Accessible Public Transportation
Europe has a more extensive public transportation system than many other parts of the world. The most popular method of getting from city to city in Europe is to use the train system which connects almost all of the popular tourist destinations. Not every destination is connected by train…some are only connected by public busses (like the Isle of Skye in Scotland) or public ferries (like the Greek Islands).
What is your best option for accessible public transportation? It really depends on where you are going. If you are traveling between major cities, there probably is an accessible and affordable train that you can take. The trains are also a great way to see the countryside!
If you have a long distance to go, you may prefer flying one of the major airlines or one of the budget airlines like EasyJet. Be sure to check which airport the budget airlines use though….sometimes they can be smaller airports that are an hour away from the center of town.
I have never had luck using busses to get between cities. While many busses traveling within city limits are low-floor and have ramps, most of the busses traveling between cities (sometimes called coaches) tend to have steps to get into and no lift.
The accessibility of busses within cities is good in some places and not so good in others. Many cities are retiring old busses that have steps to get into and replacing them with low-floor busses with ramps. Some cities have almost completed the replacements and some are only partially done. The city governments have taken different approaches to replacing their fleets….some cities like Paris have replaced entire bus routes with accessible busses while in other cities like Rome bus routes will have some accessible and some non-accessible busses. In these cities you may won’t always know when the next accessible bus is coming along.
Tram systems are generally accessible although I have seen some older tram lines that have steps to on and off (for example in Dresden and Milan).
With the exception of the subway systems in Berlin and Athens, most subway stops in the older tourist areas of town do not have elevators to get down to the platform. Even if there are elevators, you should be prepared to ascend a flight of stairs if the elevator is out of order. Some subway systems have websites showing which elevators are out of order but most do not. I would recommend avoiding the subway system.
If you can get in and out of a normal taxi, this is usually your best (but most expensive) option for getting around. Some taxi companies have accesible taxis….check out the individual cities listed on our Accessibility Reviews of European Cities for more details.
If you choose to drive a rental car in large European cities, you can expect to encounter serious traffic and expensive parking. In addition, I’ve had a much more difficult time finding rental cars with hand controls in Europe than I have in the USA. Renting a car with hand controls can also be expensive because hand controls can only be used with automatic transmissions and European car rental agencies charge more for cars with automatic transmission.
Nevertheless, a rental car allows you to get away from the other tourists and some of my favorite European destinations were visited using a rental car including the while hill towns in Spain, Pont du Gard in France, and the Romantic Road in Germany