Travelling is stressful enough, without the added worries of trying to find nourishing vegan food options. It can seem very intimidating. Worrying that you may have to compromise your ethics or starve, prevents many vegans from travelling. Though things have been steadily improving, the fact remains that many places are still not vegan-friendly. There are some hacks I can share that can help you not simply survive, but thrive and relax and enjoy your travels to the fullest.
1. Pack your own snacks - even if you are guaranteed vegan food by your transportation or tour company it's wise to have something 'just in case'. Make sure you throw some snacks in your day pack so as a last resort you always have something to sustain you. Health food stores can be hard to find in other countries and even then there will be no guarantee that you can find vegan options. So make sure to pack any supplements you rely on.
2. Stock up on cruelty-free essentials - ethical choices go beyond what we eat. So plan ahead so you will have your favourite toiletries and cosmetics on hand. You can buy travel-sized products. But I always prefer to fill up empty containers with what I already have.
3. Learn useful phrases - it is a good idea to learn some basic phrases in the local language related to being vegan. This way you have a better chance of communicating your dietary preferences to servers, food vendors and others you meet on the road. A great resource to have on hand is The Vegan Passport. Available in book or app form, it's a multilingual phrasebook and guide to eating vegan anywhere in the world. It includes languages of over 96 percent of the world's population!
4. Do your research - learn about local foods. Find out the ingredients of popular dishes so you can possibly ask for certain items to be omitted or for substitutions (ie. soy sauce for fish sauce). Look for any local fare that is vegan. And of course there is Happy Cow - a stellar resource for finding vegan restaurants.
5. Use Pinterest and Instagram - doing your research should include using these two resources. Visually mouth-watering - don't get lost - be specific in your searches. #vegantravel is good for Instagram. Be location-specific in your Pinterest searches. Vegan travel blogs are also great resources.
6. Notify your accommodation - before booking into a hotel and hostel, get in touch with management or customer service and find out how vegan-friendly they are. Don't wait until the last minute to do this as you may have to wait 24 hours or longer for a response. Better yet...book vegan accommodation. Yes, this is a thing! Wellness resorts and retreat-style places often fit the bill. Happy Cow or veggie-hotels.com are two other resources to use beyond Google.
7. Look for accommodation that has a kitchen - or at very least a fridge and microwave. Having a kitchen to cook in on the road is a good way to ensure you can stick to your vegan diet. It's also budget friendly if that's important to you. At the very least I think it's nice to be able to have some yummy fresh fruit on hand.
8. Visit local markets - they are great places to get the freshest and most diverse local ingredients at the best prices. Also you can typically find delicious prepared items that are vegan friendly. The added bonus is that the money you spend directly supports the local community.
9. Don't be shy to ask - honestly I'm sure you are already used to having to ask for changes when dining out. Hold the cheese, substitute this for this, etc. etc. So whether it's fine dining or a street stall ask for changes. If you've done your research as suggested above and have some phrases on hand it will help you to be clear.
10. Talk to other travellers - in general you can get some awesome tips from other travellers and it's no different when it comes to vegan food. So chat it up. You will find new options and probably new friends!
So my vegan friends, you do not have to fear leaving the safe confines of home. I hope these tips help you feel comfortable to go forth and explore the world. And if you'd like some additional expertise in designing your vegan vacation...I specialize in International adventures designed specifically for vegans and the vegan-curious with a focus on authentic, regional cuisine, cruelty-free activities, ethical animal encounters, exploration of local culture, and the most memorable once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Start your trip now: