Tranquil trips

Singapore

Singapore skyline at night
Nattee Chalermtiragool / Shutterstock

Asia is a generally unfriendly place for people who struggle to get around. Singapore is the big exception.

This island city-state went through an extremely rapid period of urbanization. As its population aged and its wealth increased, Singapore adopted a universal code on barrier-free accessibility more than 20 years ago. Today it is praised by Lonely Planet and the United Nations as one of the most accessible cities in the world.

Elevator doors stay open longer, staircases have handrails on both sides and chairs have handles. Almost every single rail station, bus and walkway in the city is highly accessible, and you’ll have no trouble visiting the major sights, from the Gardens by the Bay to the Jurong Bird Park to the Singapore Flyer. The best part: You’ll never have to travel far to eat, as there’s a cheap and delicious outdoor market almost everywhere.

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Barcelona, Spain

Traditional architecture in Barcelona, Spain
Catarina Belova / Shutterstock

The beauty of Barcelona is that both its topography and its leadership have conspired to make it an easy place to travel.

While mountains surround the city, Barcelona itself is largely flat; you’ll only need to trudge up a hill if there’s something specific you want to see. And unlike other old European cities like Paris, the medieval city center of Barcelona is nearly bereft of cobblestones.

For its part, the Catalonian government has made accessible travel a major priority. Most metro stations have ramps and elevators, and it’s no trouble to see the majestic Sagrada Familia or stroll La Rambla and the Mercat de la Boqueria. Even the beaches are a breeze, with ramps from the sidewalk to the sand to the water itself.

Las Vegas

cityscape of Las Vegas
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This gambling and entertainment hub refuses to let a single obstacle stop you from spending your money.

“At the top of my good list is Las Vegas. They truly have made it accessible to everyone,” says Candy Harrington, editor of Emerging Horizons, who has been covering accessible travel for over 25 years.

“The monorail is accessible, and many hotels have wheelchairs or scooters for loan. Many properties have more than the minimum number of accessible rooms, and some hotels even have ceiling track lifts — very rare and not required under the law.”

Whether it’s strolling the Strip, riding the world’s tallest Ferris wheel or taking the zipline through Fremont Street, the only preparation you’ll need is withdrawing some greenbacks.

Daunting destinations

Cambodia

Classical picture of Ta Prohm Temple, Angkor, Cambodia
DeltaOFF / Shutterstock

If you come to Cambodia to marvel at temples seemingly forgotten by history, you’ll get what you asked for.

Centuries-old sites like Angkor Wat and the Bayon are breathtaking — but full of long flights of crumbling and uneven steps, some as steep as ladders. Ta Prohm, which has been partially reclaimed by the jungle, is particularly dicey. More modern sites like the Silver Pagoda and Royal Palace in Phnom Penh or the stupas of Oudong will still require you to climb two or three dozen steps.

You could choose to eschew Cambodia’s wondrous temples, floating villages and mangrove forests in favor of the major cities, but you’ll have to navigate poorly maintained streets filled with traffic and potholes.

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China

Great Wall of China at the Jinshanling section.
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

The challenges posed by China were formidable even before the coronavirus outbreak. When visiting one of the largest and oldest civilizations, prepare for very large and very old infrastructure.

“China is a stretch if you have any trouble walking or climbing stairs,” writes Judy Wells on her blog Travel On The Level, which helps people avoid strenuous trips.

“If you think Europe and the Americas are unevenly paved, consider how long the Chinese civilization has been piling up rocks and stones and nature via earthquakes and erosion has been tearing them down. The Chinese must have the world's strongest ankles.”

Harrington of Emerging Horizons agrees that China is one of the trickiest destinations to navigate.

“There is a real lack of accessible transportation and hotel rooms there. That said, if you are willing to accept personal assistance — like being carried up a flight of steps — it is possible,” she says.

Italy

One of the most beautiful bridges in Venice
Romenta / Shutterstock

Home to world-renowned food, art and architecture, Italy holds no shortage of things to do. It’s a pity the most popular tourist destinations in the country are the hardest to traverse.

The ancient city of Rome was built on seven hills. Streets can be steep, and alleys will turn into staircases without warning. In many places, you’ll be forced to share the bumpy old cobblestones with cars zipping by. By the time you get where you’re going, you may be too tired to stroll the jagged ruins of the Roman Forum or climb the Spanish Steps.

While it lacks hills and cobblestones, Venice is even more troublesome. Hundreds of stepped bridges crisscross the city, making even short journeys a trial by foot. Elevators are rare within the archaic buildings, and the streets are prone to flooding. The water buses are a saving grace, assuming you can get on and off amid the crowds.