica combines water acrobats, lights and music to create an epic display that should not be missed. The water show is mostly visual, so it is highly recommended for tourists who are deaf or hard of hearing; however, visually impaired visitors will enjoy it too for the music and the sound of the water.

To get the best viewing spots, travellers who are visually impaired or disabled should arrive early. They are permitted to bring their guide dogs too. There are a few steps at the fountain, but these can be avoided by taking one of the alternative routes designed for wheelchair users.

Zoo de Barcelona

There are more than 7,000 animals to see at Zoo de Barcelona, including the world’s smallest monkey. It’s easy to see why it’s popular with tourists and locals alike and travellers with additional needs are well catered for here.

Disabled guests can enjoy a reduced entry fee – just remember to bring your handicap certificate. There are parking spaces reserved for disabled badge holders too and the grounds are equipped with ramps to help you get around.

Basilica of La Sagrada Familia

This unusual but beautiful temple has been in construction since 1882 and isn’t expected to be completed until 2030! It’s recommended that wheelchair users and visitors with reduced mobility visit the temple with a friend, as accessibility is limited due to the ongoing construction work. Travellers with disability levels of 65 per cent or more can get into the temple for free, as can their companions.

Despite the attraction not being fully accessible, tours can be arranged for visitors with special needs. Plus, all the displays are audio-visual, and blind/visually impaired tourists can enjoy the many tactile features of the temple. To find out where they are, pick up a guide from the information point.

Barcelona travel guide

Barcelona’s beaches

Many of the city’s wonderful beaches have facilities especially for sun-seekers with reduced mobility, including reserved parking bays, showers with seats, adapted toilets, wooden walkways to the water’s edge and preferential zones for disabled bathers. There’s a whole host of different beaches to visit – Nova Icària is ideal for families as it’s one of the more peaceful beaches; Sant Sebastià and Barceloneta are the city’s oldest and therefore the most traditional, and Mar Bella is popular with younger tourists.

Disabled travellers will no doubt be pleasantly surprised by how accessible Barcelona is, and it looks like things are only going to get better.

Destination Availibility Guide: Rome

With its cobbled streets and often-crowded tourist attractions, Rome can seem a daunting holiday destination to wheelchair users. However, we firmly believe that every traveller should visit this beautiful city at least once in their lifetime, and you may be surprised by just how accessible Rome is.

Our guide below details how accessible the top attractions are and provides some tips to getting around the city day to day.

The Colosseum and Roman Forum

Rome Colusseum

The Colosseum has recently been modernised, so it’s easy for wheelchair users to navigate. Its paths are mostly flat and smooth and there is an elevator which allows visitors to access the upper floor, where you can view the Colosseum from a different perspective.

The Roman Forum, however, presents a bigger challenge for wheelchair users. Whilst there is a lift down into the ruins, the paths are mostly cobbled, so you may need a friend to help you get around. There is a disabled access toilet, but you must overcome an uneven path to reach it.

Vatican City

Rome Vatican City

There is a lot to see and do in the Vatican City, so bear this in mind if you’re planning to do it all in one day. Luckily, the museum and the Sistine Chapel are incredibly easy to navigate as a wheelchair user. If you don’t always use a wheelchair, but think you may require one for the long museum tour, you can hire one – just be sure to book in advance as there are only a few available.

You can find accessible bathrooms throughout the museum, and the friendly staff are always on hand to help if need be. In fact, it seems as if there are some advantages to being a wheelchair user here, as you’ll have the opportunity to access parts of the museum not available to others. For example, you’ll get a wonderful view of the Sistine Chapel.

One of the only parts of the Vatican City that cannot be accessed via wheelchair is the Vatican Gardens. This is due to the tricky terrain – in fact you’ll need to be pretty fit to take part in this two-hour long tour.

The Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon

Rome Trevi Fountain

If you want to get down to the water’s edge, you’ll need to navigate a handful of steps, so bring a friend who can help you down safely. Be wary that the Trevi Fountain is almost always crowded, which will also make it difficult to get down those few steps.

The Pantheon, on the other hand, is completely wheelchair accessible and free to visit.

Restaurants and cafes

Most eateries are rather small and are therefore not well suited to wheelchair users. If you’re visiting in the summer, we recommend eating outside – not only does it make things easier for you, it’s the best way to eat in Italy anyway! Finding accessible toilets can be tricky too; if you’re struggling to find a suitable public toilet, try the nearest McDonald’s as they will almost certainly have one.

General tips and advice

You will find your trip to Rome much less stressful if you take a friend with you that can help you navigate the cobbled streets. Your transport options are limited, so we suggest staying within the city centre and using a taxi or bus to get from one part of Rome to the other.

If you don’t want to travel with a friend, or are unable to, consider going on an accessible tour. There are lots of specialised tours to choose from which allow you to see the best parts of the city. Who knows, you may even make some new friends on your trip.

With a little help and forward-planning, it is possible to explore Rome with relative ease. Most of the main attractions now have disabled access, and the ones that don’t are bound to incorporate it in the future. After all, Rome was not built in a day.

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