5 Vegan Travel Tips You Need To Know About!

Table of Contents

Introduction

If you’re a vegan traveller (or someone with dietary requirements), we bet you, like us, get the fear when it comes to eating out in local places and eating local food. We absolutely feel your pain! This article aims to help you out with some simple and easy vegan travel tips.

As sustainable travellers, we love finding local places to eat, but honestly, it can be really intimidating if you’re travelling as a vegan. There are all kind of things that can make travelling as a vegan pretty hard work: language barriers, lack of awareness in some places, no options even if there is awareness… the list goes on.

This is especially a problem if you, like us, love to try new food and stay in local guesthouses and off-the-beaten track places. For us, local food is one of the best things about travelling, and missing out on it isn’t really an option! A great bonus is that local food usually comes from local restaurants, and they’re often owned by local people, so it’s a great way to give back to local economies (as well as eat lots of tasty food!).

Here are our top vegan travel tips for enjoying delicious new foods abroad.

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By the way, if you’re a vegan, check out our series of Vegan Travel Guides here!

A poke bowl filled with avocado, mushrooms, tomatoes, mangoes and cabbage
Vegan Food in Brazil – did you know Japanese food is really popular in Brazil?!

Top 5 Vegan Travel Tips

1. Research naturally vegan foods

This can save you so much hassle when travelling as a vegan. Researching naturally vegan foods in the country you’re visiting is always a MASSIVE win. For one thing, the locals will understand what you’re asking for, you won’t need to explain a long list of ingredients that you can’t eat, and you’ll get to try some local cuisine which, let’s face it, is usually going to be delicious.

Finding countries with lot of naturally or accidental vegan options is a huge win. It basically means you can visit as a vegan without any fear of accidental misunderstanding or mix-up and it is such a relief. We always start by checking travel blogs from other vegans abroad, which can be absolute godsends, especially if they’ve lived abroad and know a place well! They almost always suggest some great options we can try when we’re travelling.

If you can find local foods which don’t need to be adapted at all, you have a much less complicated conversation ahead of you in a restaurant abroad. We find that rice and beans are a great staple for this in a lot of countries.

Two empanadas on a plate. Murray is sitting opposite taking a picture of his very meaty lunch!
Trying empanadas in Paraguay

2. Look for adaptable vegan foods

If you can’t find anything that’s fully vegan, work out how to make it vegan. For example in Mexican cuisine, there are loads of dishes that would be vegan without the cheese, so think about what you could remove to make this work.

This might require learning a couple of words in a local language, but if you’re able to do this, this is a great thing! Here are some examples of foods which can usually be adapted:

  • Pizza or dishes served with grated cheese as an add-on can usually be served without
  • Any meals with individual components (i.e. everything cooked separately)
  • Street food, where you can watch which ingredients go into the meal
  • Freshly prepared food where one or two ingredients could be omitted

Examples of where this is much harder, unless you have a great grip on the local language (and honestly, sometimes even then it can be tricky…):

  • Ingredients in sauces (such as fish sauce)
  • Baked goods containing eggs or milk

It’s our experience that, in cultures not as familiar with veganism, people can’t really get their head around the idea of something containing non-vegan ingredients, unless it’s sort of standalone and they can just remove it from the dish. Additionally, often these sauces will be pre-prepared, so even if they did understand what you needed to have removed, it wouldn’t be possible.

A hot skillet full of paella - half has been eaten!
An amazing vegan paella in Spain

3. Get really good at finding places with vegan options

If you’re really struggling with local food that is vegan naturally, or can be adapted, it’s better to look for places that offer local foods but made vegan. We find this really useful in Europe, where they are generally familiar with veganism, but there just aren’t many local foods that are naturally vegan.

For example, in the Azores, there were quite a few restaurants set up with either vegan options or with a fully vegan/vegetarian menu. Here are two ways we use to find places with vegan options:

  • Download the HappyCow app – this is an absolute godsend. The only ‘issue’ with the app is that it relies on humans to tell it the options, and this depends on people visiting a place and leaving feedback. This is normally fine, but if you’re travelling a little more off the beaten track it can be a struggle. We’ve found it to be a mixed bag. Sometimes the options are surprisingly well-documented, in really remote places it can be a struggle to find any information at all. The app itself is still amazing though, and if you’re going anywhere that’s frequently visited, it’s a lifesaver!
  • Check Google Menus. This is especially helpful for places that are a bit more off the beaten track, as often travellers will have uploaded past or current menus for you to check. I love this in places where the restaurant is more local and perhaps wouldn’t have a website. You can also search ‘vegan restaurant’ or ‘vegetarian restaurant’ on Google Maps, and it will bring up everywhere that has the word ‘vegan’ or ‘vegetarian’ mentioned in a review. It’s really helpful!

On that note, if you are travelling as a vegan, please make sure you also add places you find and review them to help other travellers! This helps other vegans out so much, and you can really change their trip if you find somewhere.

4. Learn a bit of the local language

This will honestly go further than you think. If you can at least get your point across, half the battle is won! We always try and learn this phrase if we can:

‘I am a vegan. I do not eat meat, chicken, fish, milk, eggs, or cheese.’

It’s very simple, and it generally translates well on Google. Some languages do not have an exact word for vegan, so you can try ‘vegetarian’ if that doesn’t work. It also might seem silly to add ‘chicken’ in there after meat, but the amount of times we have explained we don’t eat meat only to be presented with chicken really makes us think this is not true!

We also do then try and learn as much of the rest of the language we can for explanation purposes. However, the fact is that sometimes learning a language is just not feasible. If you’re someone who struggles with languages, or who is only travelling somewhere for a short time, here are our two things we highly recommend:

  • Download Google translate in whatever language you will need. If you download the specific language, you can access it offline and send queries if needed. Note that if you don’t download the language, you will only be able to access it when you’re online.
  • Get these vegan language playing cards from Fussy Traveller Club. They explain that you are a vegan and what that means in 52 languages. They’re also great for places (such as markets) where you don’t want to get your phone out, and of course, they double up as playing cards, which means you’ll have entertainment as well, double bonus!
  • Additionally to that, if you have an iPhone, the V card app explains veganism in over 100 languages. We don’t have an iPhone so we haven’t tested the app ourselves, but we like to have the cards as well anyway, just in case we’re somewhere we’d rather not have our phones out.

Luckily, there are lots of ways to overcome a language barrier these days, but we do think it’s polite to learn a few phrases still if you can.

Some funny looking citrus fruit (like a knobbly lemon) in a supermarket. Some of the lemons are covered in nets.
Local fruits always keep us going for breakfast!

5. Supplement your diet with supermarket foods if needs be

Something which I absolutely cannot go without in the morning is a coffee, but I really do not like black coffee. I’ve tried it many a time and it’s just not something my taste buds have adapted to. Sadly, countries which are unused to veganism almost never have plant-based milk options, so I often just have to go without or struggle through a black coffee (hating every second).

That was until I started taking out a small amount of soy/oat milk with me when I go out. I’ll buy it in the supermarket (where it’s normally available, except in really really remote places), and then take out a small amount in a thermos cup or bottle (something leak-proof).

We also made use of this idea in Madagascar when the only meal available for me to eat seemed to be rice and unseasoned vegetables, so we started taking out a small bottle of soy sauce – ABSOLUTE game changer! If there’s something which would really improve your experience as a vegan, don’t be afraid to make use of it.

We’d suggest making a supermarket stop number 1 when you arrive in a new country and stocking up on a few snacks and whatever essentials you need to make your travels more enjoyable.

Tips for travelling with non-vegans

This can be really tricky depending on how fervently ‘non-vegan’ they are. My, husband, Murray for example, is actually a real carnivore at heart, though he’s obviously very happy to eat vegan most of the time.

[Just a note, he eats vegan 90% of the time and only eats meat when vegetarian options are in short supply, so it’s almost always locally sourced and as sustainable as it can be. I often say that he’s actually more sustainable than me eating vegan, since his food is almost always local!].

Murray loves to try some local meat when we’re travelling and it can be really difficult to find places that both allow him to try local food that isn’t vegan, while also allowing me to try local food that is!

Two glasses of mate on a silver tray with an orchid flower next to them.
Brazilian mate – a herbal drink!

Top vegan travel tips for travelling with a non-vegan:

  • If we’re somewhere where I’m not struggling to eat out, we’ll take it in turns to pick the place. Murray is a little fussy with food so it’s important that he gets to eat what he likes too
  • If we’re somewhere where vegan options are really slim, I’ll pick the place every day to make sure there’s at least an option for me or something that can be adapted
  • It probably goes without saying but we do a lot of planning and do generally plan our day around meals when we’re somewhere difficult for me. Of course if we’re finding it easier and can be more flexible, we are
  • I rely really heavily in these situations on food which can be adapted to work for me (e.g. pizza without cheese salads with certain ingredients removed) as I can normally get these anywhere and it’s a good way of not having to stick too rigidly to a plan in case we end up somewhere really hungry and just need to go into a restaurant.
  • We generally will have one meal out a day when we’re travelling to support the local economy. If breakfast is easier for me than lunch, we might do breakfast out and then self-cater the rest of the time, or vice versa. Basically, we’re as flexible as we can be at all times.

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    Written by Emma

    Emma

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