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Planes, Trains and Automobiles
There is a greater variety of ways to travel in India than just about anywhere we have been--bullock carts, tuk-tuks, tongas, motorcycles, bicycle rickshaws and much more. You may want to try some of these for brief rides, but here we will talk about the best major modes of transportation if you have a disability.
Airports: You Are Royalty!
Your cane, walker or wheelchair is the magic wand that will open royal service for you in airports and hotels. Indian airports have a highly trained cadre of assistants who are on the lookout for people who need help. In each airport I had my own personal guide who stuck with me from beginning to end, guiding me and my husband past alluired passes. Their service far exceeds anything we have in the United States, so sit back and relax. There is no need to worry about the daunting distances and long lines.
As always, (even though you are royalty), have your bags well marked and keep an eye on them. Be sure to put small, valuable items, even souvenirs, in your big suitcases for checking. Overly zealous security people may surreptitiously stick items in their pockets while giving you a hassle with fake concern about international hijackers. That happened to us twice, once with an item of jewelry and once with a small marble elephant.
Car, Driver and Guide: Traveling with a disability requires care in choosing your mode of transportation within the country. We settled on having our own car, driver and guide for all of our touring, a strategy that has worked well in our other travels to China and Tibet.
Full-time Facilitator? We considered having a full-time travel facilitator for a higher price, but decided we did not really need one because we would have a guide for all tours. If you have a serious disability, a full-time facilitator could be well worth the cost. This person would travel with you at all times and handle all needs that may arise.
SUV or larger car: Be sure you specify and get an SUV style car (or larger) with four doors and plenty of cargo space for your luggage and wheelchair, if you need to take one. We had a Toyota Innova, which was plenty large for us, but we would have needed larger if I had taken along a wheelchair or scooter.
English speaking driver. Specify an English speaking driver who can actually speak some English. Our driver was with us throughout the entire trip, so we spent a lot of time with him in wild, congested traffic and on long stretches of highway. Being able to communicate with us effectively was important to meeting special needs in a variety of situations when we did not have a guide with us. Guides were usually local to the particular city we were visiting. This is a crucial element if you do not have a full time facilitator.
Luxury Trains. We were very excited about taking a luxury train trip and actually made reservations on the Royal Rajasthan on Wheels. It is not only an exotic ride in Maharajah-like comfort, but I also felt it is the best way to travel with a disability, being pampered and cared for at all times. Another advantage is that it is possible to see considerably more in a short amount of time than with a car because you travel at night, eat on the train and arrive ready to tour in a new city the next day. All food, guides and transportation are covered in the fee. Unfortunately, the only train available did not run because of a lack of passengers during the pre-Christmas season. At all other times of year, reservations must be made far in advance. There are several luxury trains for one or two-week trips and many trains throughout India for shorter trips and day excursions.
Planning well in advance will help you get the kind of transportation you want and need.