Third-World Travel


What about travel to third-world countries? Is this really a possibility for wheelchair-users and slow walkers? It depends. To be honest, there really isn’t a pat answer to that question. I know a number of wheelchair-users who love this kind of off the-beaten-track travel, but they all admit it’s not easy. It takes a lot of planning and in the end these adventuresome folks set out well prepared with very realistic expectations. On the other hand I also know people who have attempted this type of travel with grossly unrealistic expectations and even a certain degree of naiveté. These poor souls set out ill-prepared for what they will encounter along the way, and as expected they don’t fare very well. Indeed, the key to any successful trip lies with proper preparation, and proper preparation in this case also means familiarization with the access realities of your destination. What should you realistically expect as far as access goes in third-world countries? In many cases human rights and access laws are scant or nonexistent, so you have to be prepared for access obstacles. In most cases, you should be prepared to be carried up steps and through narrow doorways. Accessible toilets and bathrooms are few and far between, and accessible transportation is usually nonexistent. That’s the downside. The upside is that in many cases there are work-arounds. As far as physical access goes, travel with a lightweight manual wheelchair whenever possible. It’s also a good idea to travel with a companion who is able to lift you, carry you, and bump you upstairs. Alternatively, you can hire a local (usually for a very low price) to assist you. As far as transportation goes, you will have to transfer (with help or by yourself) to a standard vehicle, as accessible vehicles are few and far between in most third-world countries. Take a transfer board and whatever manpower (or womanpower) you need to accomplish this task. Many drivers and tour guides are also willing to help, but you should tip them for their assistance. You might also consider taking along a portable suitcase ramp to help make some of those two or three step entrances more accessible. Handi-Ramp manufactures a wide variety of sizes and styles of portable ramps. They are great for travel and very durable. Visit their website at for more information. The best all-around resource for third-world world travel is The Practical Nomad: How to Travel around the World by Edward Hasbrouck. Now in its third edition, this comprehensive volume includes authoritative information on everything from air and surface transportation to baggage, budgets, and health issues. Although the book contains a few paragraphs and some resources on accessible travel, it’s not really an accessible travel title. Still, it’s a must read for any off-the-beaten path traveler. Additionally, Mr. Hasbrouck encourages people to travel to third-world countries.