Travelling as a Vegan
By Nick Pendergrast
Travelling as a vegan can often seem like a daunting task, and can even delay people making the change to veganism. However, I have found travelling as a vegan a great experience, rather than a drag. To make sure your travels as a vegan are enjoyable, you just have to take the advice of Scar from The Lion King: ‘Be Prepared!’
This starts before you leave, with booking your vegan meal for the flight. There are often different words for vegan depending on the nationality of the airline you are travelling. For example, some Asian airlines use the word ‘pure vegetarian’ or ‘strict vegetarian’ to refer to a vegan meal. Whatever the case, make sure you have your vegan meal sorted for your flight.
It is important to be prepared if they forget your meal. This has only happened to me once in many flights, but it is a possibility. On this flight I just ate lots of packet noodles they had which happened to be vegan. It is best to have some snacks on you just in case this happens – nuts, muesli bars, energy/raw bars, dried fruit, chips etc – so drop by the supermarket before you leave for your flight. It is extremely unlikely that they will forget your meal and I’ve nearly always had nice food on my plane journeys, however, it is best to be prepared just in case.
Once you arrive in your destination, it is important to try and find vegan-friendly restaurants. This is particularly important in places where you do not speak the language but is advisable anywhere. The best place to go for this is Happy Cow, which lists vegan-friendly restaurants all around the world. This website (and app for your smart phones) can turn travelling as a vegan from a bother into an opportunity to try awesome vegan food all around the world.
Crepes from Gentle Gourmet in Paris – very French!
Depending on how tech-savvy you are, you can print out a list of restaurants before you go, using wi-fi or internet at your hotel you can locate the places you’d like to go and plot them on a tourist map, or you can download the Happy Cow app onto your smart phone (it only costs $2 for the complete list) and, using wi-fi, locate the places as you go. Your smart phone can track your location and with wi-fi, you can find out where the closest vegan-friendly restaurant is to you.
Happy Cow is really useful, you can see how many “cows” other people have given the place out of 5, read reviews, and see what sort of vegan options they offer. All you really need is Happy Cow, but there is obviously heaps of other information online if you are after something specific. Just Google whatever you’re after eg ‘best vegan pizza New York’ or whatever you are looking for. Don’t forget to leave a review on Happy Cow to help other vegan travellers out and, if you can, donate to Happy Cow to keep this great service going.
The best vegan pizza! From Vinnie’s Pizzeria in Brooklyn, New York
As with your plane journey, it is always best to have a few snacks “on hand” to keep you going in case you have any trouble finding a vegan-friendly restaurant or it is a bit of travelling. It is much more rewarding to travel a bit further and get great food with no hassles, rather than settling for a non-vegan friendly place nearby and getting food that isn’t as good. Travelling around to different vegan-friendly restaurants is a great way to see different parts of the city, and you’ll often find the vegan or vegan-friendly restaurants are in the coolest parts of the city that are worth seeing anyway!
Delicious burgers and chips from a really cool vegan bar – Cat Bar – in Barcelona.
Some cities are obviously more vegan-friendly than others and you might be staying in a place that does not have a vegan-friendly restaurant nearby, or maybe you just don’t feel like making the journey to a vegan-friendly restaurant one night, even if you do have one fairly close. If you choose to go to a “random” place nearby that is not on Happy Cow and you are in an English-speaking area, then obviously you just have to ask the usual questions you would if you were eating out where you are from. If you are in a non-English speaking place and you do not speak the local language, it is worth looking online and learning a few phrases in the local language eg ‘I am vegan, I do not eat meat, fish, dairy, eggs or honey’. You can even get a “vegan passport” which has such phrases in many different languages.
Waffles for dessert at another vegan bar – these are from Cafebar Salon in Basel, Switzerland.
What I’d recommend instead of doing this is just going to a supermarket and buying some food there. There is heaps and heaps of vegan food in any supermarket and you can browse what is on offer at your leisure, which is much less stressful than being “on the spot” at a restaurant that may not be used to catering for vegans. There are often lots of great new vegan products to discover that aren’t available in your home country. When you are in non-English speaking places, this can be a bit more difficult, but in Europe many items are marked ‘vegan’ and there are always options that are obviously vegan eg fruit, vegetables, nuts etc. Particularly in non-English speaking places, it is really useful to look up health food/vegan shops, which Happy Cow also lists, along with vegan-friendly restaurants. If you are in a place with very limited vegan food, you might want to consider staying in apartment accommodation so you are able to prepare your own food.
With just a little bit of online research and preparation, travelling as a vegan can be a great opportunity to try all kinds of different vegan food all around the world. See below for more information on travelling as a vegan and happy vegan travels!
Finding vegan or vegan-friendly restaurants
Finding vegan or vegan-friendly restaurants and shops where you’re staying will help make your holidays much more hassle-free. Check out these websites for vegan or vegan-friendly restaurants when travelling:
- Aduki’s Australian Veg Food Guide and iPhone app
- Also consider this and the iPhone app for same
Ordering in restaurants
If you are travelling to a country and you don’t know the language make sure you know some phrases so you can explain your dietary requirements. Sometimes you may need to tell a restaurant that you are allergic to dairy, egg, etc to ensure they take your request seriously. Many phrasebooks will include a section on special dietary requirements or you can check out the International Vegetarian Union’s website www.ivu.org/phrases. You can also order the book “Vegan Passport” by George Rodger of the Vegan Society, online at www.vegansociety.com/shop.
Many airlines will offer vegan meals on requests. Some Asian airlines might also label a meal “vegetarian” when it is completely vegan – call the airline before and ask what is in the meals. If you are staying an area that isn’t very vegan-friendly try self-catering accommodation so you can cook for yourself. Stocking up on snacks from the supermarket is a good idea because you can read the ingredients and you won’t go hungry. You’ll save money too! For further hints check out:
- The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Vegan Living by Beverly Lynn Bennett and Ray Sammartan
- www.thetravelingvegetarian.tv (written by a vegan)