Followup to AskMe Question April 20, 2005 6:49 AM   Subscribe

Thanks to everybody who answered my AskMe question about wheelchair-accessible train travel in Spain. I'm now back from the trip and have some results to report, but the thread is closed, so I thought I'd put them here in case it's of use to future travelers.
posted by yankeefog to MetaFilter-Related at 6:49 AM (11 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Here's the relevant info:

• Taking the high-speed Ave trains was a great and easy experience. In both Madrid and Seville, we arrived at the customer service counter at the train station about 30 minutes before the train left and the friendly people there hooked us up with a wheelchair, and arranged for an electric ramp-thingy to help get it onto the train. They also called ahead to the next station so that there would be somebody waiting there when we got off, to once again provide a wheelchair and a ramp. (Note that each wheelchair was only available for use within the station; once my mom got into her seat on the train, they took the wheelchair back. If you wanted a wheelchair to take with you, you'd presumably have to rent one.)

• Taking the intercity bus from Toledo to Madrid was generally fine; there was an elevator down to the bus platform, and only a few steps to get up on to the bus. As is typical with intercity buses in most countries, there was not a lot of leg room in the seats, which could be a problem for some disabled travelers.

• Taking the local commuter trains was a huge pain, and not recommended if you have mobility issues. We had no problem borrowing a wheelchair at the station, but they didn't have ramps to get onto the train. Our train was supposed to go to Toledo, but it stopped at a smaller station beforehand instead, and my friend had to make it across some uneven tracks and then into a bus to get to Toledo.

• Everywhere we went, everybody was incredibly respectful of and friendly to my mom, and did everything they could to make life easy for her. (It probably helps that she is a charming and grandmotherly grey-haired woman; it's possible that results would have been different for some other combination of age, gender, and personal charisma.) However, in the case of the local commuter trains, there were far fewer resources they could use to act on their helpful intentions.

• My wife and I speak good (if limited) Spanish. I think it would have been very hard to communicate in Madrid, Seville, and Toledo if we didn't, since very few people there seemed to speak English. If you are planning a trip in Spain and you have any special needs, I'd therefore recommend that you learn how to describe your needs in Spanish before you go.

Thanks again to everybody who posted in the AskMe thread. Please feel free to contact me ( at if you are planning a similar trip and have any questions.
posted by yankeefog at 7:06 AM on April 20, 2005

Great argument for ending automatic closure of AskMe threads.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:49 AM on April 20, 2005

great. glad it worked out better than i thought it would. did you ring ahead at all? was there any problem with access to stations (rather than trains)?
posted by andrew cooke at 7:52 AM on April 20, 2005

We ended up not ringing up ahead; my wife and I found that we speak Spanish well enough that if we are talking to somebody face-to-face and can see their facial expressions and gestures we can understand them, but on the phone, we sometimes have a hard time. Instead, we went to the Madrid station the day before our planned train trip from Madrid and spoke to somebody there about what we could expect when we arrived in Seville. I also went to the Madrid bus station before our planned bus trip to Toledo and scoped out the station and the buses.

Access to the stations themselves was generally very good. In some cases there was a long walk from the door (where the taxi dropped us off) to the customer service desk, but my mom just found a seat and waited while we went to get the wheelchair. In Madrid and Seville, there were elevators or ramps throughout the train station. Ditto for the Madrid bus station that we used ("Estacion Sur de Autobuses"--note that there are several major bus stations in Madrid, and other ones might have different accessibility issues.) I think the Toledo bus station had an elevator down to the bus platform but I wasn't there when my mom and dad took the bus out of Toledo so I can't be sure--I'll check with them.

The only place we had a problem with station access was the little town where the train stopped when we were trying to get to Toledo. Getting off the train required a few steps down onto the tracks and then a few steps up into the station.

I can't speak about the Toledo train station because we never actually got inside it! Getting to Toledo was enough of a pain that my parents just took the bus back instead (which, as I mentioned, turned out to be an easier way of making the Toledo-Madrid trip.)

Oh, I should also mention that, while my mom has a hard time walking up stairs (or walking long distances across flat surfaces), she can walk in bursts, and can manage a limited amount of stair climbing if she has to (as she had to do when getting onto the bus.) Somebody who couldn't walk or climb stairs at all could probably have traveled on the Ave train with no problems, but taking the bus or the commuter train would have been impossible, or nearly so.
posted by yankeefog at 8:12 AM on April 20, 2005

sounds like a good holiday. i understand completely the phone thing - i still have problems on the phone and have lived in a spanish speaking country for years. thanks for the info.

maybe a link from the original askme thread could be added to this page?
posted by andrew cooke at 8:27 AM on April 20, 2005

Thanks for the update and for the info. I'm glad to hear the trip went well.
posted by Staggering Jack at 11:08 AM on April 20, 2005

Ask Me threads should be closed save for the original author who can return and post a follow up. An icon (like the best answer tick) could be posted on threads with a follow up, so people searching in the future can see the threads in which the advice is just conjecture, and which has been actually tested. Not applicable to all threads, but a worthy addition IMO.
posted by fire&wings at 2:32 PM on April 20, 2005

fire&wings: I like your idea.

I wonder how many people search askme? And how many look at a thread 20 days later to see if there was any followup?

I like what yankeefog did here, but the grey would be crowded if we all posted followups.

For my askme question I plan to email those who gave me great advice..and post info on my user page. For those 1 or 2 people who might wonder how the move turned out...
posted by ?! at 3:34 PM on April 20, 2005

I also like fire&wings' idea. How about adding a sidebar to the green that logs posts that have been followed up?
posted by painquale at 12:58 AM on April 21, 2005

Count me as one more person who likes fire&wings' idea.
posted by yankeefog at 3:27 AM on April 21, 2005

I've followed up in my askme threads when it was possible before the auto-close. Perhaps it is because of this that I think the ideas of fire&wings and painquale would make an excellent addition to AskMetafilter.
posted by safetyfork at 6:22 AM on April 21, 2005

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