Travelling the World with Low Vision

Having poor vision doesn’t have to mean an end to holidays. With a bit of preparation, you can still enjoy most of the places and activities you used to – and you may even want to try some new ones!

Travelling the World with Low Vision Image

Holiday preparation

Ian Cathro, 60, a project manager from UK, has built up an enviable collection of stamps in his passport. As a keen traveler, he has visited Washington, been yachting in St. Lucia, seen the sights of Berlin, and enjoyed Spanish cuisine in Madrid and Barcelona. So when he started to have trouble with his vision and was diagnosed with retinal vein occlusion, he feared his globe-trotting days were over. “I was scared I would have to give up my great love of traveling,” Ian admits. “I thought I wouldn’t be able to drive and my treatment might mean I couldn’t fly.”

For those people living with vision problems, it’s still possible to continue traveling, as long as they are willing to do some extra pre-departure planning. When booking travel, it’s important to inform the travel agent of any vision needs. Many train, air and coach companies will offer assistance for travelers if they know what the passenger requires in advance. “Travel agents are used to assisting people with different types of disabilities,” says Damiano La Rocca from a UK travel company that specialises in accessible sport and leisure activity holidays for people with limited mobility and visual impairments. “They know how to cater to your special needs and can work with you to find the right type of air, train, boat or bus transportation that works best for you. Don’t assume they know your level of need though, so be specific about what you want before you go.”

Specialist hotels for people living with vision impairment

Finding accommodation that feels safe and secure is important for people with vision impairment. When choosing a hotel, be realistic about how much extra assistance will be necessary to create a comfortable holiday. Many hotels, bed and breakfasts and guesthouses are happy to make adjustments for people with poor vision.

There are even specialist hotels that cater to the visually impaired traveler. Specialist hotels have staff trained to offer support to poor sighted guests. Sometimes they also have additional features such as color contrasting surfaces, talking lifts, tactile signs, talking menus and a range of useful products from liquid level indicators to make a cup of tea in the morning, to talking alarm clocks.

Action holidays with poor vision

People with vision problems don’t necessarily have to give up on their favourite holiday activities, either. There’s no need to ditch those skies or throw away the dancing shoes. From enhancing sailing ability to improving fishing skills, it’s possible to find many activity companies who now cater for people with poor vision. Damiano adds: “People with visual impairments aren’t aware that they can have almost any tailor-made holiday they want, from crazy sports like scuba diving and jet skiing, to cooking lessons. You can travel independently and have one of our travel companions meet you at your destination as well, so you don’t have to rely on friends or family.”

Putting culture on your agenda

Of course, not everyone wants an adrenalin rush on holiday. If leisurely lunches and culture is more appealing, there are several options for that type of holiday as well. Many museums and tourist attractions now have audio guides that give visitors a verbal tour: The London Eye, Sydney Opera House and Berlin Reichstag are some well-known accessible tourist destinations. There are also audio walking tours for mobile phones, which are becoming increasingly popular around the world.

Ian has found that with extra preparation, he has been able to enjoy traveling as much as ever. “There is an increase in cost of my travel insurance, due to my vision problems and high blood pressure and I have to be careful of booking trips around my treatment visits, as there is a possibility of experiencing side effects in my eye that could get worse when flying,” explains Ian. “But I’m not holding back on anything – including my love of travel. If I could give people like me just one piece of advice, I would say don’t let your vision stop you from doing the things you love,” he says. “You may just have to take a slightly different route to living a full, exciting life.”


Read the Guide to Holidays page on RNIB

Read about Vision Hotels (run by Action for Blind People)

Read the Disabled Holidays Guide

Seable – specialise in sport and leisure activities for the visually impaired