Last month I traveled to Europe with some friends, we started out in London and the next city on our itinerary was Amsterdam.
We flew from London to Amsterdam on Easy Jet – which is normally the cheapest way to go, unless you are overweight on your luggage. Be careful, the overweight fees are not cheap. When we landed in Amsterdam we encountered our first access adventure. The plane required passengers to climb down a set of stairs, well we all know that was not going to happen in my case. They told us they had a special climbing chair that could take me down them. It was quite an interesting contraption and a step up from the chair they used in Macau – basically in Macau they just carried me down by hand. Scary! The chair in Amsterdam was literally a climbing chair that required two employees to guide it down the stairs. Fairly easy, quick, and I felt safe. After the stair climbing chair ride, the staff loaded my friends and I into an accessible van and drove us to the baggage claim area.
From the airport we needed to take a train to central Amsterdam. We bought our tickets and went to the information counter to request assistance with boarding because we needed a ramp. The worker at the counter scolded us for not making reservations in advance and told us we would have to wait 2 hours to board the train. However, one of his much nicer co-workers showed up and got us on the next train. Train travel in The Netherlands was hit and miss, we learned to arrive early and arrange for a ramp. The train workers we encountered were either super nice or super rude – there was no in between. And not all of the train stations in The Netherlands are accessible. For example, Delft had a set of stairs from the platform to the street and huge step to get on and off the train. With Lonnie and Traci’s help I was able to manage, but it was work – for all of us.
The city of Amsterdam, in general, is very accessible – mostly because all the curbs have cut-outs for the many, many, many bikes. Because I knew places in Europe tend to be smaller and less accessible I took a bike lock with me for my scooter. Having been to Amsterdam a couple of times before I knew it would be easy to find bike stands – they are everywhere! Having the bike lock gave us more options for restaurants and shops. If you can walk a little, even with a cane I highly suggest you take a lock with you to secure your wheels should you want to explore some of the smaller shops and restaurants.
Most of the museums and attractions are very accessible – but you still may want to call ahead. We came across two tour companies that offer accessible canal tours – one even offered a nighttime cruise. Again, call ahead and make a reservation because there is limited wheelchair space.
In conclusion, I feel the city of Amsterdam is small enough and accessible enough for wheelchair users to enjoy – that is if you don‘t mind the smell of pot. If you plan on visiting other parts of The Netherlands, I suggest you rent a car and avoid the trains. Good advice from my local friends that I wish we had followed – but I was out voted.
- My friend Tessa showed us around, it was great to have a local tour guide and translator.