Traveling with a wheelchair or other mobility equipment can be tricky, and no matter where you’re going, it’s helpful to do research in advance. Some destinations are more accessible than others, and Europe can be a complex continent to navigate. Contributing writers Barbara and Jim Twardowski recently visited Berlin, and found that you can get around the city—and see its many sights—if you do some research and plan ahead. Here are their six tips for wheelchair-accessible travel.
1. Arrange Your Ride From the Airport
Coordinate transportation from the airport to your hotel in advance of your trip. Berlin does not have wheelchair-accessible taxis. While the public transportation options are superb, schlepping suitcases and pushing a wheelchair can be difficult. Consider hiring a private car service. Berlin has two major airports—Tegel and Schönefeld. Make sure you know which airport is yours.
2. Book an Accessible Hotel
If you are traveling during peak season or a major holiday, book the hotel as far in advance as possible. Berlin’s hotels offer some of Europe’s most modern accommodations. Many properties have been built in the last few years and adhere to access guidelines. The Scandic Potsdamer Platz is a leader in designing hotels that are welcoming to people with all abilities, and offers 60 accessible guest rooms. The hotel’s bar even has a special charging station for power wheelchair users. The upscale Marriott Berlin has four spacious accessible rooms designed for wheelchair users and 21 barrier-free rooms which are described as “handicapped-friendly.” The legendary Hotel Adlon, located near Brandenburg Gate, is a luxury property with two wheelchair-accessible guest rooms. The IHG brand Crowne Plaza Berlin Potsdamer Platz offers eight accessible guest rooms and permits service dogs. Contact hotels in advance or review their websites to determine if staff members speak English. Hotels with a dedicated concierge are extremely helpful when you are trying to explore an unfamiliar city. Properties located near major attractions are more convenient and can be a good choice for travelers who need to rest throughout the day.
3. Book Train Travel Assistance in Advance
One of the easiest and most accessible ways to see Germany is by train. Destinations which make a delightful day trip from Berlin include: Dresden, Potsdam, and Leipzig. Before buying tickets, contact the Mobility Service for assistance. Know the dimensions of your wheelchair before calling. Once the day of travel arrives, go early to the station and stop by the Information Desk to confirm that assistance will be provided. Passengers with disabilities should request this service at least 48 hours in advance.
4. Do Some Homework Before Visiting Museums
Berlin has more than 170 museums, and many have been renovated to accommodate wheelchair users. The impressive Museum Island is a collection of five museums displaying 6,000 years of cultural history and art. When the Altes Museum opened in 1830, it was the first time significant collections could be seen by the public. Review a museum’s website before visiting to determine if the building is accessible and to see where the wheelchair entrance is located.
5. Finding Wheelchair Accessible Bathrooms
Finding a wheelchair-accessible toilet in Berlin can be difficult. Many restaurants have restrooms located downstairs and do not have elevators. The Mobidat, a database of accessible information, compiled a list of accessible toilets. You can download a PDF of the list here.
6. Take Public Transportation
The sidewalks of Berlin are crowded with pedestrians and bicyclists. Be careful crossing the busy street corners and do not use the bicycle lane. Cobblestone streets and sidewalks make a bumpy surface for wheelchair users. An affordable way to see Berlin is to hop aboard a wheelchair-accessible public bus. Route 100 runs from the Alexanderplatz to the Berlin Zoologischer Garten, and dozens of Berlin’s best attractions run along this route. Purchase a Berlin WelcomeCard to receive unlimited free bus rides and discounts to major attractions. The card is a product of VisitBerlin.
For more accessible travel tips from Barbara & Jim Twardowski, check out:
- Accessible Travel: How to Navigate New York City in a Wheelchair
- How Cruise Lines Compete for the Boomer Audience
- Wheelchair Accessible San Antonio: The Riverwalk & Beyond
By Barbara and Jim Twardowski for PeterGreenberg.com