Travel services

If you have reduced mobility due to cancer, travel services often have facilities, staff or schemes to help make your holiday safe. Most companies also have a medical officer. They can be contacted before or during your trip for practical advice.

If you’re travelling by air, find out if your airport, or airline, has the facilities you need. You may have the right to early-boarding or extra help on arrival.

Security searches are carried out on all passengers. Some people, including those who have a breast prosthesis or stoma, may be concerned their privacy. Carrying a letter from your GP that explains your situation can help.

If you’re travelling by sea, tell the carrier, travel agent or tour operator at least 48 hours before you travel if you need help, for example getting on or off the ship.

If you’re travelling by car in the UK, you may be entitled to:

  • a permit under the Blue Badge scheme
  • a free tax disc 
  • special rates for bus, coach and train travel
  • personal transport services.

Arranging travel can be expensive if you have mobility problems. Contacting the travel company in advance may help you plan for any extra costs.

Travel and transport services

Most travel companies (including airlines, ferry companies and coach tour operators) have a medical officer. This person can help you decide whether or not it’s safe and practical for you to travel. The medical officer can be contacted before you leave and can help you plan your journey. They can also be contacted during the trip.

You can get information from your travel company on:

  • arranging early boarding 
  • preparing special foods (if you have specific dietary needs) 
  • booking a wheelchair.

Travelling by air

Help at the airport

Disabled facilities vary between different airports and airlines. Find out from your airport or airline if they have the facilities you need, such as a toilet with disabled access. If you have problems with your mobility when using transport, at European airports you have the right to:

  • help at arrival points, such as at terminal entrances, transport interchanges and in car parks
  • help to reach check-in
  • help with registration at check-in
  • help with moving through the airport, including to toilets if you need it.

You can travel with up to two items of mobility equipment free of charge. This won’t count as part of your baggage allowance. You need to tell your airline at least 48 hours before your flight if you will have specific needs during travel.

Airport security

Security searches are carried out on all passengers and baggage before they’re allowed to board the aircraft. This includes searches of disabled people and mobility aids. Some people, including people who have an external breast prosthesis or stoma, may be concerned about how body searches and scanners will affect their privacy and dignity when travelling.

If you have an external prosthesis or a stoma, you may want to tell the security staff as you enter the security area of the airport. This may mean you are less likely to be searched than if you hadn’t told them. It may be helpful to carry a letter from your GP or cancer specialist that explains your situation.

Your stoma care nurse or your equipment supplier should be able to provide you with a travel certificate that explains your situation in different languages. This is also available from ostomy support groups.

In some cases, people will be randomly chosen to have a body search. If you are asked to have a body search, you can request a security officer of the same sex to carry this out. Any body search is carried out in a private, lockable room and you won’t be left alone with just one security officer. A friend or family member may come with you.

Body scanning

Full body scanners are used at some airports, including some airports in the UK. Travellers are selected at random to have a body scan with security scanning equipment. You will not be able to fly if you refuse to have a body scan during an airport security check.

The purpose of a body scanner is to show whether you have hidden weapons or banned items. But your image will also show if you have a stoma, implant or external prosthesis. Security staff have been trained to handle sensitive issues around surgery and treat passengers respectfully.

You should expect that:

  • You’ll be picked out at random for a scan or if you’ve activated a metal detector.
  • You can ask for a security officer of the same sex to be the one who checks your scan on the screen.
  • You’ll have the scan in the security area, with a member of airport staff present. It will take just a few seconds.
  • After the scan, only you and a security officer will see a mannequin-style diagram on a small screen. No bodily features or skin will be seen. They won’t be able to identify you from the scanned image and you won’t meet the security officer.
  • Your scan will be permanently deleted after it’s been assessed by a security officer.

The policy on body scanning may vary at airports in different countries outside of the UK. If you are travelling to a country where you don’t speak the language, you may want to contact the embassy for the country you’re visiting to find out their policy on body scanning. You may also want to carry a card with a brief description of your condition, including information about your prosthesis or stoma if you have one.

Travelling by sea

Disabled people or people with reduced mobility who need help when in a port or onboard a ship have the right to free help. This includes help when you’re getting on and off the ship. You should tell the carrier, travel agent or tour operator when you book, or at least 48 hours before you travel, if you need this help.

Travelling by car in the UK

The following information applies to car travel in the UK. To find out more about driving and travelling by car abroad, visit

Mobility scheme

Under this scheme, people who receive the higher rate of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance, the enhanced rate of the mobility component of Personal Independence Payment, or the War Pensioners’ Mobility Supplement can get help to buy or hire a car, scooter or powered wheelchair. Contact the Motability Scheme to apply.

Road tax exemption (free tax disc)

You may be entitled to a free tax disc if you’re disabled. This is available to people who receive the higher rate of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance, the enhanced rate of the mobility component of Personal Independence Payment, the War Pensioners Mobility Supplement or Armed Forces Independence Payment.

If you receive the standard rate of the mobility component of Personal Independence Payment, you may qualify for a 50% discount on the cost of your tax disc.

Find out what you will need to tax your vehicle in England, Scotland and Wales or Northern Ireland.

You can also get renewal forms from your local Post Office ®.

Blue-badge scheme

If you have a severe mobility problem and can’t use public transport, you may qualify for a permit under the Blue Badge scheme. This lets you park without a time limit or charge in on-street restricted-parking zones, disabled public parking bays or areas restricted by yellow lines.

The permit is free to individuals (but not organisations) in Wales. It generally costs £2 in Northern Ireland, £10 in England and up to £20 in Scotland.

The scheme doesn’t cover private car parks, although they may provide their own disabled parking spaces. You don’t have to be the driver to qualify for a Blue Badge.

You can apply through your local council in England and in Northern Ireland.

Blue Badge holders and other disabled people pay a reduced rate or no fee at some river crossings, bridges and tunnels. In most cases, you have to apply in advance to get a concession. Toll concessions can change, so check before you travel. Contact your local authority for advice.

London congestion charge

There’s a charge to travel within the congestion charging zone in central London at certain times. If you have a Blue Badge, you can register so you don’t have to pay the charge. However, you will have to make a one-off payment of £10 for this discount.

Seat belts

If you can’t wear a seat belt for medical reasons, you can get a medical exemption certificate from your doctor. There are also aids and adaptations available that make it easier for people with disabilities to wear a seat belt. For more information, speak to your doctor.

Bus, coach and train fares

There are special rates for bus, coach and train travel for eligible older people and people with disabilities.

People of state pension age in England, people aged over 60 in Scotland and Wales, and eligible disabled people, can apply for a bus pass. This gives you a reduced price or often free travel on local buses. Contact your local authority for details. You may be able to save up to a third on rail fares with a Disabled Person’s Railcard or a Senior Railcard (for those over 60). Check at your local train station for details, or visit

If you live in Northern Ireland and are over 60 or disabled, you may be entitled to concessionary travel on buses and trains. Ask at your local bus or train station or visit the Government website in Northern Ireland.

Transport Services in the UK

The British Red Cross can provide personal transport services across the UK. These services include providing a companion for a journey on public transport or a private car with a driver. A contribution towards costs is usually asked for, but no one will be refused a service because they can’t pay.

In Wales, St John Wales can provide transport for people who have difficulty using public transport or their own vehicles.

In Scotland, a ‘Safe Journey Card’ can be used to let bus drivers know you have mobility problems.

In Northern Ireland, anyone receiving the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance can travel at half the usual cost through the Concessionary Fares Scheme organised by Translink.

Costs for extra services may vary from one service provider to another, so it’s best to get several quotations. When you book your trip, it’s important to give clear, detailed information about your health to the travel companies. This way, your condition can be taken into account from an early stage and any necessary adjustments can be made in advance. It’s a good idea to carry a full summary of your medical condition with you. Ideally you should also carry a copy that’s translated into the language of the country you’re travelling to.

If you have mobility problems, there are many services available to help you. The Disabled Living Foundation can give you practical advice about equipment for independent living.

Additional costs

Travel can be very expensive to arrange if you have mobility problems. Potential costs can include:

  • transport to and from the airport or other arrival point
  • expenses for a travel companion or helper
  • payment for extra seats if a stretcher is needed (or a reclining first class seat if this is cheaper or recommended)
  • transporting any equipment that you may need.

You may want to contact the travel company in advance so you can plan for any extra costs.

Back to Preparing to travel

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