For the most part, it’s pretty easy to travel anywhere as a vegetarian or a vegan. It really depends on you: your expectations and your preparation. As with any kind of travel, doing zero preparation is going to make things way harder for you. There’s a few key things I think any vegetarian or vegan traveller should know before they go, as well as some resources to have and things to keep in mind.
Expectations can also be a powerful thing. If you’re totally dreading a destination, thinking “Oh my god, there’s no way I’ll be able to eat anything there! I’m gonna have such a shit time!” then that’s probably exactly what you’ll find.
If you have an open mind and at least some preparation, you’ll find it easy enough to travel anywhere as a vegetarian or vegan!
Things to Know Before You Go
Vegetarian/Vegan Plane Food Ranges From Amazing to …..I’d Really Rather Not
Before we dive in, tip #1 is always request the special meal before the flight. Some airlines have extras available on the day, some don’t. If you have a dietary request and don’t let the airline know, don’t expect a great deal of sympathy when there’s nothing for you to eat.
That said, the quality of food across airlines varies pretty dramatically (and it’s not necessarily to do with budget airline vs higher end). I’ve had amazing tofu curries and less than impressive stale cheese sandwiches. And you never really know what you’re gonna get!
Always bring snacks when you fly – especially if you’re a picky eater (like me!).
Common Foods at Your Destination
To get an idea of how easy it is to travel anywhere as a vegetarian or vegan, it’s handy to know what kinds of foods are commonly eaten where you’re going. Is it a meat-heavy culture? What are the most common dishes? Can they be made vegetarian/vegan relatively easily (if they’re not already)? All very handy things to find out before you head off exploring the world!
There’s Hidden Gems Everywhere…
I was seriously surprised at just how many vegan restaurants I found when I visited Prague! I’d always thought of Central and Eastern European countries as being very, very meat-heavy and not particularly vego-friendly. Yet on my very first night in the city I was chowing down on a vegan goulash, and loving every bite!
Lots of countries have a reputation for being difficult to eat vegetarian or vegan, yet if you dig a little deeper (whether online beforehand or on the ground), you’ll usually find that’s not the case. When I started planning my trip to Spain later this year I heard it wasn’t particularly vego-friendly, yet once I actually asked people who had travelled/lived there they told me it wasn’t true at all!
…But Some Places Will Still Be Somewhat Difficult
The most “difficult” place I’ve encountered as a vegetarian was Cuba, and even then it really wasn’t that bad! The only difficult thing was that there wasn’t much diversity in the food choices – beans, rice, omelettes and vegetables were often the only choices (especially outside of the bigger cities). After two weeks, it gets a little boring!
The main difficulty I find is not so much finding animal-free food, but more so communicating what being a vegetarian (or vegan) means in countries where it isn’t really a common thing. A problem I kept running into in Central America was the idea that white meat isn’t meat – hence, my ham, cheese & lettuce “vegetarian” sandwich apparently made vegetarian by the lettuce leaf! But hey, it’s all a learning experience right?
The Best Resources to Have Handy
And carrying on from that last point! One of the best tips that will help you travel anywhere as a vegetarian or vegan! When travelling to countries where English isn’t the main language, I find it’s super useful to know how to communicate what I mean in the country’s language.
I usually have it written down in the notes on my phone in case I forget, or, more likely, completely botch the pronunciations! Make sure you’re always polite when explaining your diet. The last thing you want is people thinking you are somehow implicitly judging their own diet!
The best phrases to have handy are:
- I am vegetarian / I am vegan
- I don’t eat meat / seafood / dairy products / eggs / animal products
- It may also be handy to specify that “meat” does in fact include ham and chicken!
While Google translate can sometimes/usually churn out grammatically incorrect translations, people will usually get the idea! You can also look into buying The Vegan Passport – it has useful vegan phrases, and has versions in around 80 languages.
The Happy Cow App
The Happy Cow App is a total godsend for being able to travel anywhere as a vegetarian or vegan! Just download the app, punch in your location and distance radius, and voila – vego food spots wherever you are! While I’m happy to eat anywhere that has food I want to eat, I love being able to support the local vegan/vegetarian scene while I’m travelling.
If you’re travelling with non-vegos who still have that misguided aversion to vego food (we’ve all been there I guess!), the app also includes places with vegetarian/vegan options. These places still serve meat & other animal products, but you’re guaranteed to find something on the menu you’ll eat! This category also comes in handy when you’re travelling in countries that don’t commonly have dedicated vegetarian or vegan restaurants.
Vegetarian & Vegan Travel Bloggers
Not trying to toot my own horn with this tip, but other travellers who are also vegetarian or vegan (and write about it!) are a great resource. Many of us write about our favourite vego food spots when we travel, or just document it through Instagram/Snapchat/etc! This way you can find out how easy it is to travel vegetarian/vegan around the world, and find amazing food spots to check out while you’re there.
Speaking of not tooting my own horn, here’s all the posts I’ve written so far on travelling as a vegetarian or vegan.
Facebook can be one of the best tools in navigating the world as a vegetarian or vegan! Whether you are in travel-related groups where you can ask other travellers, or join location-specific vegetarian/vegan groups, you can access a ton of “expert” information!
What to Bring With You
Nutrition Bars & Simple Snacks
Clif Bars are another godsend when it comes to being able to travel anywhere as a vegetarian or vegan. They’re one of the best nutrient-packed bars, they’re 100% vegan and they actually taste amazing! I always travel with a few in my bag, so I know I have a back-up plan. Trail mix is also a great idea – nuts are an awesome protein source!
While Clif Bars are really the only thing I bring from home, buying snacks once you’re on the ground is also great. Fruit, veggies, biscuits – they’re all great for travelling around with. Snacks are great for both always knowing you have something to eat, and also for saving money on eating out a restaurants 3 times a day. Winner!
If You’re Really Worried About It: Supplements
While I don’t use supplements at all, you do you! If you’re travelling in a more “difficult” destination and are worried about meeting your iron/B12/whatever requirement, they are an option.
A Good Attitude
Not everywhere will have an extensive menu with a thousand delicious options, and all your favourite things. It’s just a reality of leaving home! Bringing a good attitude is one of the best things you can do. If you’re being a pain in the arse, why would anyone want to help you out?
(side note: this applies to life in general, not just travelling with a special diet!)
The Two Key Things to Keep In Mind That’ll Help You Travel Anywhere as a Vegetarian or Vegan:
1. Be Respectful
Following on from that, understand that people around the world have different values. Even if you don’t agree with certain elements of a culture, while you’re there you’ve gotta be as respectful as you can. If someone offers you a non-vego food, politely decline and explain why. If you see an animal being butchered in the street, just avert your eyes. Always be mindful of the fact that you’re experiencing a different culture.
2. Be Grateful
You’ll find that when you travel anywhere as a vegetarian or vegan, there’ll be people who help you out. Be grateful for those people! Thank them! Whether it’s someone listening as you explain your diet, or a chef who makes you a special meal. Always appreciate them!
At the time of writing, I’ve travelled to 12 countries outside my home in Australia in the two-ish years I’ve been a vegetarian. While it has its little challenges, travelling on a mostly animal-free diet isn’t nearly as difficult as it can sound. Decent preparation, a good attitude and an open mind are your 3 best tools in navigating the world as a vegetarian or vegan!
Comment below: where has been your favourite place in the world to eat vegetarian/vegan? Mine has got to be Berlin – literally vego heaven!