Traveling as a Vegan Has Gotten Easier
I used to worry a lot about how to travel as a vegan. And, at times, those worries were justified. But, mostly traveling as a vegan ends up being fun and easy. In fact, some of my FAVORITE vegan meals have come unexpectedly from restaurants around the world. Not only are more countries adopting vegan friendly attitudes but environmental sustainability is moving plant based eating into politics all over. In fact, Portugal recently passed a law requiring all civic restaurants to offer a vegan option. This law is intended to promote healthier eating, decrease harm to animals, and reduce long term environmental impact (source). Personally, it’s been my dream here in the U.S., but I’m thrilled it’s starting somewhere. This EXCITING news is music to my ears and makes me more eager than ever to plan a trip to Portugal next year.
While not every country offers vegan options everywhere, the internet makes traveling as a vegan a lot easier. A little research, goes a long way! Here is a list of my favorite tips on how to travel as a vegan.
Tips on How to Travel as a Vegan
So much of traveling is about the food and these tips are designed to help you maximize your experience so you can enjoy yourself, enjoy the food, and have a new cultural experience (not just eating granola bars from your purse)….
1. Do your research before you go.
This is critical!!! Knowing where you can eat will make your trip more relaxed and fun. I start my search with “Yelp, Trip Advisor, and Happy Cow looking up “vegan restaurants” or restaurants with “vegan options”. Next, I search or “vegan Italy” or ….(your destination) and find blogs for that area. Blogs are a vegans best friend because they include photos and personal reviews of local restaurants. I also scan menus at cute (non-vegan) restaurants seeking salads, vegetable side dishes and hummus plates.
2. Contact hotels, restaurants, or tour groups in advance.
If an email address is provided, I politely inquire about vegan options. Many restaurants are happy to accommodate me and I develop a genuine rapport with someone at the other end. If I’m going with a tour or group (for example REI), I let them know my vegan preferences. I gravitate towards the hotels and restaurants that understand what vegan food is, and have experience with plant based dishes. It can also be helpful to provide an idea of what you would like such as, “I’m happy with a simple green salad”.
3. Find restaurants with naturally vegan cuisines.
Way back before the internet, we had an overnight layover in Narita, Japan. After our long flight, I was hungry but all we could find were local eateries with fish hanging in the window. Can you imagine my joy when I stumbled upon a tiny Indian food restaurant? Some cuisines are naturally more vegan and vegetarian than others so it’s helpful to know where they are. My favorites are: Indian food (when made without ghee), Middle Eastern (hummus, tabbouleh, and falafel) and Sushi (cucumber roll and edamame).
4. Locate fresh juice shops
It comes in handy to know where to find fresh juiceries. Be it Mexico, Turkey or Singapore, fresh juice can be a life-saver. Not only will you be treated to some of the most amazing beverages of your trip —(hello Peach juice -Istanbul)— but how happy was I to order a refreshing green juice at the Iceland airport???
4. Learn which local dishes are vegan or can be prepared vegan.
Can you order a Gado Gado salad in Indonesia without egg? Or, did you know that Gallo Pinto, the national dish of Costa Rica, is typically vegan? (So is Salsa Linzano – the addictive sauce served with it). Guacamole in Mexico, Insalata Misti in Italy, Muhammara in Turkey, etc. Check out 196Flavors.com for more traditionally Vegan dishes from around world. It helps to know what you can get locally that doesn’t contain animal products.
5. Learn the local words for “Vegan” or “Vegetarian”.
Some countries don’t recognize veganism the way we do here, so it helps to write down specifics in the local language such as: “no eggs dairy, meat, poultry, and seafood”. I find giving more details clears up any confusion. For example, many Asian countries think vegetarian food includes fish while poorer places may not understand avoiding fish or meat if it’s available.
You can also carry a card like my friend who traveled through Italy with a nut allergy. She she kept it in her wallet and showed it to every food server before eating anything.
6. Shop at local markets.
Going to the grocery store is often a life-saver. I buy fresh fruits, local vegetables, raw nuts and dried fruit. My favorites are baby carrots, tomatoes, pretzels, fruit, and bread.
7. Rent an apartment or Air bnb with a kitchen.
Renting an apartment with a fridge and small kitchen allows you store and prepare food at your place. I don’t often cook a whole meal but I cut up fruit, make avocado toast, or snack on crudites, hummus, fresh bread, tomatoes, and organic wine.
8. Consider being flexible.
On a drive through Tuscany, we stopped for lunch at a small restaurant in a hill town near Pienza. When the owner asked about food allergies and diets, I told him that I was vegan, but a little flexible with dairy. In his bold, direct manner he replied, “Good…you are a smart vegan”.…..I know this tip is controversial and it’s a personal preference but I ate one of the best meals of my life at his restaurant which included fresh Pecorino. It’s”OK” to allow for some flexibility when traveling. I used to be very rigid thinking, “how can I call myself a vegan if I’m not vegan 100% of the time”. But I’ve come to realize that a more relaxed approach when I’m away, reduces stress and results in a better outcome. (See the cute cupcake?). (The croissant and coffee are cute too but not mine… : )
I hope these tips help anyone who enjoys traveling and follows a plant based diet. Please add any additional tips in the comment section. I’d love to hear them.