As a vegan traveler, I know first-hand the struggles to finding suitable vegan food options while exploring new destinations. However, with a little bit of preparation and research, it’s totally do-able to enjoy delicious plant-based meals no matter where you go. Here are my top vegan travel tips to help you make the most of your adventures while answering the inevitable: “what the hell will I eat”.
One of the biggest tips to keep in mind while traveling as a vegan is to plan ahead; you just have to. There’s no going around it. This means researching restaurants and markets in advance, packing snacks for long journeys, and even bringing your own food containers if necessary. It’s also a good idea to learn some basic phrases in the local language you will be travelling to so that you can communicate your dietary restrictions clearly.
Another super important tip is: you’ve got be open-minded and flexible. Nobody is asking you to change your vegan principles but try to be open-minded to new things. Travelling is an opportunity to try new vegan flavours and be creative with your food choices.
Just take a moment to breathe out and make the intention of being more open-minded. Once you do this a light switch will go off and you will truly experience magical things. This might mean seeking out local cuisines that are naturally vegan-friendly. Why not try using locally sourced ingredients to whip up your very own vegan meals and recipes? Just put in a bit of effort and curiosity, and I promise it will be game changer for your vegan travels.
Top Vegan Travel Tips
#1 Choose Vegan-Friendly Travel Destinations
When planning a vegan trip, make sure to research the city to see how vegan friendly it its. This will help you figure out how much you’ll need to prepare.
Cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Portland are spots that are more vegan-friendly. Countries like Thailand, and Indonesia are also great if you’re a vegan due to their traditional plant-based diets.
Do yourself a favor before booking your trip, and research the country’s vegan food options, grocery stores, as well as the vegan community in the area. HappyCow and Yelp are great resources to find vegan restaurants in the area.
#2 Request a Vegan Meal on your Flight
Compared to a few years where vegan meals were unheard of on planes, now more airlines are offering vegan options. When booking your flight, make sure to request a vegan meal. Do this in advance to ensure availability and also double check with them that it’s vegan and not vegetarian. Alas, the confusion still exists.
If you forget to request a vegan meal, try to ask the flight attendant if they have any vegan options available or if they can manage to salvage something. Of course, the best choice is to always come prepared with snacks. Another tip is to bring a cup of instant noodles and ask for hot water.
#3 Book Accommodations with a Kitchen
Booking a place with a kitchenette is one of the biggest vegan travel tips for me. It helps so much and will make your vegan travels much easier. Most aparthotels and airbnb’s have this. Cooking your own meals you can ensure it is vegan and to your liking, but also allows you to save money by buying groceries instead of eating out every night.
You can also research local markets or grocery stores to find vegan-friendly options. This is a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture and try new ingredients.
#4 Know the Local Foods that are Accidentally Vegan During your Travels
Did you know most countries have dishes that are accidentally vegan that you don’t need to be veganized. Luckily for you I have compiled a list of 130+ vegan dishes that are accidentally vegan for your travels (so you don’t have to):
#5 Pack Vegan Snacks and Vegan Food Essentials
When traveling as a vegan, snacks are your biggest ally. It’s important to pack enough snacks as you don’t know the circumstances of whether or not you will find vegan food. I always keep dates with me. Also nuts, dried fruit and energy bars are a life- saver. For longer trips, you can pack vegan protein powder and a shaker cup. In addition to snacks, pack instant noodles, nut butter (which can be expensive in some places), vegan jerky, and nutritional yeast. These foods can be used to add flavour and protein to other meals or snacks.
#6 Pack Eco-Friendly Reusable Containers
If you’re backpacking, eco-friendly reusable containers to avoid using disposable ones and reduce waste are a must. You can use these containers for storing snacks, leftovers, or even full meals. Also don’t forget to grab cutlery, a reusable water bottle and a travel mug for coffee or tea.
#7 Don’t Forget your Vegan-Friendly Sunscreen and Toiletries
When packing for a trip, it’s important to remember to bring your favorite vegan toiletries and sunscreen. No body wants to burn while on vacation. I like to bring solid soaps and shampoo bars- Lush make great ones! They use clean ingredients and is their solid soaps and shampoos are reusable, not to mention they lasts ages and you get tons of usage out of it (especially the shampoo bars). It also means you won’t have to bother with the hassle of liquids before boarding a flight.
Don’t forget your toiletries as it can be complicated to get vegan- friendly products and toiletries that don’t contain animal-derived ingredients or aren’t tested on animals once in your destination. Plus, who likes the hassle of having to scour for missing toiletries at the last minute in an unknown town.
#8 Bring your Vegan Vitamins and Supplements
Depending on how long you will be away. Vegan vitamins and supplements are a big one to pack. To make sure you get all the necessary nutrients while traveling, don’t forget to pack your vegan vitamins and supplements. This includes a vegan multivitamin, as well as any other supplements you may need like vegan omega-3s or vegan protein powder.
Reminder: most vegans require vitamin b12 supplements which is important for maintaining healthy nerve cells, producing DNA, and forming red blood cells.
#9 Check Local Food Customs
When traveling to a new destination, it’s essential to research local food customs. Some cultures may not be familiar with veganism, and it’s crucial to be aware of any language barriers that may arise when communicating your dietary needs.
For example, in some countries like France, many French believe vegetarians can eat fish. Also, the concept of veganism is quite unknown so be sure to clarify your dietary needs and ask for recommendations for vegan-friendly restaurants or dishes.
#10 Research Vegan Spots and Restaurants
One of the best parts of traveling is trying new foods and experiencing local cuisine. As a vegan, it can be challenging to find suitable options, but if you’ve done your homework and researched then eating out and trying new vegan food spots will make your trip incredible. I love trying new vegan foods whenever I’m visiting a vegan place- especially vegan pastries. They’re my sweet tooth guilty pleasure!
Before heading out to eat, I always do a quick search for vegan-friendly restaurants in the area. Three great resources for finding vegan options are HappyCow, Yelp and Google Maps.
HappyCow is a website and app that lists vegan and vegetarian restaurants, as well as stores that sell vegan products.
Google Maps has a filter option that allows you to search for vegan restaurants and look at photos and reviews. It’s a must for me on my travels as I use if for directions to restaurants, accommodation and all the attractions. If you can when landing in your country, buy a cheap sim card or get data- you will need wifi on you.
#11 Communicate You’re Vegan
When eating out, make sure to communicate your dietary needs to the waiters. I always let them know that I’m vegan and ask if they have any vegan options on the menu.
I remember visiting the UK and most restaurants literally have a separate vegan menu. I was shooketh. So it it’s a very vegan friendly place do ask if they have a vegan menu, you never know.
I will also ask them to make modifications and adjustments if there are no vegan dishes. This can happen if you find yourself in a non-vegan restaurant because you’re travelling with non-vegan people. They should be able to cater to everyone. Most restaurants are happy to accommodate dietary restrictions. But it’s always best to ask in advance.
#12 Navigate Non-Vegan Menus Without Pouting
Of course, it’s totally possible to find yourself one day in a restaurant with no vegan options on the menu. When this happens look for dishes that can easily be made vegan by omitting or adding something. Ya not very exciting and quite sad but I might ask for a salad without cheese or a pasta dish without cheese. Another option is to ask the waiter for suggestions on how to modify a dish to make it vegan.
One time when visiting Lyon in France there was nothing vegan at this restaurant, so I requested a pizza with no cheese and said to make it vegan. Lo and behold there was pesto on top and in my souvenirs, there is parmesan in pesto. The waiter apologized. I was out on a fun trip and wanted to keep the mood light so didn’t make a fuss out of it and just tried to move it to the side. Mistakes happen.
You can read about it in full here: Vegans: I Tested Food Traboule For You in Lyon
#13 Don’t Forget Your Vegan Travel Gear
Make sure to check the weather and pack appropriate clothes, bag, and shoes depending on where you’re headed.
#14 Eat in to Save Money
Of course, when traveling as a vegan, eating out can quickly add up and become expensive. That’s why to save money, I always make sure to have some meals in my accommodation by meal prepping. This not only saves money but also allows me to make sure I am eating vegan dishes to my liking on the go. I did this a lot in Iceland, where restaurants were expensive.
I would whip up something cheap and quick like pasta and pack it in re-usable container and while touring the Golden Circle, along with reusable cutlery.
One of my best ways to save money on food is to visit local farmer’s markets. You can buy fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, and other vegan snacks at a great price.
Also eating snacks like nuts, dried fruits, and granola bars can save you money as you won’t be eating out. These are great snacks for when I am on the go and need a quick fix.
#15 Skip the Aquariums and Zoos
If you’re a vegan, I probably don’t need to tell you about the importance of animal welfare. Of course, you already know this. Try to avoid activities such as elephant rides and visiting zoos and aquariums where animals are exploited entertainment. Instead, seek out eco-friendly tours and activities that promote conservation and sustainability.
#16 Respect Local Customs and Traditions
When traveling to a new place, there are no no’s in terms of the local customs and traditions. Take the time to learn about the culture and the people before you arrive. This can help you avoid accidentally offending anyone.
For example, in China and Korea, slurping your soup or noodles is a sign of appreciation and shows you are enjoying the food, this isn’t the case in many Western countries where you will be viewed as an uneducated rando.
#17 Do Not Have Expectations
The biggest lesson I learned when traveling as a vegan, is to keep an open mind and not have expectations. Not every place will have vegan options available, and that’s okay. Limiting your expectations can help you avoid disappointment and allow you to enjoy your trip more.
“The secret to happiness is low expectations.” – Barry Schwartz
I really believe that with expectation comes entitlement, and getting rid of expectation is everything. With expectations you are setting yourself up to failure and misery. Let it go live life and enjoy the ‘Now’. Ughh Ok but can you tell I read the “The Power of Now”. It’s a life changing book and I can’t recommend it enough.
#18 Ask for Recommendations
One of the best ways to find vegan options when you find yourself in a new town is to ask the locals and accommodation staff. They’ll probably be able to recommend you vegan-friendly restaurants or markets that you might not find on your own. Most folks are happy to help so don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations and vegan travel tips.
#19 Be Zen
It can be challenging but don’t lose your patience with people who don’t know what veganism is. Keep your head cool, and yes it can be frustrating. Not everyone is familiar with the concept of veganism, and that’s okay. It’s important to be open-minded and not judge people who don’t understand your dietary choices. Instead of taking it as inconvenience, see it as an opportunity to educate others about veganism and its benefits. This is how you win.
#20 Shop at Local Farmers Markets
One of the best ways to support local vegan businesses is to shop at local farmers markets. This allows you to get your hands on fresh, locally grown produce, which is many cases is cheaper than the local supermarket and supports the locals. Plus, farmers markets often have food stands where they cook local food, and you might find something there!
#21 Learn the Local Language
When traveling as a vegan, it’s important to be able to communicate your dietary needs in the local language. Just learn the basics like hello, goodbye, restaurant etc..
Hihi- this reminds me of a tourist shirt I saw once with a picture of food, gas station, toilet, train station. When in doubt just point at what you need on your shirt. If you want to avoid being THAT tourist make sure to learn a few words.
If you’re traveling to France, luckily for you I have made a vegan travels French cheat sheet guide.
Grab Your ESSENTIAL Free French TravelPhrasebook + Vegan Phrases + Cheeky Bonus Slang
Includes Phrases You NEED to Know + Vegan Essentials in France + BONUS Cheeky French Slang Only Locals Know
#22 Take a Language Course or Two
Consider taking a language course or two if you have more time before your trip. That way it’ll be easier for you to communicate with locals and you’ll gain a more in-depth understanding of the language. Plus, it will be the right way to actually learn the language.
Some popular language learning apps include Duolingo and Babbel.
Even if you don’t have time for a full course, consider learning a few key phrases. This will make it easier to order food and communicate with locals.
#23 Use Google Translate and Image Translate
Incoming technology- if you can’t be bothered or don’t have time one of the easiest ways to communicate the local language is to use Google Translate. You can type in a phrase or sentence and it will translate it for you.
You can also use the camera feature to translate signs and menus. This is a lifesaver for me especially when scanning items in grocery stores in a language I don’t understand. Who knew canned Greek giant white beans in tomato sauce would be so delish!
As a vegan traveller, I have learned that it’s important to plan ahead and do some research before embarking on a trip. It’s the only way. By doing so, I can find vegan-friendly restaurants and accommodations and avoid the stress of searching for food while on the go.
One of the most helpful vegan travel tips I’ve discovered is to pack those vegan snacks for the journey. This way, I always have something to nibble on when I’m on go. I also make sure to learn a few phrases in the local language and use Google translate to figure out food spots to visit and properly communicating my vegan needs.
Eating out as a vegan can be challenging, but with a bit of preparation and clear communication, it’s definitely possible to find delicious and satisfying options. However, even with clear communication mistakes and misunderstanding can happen and the key is to keep cool. Remember you are out here traveling and trying to have a good time.
To avoid these mishaps, if you can altogether skip non- vegan restaurants and just hit the vegan and vegetarian spots you should be good.
How have your experiences been like travelling as a vegan? Let me know in the comments!
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Latifah is a vegan foodie who loves travelling and cooking plant-based recipes. She loves sharing her favorite travel spots and adding a sprinkle of confetti to your day.