Australia is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, attracting millions of visitors each year. There are plenty of unique and wonderful sights to see in Australia, with dazzling cosmopolitan cities like Sydney with its spectacular Harbour and Opera House, as well as natural wonders such as the Great Barrier Reef in the north, and the iconic Uluru/Ayers Rock in the red centre. It is a highly developed country with world-class facilities and is well set-up to accommodate visitors from all walks of life.
Get Out There and See It
Australia’s arrangements for disabled travel are among the best in the world. Legislation in Australia requires that suitable provisions are in place for disabled persons on transport and tours, as well as accommodation. Australia has a good network of domestic air travel, and the main airlines – Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Blue are all well equipped to deal with disability and any special needs including dietary requirements, wheelchair provisions and preferential boarding. Bus and coach travel is another good way to see this vast country, and Australian coach lines adequately accommodate disabled travellers. Specialised disabled car hire is available, and you will find disabled parking spots throughout towns and shopping centres. If you have a disablilty parking permit from overseas, it is valid in all states of Australia except Victoria, where you can access a temporary parking permit before arrival. Disability permits issued in Australia are valid in all states within Australia. Accommodation providers in Australia have to meet strict criteria to be able to advertise themselves as disabled-friendly, but do ensure you contact them directly to check they can meet your specific needs. Types of adaptations or services that may be available at accessible accommodation providers include wheel-in showers, raised toilet seats, manual and electric bath hoists, alarm systems in rooms, as well as widened door frames, and ramps. Accessible accommodation is available throughout Australia, with options including hotels, motels, guest houses and B&B’s, backpackers and even caravan parks – many of which offer accessible vans. Book ahead to ensure you can access a room to suit your requirements. If you are travelling independently, a laptop or phone with roaming access to the internet will be useful to get up-to-date information to help you on your travels, for example you can check where the nearest public toilets are on the governments Toilet Map website, which lists the location of nearest toilets and which have disabled access.
Organised tours provide a great way to see the many sights of Australia. Many tour operators in Australia offer accessible travel and tours, with regular tour companies catering for those with special needs, as well as a number of specialised disabled tour companies. You may be pleasantly surprised at how many of Australia’s tourist must-sees are accessible to disabled travellers. Many boat trips to the Great Barrier Reef are wheelchair friendly, and some dive companies offer diving for handicapped divers, with dive instructors who are specially trained to cater for disabled persons, and you can even take a course to become a qualified scuba diver. Disabled visitors can also visit Uluru in the Red Centre of Australia, the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, go whale-watching in Hervey Bay, enjoy a boat cruise of the Whitsunday Islands, do a bungy jump in Cairns, and much more!
Plan Before You Go!
Planning before you travel is always important to ensure a successful holiday, and this is especially important if you have a disability. If you are travelling to Australia from overseas with a disability, there are certain things you should consider to help make your trip run smoothly. If any of your aids run on electricity, ensure you have the appropriate electrical plug adaptor, and check the voltage – Australia’s electrics run on a higher voltage than many other countries including the US and Canada. Make sure you call the airports and airlines you will be using ahead of time to check up on any special services you may require including seating arrangements, shuttle services and meals, as well as forklifts at more remote airports. Be sure to notify places of your disability and any implications it may have for your trip, at each stage of the booking process (travel, accommodation, tours). This is especially important if you are booking by phone or by the internet, although your impairment might not be obvious to your agent if you are booking through a travel agency so make sure they have a full understanding of your needs. Research travel options thoroughly before booking to minimise hassle on your trip – for example make sure your route has direct flights wherever possible. It is also essential that you book travel insurance to cover your whole trip, and that the insurance covers your disability and any additional costs that might arise as a result of that. Australia has reciprocal health care agreements with several countries including the United Kingdom, New Zealand and some other European countries, but this just covers emergency treatment and is no substitute for travel insurance. Make sure that you have all the relevant emergency contact numbers for your insurer before you travel to Australia. Before you leave, also check to see whether you need any immunisations to cover you on your trip.