Holidays abroad with a lung condition
On this page, we explain the things people with lung conditions should think about when planning a holiday abroad.
Before you plan a trip abroad, read the latest guidance from the Foreign Office for the country you want to visit. Travel outside of the UK might be affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The UK is no longer a member of the EU, so you might need to do extra things that you didn’t have to before when visiting Europe. Take a look at the government website for more information.
On this page:
- Where can I go on holiday abroad?
- How do I get there?
- Choosing accommodation abroad
- Holiday checklist
You should always check with your doctor or health care professional to make sure you are well enough to travel before deciding where to go. It’s also important you have travel insurance that covers you for your entire trip. Read more about our advice for arranging travel insurance if you have a lung condition.
Make sure your passport is valid
You must renew your passport before you can travel abroad if either:
- your passport has expired
- you do not have enough time left on it.
Rules on passport validity have changed and you might need to renew your passport earlier than expected. Before you travel, check the entry requirements for the country you wish to travel to.
First, think about where you want to go. It’s a good idea to think about temperature and climate. Do extremes of hot or cold weather affect your lung condition? We know that many people with lung conditions prefer warm climates, but it’s worth researching and talking to others to find out your best options. You may also want to think about the different coronavirus restrictions in the country you want to visit. For example, each country may have different requirements in terms of vaccination status.
You might find it useful to talk to other people with lung conditions about their experiences in different countries. Our web community is there for you.
Don’t know where to start? The Lonely Planet has created a useful online resource on accessible travel across the world.
Going on a cruise holiday
Cruise holidays can be a great option for accessibility. Many cruise companies have accessible ships, with facilities like wheelchair access, wheel-in shower, grab rails, hearing facilities and visual aids. Different cruise companies offer different levels of accessibility, so it’s worth looking around to find the company (and location!) that suits you and your needs. We’re hearing some cruise ship companies aren’t allowing supplementary oxygen onboard, so if you use oxygen therapy make sure to check with them you can bring it on board before booking.
Since the coronavirus pandemic, face coverings have become commonplace in shops and on public transport. Across the UK, you are exempt from wearing a face covering if you have a lung condition that makes you breathless and find wearing a face covering makes you feel too breathless. But this might not be the case in other countries abroad.
If you fall into this category, it’s a good idea to check ahead for the country you are planning to visit and their guidance on face coverings. You might need something to prove your exemption, or there may not be any exemptions at all. Some travel operators may specify types of masks that should be worn on board. In some countries, face coverings are mandatory in all public places.
You can find useful information about the country you are planning to travel to on the Foreign Office website.
Many ferry companies have accessible lifts, toilets and other facilities. They can also give priority loading and special parking spaces to vehicles with disabled passengers.
Eurostar trains have been designed to cater for passengers with special requirements. Some carriages have wheelchair access and allow oxygen containers on board.
If you are travelling further afield in Europe, or leaving Europe altogether, contact the relevant train company for its policy on travelling with oxygen.
Check before you travel if you’ll need a green card - a document that acts as proof of insurance and makes it easier for vehicles to move freely across borders. Green cards are supplied by your travel insurance company and if you need one, it’s recommended you request one about a month before you travel.
The European Commission has confirmed that the UK is still part of the Green Card Free Circulation Area (GCFCA), an area that covers all the European Economic Area (EEA) countries, as well as Andorra, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia and Switzerland. For more information, take a look at the Motor Insurance Database website.
In the UK, Blue Badges allow drivers of passengers with severe mobility problems to park close to where they need to go. The Blue Badge is a European Union (EU) wide scheme, and the UK Blue Badge is accepted in some EU countries despite UK leaving the EU. For more details on which countries are accepting the UK Blue Badge, and what to do if they aren’t, take a look at the government website.
There’s more information on driving in the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein on the government website.
Your lung condition doesn’t necessarily prevent you from flying. Discuss your travel plans with your doctor. Most people with a lung condition, even if they use oxygen, can travel on planes.
If you are planning a long-haul flight and use a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, think if you might need to use your machine during the flight. Some airlines have restrictions on what machines are permitted for use on board. Others may require you to fill in a form before you travel.
If you use an electric mobility aid such as an electric wheelchair or a scooter, contact the airline in advance to let them know. Also check if your airline has any restrictions relating to equipment – this can vary between airlines. For information on flying with oxygen, take a look at our separate page on this.
Check ahead with your airline for any flight delays or cancellations.
Many airlines have a medical officer or dedicated unit for disabled passengers or those with special medical requirements. Contact the airline before you book to discuss your needs.
When you contact the airline, find out what help is available at the airport as well as on the plane. Important things to know include:
- the airline’s policy on carrying and using oxygen, including portable oxygen concentrators, and medical devices such as CPAP machines or nebulisers.
- if the flight is code-sharing. This is when a flight has one airline’s code and flight number but is operated by another one. You will need to check with each airline involved about their own oxygen policy.
- the exact length of the flight, and if delays are likely.
- how you need to confirm your fitness to fly.
- the facilities available at the outgoing and incoming airports. These might include assistance to get you from the airport lounge to the departure gate and on to the plane; the use of wheelchairs, and whether oxygen is available at the airport. You don’t need to be a wheelchair user to get assistance at airports.
Find out more about flying with reduced mobility on the Civil Aviation Authority website.
It’s very important to choose accommodation that suits your needs. Before you book, think about practical things you’ll need to make your stay comfortable and enjoyable. For example:
- stair-free access to your room
- accessible toilet and shower/bath
- wide doorways to fit your wheelchair through
- plenty of power sockets (to plug in your oxygen or CPAP machine, or your nebuliser).
Before you book you should always call or email to ask what facilities are included in your room. Hotels don’t normally put photos of accessible rooms on their website, so it’s a good idea to ask to see photos before you make your booking, to check the room is suitable for you.
Download our helpful checklist (PDF, 236KB) to make sure you’re fully prepared for an enjoyable holiday!