Travelling the world has never been so easy. Cheaper flights are easier to find, accommodation pricing has been opened up by with the arrival of affordable options and borders to countries where travel was restricted have begun to open up.
For some who want to see the world there's still one stumbling block that leaves them hesitant about seeing the world – their diet. And as a vegan myself I remember perfectly the same worries I once had that vegan travel would be difficult.
In reality, vegan travel is easy. All it takes is a simple process of preparation and following the practised tips of people who have been there (literally), done it, and are more than happy to open up and share what they've learned with vegans with an itch to discover the world, regardless if it's during two weeks in the tropics or a difficult hike along the Camino de Santiago.
Connecting with other vegan travellers and hearing their advice helped me to see that veganism isn't a restriction, it's easy.
15 Tips for Easy Vegan Travel
by Dale Davies
Today I'd like to show you 15 tips for easy vegan travel to use during your next trip so that you miss none of the foodie travel fun.
Having spent much of the 2014 travelling through South East Asia, designer and fellow vegan travel blogger Amélie Gagné of Mostly Amelie has learned a lot first hand about how to easily combine her vegan lifestyle with her desire to the local cuisine and all of the specialities.
1. Make Vegan Easy For Street Vendors
“I stash a small bottle of soy sauce in my handbag whenever I hit the street food stalls in South East Asia. That way, I can provide the vendors with a substitution for the ubiquitous fish sauce that they might not have on hand. Otherwise, I always carry a small chopping board and a knife in my backpack and hit the farmer's market daily.
I eat a lot more raw vegan food when I travel and it feels amazing! I’ll eat a mountain of fruit for breakfast and a big salad for lunch several days a week.”
2. Research Using Pinterest & Instagram
One of the most useful tools Franca and I have found during the past year of travelling in Europe has been social media – but specifically the visually mouthwatering websites of Pinterest & Instagram.
With Instagram it's possible to search via a #hashtag (A hashtag is a word preceded by the # symbol to enable easy searching) on any subject that interests you. It could be #wanderlust, #glutenfree, or #cats (if you're as obsessed as we are) – but in order to discover great vegan locations around the world or in our next intended destination I normally stick to searching for #vegantravel.
You see incredible dishes from across the world, and not just in Western Europe or North America.
The same goes for Pinterest.
For example, typing in a quick search of “vegan, restaurant, berlin” returns more than a hundred different pins that have my mouth watering – including this one for vegan pizza – plus it starts my feet itching to return to Berlin to stuff my face.
Utilising the two together has provided me with dozens of different vegan-friendly options that I haven't found on some of the more popular vegan restaurant directories.
Two wonderful people who gave us tonnes of advice prior to our going vegan on the road are Cody & Giselle of Mindful Wanderlust – a compassionate travel-focused couple who've been travelling and highlighting animal rights issues through activism since 2011.
The advice they gave us since meeting them in 2013 has been priceless.
3. Learn The Most Useful Phrases
“When preparing for a trip; short or long term, we always make sure that we know how to ask the important questions. Is there egg/fat/meat in that? We have phrases on our iPad that are always very useful. We also tell people that we are allergic to eggs or butter when we are ordering a straightforward veg dish, as we're sure some people have thrown in a dollop of butter in dishes in the past.”
4. Find Local Vegans Through Online Groups
“Recently Cody and I joining vegan meetup groups online. They are great if you're interested in meeting vegans from around the world and having great vegan dinners or meeting for drinks, and/or animal activism.”
5. Carry Vegan Treats With You
“We also pack a big ziplock bag of vegan treats everywhere we go. We are currently in Japan with a bag full of cliff bars, chocolate, and ginger chews, just for those times when we crave something sweet.”
6. Learn Local Ingredients
Learning local phrases has really helped us during our travels to communicate with locals about what we can and cannot eat, but there were times when we'd be standing in shops and scanning the labels, completely without a clue as to which words on the label meant milk, honey, or whey protein.
One on such occasion I attempted to ask someone in the little Dutch I had committed to memory what ‘eiwit‘ translated to as I was sure that ‘ei‘ was egg.
Five minutes later and although the lovely lady in the store tried her best to tell me in her broken English that it meant egg, I still wasn't sure -in fact, it means ‘protein‘. In the end, we skipped the product and missed out on something which could have been outstanding.
I wasn't going to let that happen again.
Before arriving in a new country I spend some time online translating the most common words that I'll need for vegan travel to look for in food ingredients. It doesn't take much time.
The best option is to speak with a vegan who lives in the destination you're travelling to, or with another vegan traveller who's also been through the region. Using online social groups like those mentioned by Cody & Giselle or social media sites like Twitter now make this incredibly quick and easy to do.
Typically the first words to look for will be buttermilk, honey, lactose, gelatin, and whey.
7. Notify Your Accommodation
Before booking into a hotel or hostel online I normally get in touch with the accommodation management or customer service team and make enquiries on how vegan travel friendly they are. This normally takes a day or so to go through due to the waiting time between my first contact and their reply so it's worth doing this piece of preparation at least a few days in advance.
Some hotels and hostels are now providing vegan-options at breakfast, whilst others will not do much more than have a carton of soya milk available – but in general if a accommodation we book doesn't normally cater for vegans they will go to the trouble of providing at least the milk, if not a larger spread.
Should your chosen bed for the night not provide a vegan-friendly meal or vegan-friendly bed covers, remember that you may be the first vegan they've come into contact with, so be mindful of the things you say and the decisions you make. Do your best to inform and help them prepare for the next vegans who decide to book with them instead of being too quick to complain that they're not doing enough to help.
For example, on one occasion we stayed in a room at one design hostel where there were cows horns on the wall. Sure, we could have been a little upset about it, but instead we mentioned it to the management as they clearly wouldn't have had any idea that for vegans that may be something that may upset and now it's something they can make adjustments with.
Also, should your accommodation not have any way of helping you with your vegan breakfast requirements, don't hesitate to ask if you can store items like your own milk alternative in their fridge during your stay.
8. Find Apartments With Kitchens Using Airbnb
Sharing economy websites such as airbnb have changed how we travel over the past year.
By arranging to rent an apartment or house with its own kitchen we've been able to cater for ourselves for long periods of time in destinations where there's not a single vegan or vegan-friendly restaurant for miles around – and the financial we've saving made by cooking our own meals several times a week has gone towards the cost of our next vegan meal at one of the many vegan restaurants we plan to see in the next destination.
Another great traveller who both Franca and I have come to enjoy reading the vegan exploits of is Charlie Marchant of Charlie On Travel, a vegetarian travel blogger who's always showcasing her vegan finds from her time travelling and house sitting in South America.
9. Stay & Eat with Local Vegans by Couchsurfing
“Couchsurfing can be another vegan-friendly accommodation option. Many hosts and surfers will list their dietary requirements, so when you search for hosts in a particular city you can enter “vegan” as a keyword and filter the results. In my experience, vegetarians are usually keen to meet like-minded people and share recipes. Offering to cook your host a vegan meal can be a lovely gesture.”
10. Pack Eco Cosmetics (Just In Case They're Hard To Find)
One of the best pieces of advice we had prior to our own nomadic travels was to buy items such as shampoos, soaps, and other cosmetics at our point of arrival as they're just as easy to find as they would be back home, plus it'll save some weight and space in your luggage – however, for vegan travellers that's not always true.
Finding vegan cosmetics is possibly one of the harder challenges to be found whilst on vacation or travelling long-term, but there are countries like Germany where finding items like vegan soap in regular supermarkets is becoming easier to do; plus international vegan-friendly cosmetics companies like Lush are springing up everywhere.
By far the smartest choice is to pack some essentials in your checked luggage before you depart from home.
11. Email The Local Tourism Association
Prior to our last visit to Bologna in Italy we found time to email the local tourism board regarding our desire to find vegan restaurants and shops, asking if they happened to keep a list of viable options that we could look over and plan to visit.
It wasn't an exhaustive list, but the handful of suggestions they had for places to try and find locally themed vegan meals was perfect and one recommendation soon became our favourite place to eat in the city of Bologna
12. Find 100% Vegan Accommodation
Another piece of advice from Charlie on how she finds 100% vegan-friendly places to stay.
“Vegan-friendly accommodation can make travelling as a vegan a whole lot simpler. While vegan friendly hostels and guesthouses aren't exactly common, a quick search on HappyCow.net will usually have them listed. In these hostels, it's common courtesy not to cook meat or fish which can make communal kitchens more comfortable to vegetarians and vegans.”
13. Lightweight Packable Goods To Use As “Doggy Bags”
This tip is one I wish Franca and I had been using a long time ago.
Packing some lightweight plastic food boxes or cups to store food in for later on in the day has really helped us during times when we've been without somewhere vegan-friendly to eat. We simply make something up during the morning (or the night before), pack that, throw it in our day bags, then enjoy for lunch.
With a little forethought and preparation before hand there's no reason you can't enjoy a simple pasta salad on a bench beneath the Eiffel Tower, or a chia seed porridge on the sand of a Thai beach.
14. Search For Health Shops At Your Destination
Using websites and applications like Google Maps and Foursquare to find useful information like health shop locations before you depart for your travels will save you from using up your precious relaxation time to hunt for them whilst you're there.
My preferred method of using this information is to save each website page I find to a list I keep inside of my Google Drive account, then load that up when I arrive and spend five minutes marking them down on one of the free city maps that tourism boards, hotels, and hostels like to give out; and if you're not a Google Drive user, simply email yourself your list and open it up via that instead.
Once you have your list marked down, hit the streets and the next time you're passing by one of the health shops from you list, pop in and pick up any essentials you still might need.
15. Follow Vegan Travel Blogs!
By far the best way to find out the best and most current information about vegan travel is to read the blogs of people who are doing it right now.
What vegan food is there to eat in Chiang Mai? Ask Mostly Amelie
Are there any vegan restaurants in Tokyo? Ask Mindful Wanderlust
Is it hard to eat vegan in Central & South America? Ask Charlie On Travel.
And which are the best places to eat vegan in Europe? Come and ask me!
By following these 15 tips for easy vegan travel there's no reason not to make 2015 the year that you discover a new country on your next vacation or from the very beginning of your own life of nomadic travel, and maybe some day we'll meet on the road and be able to share even more vegan travel tips – or even better – a local vegan meal!
Dale is one half of the vegan travel couple, Angloitalian