For backpackers, long-term travelers, or anyone who travels for work, sampling new local cuisines is one of the things to look forward to most. Who wouldn’t be enthusiastic about trying traditional tacos in Mexico, sampling steaming-hot street food in Southeast Asia, or digging into a bowl of fresh spaghetti in Italy?
But things can be trickier if you don’t eat meat or fish. Though the vegetarian movement is growing worldwide, meals still center on meat in many places, and even the concept of vegetarianism can be met with a blank look.
It isn’t easy for vegetarians to stay healthy while traveling, particularly if you’re on a backpacker’s budget. Veggie-friendly restaurants often hike their prices because they know vegetarian tourists will pay for a good meal.
At glance, here is a summary of the essential vegetarian travel tips:
- Choose Your Destinations Wisely
- Learn Local Terms
- Keep Non-Veggie Friendly Ingredients In Mind
- Cook Your Meals
- Ask For Vegetarian Food
- When All Else Fails, Cook
- Don’t Be Rude Or Arrogant
- Research Restaurants Before You Arrive
- Pack Over-The-Counter Medicines
- Try A Vegetarian Restaurant App
- Learn How To Say No
- Be Flexible
- Try A Translation App
- Book A Room With Kitchen Access
- Give Street Food A Chance
- Be Prepared With Travel Snacks
- Learn The Local Cuisine
- Contact Your Hotel Or Hostel
- Follow Vegetarian Travel Blogs
- Share The Love
- Join A Vegetarian Tour
- Take A Vegetarian Cooking Class
- Pack Vegetarian Toiletries And Cosmetics
23 Best Survival Tips For Vegetarian Travelers (Explained)
To help you plan a comfortable, less stressful trip and be fully prepared for the experience. Here are some important survival tips for vegetarian travel:
1. Choose Your Destinations Wisely
Admittedly, this isn’t always something you can control – if you travel for work, you often don’t get a say in where you’re sent.
But if you’re traveling independently, you have the luxury of choosing destinations where Vegetarians are spoilt for choice – and sometimes, these aren’t the countries you expect.
Take Belgium, for example. While it’s not exactly known for being a veggie-friendly country, it’s also home to the city with the largest number of vegetarians per capita: Ghent.
This trailblazing town is also home to ‘Donderdag Veggiedag’ – Meat Free Thursdays, an initiative to tackle growing obesity and greenhouse gas emissions. This soon spread throughout the city, and vegetarian street maps are handed out to visitors to Ghent.
Away from Europe, there are vegetarian hotspots across the globe.
India is quite a vegetarian’s dream: around a third of people here are vegetarian, and most restaurants have clearly marked meat-free meals. In Southeast Asia, the Buddhist culture that pervades Thailand means vegetarian meals are plentiful.
Because dairy is rarely used, vegans will also be in their element. In the Middle East, Israel offers a mouth-watering array of vegetarian treats, from pita bread and hummus to falafel to baba ganoush.
2. Learn Local Terms
Communicating your dietary requirements should be easy if English is spoken while traveling. However, in non-English speaking countries, it’s a good idea to memorize or write down some useful phrases like “I don’t eat meat” and “Is there egg/meat/dairy in this?”
Sometimes it is easier to say you’re allergic to eggs or butter when ordering vegetarian dishes. This way, the person preparing your food is extra cautious not to cook with these ingredients.
With technology at your fingertips, it has become a lot easier to communicate your dietary needs to chefs and shop owners worldwide – even if they don’t speak the same language as you! Check out these two resources to help you do this:
- Google Translate – If you have internet access, the Google Translate app is a great tool for some on-the-spot vegan translations. It can also translate text from a photo, a handy feature for deciphering foreign menus.
- The Vegan Passport – This is a must-have app for the traveling vegan. It is a multilingual vegan phrasebook that contains 80 languages. Talk about a handy resource to have when globetrotting!
3. Keep Non-Veggie Friendly Ingredients in Mind
Most vegetarians and vegans are accustomed to keeping their eyes peeled for certain animal-based additives when they’re on home soil.
That can get a bit trickier when one goes abroad, but knowing local butter and chicken or fish broth terms can go a long way.
You should also consider non-vegetarian ingredients that can sneak into “non-meat” dishes, such as fish sauces, anchovy paste, lard, gelatin, and animal rennet (an enzyme found in calves’ stomachs which is used in most artisanal cheeses, especially in Europe).
4. Cook Your Meals
Get some of those exotic veggies from the local market, get some bread and some cheese or mayo, and make a delicious meal.
You might want to carry some Indian spices to add to the flavor and enjoy a wholesome homemade meal, even while you are away from your homeland.
Cooking your own meals whenever you get the chance to is a great way to have full control over your trip while committing to the vegetarian traveling lifestyle.
5. Ask For Vegetarian Food
People often check the menu and leave the restaurants disappointed because of all the non-vegetarian food. Most restaurants don’t display vegetarian options because hardly anyone demands vegetarian food in international countries.
But even if they don’t have vegetarian options, some places are happy to help you with your vegetarian palette. It’s just a matter of asking people. They’re always accommodating to tourists.
So next time, don’t hesitate to ask the locals for help and also the waiter at the restaurant about the veggie food options available to avoid getting disappointed after meals are served.
6. When All Else Fails, Cook
Cooking for yourself rather than eating out in a foreign country can seem like an admission of failure for vegetarians, especially if you’re someone who excitedly looks forward to trying new food. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Head to a local market, pick up some of the oft-used ingredients and make a vegetarian version of one of the national dishes.
For example, you don’t have to buy fish to make a delicious ceviche; vegetarian ceviche is becoming a thing, and the blend of fresh vegetables with citrus makes an exceptionally healthy and delicious meal.
If you’re in Asia, replace the meat or fish in dishes with extra veg or tofu; a few tweaks to the traditional Tom Yum recipe will result in a wonderful vegetarian alternative packed with vitamins.
7. Don’t Be Rude Or Arrogant
If someone doesn’t understand your dietary restrictions, try to work with them rather than sounding pretentious.
People, especially locals abroad where special plant-based diets may be less common, typically try their best and want to help you.
If you give someone a hard time, they’ll get frustrated, and it won’t be a good situation.
8. Research Restaurants Before You Arrive
Traveling while vegetarian will be much easier if you take the time to research restaurants in your travel destination before you arrive.
Peruse guidebooks, talk to friends who previously traveled to the destination, and do online research as much as you can to make sure there are places where you can eat your favorite meals.
Please make a list of restaurants you will visit, along with their addresses and hours of operation.
9. Pack Over-The-Counter Medicines
Bring over-the-counter medicines from home with you, like Tums or Pepto Bismol.
That way, you’ll have them on hand if you accidentally consume a dish containing meat, which upsets your stomach.
Other foreign or new foods may also cause stomach problems, so bringing the medicine that gives you the most relief is a good idea.
10. Try A Vegetarian Restaurant App
You can find vegetarian options in your travel destination with the help of an app designed with vegetarians in mind. Finding vegan food and vegetarian restaurants can be challenging.
Enter Happy Cow, the app that makes all cows in the world happy, because it’ll help you avoid eating meat even when you’re away from home.
This is one of the quickest and most convenient plant-based restaurant search apps. It has no complicated bells and whistles; a simple search and plenty of listings are all you need.
You can also use an app like Foursquare, which flags restaurants as vegetarian-friendly, and Vanilla Bean, a slightly more advanced plant-based restaurant search app, if you’re looking for a few extra features.
The app includes photos of the restaurant and its food in many of the listings. The main page of Vanilla Bean is simply a search engine.
11. Learn How To Say “NO”
There is a good chance that someone will offer you non-vegetarian food on your travels. Learn how to tactfully decline the offer using the local language and consider local customs.
Learn to say, “Thank you, but I do not eat meat”, in the local language. If you speak the same language as the host or server, you can also explain why you do not eat meat.
Meanwhile, if you are afraid of offending the host or server, you can always accept the food and give it to your travel partner or someone in need.
12. Be Flexible
Traveling as a vegetarian can be challenging, but you must remain flexible. Not all places you choose to dine will have the best vegetarian options, and you must be flexible about what you eat.
For example, if you end up at a restaurant where the only option is salad and bread, you must be okay with the meal.
13. Try A Translation App
If you are traveling to a foreign country, you will undoubtedly come across menu items with which you are unfamiliar.
Try using a digital translator, like Google Translate, iTranslate, or Waygo, to help decode the dish and its ingredients. This might very well save you from an unintended mouthful of meat!
14. Book A Room With Kitchen Access
If you travel long-term, eating at highly-rated vegan restaurants for every meal won’t be cheap. So, plan and book accommodation with kitchen facilities.
It also comes in handy if vegan restaurants are few and far between. A kitchen where you can make your food will ensure you won’t go hungry!
Being able to store your groceries, and prepare your meals, will make vegan travel easier. No doubt, you have some favorite vegan recipes you can whip up. Why not get experimental and try cooking with some ingredients to add a local flare?
15. Give Street Food A Chance
In many places, street food is vegetarian. This means there might be multiple vegetarian dinner options available from street vendors.
Take, for example, Central America. In Guatemala, you can get cheap, delicious vegetarian options like Pupusa, Empanada, and Rellenitos de plátano in most cities.
16. Be Prepared With Travel Snacks
The reality is that sometimes it can take time to track down vegetarian travel food.
Even when you think you’re safe, you might realize there’s tuna in your salad or your chips have been cooked in beef fat.
For situations such as these, you always need to be armed with plenty of vegan travel snacks. Ensure you always have some nuts and dried fruit or other healthy travel snacks to tide you over whenever you struggle to find something to eat.
17. Learn the Local Cuisine
When you think you’re getting the hang of identifying vegan-friendly foods, some countries use animal products in dishes you may not expect.
This can make sticking to a plant-based diet a bit tricky.
For example, in Japan, most meals incorporate “dashi”, a soup stock made from fish. Unless you specifically ask, a seemingly vegetarian dish can contain dashi.
Some restaurant staff will only realize it’s suitable for vegans or vegetarians.
Other examples include:
- Belgium: Chips are almost exclusively cooked in animal fat.
- France: Butter is used in many pastries and other dishes.
- Japan: Oreos are not vegan like they are in most other countries.
- South America: A bowl of vegetable soup can contain a meat-based stock.
Plant-based milk and tofu are difficult to find and expensive when you track them down.
Do a little research about the country/region you are visiting to see if there are any cooking customs you should be aware of.
18. Contact Your Hotel Or Hostel
Before booking a hotel or hostel online, contact them to enquire about how vegan-friendly they are. Some places are beginning to offer vegan options at breakfast, such as almond milk for cereal, tea, and coffee – while others do not.
Many places can provide soy milk if you ask nicely, so don’t hesitate to request it.
One thing you might not have thought about is the hotel décor. Chances are you don’t want to share a room with taxidermy animals or have an animal head mounted on the wall above your bed.
Chat to your accommodation, or look through images of the available rooms online, so you’re not caught out.
19. Follow Vegan & Vegetarian Travel Blogs
Reading vegan travel blogs is one of the best ways to find personal advice about traveling as a vegan. Get insider tips and inspiration from like-minded travelers to help you along your journey.
Check out these vegan blogs to get started:
- Amelie at Mostly Amelie
- Giselle and Cody at Mindful Wanderlust
- Charlie (and her partner Luke!) from Charlie On Travel (vegetarian traveler)
- Justin and Lauren at Justin Plus Lauren
20. Share The Love
If you have a great meal, let the staff know, leave a review, and share on your social channels and Happy Cow. Your feedback is helpful for the next person looking to dine, especially if you leave a detailed review.
Use searchable terms like “vegan”, “vegetarian”, and “plant-based”, and specific dietary requirements like “gluten-free” where relevant.
Reviews are an easy way to support local businesses and the wider vegan community.
21. Join a Vegetarian Tour
Hopefully, after reading this, you feel more confident about being able to fulfill all your travel dreams while following a vegan lifestyle. But if you’re intimidated by the idea of doing all the research yourself or don’t have the time, there is another option.
A growing number of travel companies are now offering vegan tours in different locations worldwide, from Italy to India to Thailand to Egypt.
These include vegan-run companies that focus exclusively on vegan tourism and mainstream companies that have recently started adding vegan foodie itineraries to their repertoire.
In addition, many other companies are happy to provide vegan meals for individual participants on request. However, the food quality will be better than on a fully vegan tour.
From vegan adventure holidays in Belize to luxury vegan cruises through the glaciers and fjords of Chile, you can find a full list of vegan tour options here.
22. Take a Vegetarian Cooking Class
It’s easy to eat food without realizing where it has come from and how it can affect you, the animals, and the planet’s health. But when you start learning how to cook vegan food, you’ll develop a real understanding of how this valuable skill can be used to change the world, one tasty dish at a time.
Over the past decade, issues like the environmental impact of meat production and the ethics of eating animals have fueled a surge in veganism.
According to Plant Protein, around 6% of US consumers are vegan. This may seem like a small number, but when you consider the United States population and the country’s deep-rooted relationship with meat, it’s a pretty impressive figure!
You don’t need to be vegan to fully reap the benefits of a vegan meal occasionally, either. This may be surprising, but vegan food can be tasty!
And with a cooking class from a professional chef, you’ll make gourmet vegan recipes in no time. Even adding just one vegan meal a week can help the greater cause!
23. Pack Vegetarian Toiletries And Cosmetics
Finding vegan toiletries and cosmetics is one of the harder challenges of being a vegan on holiday.
While you may get lucky and find somewhere you can buy vegan shampoo, soap, or cosmetics, it’s not something you can rely on.
If you don’t want to be in a pinch and have to sacrifice your beliefs for some soap, play it safe and bring your supplies with you on holiday.
More Travel Tips:
|Tips For Easy Vegan Travel||Tips To Travel On a Low Budget|
|Tips For Traveling Alone||Tips For A Long Bus Ride|
|Tips To Survive on A Road Trip||Tips For First-Time Travelers|
|Travel Tips For Introverts||Self-Care Tips While Traveling|
Summing up, with these vegan travel tips up your sleeve, exploring the world and enjoying the local cuisines on offer should be a positive experience that doesn’t have you dreading mealtimes. With a little bit of flexibility and a dash of determination, vegetarian travel can be a walk in the park.
In addition to helping you find healthy, delicious, and varied vegetarian meals, traversing vibrant and bustling local markets is one of the best ways to understand a new culture.
Buying fresh fruit and vegetables will always be cheap and healthy, and whether you’re on a budget or not, it is a great way to ensure you’re getting your five a day.
Be brave and imaginative, and you may find yourself with a new understanding of a country’s culture and a lasting appreciation of its cuisine.
That’s it! Thanks for reading.