Before I set out on a round the world journey in 2014, I didn’t know the first thing about traveling as a vegan.
I was vegetarian and still in the process of transitioning to veganism. I was trying to eliminate a few animal products from my diet, but knew I wanted to go vegan.
As my travel date approached I wondered what vegan travel challenges I would face on the road. Worst case scenario, I could survive on bread and crackers, right?
Luckily I never had to do that. In fact, I became vegan during my travels, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at just how easy it has been to keep an animal-friendly diet. Traveling as a vegan has even been possible in countries whose local populations don’t have a clear definition of what it means to be vegan.
That said, there was a bit of a learning curve along the way. I made some mistakes, and it took some time to get the hang of things. So, I want to pass on everything I’ve learned about traveling as a vegan to you!
Traveling as a Vegan – Tips on Vegan Food
Since 2014 I have been traveling as a vegan, and have been to over thirty countries. I’ve traveled longterm, short term, on a budget, and not so much on a budget. I’ve taken trains, planes, buses, cars, boats, and bikes, and I’ve hiked and hitchhiked to get around.
I’ve stayed at hostels, hotels, Air BnBs, apartments, and friends homes, and have done Workaway (work in exchange for room and board).
All that said, I have been in a variety of settings and environments. While I don’t always have access to five star vegan meals, I have always managed to find something to eat, and it has usually been something fantastic.
Eating Out as a Vegan
Eating out as a vegan can be challenging sometimes. Finding the best options, and communicating your diet to staff can be tricky. Here are a few tips on mastering eating out when traveling as a vegan.
Finding Vegan Food When Traveling
There are a few fantastic ways to find vegan dining options when traveling as a vegan.
First, Happy Cow has totally changed the game for vegans when it comes to finding dining options. The site and app gives you a list of any and all vegan, and vegan-friendly restaurants in any given location. It also includes user reviews of each location, and typically photos. It’s a fantastic resource.
Where Happy Cow lacks, vegan blogs pick up the slack. If you want to have personal recommendations or a shorter rundown of the best vegan food options in a give location, bloggers are the answer.
Like my vegan travel guides, you can really get a feel for a city, even before arriving, and plan which vegan restaurants you’re going to hit up while there.
Social Media and Youtube are also superb options when it comes to traveling as a vegan. There are so many content creators making fantastic videos and images to show what you can expect as a vegan in locations around the world. Check out my friend Eunice at Rated V for Vegan for some incredible vegan travel videos. If you’re interested in Prague, take a look at my Prague Vegan Travel video series.
Bonus Tip: for Instagram, I typically use hashtags to find the best vegan options in a city. I search things like #veganprague or #veganbarcelona to find hot tips by creators on must visit vegan restaurants.
Asking for Changes
Sometimes, in some locations, there isn’t a vegan restaurant in site. So, you are going to have to opt for eating at a non-vegan restaurant.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to eat non-vegan food. You’re going to have to become a crafty orderer.
First, explain to your waiter that you are vegan and what that means. Because often times, people can make all kinds of incorrect assumptions about the definition of veganism.
Second, discuss changes that can be made to dishes to make them vegan. Watch out for hidden ingredients like butter, cheese, or cream that may not be mentioned on a menu.
If nothing looks suitable, opt to create your own meal with side dishes. It’s not only a good way to try a bunch of different items, but it is a good excuse to order french fries.
Communication is Key – Prepare for Language Barriers
Before embarking on your journey, it is a good idea to learn some basics phrases in the local language related to being vegan. This way you can explain your dietary restrictions to waiters, food vendors, and other locals you meet on the road.
You can also download an awesome App called V-Cards. It displays a description of veganism in over 100 languages on your phone’s screen so you can show it to waitstaff.
This app saved me in Vietnam while on a long overnight bus trip. We stopped in the middle of nowhere and I managed to order an entirely vegan meal despite the fact that my waiter didn’t speak english, and hadn’t a clue about veganism.
Learn About Local Vegan Food
Another thing you may consider researching before you hit the road is local vegan fare for the countries you are planning to visit.
Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on delicious local treats like salata de vinete in Romania, gallo pinto in Nicaragua, bean tamales in Mexico, or arepas in Colombia.
Open Your Mouth – For Something Other Than Vegan Food
I’ve met a lot of backpacking vegetarians and vegans on the road. Some of my favorite restaurants are ones that I would have never found out about without their suggestions. So, be bold and strike up a conversation with people around you. You never know who else might be a vegan or vegetarian.
If you’re on the shy side you can try sites like Couchsurfing, Facebook goups, or Meetup to find vegans and vegetarians. If you’re single try Tinder. It’s a great tool for meeting people, including vegans.
Eating in As a Vegan
Let’s face it. Eating out is heaven. But, it can also be nice to have home cooked meals if you’re on the road for a while or have a specific diet…like a vegan diet.
Here are some tips on eating in when traveling as a vegan.
Get a Kitchen
Having access to kitchens on the road makes traveling as a vegan so easy. It’s the best way to ensure that you are not only able to stick to your diet, but that you can also cook your favorite recipes while traveling.
Eating out is fun, and a big treat, especially when you’re traveling. However, there is also something great about being able to cook cheap, comforting vegan meals while you travel. It’s also nice to stock up on snacks, breakfast items, and ice cream so you don’t have to eat out for every single meal.
Since hotels don’t usually have guest kitchens, opt instead for hostels, Air BnBs, or short term apartment rentals.
Bonus Tip: It might just be me and my culinary school background, but if I’m traveling longterm I always pack a good kitchen knife in my checked luggage. Hostels and Air BnBs almost always have terrible, dull knives. So, having your own goes a long way if you’re cooking for yourself.
Save Space for Vegan Cooking Essentials
This tip goes hand-in-hand with the previous one.
If you’re traveling longterm, to multiple locations, and opt to stay in accommodations with kitchens, make sure you save space in your luggage for vegan essentials like spices, oil, grains, nutritional yeast, and other dried food.
It can be really expensive to constantly buy these basics at each new location.
Shop at Farmers Markets and Vegan Grocery Stores
Produce at local grocery stores in many destinations around the world can often be disappointing. Farmers markets are a great place for vegans to get the freshest and most diverse local ingredients for meals.
They are usually much cheaper than a supermarket, and you’ll be supporting the local community by shopping at them. Additionally, you can often times find deliciously prepared items that are both local and vegan at farmers markets.
Additionally, make sure you take some time to visit local vegan grocery stores. More are popping up all over the world, and it’s always so much fun to visit and see what kind of local vegan products they carry.
Bonus Tip: Happy Cow isn’t just a resource for eating out as a vegan, but it’s also a resource for vegan grocery shopping. You can choose to filter options by Farmers Markets, Health Shops, and Veg Stores on the website or app.
Traveling as a Vegan – Packing
As a vegan it’s important to pack smart when you travel. You don’t want to get to your destination just to realize you’ve forgotten your B12 or your vegan sneakers. Here are a few tips on what to pack when traveling as a vegan.
Vitamins and supplements, especially B12, are usually part of a healthy lifestyle. Don’t forget to pack these items before setting out. Hunting for vegan supplements isn’t a great way to spend your precious travel time.
Personal care items are a huge comfort when on the road. If you are a vegan who is concerned about the environment opt for zero waste items like a water bottle, metal or bamboo lunchbox, reusable cutlery sets, and Last Object personal care products (LastSwab, LastRound, LastTissue, etc.).
Don’t forget to pack your favorite cruelty free beauty and personal care vegan products too. It can be quite tricky to know how to spot these in other countries, especially if there is a language barrier.
If you do end up looking for something along these lines while abroad, check out Leaping Bunny. There is a section of the site that lets you search for cruelty free, vegan products in countries all around the world.
Snacks, snacks, snacks. Don’t forget to pack some extra snacks in your bag when you are traveling. They’re lifesavers on long flights, buses, and train rides, or when hanger hits.
Traveling as a Vegan – Staying Fit & Centered
Just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean you have to skip your workout routine. I mean…you can if you want, but sometimes you just need to run, lift, or stretch. here are some tips.
Workout or Yoga Classes
Taking a workout or yoga class on the road is not only a great way to work out, but it’s a fantastic way to meet locals.
Also, it’s always so much fun to take classes from different teaches all over the world. Plus, it’s a fantastic way to stay centered.
You can look for classes in Facebook groups, or sometimes they are posted at vegan restaurants. If that fails, as your hotel, hostel, or AirBnB host for recommendations.
Take a Fitness Focused Vacation
If you want to center your entire travels around fitness, then I’d suggest taking a vegan fitness vacation.
Yes, they do exist. BookYogaRetreats is a fantastic website that lets you filter different types of yoga retreats around the world. You can even filter by diet type, including vegan to find the option best for you.
Traveling as a Vegan – Vegan Focused Travel Options
Like the afore mentioned vegan yoga retreats available around the world, there are all sorts of vegan focused vacation options out there. Here are a few.
Vegan Hotels & Hostels
I’ve stayed in a few vegan hotels and hostels around the world, and it is such a treat. What is better than rolling out of bed and falling straight into a plate of vegan pancakes, french toast, or croissant? Nothing.
If you are convinced, check out Veggie Hotels for vegan accommodation options around the world.
Vegan Culinary Trips
BookCulinaryVacations is a really cool website that you can use if you are interested in learning about vegan cooking when you travel. You can take classes about vegan cooking, raw food, and even things like olive oil production in countries around our planet.
If you want to book a totally vegan tour, then I’d suggest World Vegan Travel. They plan trips all over the world, including Asia, Africa, and Europe.
Traveling as a Vegan – Wrap-up
Traveling as a vegan is not difficult, but it can take a bit of planning and knowledge to do it right.
I learned the above tips during my many years of traveling. I hope they will help you make your future travels bump free!
And if you do have a slip up along the way, remember to be kind to yourself. Veganism is about doing our best, not being perfect.