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Physically Challenged Travel in Greece

Greek Odysseys are for Everyone

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Eria Accessible Hotel on Crete

Eria Accessible Hotel on Crete

The Greece for Visitors mailbox tells me that physically challenged travelers are putting Greece on the itinerary in greater numbers than ever before.

Greece, partially in response to needs raised by the Athens Olympics in 2004, started to address the needs of the handicapped traveler. But Greece still presents some special challenges to anyone needing assistive devices.

In general, until very recently, the needs of a wheelchair-, walker-, or cane-user were not addressed very effectively at all, making free movement a major challenge for both the traveler and the average physically challenged citizen of Greece.

Greece is largely a land of hills, even on the islands, and settlements were often perched on high, rocky spots as a protection against invaders - the term "acropolis" can be translated as "high city". Paved pathways are often steep and steps rarely have handrails. Please note - I'm not trying to discourage anyone from a trip to Greece! Based on my own experiences assisting a disabled friend, I know that forewarned is forearmed.

General Tips for Disabled Travelers to Greece

Wheelchair Users - motorized chairs definitely help make Greece work for the disabled traveler because even relatively flat areas are just that - relatively flat, with the occasional grade. Combined with the usually uneven pavements, motor power may be well worth the extra trouble in transportation.

Scooter Users - this can be a very viable option since the narrower profile may be easier to navigate around Greece's passageways. Read one woman's story of travel in Greece at least partially by scooter.

Walker/Cane/Stroller Users- good shoes are absolutely essential throughout Greece. Forget fashion. Go for the sole. Some good, hard soles won't give you traction on slippery stones - and in Greece, many of the pebbles are marble. Test those shoes. Ideally, your shoe should feel ever so slightly "sticky" against a slick surface like very clean linoleum or tile. This "stickiness" is usually from a slightly softer rubber sole.

Bathrooms. This is not the bright part of travel in Greece. There is no enforced requirement for retrofitting handicapped-accessible toilets, though in practice toilets are often in small square rooms rather than stalls. If the bathroom is not also used as a storage area, these can often be managed. More recent buildings will have toilets in accord with EU guidelines.

On the street, hotels, which may have bathrooms off of the front lobby, are usually better bets than restaurants, where they are often located through the kitchen.

Public bathrooms for tourists may or may not be accessible and in more remote areas may not be standard toilets with seats at all. Rarely, this may even mean an otherwise modern toilet stall with neat foot-shaped tiled treads and a hole in the floor. Also, in Greece people do not throw toilet paper in toilets, but into a lidded bin provided nearby. The piping system is not made to handle paper.

Finally, "Finding the Flush" is a game almost all travelers to Greece play, as it can be almost anywhere and almost anything - a button, a lever, a pull cord, a foot pedal, or a knob to pull up. Frequently, it is a flat silver area divided into two sections, one for a "little" flush and the other for a "big" flush. Sometimes pressing down can require quite a bit of pressure to make it work.

More on Toilets in Greece
And some other useful Things You Should Know About Greece
Hotels International chains may offer the best accommodations unfortunately, these come at a price and truly wheelchair-friendly rooms are usually carrying a four- or five-star price. Smaller, older hotels will often not have accessible rooms or baths. Ask. Then ask again. Challenged travelers are still rare enough that hoteliers may not quite understand the needs. Suggested question: has anyone in a wheelchair (or on a walker, or with a cane) stayed in your hotel before? In general, rooms in Greece are often smaller than similar accommodations in the US and the rest of Europe, and clearance spaces are narrow.

One recent addition and exception is the Triptychon Resort, a wheelchair-friendly, large private house in the Peloponnese (see link above). The owners care for a quadriplegic relative in addition to managing the rental units. Rates for the three wheelchair-friendly suites run in the low US $70s per night. On the island of Crete, the Hotel Eria offers similar facilities including a pool lift and specially-equipped sightseeing vans.

Many hotels have "alarm cords" dangling in the bathroom to use if you fall, the last vestige of some ordinance sometime. In practice, these are rarely connected to anything now. Don't count on them.

Cell Phones: If you don't have a cell phone that will operate in Greece, buy a pay-as-you-go phone in Greece from Vodaphone or any of the major cell phone companies. The cost is about US 50 and that will usually include enough time for a few brief calls during your stay in Greece. Program the front desk number of each hotel you are staying at into it. Keep it with you or near you as an emergency alarm if you need help. Many budget rooms in Greece do not have phones in the rooms, and this way you have at least a chance of getting through to local help.

Planning your trip to Greece? Find Flights, Hotels, and Cars in Greece

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