If you’re planning a city break in Britain, there’s nowhere with as much to offer as London, but equally there’s nowhere more exhausting. There’s no way you can do everything, so the best advice is to accept that and pick out a few highlights that appeal to you most, minimising time and energy spent on getting around. You’ll still have a fabulous time.
Getting Around in London
Discount transport schemes mean that getting around in London as a tourist is relatively easy, provided you can walk. It’s usually cheaper to pay for a day’s transport at once than to deal with each stage separately, and this also means you can just show a ticket instead of having to keep dealing with change.
All buses in London are now required to be accessible for passengers with walking difficulties, and most can take wheelchairs. The drivers are generally understanding and helpful. Travelling by underground can be more of a challenge, as only a select number of stations have lifts, but there is extensive information available to help you plan your journeys. Ask staff if you have difficulties – they can even help you through short cuts in some stations where there’s a long way to walk.
Taxis in London are expensive, but quick trips around the centre should be affordable for most people if you avoid peak times. Walking in popular areas can be hard going if you suffer from pain or tiredness or are unsteady on your feet, as the crowds can get very thick and are often pushy. Benches are rare except in the squares, but there are many small, affordable cafés where you can stop when you need a rest.
Places to Stay
London has a huge range of hotels but many of its older ones are in Victorian and Georgian buildings with steep steps up to the front. These don’t always have alternative access available, so check before you go; if you need a ramp, make sure it can be available even if you want to come back late in the evening. You may find a modern, new-build hotel easier with a wheelchair. There are plenty of these in the very centre.
Although it has a reputation as an expensive holiday destination, London actually has a lot of cheap hotels only slightly further out, so it’s worth looking for one near an accessible underground station. Most can arrange ground floor rooms for disabled visitors even if you are using a discount deal.
One of the big things almost everybody wants to do in London is shop. Even if it’s only window shopping, you’ll find a great deal to enjoy. Fortunately, if you can cope with the crowds, Oxford Street and the surrounding area are very accessible. The big, famous stores like Harrods are well laid out and easy to access using a wheelchair or mobility scooter.
London also has many popular markets selling all kids of goods at discount prices. These are a great place to get unusual clothes, antiques and so forth, but they can be harder to get around as pavements are often in poor condition. Don’t hesitate to ask stallholders if you need assistance as they are generally helpful, and they can usually recommend nearby pubs or cafés where you can rest.
Things to See and Do
London is famous for its great museums and galleries. The good news about these is that most offer extremely good disability access – if you visited a few years ago, prepare to be surprised by the improvements. Some also offer special tours for blind and partially sighted visitors, though you will need to arrange participation in advance.
If you want to see the sights, a trip along the Thames is a great way to do it, and most of the river boats are easy to access. The London Eye is also a great choice for city views and is wheelchair accessible, plus you can get a discount and bring a carer along for free. Like many London attractions, this has a queue-skipping system for disabled visitors who book in advance.
Most of London’s theatres and show venues offer disability access. Look for a copy of the Access London theatre guide for detailed information. There are assisted performances of many popular shows available for those with visual or hearing impairments. Some of the older theatres have great restaurants of their own, and you’ll find good places to eat near most others. Disability access in restaurants is variable but better than in most cities.