Avid traveler and SCI BC Peer Murray Siple has seen the good, the bad and everything in between when it comes to wheelchair-friendly travel. Here are some of his top recommendations for unique and accessible places to stay around the world.
If you travel and use a wheelchair, don’t forget to pack a sense of humour. It’ll get you up, down, over, and across barriers that have kept you meandering the same path for too long. Plus, when wheelchair travel goes feco-ventilatory on a trip — and they will, BTW — that sense of humour might be the best wingman you’ve ever had. But, you still need to get your wheels to new territory so you can find what makes this planet, and our lives, however “disabled” they may be – a thrill. Being able to adventure your way to the beach via hotel elevator or transfer out of a taxi amongst cobra killing teens guarantees you’ll be coming home with a suitcase full of stories— and isn’t that the point?
1: Ace Hotel, Shoreditch (London)
100 Shoreditch High Street, London
The Ace Hotels are retrofitted into historic buildings, and the accessible rooms have a small living space, micro kitchen, a music system, street art, and vintage industrial furniture. All their hotels have bars frequented by local artists, writers, and musicians although the Ace Shoreditch’s bar was under renovation during my stay, so I hit the pub across the street.
For more information, visit the hotel’s website or call + 44 (0)20.7613.9800.
2: Mercure Montmartre Sacré Coeur
3 rue Caulaincourt, Paris
I stayed in Montmartre hoping to see neighbourhoods that Picasso, Van Gogh, all Henri Matisse laid down there own adventures in. Unfortunately I had arrived in Paris with the flu and spent the first days in my room recovering. Hotel rooms in Paris is usually extremely small. Mine had a bed, closet, and enough room to just fit in one-way, then back into the roll-in shower to turn around then get back into the room to leave again.
The Mercure Paris Montmartre Sacré Coeur website shows the hotel has rooms and facilities that are accessible to people with limited mobility. Contact them at (+33)9/69366130 for more information.
3: Airbnb Barcelona
Finding short or long-term rentals is a challenge here because a standard design feature is to put three steps up to the elevator. After days of blowing my budget on hotels and almost giving up hope for staying in Barcelona longer, I stumbled upon Pere Pueyo’s Airbnb. Pere, like me, is a filmmaker. Travel luck! His studio apartment has a roll-in shower (he wanted a barrier-free bathroom in his eco-friendly rental) and it has a kitchen beside a courtyard with banana trees. The front door had one-step-in, I rented it anyway. After a new day of exploring I came home to find a shining aluminum ramp folded up against the door. Pere had designed and built it to be operated via water-filled 2-litre bottles acting as counterweights, lowering it down as I needed it and neatly folding up when I left it. I love how Barcelona designs so incredibly well, then commits to the finishing of projects. Gaudi died one hundred years ago yet they are still building to complete his visionary Sagrada Familia.
4: Travaasa Hana Hotel, Maui
5031 Hana Highway Maui, Hawaii
Arriving in Hana, we had hoped to find a budget accommodation for the night but the only motel there is eerily unoccupied and reminiscent of a seventies horror movie set. Budget dreams blown, we booked the five plus star Travaasa. Fully accessible, beautifully designed in traditional Hawaiian style, and the best sleep of our trip. (We left without checking out, and I still haven’t looked at that bill).
For more information, visit the hotel’s website or call 808-248-8211.
The hotel I stayed at in Thailand has since closed to become a holistic medical centre, but there are a surprising amount of choices in Bangkok with accessible rooms and price ranges.
While in Cambodia to see Angkor Wat, a 12th-century temple complex, I checked into a Bed and Breakfast that included towels washed in the river and left to dry.
6: Crystal Lodge Hotel & Suites, Whistler
I am an ex-Whistler resident, having lived there before my injury, and when I return I always discover more and more accessible activities, but crashing at my buddies staircase-and-bent sofa house is not one of them. My go-to hotel has to be the competitively priced Crystal Lodge. Dead centre in Whistler Village, you can roll out to your choice of restaurants, bars, accessible scenic trails, gondolas, and world-class events (although it’s getting harder to find quiet time in Whistler now that is a four-season resort).
Get more information on the Hotel’s website or call 604.932.2221.
Stay tuned for more great lodging recommendations and unreal travel stories from Murray in the next two parts of this series.