Cancun, Mexico
by Sylvia Fitch-Brewster © 2002

Sylvia Fitch-Brewster shares accessible highlights of her trip to Cancun, Chichén Itzá, Tulum, and the eco-archeological park of Xcaret. Come along as she and her husband explore these exotic locales and even manage a swim with the dolphins.

My husband and I visited Cancun in November 2001. We had a wonderful time thanks to a very special taxi driver who became our chauffeur and my husband's assistant for the wheelchair. We would not have been able to do half the things we did without him. 

We visited the archeological sites of Chichén Itzá, Tulum, the eco-archeological park of Xcaret, where we swam with the dolphins and we also visited Isla Mujeres. It was the best vacation we have had so far. For more information about this trip please write us at sfitch@cts.com

The Hotel: 
The hotel that worked for us in Cancún, despite a few inconveniences, was the Camino Real Cancun. The other option was the Fiesta Americana, but the Camino Real was the only hotel that guaranteed a "handicapped room," which means it is one of their regular rooms retrofitted with a grab bar by the toilet and a hand held shower head. It did not have a shower but a bathtub, which in my husband's case, he can manage pretty well - he took his own bath bench. Another inconvenience was the lip in front of the sink, which fell way too low to enable him to position himself right in front of the sink, he had to bend over from an angle. 

Another downside of the hotel was the fact that the rooms are about 100 meters from the entrance unless the person is able to negotiate a 65 degree ramp which would take you through a shorter route. I suppose we could have solicited the help of a bellboy to assist my husband in pushing the wheelchair to get to the room if we really needed to.

One of the things I plan to suggest to the hotel management is the purchase of a beach mat to enable wheelchair guests to get into the water. 

Sightseeing:
The trips to Chichén, Tulum and Xcaret were one day trips from Cancun. The terrain in Chichén Itzá is pretty even once you make the 65 degree angled ramp to the entrance. Chichén is about a two hour drive each way from Cancún using the toll road. This archeological site covers an area of about 3 km x 2kms but with Paco - our cab driver's assistance, we were able to see most of it. 

Disabled people do not pay admission at any of the archeological sites and Paco got in with a 50% discount at Chichen and Tulum and got in free at Xcaret (which represented a US$90.00 savings for us at $45.00 admission for 2) this was of substantial help to us since we paid his way into the parks. 

There were slopes and rocky terrain in Tulum (about 50 miles south of Cancún) but Paco's assistance with the wheelchair made the sightseeing possible. Tulum is much smaller than Chichén and can be explored in 1-2 hours. What is impressive about Tulum is the fact that it is the only significant Mayan archeological site built on the coast overlooking the Caribbean.... a spectacular sight!

Xcaret (about 35 miles south of Cancun) also has some steep slopes depending on where you want to go but for the most part it is ramped and pretty accessible and the sights and activities make it all worthwhile: besides its archeological sites it also boasts an aviary with toucans and macaws, a turtle farm, butterfly pavilion, an orchid farm, a coral reef aquarium, two dolphin pools where you can swim with the dolphins and places for snorkeling and scuba diving. 

About Paco: His name is Francisco Casillas, he is in his early 40's. Paco is a highly experienced driver as he has been in the chauffeuring business in Mexico most of his life. He is from Guadalajara, Mexico and relocated to Cancun 16 years ago. He is a kind, pleasant and honest man. Although his cab is a Nissan Sentra which means that he can only accommodate three people maximum, it worked out fine for my husband and me. My husband would transfer to the front seat of the cab, and Paco would fold the wheelchair and put it in the trunk and away we went. 

Going with Paco was doing things the no-hassle way. We would not have been able to enjoy our stay in Cancun as much as we did without him as tour buses or vans are not accessible for people in wheelchairs, and the car rental companies do not rent cars with hand controls in Mexico. Paco's e-mail is: 
pacomobilcab@latinmail.com 

Thank you for your interest in our experiences, we hope that someone can benefit from this information. 

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Brugges, Belgium & Cyprus
by Katherine Wesson © 2002  

Katherine Wesson graciously sent mini reviews of her visits to Bruges, Belgium and Cyprus.

Christmas 2000. I spent a week at the Royal Court Apartments - Atlantica Hotel, Limassol, Cyprus.  All public rooms, swimming pool etc. had level access.  With a bit of ingenuity, the bedroom was also accessible.  Hotel staff were excellent-- nothing too much trouble for them.  Limassol is level and the airport staff was very helpful.

September 2000.I visited Bruges, Belgium and stayed at the Hotel Flandres, which is very wheelchair accessible. The staff were excellent, and the room was huge but hard to get into the bath for a shower - not for the faint hearted. There weren't any grab rails in the bathroom, but the wash basin was very sturdy. The shower head was removable from the riser. Airport staff etc. were also excellent - no problems, but don't try the railway system unless you get the train to Brussels Central for Bruges. There are stairs everywhere else! Bruges being below sea level means that most buildings have at least one step up to them, but the staff will help you. Most historic buildings were accessible.  All the cafes were accessible. Beer excellent. Take a good cushion for all the cobblestones though!  Most of the museums were wheelchair accessible and one even had a glass elevator & stair lift in its medieval building. Some museums were ground floor anyway. There wasn't any wheelchair access onto the canal boats, but several strong men helped me into the boat with me using my crutches. The man in the ticket office looked after my wheelchair. It's a good way to meet people.

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