Getting around Mexico in a wheelchair: An accessibility guide

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Traveling around Mexico by wheelchair comes with challenges, but it’s far from impossible. Kickstart your trip planning with these must-know accessible tips.

Wheelchairs in Costa Maya, Mexico

Accessible travel comes with its challenges regardless of where in the world you are. So, if you want to explore Mayan ruins, bask on the beach, and sink your teeth into “real” Mexican food, you’re probably wondering—is Mexico wheelchair friendly? 

As someone who doesn’t use a wheelchair but has spent over six months exploring and observing Mexico’s accessibility, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Mexico is wheelchair-friendly. However, certain areas are relatively easy to explore. And it just so happens that many of these places are popular tourist destinations.

A glimpse at accessibility laws in Mexico

When you’re traveling in a more developed country, you might wonder if a particular building is accessible. But when it comes to Mexico, you might find yourself typing whole cities into Google, such as: Is Cancun wheelchair accessible? 

Although Mexico signed the United Nations 2007 Convention on Rights for Persons with Disabilities and they implemented further regulations for accessibility in 2011, there’s a lack of implementation. Nevertheless, you can feel their efforts in newer buildings and destinations. You also may see it at the Mexico City airport, where dozens of wheelchair users work thanks to a program initiated by activist Santiago Velázquez.

Top accessible destinations in Mexico

When it comes to accessibility in Mexico, the chances of encountering better accessibility are higher in newer areas. 

Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Campeche stand out to me as offering better than average wheelchair accessibility for Mexican standards. Many attractions in Mexico City are also wheelchair accessible. However, getting from point A to point B is often challenging due to few accessible subway stations and poorly maintained sidewalks.

That said, I was pleasantly surprised by the decent wheelchair accessibility in Valladolid, which is an old town that’s a common stop on the way to visit the Chichen Itza ruins.

The low-down on sidewalks

As a general rule, the immediate area around the main plaza in any given Mexican destination usually has well-maintained sidewalks with drop curbs. 

However, once you wander out of that area or any other maintained touristy road, you’ll likely encounter crumbling cement, objects blocking the path, and straight-up holes in the sidewalks. Needless to say, in most cases, it’ll be safest for you to drive between sites within the destination you’re visiting.

Finding accessible public restrooms

Developing better infrastructure for wheelchair accessibility in Mexico is still in its infancy in terms of public restrooms. However, almost any somewhat modern-looking mall offers accessible bathrooms. Ferry stations, bus stations, and airports almost always have them too. 

Choosing your accommodation

Finding accessible accommodation in Mexico isn’t as easy as in certain other parts of the world. That said, there are several wheelchair accessible resorts in Mexico that come close to meeting ADA standards.

For example, some wheelchair accessible resorts in Cancun include:

  • Iberostar 
  • Hard Rock Hotel
  • Paradisus 

If you’re staying elsewhere in the Yucatan, below are some examples of wheelchair accessible resorts in the Riviera Maya:

  • Playacar Palace (Playa del Carmen)
  • Aluna (Tulum)
  • The Westin (Cozumel)

Touring around Mexico

Let’s face it—lounging around a resort is fun, but you probably want to do more than dip your wheels in the sand and drink margaritas all day. Regardless of where you’re staying in Mexico, there are many activities you can take part in.

When searching for wheelchair-friendly vacations, having as much independence as possible is likely a priority to you. For this reason, visiting water parks in Mexico is an excellent activity since you can explore them without the assistance of a guide. Xcaret and Xplor are two of many water parks that offer excellent wheelchair accessibility.

That said, many attractions in Mexico don’t showcase their accessibility features (or lack thereof) on their websites. So, if you’re having trouble figuring out if a place you want to visit is accessible, try coordinating with a private guide. They’ll be able to plan a custom route that’ll have you seeing as much as possible.

Traveling between destinations

Traveling with disabilities in Mexico is possible by plane, ferry, and land. I’ve broken down some of Mexico’s most popular routes according to these categories so that you can get a feel for travel time and pricing. 

By flight

Taking a flight is one of the most comfortable ways for wheelchair users to get around Mexico. Mexico’s airports are well designed for accessibility, and they offer priority boarding for those needing assistance. Below are a few of the many flight route options you can choose from.

RouteTravel timeStarting price
Cozumel – Mexico City2.5 hoursUSD 51
Mexico City – Oaxaca1 hourUSD 48
Mexico City – Tijuana3 hours, 45 minutesUSD 56

By ferry

Visiting at least one island is an iconic part of any Mexico itinerary. The routes below offer accessible ferries. In all cases, only the first floor is accessible. Depending on the ferry’s design, you might have access to an outdoor deck in addition to the indoor, climate-controlled deck. Below are some of the most popular ferry routes in the Yucatan Peninsula.

RouteTravel timeStarting price
Cancun – Isla Mujeres30 minutesUSD 9
Chiquila – Holbox30 minutesUSD 12
Cozumel – Playa del Carmen30 minutesUSD 12

By land

The long-distance buses in Mexico don’t offer accommodations for wheelchair users. Therefore, taking a private transfer is your best option when traveling between destinations by land. 

Accessible vans can be hit and miss, depending on where you visit. So, if you’re able to transfer out of your chair, Bookaway can arrange a private car or minivan to take you to your next destination. Below are some examples.

RouteTravel timeStarting price
Cancun – Chiquila2 hoursUSD 239
Cancun – Cozumel (land + ferry)2 hours, 50 minutesUSD 189
Cancun – Playa del Carmen1 hourUSD 58
Cancun – Tulum1 hour, 40 minutesUSD 88
Mexico City – San Miguel de Allende4 hoursUSD 305

What’s the bottom line here? Mexico isn’t a top destination for accessible travel. But with a bit of pre-planning, you can enjoy exploring many destinations in the land of breath-taking Mayan ruins and tasty tacos.

Posted September 23, 2021
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Laura Olds
Laura Olds of A Piece of Travel is a digital nomad who adds twice as many destinations to her bucket list with each one she checks off. She's a full-time writer and part-time street dog whisperer. In her free time, she enjoys running, yoga, and taste-testing her way through the world.
image of blog writer Laura