What is travelling vegan like? Ever since we become plant-based, a lot of our readers sent us emails asking us this question. In all honesty, travelling vegan is the same as before, just more interesting, tastier and absolutely more colourful than before. In this article, we are going to tell you everything you need to know about being plant-based whilst on the road, including how to handle cultural pressures, how to find the right accommodation for your (dietary) needs and how to prep for potential challenges during your travels. And since we, ourselves, are quite new at this, we decided to include information given to us by other vegan travellers who have even more experience than we do. Oh, and before you ask, vegan food doesn't suck.
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Travelling vegan is exciting but, I'm not going to lie, also challenging at times. It used to be much easier to find a place to get food from before. Think about popular food in Japan for example. Literally, everywhere you look, there is a restaurant or a food stall offering you squid on a stick, or a slice of pizza, or a mini burger to just eat on the go. It's insanely easy to satisfy your hunger. Once you become vegan, you need to actually pay attention to each and every single label of the products you are about to purchase. You need to find options which not only satisfy your hunger but are also nutritious enough for you. Sounds complicated? It's not. It just takes a 2 week period of adjustment. Like any other lifestyle decision, there is a learning curve. So here is how to prepare for your trip, when travelling vegan.
If travelling vegan may not be easy, flying vegan is a whole new issue. There are lots of airline companies which allow you to change your dietary requirements prior to a flight. However, this is only the case for a long haul. During short hauls, most companies serve vegetarian but not vegan. The solution? Pack your own vegan sandwiches. It's actually super easy: just buy whole grain sliced bread, vegan cheese, lettuce and some vegan salami. Although I am a huge fan of whole foods, during travels I don't mind eating some vegan processed items. It's still better and healthier.
Alternatively, buy vegan bars or make a salad and put it in a reusable plastic container. It took us one flight to learn this and we've never been happier. Airplane food is usually gross anyway, so hey, we now eat our own food, crafted with love.
Of course, this is entirely up to your budget, but we tend to prefer renting apartments, now that we are vegan. The reason is simple: we love to cook our own food. If you decide to stay in a hotel, make sure you are relatively close to vegan restaurants. I know this may sound obvious, but during our time in Prague, we made sure we had at least two vegan options within walking distance. Just check google maps and search for vegan restaurants. As long as the results show some vegan options, you can write down the areas and try and find accommodation nearby. If you book a room with breakfast, make sure to call them in advance to ask if their options include some vegan items as well. Most hotels offer soy milk, cereals, fruit and veg.
Every now and then you might be invited to a cultural activity which involves meat or dairy. It's obviously difficult to refuse someone, so best to tailor your own answer and make it sound like your dietary requirements are for health reasons. We noticed that when we tell someone we can't eat animal products for health reasons, people are more likely to accommodate us without feeling offended. You don't have to lie. In fact, you shouldn't lie about your personal lifestyle choices. This is sort of an emergency thing for moments when you don't want to insult a hosting family or upset someone in a more delicate cultural environment. For example, traditional langos in Budapest is served with sour cream and grated cheese. When we went to a friend's house who made langos for us, got upset when we didn't use sour cream. These uncomfortable situations can be easily avoided.
And anyway, you can always be a lactose intolerant vegetarian. That pretty much solves your problem.
What others say
It's not just us travelling vegan. The fun fact is that we have so many travellers, outdoors enthusiasts, bloggers and photographers who absolutely love their veg. Here is what they have to say. We sure can learn a thing or two from them.
"I’ve followed a vegetarian diet since birth and I’ve been vegan for almost 10 years now. Thankfully, it’s getting much easier to follow a vegan diet around the world as time goes on.
I find that if you do your research ahead of time, it isn’t terribly difficult. In the larger cities, many are getting vegan or vegetarian restaurants, or they at least offer one meal that can be made vegan on the menu. I use the Happy Cow app, as well as research from other travel bloggers to help my planning.
In cities where it is more difficult to find vegan food in restaurants, I try to stay at apartments and cottages that have their own kitchenettes. When Justin and I were travelling around Iceland (where it isn’t vegan-friendly outside of Reykjavik), we bought groceries and cooked our own meals. We enjoyed pasta, wraps, and bowls, staying perfectly nourished on our journey. Even throughout Iceland, we were able to find vegan cheese and plant-based milk on the road at regular grocery stores. Also, we saved lots of money cooking our own food!
As veganism grows in popularity around the world, it’s only going to get easier. Many restaurants are developing vegan versions of meals traditionally prepared with meat for an authentic experience. There are even vegan food tours in some cities where you can try the best plant-based eats in town. I’m very excited for the future – the future is vegan!" - By Lauren Yakiwchuk – Justin Plus Lauren
"Although I'm not fully vegan (yet!), I mainly eat plant-based these days. I'd been a pescetarian for a while and always enjoyed plant-based options, but travel was a large part of why I didn't try harder. Avoiding meat was easy because seafood and cheese are everywhere. But how could I avoid cheese in France, seafood in Japan and eggs in er... every hotel breakfast around the world?
At first, I was worried that this would be a huge problem in some destinations. But over time, I've learned that it's almost always doable - you just have to plan ahead and really do your research. This might be a pain for people who love spontaneity. You can't just wander into the nearest café that takes your fancy and hope for the best. But planning where to eat before a trip was something I always did anyway - food is an important part of my holidays (and life)!
That's not to say research always pays off. Sometimes, the world just isn't set up to cater to veganism yet. You might end up stuck in some remote village where the options are to eat a questionable soup that probably contains fish sauce, or starve. One of my biggest challenges is tea. As a British woman, I have to have a constant stream of it running through me or I cease to function. But drinking it without milk is horrific, so hunting out plant-based milks is one of my new hobbies...
If you go further than a plant-based diet and want to cut out any animal products in everything, for example sticking to vegan alcoholic drinks, you will have to put even more effort in. But wherever possible, it's all about making the best choices we can and slowly but surely effecting a change." - By Caroline from Pack The Suitcases
"Being vegan on the road is easier in some places than others! In the US and in the UK, it was pretty easy to find supermarkets with some specifically vegan food easy to buy and bring with me on buses, trains or plains. So even if I was stuck somewhere with few or no options for me, I could always be prepared! But there were also plenty of restaurants with at least a vegan option - even though I grew pretty tired of veggie burger when I was in the States...! Northern Ireland and England are probably the places where I found the most vegan/vegan-friendly restaurants that had a lot of delicious dishes I could eat on the menu and innovative vegan cuisine. That was honestly a bit surprising to me, but pretty amazing! Unfortunately, one of my favourite destinations is also one of the most complicated and frustrating in terms of vegan food: Japan is not known for its vegan culture! When I was in Tokyo, I ate a ton of veggie or seaweed onigiri (a triangular ball of rice), and always aimed to order what seemed vegan - but I probably had some dishes that had been cooked in a non-vegan broth, for example. It was to date (I have been vegan for more than four years) the most challenging place where I've travelled as a vegan and next time I go I hope to be a little more prepared!" - By Alice from Take Your Bag
"While a lot of people think that eating vegan while travelling might inhibit one’s experience, for us (and most other vegan travellers we know), it has only enhanced our travels! Instead of popping into the first restaurant we see, we do our research and have connected with local vegan entrepreneurs, restaurant owners, vegan travellers, and even local vegans just wanting to hang out. We’ve eaten some incredible meals - it’s exciting to see how creative people can be only using plant-based foods. Even in places that aren’t very “veg-friendly”, most traditional cuisines have some naturally vegan dishes or ones that can be made vegan with removing an ingredient or two. Learning some basic phrases in the local language is a good idea, but don’t expect people to know what “vegan” means, even if you use the locally translated equivalent. Instead, say that you do not eat meat, fish, dairy, or eggs and give some examples of what you do eat.
For vegan travellers, the number one thing we recommend is to do some research. There are so many resources online now! Happy Cow is a lifesaver – this app and website show vegan, vegetarian, and veg-friendly restaurants around the world. Social media is also very helpful. There are many regional vegan Facebook groups, or you can also check Instagram hashtags for the place you’re going to see the options and even connect with locals that way. There are also many vegan travel bloggers that write guides for travel around the world. For example, we have an extensive Madrid Vegan Guide with all the vegan, vegetarian, and veg-friendly spots to eat at in our adopted home city. Most people are surprised at how vegan-friendly both Madrid and Spain in general are. Just shows that you only need to know where to look!" - By Sam and Veren from Alternative Travelers
"I’ve been vegetarian for 24 years now, but only vegan for the last three. Ironically, I decided to move to one of the most difficult places to be a vegan – France - shortly after making the transition. So, for me, travelling usually brings about more opportunities to eat amazing vegan food than at home!
I don’t normally like to plan too much ahead of time when I’m travelling, so when meal times come around I have to find somewhere to eat on the fly. In large cities, it’s never too much of a problem and I can usually find great restaurants or cafes serving vegan fare. But countryside locales can be a bit more troublesome. If I can’t find somewhere that’s got a decent vegan menu, then I look for Asian or Middle-Eastern eateries as they usually have something vegan-friendly on the menu. Sushi, Thai or Indian curry, or a Meze plate are all great options (just be sure to ask about fish sauce in Thai food and ghee in Indian). And if all else fails, pizza sans fromage is my back up plan!
It can be frustrating at times, travelling as a vegan. But the more time that passes, the more vegan restaurants and menu items are cropping up! Even some larger French towns are catching up and I can usually find a few vegan eats with the help of my Happy Cow app or Google. Labelling has also come a long way even in the past year, as it’s now not that uncommon to see the coveted Vegan symbol on supermarket shelves. As I keep saying, as the demand increases, so too do the choices!"- By Nadine from Le Long Weekend
So what do you say? What to do you think about travelling vegan? Is this something you could ever do? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.