Skip to main content

Getting Around Costa Almeria | As A Wheelchair User

[THUMBNAIL: Lowering via tail lift in my powerchair, sleeping baby in my lap, from a public bus in Roquetas de Mar]

In 2016 we embarked on what some may say was a very ambitious adventure of our 1st family holiday. Reason being we aren't your average family of 4 with just budgeting and small children to contend with (both of which are hard enough!) Put in the fact I, their Mother am a full-time wheelchair user and a full-time powerchair user at that and our holiday just got a lot more complicated and sadly, a lot more expensive...

Upcoming in this series focusing around our family holiday to Costa Almeria;


Air Travel with a Wheelchair + Children


Comparing Budget and Disabled Holiday Websites




This post is going to focus on how we managed to get around without hiring a WAV (wheelchair accessible vehicle) as neither of us drive. Right from coming off the plane at the beginning of our trip to being dropped back off at the airport 14 days later.

[IMAGE: Sunset with palm trees over the beach front, view from our hotel] 


Airport Transfers - Arrival


Although I had some initial 'teething' problems shall we say with budget holiday website OnTheBeach.com, they did set up the most amazing accessible airport to hotel transfers for us for £45. I was particularly worried about the transfers so I did ring on several occasions up until our travel date to make triple sure that what they had booked was going to work for us. They assured me over the phone that we'd be collected by a wheelchair accessible vehicle that was big enough for our family, my powerchair, Ava's pushchair and our 2 weeks worth of luggage. Considering black cab travel here in the UK doesn't work if we all want to travel together, you can see why I was nervous!

I needn't have been! We arrived late at night, around 9:30pm UK time at the tiny Almeria Airport that seemed eerily deserted. We felt like we walked with the kids, luggage, me driving my powerchair for miles worth of shiny floors and pitch black night floor-to-ceiling windows before we found our way out. Right as we came through the exit to descend down their wheelchair ramp, a man was waiting with the surname on a large strip of cardboard. Much to our relief!

We felt like celebs being whisked away from prying eyes of the paparazzi! Definitely not used to holidaying... The driver who didn't speak a word of English did a lot of motioning which was quite easy to get your head around. The relief was immense when he led us to a large mini bus with a wheelchair tail lift that looked like we could of fit 2 more families in! My head didn't even scape the ceiling of the mini bus (as it normally does as I cannot bend and have a headrest). I was surprised when he started clamping my chair down like a pro, only because I've travelled in similar back home in Manchester only for the driver to tell me he'll just go slow to avoid trying to remember his tie-down training. Next the young man jestered to Mark where we should put our then 4yr old and 10 month old. He pointed to a booster seat for Abbie and motioned to put baby on his lap with seat belt around both. He kindly hauled all our luggage and pushchair single handed into the back with me as Mark has a sleeping Ava to contend with. Very kind guy. He even put on an English speaking radio station on a whim I can only imagine to try and make us feel more at home. We couldn't of asked for a nicer driver or better transfer experience. Off we were on the 45 minute drive to the Hotel Sabinal in the small town of Roquetas de Mar.

Getting Around Roquetas de Mar


On day 4, I got bold and started to quiz the hotel reception staff about if the public transport in the area was wheelchair friendly. Although initially she seemed nervous to give her answer as if we'd be upset, she confessed she thought it was but wasn't 100% sure. That was enough for us, we needed to get to the local shopping centre, the 'Gran Plaza' as despite my pre-holiday online research there wasn't a local pharmacy that stocked the baby formula Ava was on and we certainly didn't want to try and change brands on holiday incase it upset her sensitive tummy. According to good ole faithful Google, we could find the Spanish equivalent of Aptimil in a small super market that resembled Tescos in the mall.

So we went to the nearest bus stop and planned to basically wait and hope the driver spoke English to ask if it was possible to put a wheelchair user on. We didn't have to wait long as they were every 10 minutes! What pulled up more resembled a large coach rather than a bus. Mark went up the steps and I could see him motioning back to me and the littles and the driver nodded. There was a wheelchair symbol on the side of the bus aswell just like on our UK buses. The driver started getting out, all the while I'm thinking there's no way I'm getting on this coach thing, that he's probably going to ask me to get out my wheelchair which obviously I couldn't do. But no, he went midway up the side of the coach, grabbed a hidden hand control and out popped a tail lift! Oh my gosh, we were in access heaven! We popped Ava on my knee and put my lap belt around her while Mark folded up the pushchair to be stored away under the coach. Up Ava and I went in the lift to be greeted by a crowd of smiling passengers wafting themselves with fans or sporting sun hats.

[IMAGE: Local buses in Roquetas de Mar, driver descending tail lift with me in my powerchair, holding sleeping baby] 

Once inside they had space for 2 wheelchairs (by my judgement). The driver spoke some English and told me to park over the tracks on the floor. Then I was tied down here too! On UK buses us wheelchair users hold on to the poles for dear life. He even put a belt around me. There was no groaning from the other passengers about how long this was all taking and the driver remained in good spirits. The whole ride to the shopping centre we couldn't stop talking about how amazingly accessible Spain appeared in comparison to the UK thus far.

A Moment I'll NEVER Forget


When we arrived at the mall, Mark pulled a string near me that was on my level, only because Ava was now asleep and I'd need two hands given my arm weakness. The driver was whistling away as he went to get the lift out again to help us off. Only after a few minutes I noticed he was on his radio phone. Ot oh! Mark and I looked at each out anxiously knowing this could very well mean the lift has broken down. The driver put up a good fight with it, he got his tool bag out, started unscrewing bits, putting them back together and as a last resort started banging the lift with a small hammer to try and jump start it. By this point a group of young Spanish lads came to the middle of the bus to see what the hold up and commotion was. They were speaking frantically in Spanish, looking at me then the lift and back again. One of the men motioned to Mark to look at his phone screen, he'd brought up Google translator.

Although it was hard to make out still, the gist of it was they were telling us they were about to lift me, in my powerchair off this very high coach! If you're not familiar, powerchairs are extremely heavy and mine weighs around 350kg.

I was bricking it. I gave Ava to Mark to get the girls down onto the pavement to get Ava back in the pushchair and out the way of the group incase this went very wrong. I envisioned myself in their local A+E with some injury from being dropped as I really didn't think, even between these young strapping men they could lift my powerchair with me in it safely down without incident. Before I had too much time to panic over it, 6 men grabbed the bottom frame of my chair and slowly and smoothly lowered me off that bus MANUALLY! This would of never happened in the UK, I'd of been stuck on that bus hours waiting for the fire brigade.

We couldn't thank these lads enough. They got a big round of applause from the other passengers and big hugs from us. We could barely communicate yet they saw we needed help and they risked themselves to help get me off that bus safely. I'm getting all choked up writing this but gosh, I was so overwhelmed with gratitude. For this I'll always love the Spanish, they know how to take care of those who are in need.

Now able to breathe again and re-instored faith in humanity, we went on our way in search of Ava's formula.

Horse + Carriage



[IMAGE: Mark holding Abbie up to pet the stationary white horse whilst driver awaited customers] 

Outside Hotel Sabinal there was always a horse and carriage for hire for €30. Although we didn't get a chance to experience that, mainly because we were on a budget spending money wise. We did enquire about its accessibility and discovered that we could loan a manual wheelchair with head support for the day from the local Mobility Shop and I could participate in a horse and carriage stroll up and down the boardwalk of Roquetas de Mar beach front.

Pavements + Landscape



[IMAGE: Abbie in colourful dress, bent down with Daddy to pet shop keepers Labrador lazing in the sun] 

Roquetas de Mar, where we stayed was very flat with dropped kerbs everywhere. We explored quite a bit and I didn't have issues with pavements or back tracking through lack of dropped kerbs.

Cafés + Restaurant Access


All restaurants and cafes we went to had access, either on the flat or had a little permanent ramp at the front. Only one cafe (which was known locally as the place to to for your traditional British fry up) was I only able to be seated out the back on an outside table, no big deal was it was a shaded area. We visited Flamingos Café for Spanish omelettes many a morning which I'd really recommend, they were great for Ava who we were doing baby-led weaning with at the time too!

[IMAGE: Having breakfast at the Flamingos café outside, Ava in booster seat nibbling tapas] 

Hotel Transfers - Departure


The same company was booked for the return to the airport at the end of our stay. I had enquired during the 14 days how much it'd be to use them to visit nearby places instead of taking public transport. I was quoted €30 to the Water Park that was literally 2 streets away. Again, sadly out of our budget but at least it was optional. Given our experience with public transport though we didn't really need to only use taxis.

We received the same great service on the way back to the airport, same vehicle and features. Unfortunately both girls ended up being sick on the way back. Not sure what happened there but that's kids for you. Never a dull moment! Luckily the driver was very sympathise offering us a box of tissues to clean up and fortunately whatever happened only happened once and they were totally back to normal for the flight home.

[IMAGE: Family self on the beach front on our last day] 


Associated Links


If you have any questions about this area, places or company's mentioned don't hesitate to contact me via the tab at the top of the website. I hope this and been helpful and if you're thinking of going here, you have a wonderful holiday as we did!

______________________________
This blog post is linked-up with the following blogger linkies; #AccessLinky #BlogCrush #ThatFridayLinky

Inclusive Home
Twin Mummy and Daddy
Lucy At Home

Comments

  1. Fantastic post with loads of really useful information for visiting wheelchair users! I have linked to it on the mainland Spain page of wheelchairworld.org so that other wheelchair using travellers can read your experiences. http://wheelchairworld.org

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm so pleased you found it informative, hopefully it'll encourage other wheelchair users + families to venture to this part of Spain!

    ReplyDelete
  3. sounds like pretty much everywhere you went was pretty accommodating, which is fantastic. I can't help but wonder if you would have had the same success here in the States #thatfidaylinky

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sounds like a wonderful holiday! How great that everything was so accessible! #BlogCrush

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Changing Places Campaign | #FitToBurst - Putting my health on the line due to inaccessible toilets

For 250,000 disabled UK residents, going to the toilet is a military operation. Only you never hear about it. Why? Because talking about going to the toilet isn't exactly fun. Sure we joke about those type of Facebookers who write a status about every single move they make - including going to the loo! Though for the majority, going to the toilet is a private, dignified human need that is straight forward and requires no second thought. Only those 250k I just mentioned are living a very different existence, merely because going out of the house means they're venturing away from the only accessible toilet that meets their needs.

I am 1 of those 250,000 and for 14 years I've been too stubborn and proud to stand up (no pun intended! 😜) and say, actually it's 2017 - surely I should be able to go out freely and not have to worry about the next time I need the loo, ontop of all the access issues I and every other wheelchair user faces on a daily bases!

So what exactly is …

Letting Go Of What I Can't Do With My Children | #DisabledMumLife

I'm very much a researcher, an adapter, a think ahead kind of person, and that also applies to my role as a Mum. In every single problem my disability causes I automatically think outside the box and find a way to do whatever it is I'm struggling with.Yes it'll be different, maybe a bit unorthodox but hey, if it enables me to go beyond my limitations when it comes to the girls, I'll try said idea at least once. What have I got to lose? If I get an idea that'll problem solve in my head and I don't try, you blink and your kids grow up and I'd be left wondering if I could of been more involved in this or that if I'd only tried to do it by doing x, y, z.... You catch my drift?

But I'm also a realist...

And this is where the hardest part of parenting for me comes to light. As much as I do things differently, get creative, do my research, use products on the market to enable me etc... There are still some things that I cannot adapt enough for me to do indep…

Locked-Out | The REAL Cost Of Senseless Social Housing Policies

As soon as I found out I was pregnant one of my first thoughts was, “Where are we going to live?” The extension that was built onto my childhood home had barely enough room to swing a cat, despite having a great wet room. Sleeping arrangements with a cot etc weren't going to work. Neither would my partners parents home, as there were no suitable amenities.

Upon visiting the Citizens Advice Bureau, we were advised against looking at private renting as most landlords will not allow permanent adaptations (ie. ceiling track hoists) and felt social housing would be the more favourable choice. Reason being with social housing, the property is allowed to be adapted to almost any mean to suit a disabled person's access and care needs.

So with that knowledge I went to Bolton Council and filled in an application form for a council property under medical grounds. With it I included proof that I was 6 weeks pregnant so that we wouldn't fall victim of the bedroom tax as we would be us…