For travellers with disabilities visiting Scotland independently can be a difficult business. While most theatres, cinemas and modern tourist attractions are accessible to wheelchairs, accommodation is more problematic. Many large, new hotels do have disabled suites, but will charge more, and most B&Bs, guesthouses and smaller hotels are not designed to cater for people with disabilities. Public transport is just as bad, though newer buses have lower steps for easier access and some ScotRail intercity services now accommodate wheelchair-users in comfort.
Taxis, as opposed to minicabs, all carry wheelchair ramps, and if a driver says he or she can't take a wheelchair, it's because they're too lazy to fetch the ramp.
Wheelchair users, and blind or partially sighted people are automatically given 30-50% discount on train fares, and those with other disabilities are eligible for the Disabled Person's Railcard, which costs £14 per year and gives a third off most tickets. There are no reductions on buses, however.
Information and organisations
If you are disabled you should contact the travel officer of your national support organization. They can provide literature or put you in touch with travel agents specializing in tours for the disabled. The Scottish Tourist Board produces a guide, Accessible Scotland, for disabled travellers, and many local tourist offices can provide accessibility details for their area. For more information, contact Disability Scotland, Princes House, 5 Shandwick Place, Edinburgh EH2 4RG, Tel 0131-2298632.
The Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation (RADAR), Unit 12, City Forum, 250 City Road, London, EC1V 8AF, Tel 020-72503222, The Royal Association for disability and Rehabilitation is a good source of advice and information, and produces an annual guide on travelling in the UK (£7.50 including P&P). The Holiday Care Service, 2nd floor, Imperial Building, Victoria Road, Horley, Surrey RH6 7PZ, Tel -1293-774535, provides free lists of accessible accommodation and travel in the UK.
Gay and lesbian travellers
Scotland is generally tolerant of homosexuality, though overt displays of affection outside 'gay' venues are not advised. Edinburgh in particular has a flourishing gay scene and is a relatively easy place for gay travellers to feel safe and comfortable. Don't assume that because men are wearing skirts in the Highlands that people take a relaxed attitude to homosexuality. The same prejudices apply as elsewhere in rural parts of the UK. There are no towns in the Highlands large enough to support an active gay scene.
Gay Scotland magazine, Tel 0131-5572625, is a good source of information. For more information contact the Gay Switchboard, Tel 0131-5564049, or the Lesbian Line, Tel 0131-5570751. For a good selection of gay events and venues, check out www.whatsonwhen.com or the UK gay-scene index at www.queenscene.com which has information on clubs, gay groups, accommodation, events, HIV/AIDS and cultural and ethical issues. Other good sites include: www.gaybritain.co.uk; Gay Travel www.rainbownetwork.com; and Gay Pride
There are various official youth/student ID cards available. The most useful is the International Student ID Card (ISIC). For a mere £6 the ISIC card gains you access to the exclusive world of student travel with a series of discounts, including most forms of local transport, up to 30% off international airfares, cheap or free admission to museums, theatres and other attractions, and cheap meals in some restaurants. There's also free or discounted internet access, and a website where you can check the latest student travel deals (www.usitworld.com). You'll also receive the ISIC handbook, which ensures you get the most out of services available. ISIC cards are available at student travel centres . US and Canadian citizens are also entitled to emergency medical coverage, and there's a 24-hour hotline to call in the event of medical, legal or financial emergencies. If you're aged under 26 but not a student, you can apply for a Federation of International Youth Travel Organisations (FIYTO) card, or a Euro 26 Card, which give you much the same discounts. If you're 25 or younger you can qualify for a Go-25 Card, which gives you the same benefits as an ISIC card. These discount cards are issued by student travel agencies and hostelling organizations.
Studying in Scotland
If you want to study in Scotland you must first prove you can support and accommodate yourself without working and without recourse to public support. Your studies should take up at least 15 hours a week for a minimum of six months. Once you are studying, you are allowed to do 20 hours of casual work per week in the term time and you can work full-time during the holidays. In North America full-time students can obtain temporary work or study permits through the Council of International Education Exchange (CIEE), 205 E 42nd Street, New York, NY 10017, Tel 212-8222600, Council of International Education Exchange For more details, contact your nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission, or the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, Tel 020-7270 1500.
Travel with children
Flying with kids
Inform the airline in advance that you're travelling with a baby or toddler, and check out the facilities when booking as these vary with each aircraft. British Airways now has a special seat for under 2s; check which aircraft have been fitted with them when booking. Pushchairs can be taken on as hand luggage or stored in the hold. Skycots are available on long-haul flights. Take snacks and toys for in-flight entertainment, and remember that swallowing food or drinks during take-off and landing will help prevent ear problems.
Eating out with children in Scotland can be a frustrating experience, and some establishments are downright unhelpful. Furthermore, the attitude to breastfeeding in public is still some way behind the rest of Europe. In major towns and cities Italian restaurants are often more child-friendly. In more remote areas, however, most people are helpful and friendly. Visit: Flying with Kids
Travelling in Scotland is neither easier nor more difficult for women than travelling in other other parts of the UK. Generally speaking, Scots are friendly and courteous and even lone women travellers should experience nothing unpleasant. In the main cities and larger towns, the usual precautions need to be taken and you should avoid walking in quiet, unlit streets and parks at night. More specific warnings are given in the Edinburgh and Glasgow chapters.