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Going on holiday

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.

The government is currently advising against all but essential travel to some countries. Read the latest guidance from the Foreign Office on travelling abroad. Our coronavirus hub has the latest guidance for people living with a lung condition.

Travel outside of the UK might be affected by Brexit. You might need to do extra things that you didn’t have to before. Take a look at the government website for more information.

On this page:

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.

Where can I go on holiday abroad with a lung condition?

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 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. Cruise Critic has a useful page on accessible cruise ships you might find useful to read through.

Face coverings

Since the coronavirus pandemic, face coverings have become mandatory 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.

How do I get there?

Ferries

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.

Trains

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.

Car

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.

The European Commission hasn’t confirmed if 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. You will therefore need to carry a Green Card with you when driving in any of these countries.

Green cards are supplied by your travel insurance company and it’s recommended you request one about a month before you travel.

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, but it’s not known whether the UK Blue Badges will be accepted in EU countries now the UK has left the EU. It’s thought that the Blue Badge should be recognised as normal in other EU countries, in the same way as those issued in Norway and Switzerland, but this isn’t guaranteed.

Flying

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.

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.

Choosing accommodation abroad

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.

Holiday checklist

Download our helpful checklist (PDF, 160KB) to make sure you’re fully prepared for an enjoyable holiday! 

Read next: Insurance and medication

Download our going on holiday information (PDF, 250KB)

We use your comments to improve our information. We cannot reply to comments left on this form. If you have health concerns or need clinical advice, call our helpline on 03000 030 555 between 9am and 5pm on a weekday or email them.

Last medically reviewed: February 2021. Due for review: September 2021

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.