Is Thailand Wheelchair Accessible?

Is Thailand Accessible?

Across the world, travel has become more accessible and more affordable than ever before, giving an ever-increasing number of people the opportunity to get out, see the world, broaden their horizons and live life to the full. But what does this mean for people with disabilities? Does Thailand provide the necessary services and adapted facilities to allow disabled visitors to enjoy this amazing country?

At Accessible Thailand we identify which services are accessible to wheelchair users, the level of adaptation for the disabled, and also which services are not accessible. This provides disabled visitors to Thailand with valuable information and with the contacts they need to facilitate their stay in Thailand. It also helps to raise awareness with local businesses of the challenges faced by people with mobility issues, and what is needed to remedy the situation. This is often as simple as adding a ramp where there is a step, or providing adequate space for wheelchairs to move around.

A Work in Progress

This is a project that never ends and is constantly developing and changing. With time and the contribution of our readers we hope to add more and more details to the information we provide. The reality is, that all places in Thailand, and most of Asia, still have a lot of work to do to catch up with disability-aware destinations such as those in North America, Europe and Australia/New Zealand.

To understand how succesful (or not) different regions have been to make Thailand accessible for all, we have taken a look at all the touristic destinations and ranked them according to wheelchair access, handicap-adapted facilities and services for the disabled. Our research has provided us with a list of The Top 5 Accessible Destinations in Thailand that offer an acceptable-to-good experience for wheelchair users and the less mobile.


How do We Measure Accessibility?

We provide a questionnaire for hotels and another for general businesses, which allows us to grade their accessibility on a 5 star system, and also helps them to identify what areas they can improve on. For more information see our Accessibility Ratings System

We look at the accessibility of a region based on:

  1. Geographical location & climate terrain (meaning does the place have a lot of hills, or is it flat)
  2. The number of hotels with wheelchair access and adapted rooms
  3. The availability of accessible transport
  4. Availability of mobility aids such as wheelchairs, commodes, hoists, walking aids
  5. Access to hospitals, medical facilities and medication
  6. The accessibility of local amenities such as shopping, leisure facilities, tours, attractions, entertainment, restaurants, bars and clubs

What do you think makes a destination accessible? Drop us an email and tell us.

Travelling Around

thailand railways train disabled liftDisabled people, whether they are wheelchair users or have other mobility issues, will struggle when using public transport in Thailand. The main modes of public transport are:

  1. Taxis – usually Toyota sedan cars
  2. Tuk-tuks – a small minivan with a high tailgate
  3. Buses – which have no disabled access
  4. Local Baht Buses – these are local buses usually with long wooden benches going down each side of the bus. There is usually a high step to access the bus and it is very uncomfortable
  5. Coach Travel – for inter-city travel, with no provision for wheelchair users
  6. Rail Transport – The Bangkok Skytrain and the Bangkok Metro stations and trains are purpose-built with wheelchair accessibility. Elsewhere in Thailand only the Bangkok-Chaing Mai and Bangkok-Nong Khai lines have wheelchair accessible carriages. For more information see our section on Rail Transport in Thailand
  7. Air Travel – Generally accessible airports and help provided when needed. For more information see our section on Air Travel in Thailand

In general, except for rail and air travel, public transport in Thailand is not wheelchair friendly nor safe for disabled people. In our article on The Top 5 Accessible Destinations in Thailand, we provide more specific information on local wheelchair accessible transport services. For an interesting look at driving in Thailand see the article, Road Transport in Thailand

Suvarnabhumi Airport Bangkok, wheelchair access

Accommodation that is Accessible for All

For accommodation to be accessible to wheelchair users and people with mobility issues, it should have wheelchair access to all public areas with wide doorways, wide passageways and shallow ramps provided wherever there are steps. Public toilets should be adapted with wide doorways, grab rails, ample space to turn a wheelchair and low level washbasins.

The bedrooms should be level throughout with wide doorways, low-level light switches and electrical sockets, and remote controls for TV and air conditioning. An en-suite bathroom will have a roll-in shower, space to turn a wheelchair around, grab rails and a low-level sink and mirror.

Many hotels in Thailand say that they are disabled-friendly and are even posted on popular hotel booking websites as being wheelchair-accessible but in so many hotels this has turned out to be simply untrue for the unlucky disabled traveller.

Wheelchair users will often find that there are parts of a hotel or resort that are completely inaccessible, without being manhandled past or over an obstacle. There may be several steps to access entry into the reception area, restaurant, bar or public toilet, and few resorts have level access throughout.

Resort Koh Samui

Sometimes the bedroom that has been advertised as having disabled-friendly will have a step to enter, or an overly steep ramp into a too-small lift to access the floor it is on. Maybe there will be a step to access the balcony or the facilities in the bathroom may be unsuitable for wheelchair users.

We have an extensive and growing list of Accessible Hotels and Accommodation in Thailand, but if we have not listed a hotel or guesthouse that you think should be included, please email and tell us about it

Always Ask

Simply asking if a building is accessible just isn’t enough. Communication is the key and asking the right questions, such as asking for measurements of doorways and details of the bathroom is a great way to be better informed.

Whenever possible, ask for a photograph and email your chosen accommodation to make sure you get the answers to your questions before you book.

Out and About

In Thailand, access to most of the country’s most popular attractions will be limited for wheelchair users and the less mobile. The most popular places in Thailand, such as temples, often have a great many steps and will be largely inaccessible without seeking someone’s help. Disability awareness is still new to Thailand and many of the historical tour destinations have yet to be adapted for wheelchair access.

Typical Thai sidewalk

In most bars, clubs and other entertainment places there are usually no disabled toilets, however the larger shopping centres and major attractions will normally provide accessible WCs and level access. Getting around towns can be difficult with uneven pavements (often no sidewalk at all), obstructions everywhere (signs, posts, furniture in the street etc, very few ramps but many steps into establishments and many beaches will be off-limits to wheelchair users as often there is no support.

For more information on accessible bars, clubs, restaurants, shopping, tours and activies, see our list of Accessible Things to do in Thailand. If we have not mentioned a place that you think would be of benefit to all, please email and tell us about it

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The Accessible Thailand Team

We are a group of well-traveled individuals, both disabled and able-bodied . We have all worked in the disabled travel industry and we understand the accessibility issues that disabled people can face when coming to Thailand. We are interested in actively promoting disabled access with local businesses particularly, and with raising public awareness of disabled issues generally throughout Thailand.

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