Travelling as a vegan can feel like those first few weeks of veganism all over again: exciting, daunting, with a never ending mantra of ‘what on earth am I going to eat?’ But, just like then, it won’t be as difficult as you first thought. It’s much the same whether you’re exploring outside your front door or on the opposite side of the world. All it requires is a little forethought, which is where these tips for travelling vegans come in:
Do your research
It might seem obvious and you’re likely to do research whatever your lifestyle (unless you like to travel blind and spontaneous, in which case you and I would not make good travelling fellows). Unsurprisingly you’ll probably want to do a quick Google search about eating vegan in your chosen destination – whether it be Asia or Australia or Africa. That should ping back a list of any vegan eateries in the area, and I almost guarantee there will be something nearby.
As well as a list of restaurants this search is going to give you links to blogs and social media posts from fellow vegans – just like me. These are what you really want, they’ll have reviews of the vegan places as well as insider tips on veg-friendly food in unexpected places. The bonus (or drawback) here is that people love to post pictures of their food and you’ll be daydreaming about future meals weeks before you can get eat them.
It’s also worth doing a quick search for whole food or health shops that are nearby your accommodation too, this will be the place to pick up specialty foods for any self-catering meals you’re cooking yourself and any snacks you didn’t bring with you. I didn’t do this before travelling to Barcelona recently and it wasn’t until the day before we came home we found a shop full of familiar vegan goodies just two minutes away from our apartment. Learn from my mistakes.
If you are buying snacks on arrival remember that the Vegan Society trademark is used in Europe, USA, Canada, Australia and India and is registered on thousands of products worldwide and covers food and toiletries.
Let your accommodation know
This one is important if you’re planning to eat meals at your hotel throughout the day. Preferably you want to make the enquiry before booking; any decent hotel should be able to scrabble some vegan food together if you surprise them with your request on arrival, but you’ll do them (and you!) a favour by letting them know beforehand. Or you might just end up eating beans on dry toast and vinaigrette-soaked salad… a lot.
Plan meals out
While food (for me at least) is the most important part of any day, chaining yourself to a nearby vegan place and not experiencing anything else for fear of starvation may impact your overall experience of any getaway somewhat!
Getting hold of city-specific vegan travel guides can be helpful here as, while they’re not as comprehensive as access to a decent internet search, they are worth carrying with you in case you’re unable to get online. Decent ones will contain a map which will either have vegan restaurants marked, or has the capacity for you to add them on yourself. Mark any expeditions you’re planning to do on there as well and you’ll see what activities and restaurants can be done together for efficient adventuring.
No cheese, please
Not every place you eat at while travelling is going to be vegan and I’m making the assumption that you have omnivore friends and eat out in non-vegan restaurants in normal life. As such I’m also assuming you’re experienced in asking for food without certain additions and you’re not afraid to be, what some people might call, fussy. This is fine when you and the server speak the same language but can be difficult when they don’t understand the words ‘vegan’, or ‘no cheese, please’.
Where a language barrier applies, it’s helpful to learn how to say those simple phrases and even consider learning to explain you have a dairy and egg allergy as this is more easily communicated and understood, regardless of language or cultural differences. It also prevents awkward situations where cheese is just swapped for another dairy product without asking you, creating the awkward situation of returning (and wasting) otherwise perfectly good food.
Another travel guide to consider here is the Vegan Passport – a helpful book full of vegan phrases in 74 languages produced by the Vegan Society which you can use to ensure animal-product-free food.
What is it cooked in?
Watch out for a few hidden things that you might not remember to check but are usually obvious on a menu at home. For example, beans and pulses are often cooked in meat stocks and Indian food is always chock-full of vegetarian options, but be aware that it’s not uncommon for the food to be cooked in ghee (clarified butter) rather than oil. The most gutting betrayal in this theme I’ve ever discovered was the restaurant that cooked all its chips in dripping.
Bring your own snacks
Thankfully for all relationships in my life, I’m rarely without emergency food rations in my bag – I am not a nice person when my blood sugar levels drop. This is a habit I strongly suggest adopting while on holiday. Depending on where you’re travelling, either for your whole journey or just a day out, picking up food on the go might be difficult or even impossible. Just a couple of small but filling snacks might feel like they’re saving your life.
You might consider packing lunches for whole days out, but this becomes less desirable if your lugging everything around on your back, doubly so if you’re doing this in any temperatures past warm.
Depending on where and how you’re travelling, restrictions might not let you bring little baggies of nuts, seeds and dried fruit with you, but these are things you can usually pick up once you’ve reached your destination. Most of the time, if you bring the food in its original packaging, airport security will let you bring it with you on a plane. With this in mind, I suggest packing some of the widely available vegan-friendly flapjacks and bars that will survive in the bottom of your bag if you get caught out and hungry on a day trip.
Pack your toiletries
This probably goes against advice given to and from our omnivore friends. It can be a tricky one though, vegan toiletries are not always the easiest to find and can be substantially more expensive abroad, so purchasing a whole new set at your destination can be an unwanted cost and hassle.
The habit of purchasing new toiletries is usually to avoid the hassle of hand luggage liquid restrictions, but it’s actually possible to get hold of solid versions of pretty much everything you need, even toothpaste. I switched to solid vegan-friendly shampoo for a holiday a while ago and liked it so much I never changed back. If that’s not for you then buy yourself some travel bottles and decant enough of your favourites.
Keep all your vegan ‘paperwork’ together in one place, much like you would your passport and booking forms, so you can grab it at short notice. Be kind to yourself while you travel, take it easy and don’t be too hard on yourself if you make a mistake. Your intentions are still good.
For more advice on travelling vegan on your travels, speak to your Travel Expert or ask your Travel Butler – our dedicated concierge service included as part of our tailor-made Journeys holidays – for recommendations.