I use a manual wheelchair, and I’d love to visit Romania, to learn more about the country where my great grandparents were born. Unfortunately I don’t have any relatives there, so I will have to find an accessible place to stay, preferably with a roll-in shower. I don’t drive, so I will need an accessible van with a driver to get to and from the airport. I have traveled to England before, so I’m not totally unfamiliar with international travel, but I realize that Romania is probably not as accessible as England. Can you offer me any tips or resources to help me plan my trip?
Well, you’re quite right in that Romania is not as accessible as England, but that still shouldn’t deter you from exploring the country. I suggest that you contact Corina Stefan of I Explore, a Bucharest-based tour operator who specializes in accessible travel in Romania. Corina started the company because she knows first-hand the frustrations that people with mobility disabilities face in exploring the world. As a life-long resident of the country, she enjoys sharing Romania with everyone. Of course she freely admits that Romania does have some access barriers, but she’s also determined to make things as accessible as possible for her clients. Say Corina, “If you explain your needs, we will find a solution and a way for you to travel in Romania.”
First and foremost, I Explore can get you to and from the airport in a lift-equipped van. The van can hold one wheelchair-user and five able-bodied travelers, and it is also available for day trips into the country or sightseeing in Bucharest. Popular day trips include visits to Comana, Slanic Prahova, Prahova Valley and Brasov.
I Explore also has an accessible day tour to Sinaia, a mountain resort town known as the pearl of the Carpathians. After a tour of the town, you’ll get the opportunity to visit Peles Castle, the summer residence of King Carol I. Although the front entrance is not accessible, there is a ramped entrance on the side. All of the rooms on the castle tour are accessible, except for the weapons room. And although there are steps and staircases here and there, portable ramps are available for folks who cannot manage them. Corina also reports that the castle staff is extremely helpful to disabled visitors.
In Bucharest, Corina highly recommends a guided tour of the Palace Parliament. Additionally, the National Museum of Natural History – Grigore Antipa underwent a renovation and added some access upgrades in 2011. Today access features include accessible parking, ramp access, elevator access to all floors and wheelchair-accessible restrooms.
As far as getting around Bucharest goes, you will encounter high curbs and uneven sidewalks in the older areas of town, however the Metrorex (underground) stations near the main tourist attractions (Piata, Unirii, Universitate, Piata Romana, and Izvor) are wheelchair-accessible. Additionally, all of the train stations have lift or ramp access to the trains. So, with a little advance research and some help from I Explore, I’m sure you can find your way around.
Last by not least, I Explore can also book accessible accommodations for you, but you should be specific about your access needs. Corina has personally inspected all the hotels she uses, and she checks all the restaurants and tourist sites she recommends. Access features found in many of the hotels include Continental showers, grab bars, shower seats and wide doors. Although roll-in showers are not common in Romania, a Continental shower is equally accessible as it doesn’t have any lips or even a shower curtain.
Corina is also able to put together tailor-made itineraries, so if you want to visit the town where your grandparents grew up, or a site that you’ve always wanted to see, then she can make that happen too. Truly she’s the expert in everything having to do with access in Romania. She even knows who to call for fast and efficient wheelchair repair.
For more information on all their services, contact I Explore at (+40) 21 345 36 53 or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find out more about accessible Romania on their website at accessibleromania.co.uk.