Official advice for New Zealanders living and travelling overseas

Overseas travel advice for people with a disability

For New Zealanders with disabilities, travel both within Aotearoa and overseas can require some additional planning and consideration. For people with impairments, it is important to be aware that accessibility standards vary greatly throughout the world. This page provides advice to help your overseas trip go as smoothly as possible, and some links to related websites.

Related links:

  • Read our travel advice for your destination, and for the contact details of the nearest New Zealand Embassy, Consulate General, or High Commission.
  • Information on the consular assistance available to New Zealanders who get into difficulty overseas is available here.
  • If you are travelling overseas with a physical or mental health condition, read our advice here.

Travel insurance:
Costs for medical treatment or evacuation are very expensive and without travel insurance can cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

  • Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation - The New Zealand government is unable to fund the medical costs or medical evacuations of Kiwis who travel or live overseas.
  • Speak with your provider to ensure that the insurance you purchase covers your specific needs. You may be charged more, but if you have not declared pre-existing medical conditions or disabilities, your insurance company will be unlikely to cover any of your expenses. 
  • Confirm what circumstances and activities are and aren't covered under your policy.
  • Confirm that you're covered for the whole time you'll be away.
  • More information about travel insurance can be found here.

Planning your trip:
Your own specific needs will determine what you consider when planning your trip. Talking to friends and family, your travel agent, airline, hotel, tour or cruise company will help you to understand the ways that your needs might or might not be accommodated at each stage of your trip.

You may like to think about:

  • Accessibility on-board your aircraft, and at the airport, including whether aerobridges are available.
  • How accessible information will be, and where you can get help if you get lost.
  • The type of assistance that cabin crew are able to provide – this differs between airlines.
  • Whether a walking frame or other equipment you need can be stored within reach.
  • Whether electric wheelchairs can be checked in.  
  • Accessibility of transport at your destination.
  • Accessibility of your accommodation including any steps and adequate space in the rooms.
  • The standard and availability of health care at your destination.
  • The general conditions of the country you are visiting, for example, roads and footpaths.
  • The assistance that would be available in an emergency.

Booking your trip:

  • Book well in advance to ensure sufficient time to put suitable arrangements in place for your travel.
  • Give specific information about your disability to the reservation officer when you book – make sure you give detailed information about how they can help you.
  • Make sure to mention whether you use assistive equipment; most airlines have a limit on the number of wheelchairs they can carry in the cabin (usually one or two).
  • One to two days before you leave, make sure your service providers have got your specific needs on record.
  • If you have difficulties finding service providers who can accommodate your needs, you might like to seek a specialist travel agent who will know where to go.

When you travel:

  • Airports or cruise terminals sometimes assist people with disabilities through the check-in and boarding process. Speak to your travel provider about what services will be available. 
  • Arrive early to allow sufficient time to check-in and pass through security.
  • If you have assistive equipment, talk to the airline at check in about how they will transport your equipment.

Security screening:
The New Zealand Aviation Security Service has information available online about security screening. This includes information about going through security with your prescription medication, wheelchair or medical equipment. Make sure you inform staff at the airport if you have specific needs, so that they can accommodate these. 

Detailed information about accessibility is not always available online or when you make your booking. Check with your travel agent or accommodation provider to find out how your needs can be met.  

Assistance animals:
You will need to get approval to travel with an assistance animal and should discuss this with your travel provider or travel agent at the earliest opportunity. In addition, you will need to ensure that you have met the entry requirements of the country you are travelling to in order for your animal to be allowed entry; most countries have strict requirements. For further information about entry requirements, check with the nearest Embassy of the country you are travelling to.

Where to get help:
In an emergency, contact local police or ambulance services.Depending on the situation, in the first instance it may be best to contact your family, friends, travel agent, travel insurance provider, or airline. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

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