Tips for travelling vegan
Disclaimer: This post is about veganism. I will use the word ‘vegan’. A lot.
I have been vegan for two and a half years now and being a food-lover and travel-lover, I like to think I have got the travelling vegan thing down to an art. It’s kind of like a fun exercise in discovery, finding all these hidden places that I never would have come across if I hadn’t been looking. Like anything though, it takes a bit of practice and I remember when I went to Berlin two months in to my vegan journey and just ended up ordering a lot of pommes, so here are a few tips to help you on your way:
1. Do your research. You would probably be surprised by how many vegan, veggie/vegan or very vegan-friendly places there are in most cities you visit, whether you’re looking for healthy food, “dirty vegan” or anything in between. Use sites like Happy Cow and Yelp or just good old-fashioned Google to find exactly what you want and see what’s on offer before you get there so you’re not stuck for the millionth time cobbling together side dishes or just eating chips (not that I don’t adore chips). You also end up supporting more vegan businesses rather than those who just added a vegan option as an afterthought.
2. Be wary of high-end luxury restaurants. Yes, this is a sweeping generalisation, but in my experience these restaurants that are luxury or want to be perceived that way, tend to be very limited in their vegan options (if they have any at all) and you will almost always feel like you are a huge inconvenience. I personally much prefer aiming for cool indie cafes, restaurants and shops which tend to be much more knowledgeable about and willing to cater to vegans, or street food markets which are my favourite anyway and almost always have something for you.
3. Ask for a vegan menu. Sounds like a stupid one, but when I first went vegan and didn’t want to draw attention to myself, I remember being in a pizza place with my family. My mom told me to ask for a vegan menu and I just looked at her like why because I’m now vegan does that suddenly mean everywhere has a vegan menu. I was too embarrassed so she asked a waitress if we could do anything with any of the pizzas and she said one second, I’ll go grab our vegan menu. Places like Zizzi have a full vegan menu but you will be handed the regular one when you walk in so you need to ask for it. You might be surprised how many places have a separate menu that you are just not aware of until you ask.
4. Veganise one of their dishes. You will become a pro at this. And I’m just gonna put this out there now, you will have to be that person and you will likely feel awkward, there is no way around it. The amount of times I’ve had to ask “If you take off the mayo and cheese, will it be vegan” or “Is there any dairy in xyz?” because there just isn’t anything on the menu to cater for vegans. When in doubt, you can always rely on pizza (and this is sometimes my first choice because I love pizza); just ask for the veggie pizza without cheese. Wraps/burritos are also a good one and very easy for people to make for you.
5. Go to the supermarket. Here you have control over what you are eating. We usually do this for at least one meal a day anyway when we’re away and it’s great for snacks. Making your own food doesn’t mean it has to be boring. When we were in Tahoe on our honeymoon, we wanted to do a 4th of July BBQ, so we went the supermarket and I got an amazing burger and pulled BBQ jackfruit. It does depend on which country you’re in, for example in the States, you will easily find vegan junk food-type meals like pizza, burgers etc. whereas in Europe you can make really nice brunches with beans, avo, tomatoes, mushrooms and sourdough toast. I think people think they have to look for boxes which say “vegan” all over them but forget that fruit is vegan, vegetables are vegan, bread (usually) is vegan and you can easily make tons of meals with normal ingredients you would find in any supermarket around the world.
We are very fortunate that veganism had become so “mainstream” and there are new vegan businesses popping up every day whilst rest understand they now need to cater for vegans if they want to keep their customer base. You will find you can now eat out as a vegan in places you never thought possible – my parents love going back to Garmisch which is a small Bavarian mountain town in Germany and is the King of meat and potatoes; even there, you can now find vegan options and vegan menus. I found an awesome vegan/veggie place in the tiny town of Pai in Northern Thailand. You would be surprised by the proliferation of veganism and how readily available vegan food is, especially if you know where to look for it.
Since going vegan I have visited the States, Thailand, India, Malaysia, Greece, Hungary, Belgium, Germany and not only have I never had a problem finding somewhere to eat, I have found some of the coolest places I would never have come across if I hadn’t been looking for vegan food. Don’t let the prospect of trying to find something to eat worry you on your travels or, even worse, dictate where you plan to go because as someone who’s been there, being a vegan abroad has only enhanced my experience and led me to discover little gems away from the tourist traps which to me, is what travelling is all about.
If you have any questions about travelling as a vegan or have any of your own tips to share, let me know down in the comments!