With a wheelchair or crutches in Thailand

Blocked side-walks
A few months ago I did tear off a muscle of my left leg. After a surgery a few weeks of staying in house did follow. And after that a few months of walking with crutches. And people living here know that Thailand is not really famous for it's access for disabled people (you hardly see them on the streets). And I would learn in the next few months why. Another thing I learned ... a big respect for the disabled people living here. It is not easy!

Yesterday I came back from a one day trip to Bangkok by airplane At the end of this posting you can read my experience as "crutcher" traveling to Bangkok. First of all you are lucky if there are side-walks along the road where you could walk with your crutches or go with your wheelchair. And if there are side-walks most of the time they are blocked by shops, poles, telephone booths, police booths, parked cars, etc. And if they are not blocked they are in such a bad shape that walking there is actually dangerous. Or the steps on/off are so high it is almost impossible to use them.

Then then at shopping-malls are parking places for people who are disabled. Unfortunately the most Thai people do not have much consideration for other people so the designated parking place are many times in use by people who are just too lazy to walk. Unfortunately also the most security people working at the parking do not stop lazy people from using this designated parking places.

But slowly there is something done in Thailand to help disabled people to access the normal world of shops and restaurants. Many shopping malls have designated parkings, wheelchairs, etc. Following is my personal experience in the few months walking with crutches. Until now mostly only in my home-town Khon Kaen. I will update this in the coming weeks.

Parking for lazy people

Central Plaza Khon Kaen
On the ground-floor of the parking there is designated parking for disabled people. And there is a ramp for wheelchair access. And there are big elevators to move around from floor to floor. There are many designated parking spaces. Unfortunately VIP parking is one step hight in the picking order and they have access right next to the entrance doors.

PTT Gasoline stations all over Thailand
They are almost everywhere .... and almost all have clean toilets. And toilets for people in wheelchairs. With emergency buttons and facilities for wheelchairs. Also almost all have a special parking space for people with wheelchairs near the toilets. But as there are many lazy people this special parking space is not always free. Next to this parking space is a wheelchair ramp to access the side-walk. And at almost all places is a Amazon Coffee Shop that is wheelchair friendly. Unfortunately most 7/11's are not wheelchair friendly.

Tesco/Lotus-Extra Khon Kaen
At the front (left) side is a drop-off place with easy access to the ground-floor. At the rear-entrance are parking places for disabled people. Unfortunately there are many lazy people who park here and the security is not doing anything against it. There are small ramps to enter the side-walks. There is a elevator to go to the first-floor and there at the service counter you can borrow a wheelchair. So I borrowed a wheelchair as that is faster as my crutches. Hahahaha at least I thought so, but wow you need a lot of power in your arms!

Multiple shops in Khon Kaen
Basically most small shops & restaurants are not wheelchair friendly and even with only crutches they are not easy to access. Small steps or very bad side-walks or blocked side-walks.

Makro Khon Kaen
We did not see special parkings spaced for disabled people, but at the entrance you can borrow wheelchairs. The entrance is wheelchair friendly.

Smile Restaurant Khon Kaen
At the back is a ramp for wheelchairs to access a part of the restaurant. But as the restaurant is multiple level with a wheelchair you will not be able to get everywhere in the restaurant.

Public streets in Khon Kaen
Near where I live there are no side-walks (although the road is a busy divided 2-lane road). The park around  Bung Kaen Nakorn is very badly surfaced and difficult to walk. Entrance of the park is difficult because it is blocked for motorbikes.

McDonalds Drive-thru Khon Kaen
There are parking places for disabled people and the building is wheelchair accessible. Very comfortable, this was my first day out of the house for an unhealthy lunch.

Thai-Lao Border crossing at Thali 
There are wheelchairs so you can cross the border and go from one booth to the other. Unfortunately the booths are on high multiple side-walks and there are no on/off ramps.

Traveling 1 day to Bangok on crutches
I had booked flight to/from Bangkok with Thai Smile. I booked by telephone and I must say the service was good and professional. So my wife dropped me of at Khon Kaen Airport and with crutches I walked to the check-in counter (only 50m walk). I checked in and was given an boarding card for going to Bangkok but also already one for flying back that same day (so I could show this to the ground-staff in Bangkok).

At the check-in counter was someone (from the airport service) that brought me with a wheelchair to the gate. Passing security check I was "manual" checked. My crutches went thru the scanner. The airplane was parked at the gate. People with wheelchairs have the privilege to board as first. I was given an aisle seat at row 37. Although no huge leg space, it is enough. Actually in this seat-configuration of Thai Smile only the first row of Business Class would have more leg space.

Now that privilege of first boarding is great and a good idea ... IF there are no people sitting next to you. So when other people boarded there was 1 lady going to sit next to me. So I had to get out of my chair and let the lady to her chair. This would happen again on the way flying back home. Actually not smart to board first.

When I arrived at Don Muang Airport, the airplane parked at the gate. People with wheelchair assistance have to leave at last. So also the lady sitting next to me. At the gate there was again someone waiting with a wheelchair. He brought me straight to the taxi (by passing the que).

Traveling back from Bangkok on crutches.
A taxi dropped me off at Suvarnabhumi Airport and I walked on crutched to the check-in counter (about 100m walk). I showed my boarding card but still had to check-in and get a new boarding card. Here the staff did ask all kind of questions. What was wrong? Did I had an operation? How long ago? Can I walk? Finally I was given a new boarding card and someone with a wheelchair brought me to the restaurant at the domestic terminal. I had a kind of dinner there and after 45min I was picked up again and brought to the gate. The airplane was again parket at the gate and again wheelchair people boarded first. This time I had to get out of my chair 2 times for other people.

Flight back was as smooth as the flight to Bangkok. When arriving back at Khon Kaen Airport the airplane did not park at the gate. That means I had to take the stairs down out of the airplane and at the platform there was again someone with a wheelchair waiting for me. He brought me to the arrival hall where my wife picked me up again.

Conclusion : Traveling with a wheelchair is very good possible as long as you can walk stairs and walk a little bit yourself. It will become much more difficult if you can not walk stairs. The budget airlines are not always parket at the gate. Service from Thai Smile and the airports was great!

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