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Here’s How to Find Vegan Food When Traveling!
It’s no secret that I’m vegan and that I travel quite often, so I want to share something that marries the two–how to find vegan food when traveling. This advice applies to just about any country or city in the world, and I’m going to be sharing my own process with you. That is, how I go about planning for a trip, and how I’ve found some of the best vegan food ever. I often get messages from readers like, “How did you find this place? I live here and I didn’t even know about it! I’m using your travel guide for my own city”. Not to toot my own horn, but I do do (haha, I said do do) a pretty good job.
While ease of access to vegan food tends to be a big factor in my travel plans, I have been to many cities in which vegan food was a struggle. So trust me when I say, this is not going to be a guide to How to Find Vegan Food in an Already Very Vegan Friendly Place. It’s going to be a process that applies to looking for vegan food no matter where you’re going. Also, if the destination happens to be vegan friendly, then you’re in luck because my process will help you find the best vegan food, and hidden gems too.
Oh and one more thing–if you’re not vegan, you can apply these tips to almost any other lifestyle/diet. Just adjust the keywords we’re using accordingly.
I can sum up my process in a few simple steps: prepare, peruse, pack and (get) primal. Ok, I admit I wanted to go for something cool and alliterative, but essentially, you want to do your research before you go so you can plan ahead, pack back-up non-perishables if necessary, get back to basics and use the power of social media. I’m going to explain in more detail below, and I should preface this by saying that I do spend a decent amount of time when it comes to travel prep. If you want to find the best vegan food and cover your bases, I recommend following all of the steps below. Of course, skip steps as you see fit or if they don’t apply, but here we go!
google is your friend
This may seem like a very obvious step to include, but it’s not what you think. What matters is WHAT you enter into the search bar. Are you entering “vegan restaurants in [destination]” and calling it a day? If so, you’re definitely missing out.
After that search, try “vegan + [destination]”, “vegetarian + [destination]”, “healthy restaurants [destination]”, “vegan guide + [destination]”. (Pro tip: sometimes I even google “gluten free + [destination]” because many gluten free spots are able to accommodate vegans, or at least know what that means.) Here’s why you want to try a variety of these combos. If a city is truly not that vegan friendly, you may not be able to find a designated vegan restaurant. This happened to me when I was recently in Nusa Dua, Bali.
Oftentimes, vegetarian restaurants can very easily accommodate vegans with simple swaps and removing dairy or eggs from their menu offerings. The same applies to “healthy” restaurants, that may have one vegan option, or may be able to accommodate you. And finally, many local restaurants are not social media savvy, or internet savvy at that. I’ve been to many restaurants with no internet footprint, or way of finding them other than by sheer accident or word of mouth. Take advantage of locals, and those who have traveled to your destination before you and browse their travel guides first. You can even reach out to the author of said blogpost or article.
I find it helpful to search for health food stores in the areas as well. It can be a great place to stock up on some vegan friendly items, and some health stores even offer a very small menu of vegan dishes. It’s always fun to check out regardless, and an option you might consider if the above searches aren’t bringing you anything.
Chances are, upon googling, you’ll come across repeat sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor (or foreign equivalents) and HappyCow. These are amazing resources that you should take advantage of. HappyCow, an all vegan business listing site is always a great first resource. I’ve mentioned this often in my travel guides, but HappyCow is usually an exhaustive list of all vegan options in a city, because the lists are compiled by local vegan ambassadors in each respective city.
Yelp and TripAdvisor can be tricky and unreliable sometimes as it applies to searching vegan food because sometimes results will pop up simply because someone included the word “vegan” in their review. It could have been someone complaining there were no vegan options, for example. Nevertheless, they are great resources to use, and if you can ask a local what their version of Yelp is, that would be the best move. For example, in China, they use DianPing and BonApp–you won’t find anything on Yelp.
research local cuisines
This pre-trip step is an easy one for navigating local food and street food and that is: familiarize yourself with the local cuisine. Get to know what food is like in your destination city, and look into what dishes may already be vegan friendly and what ingredients to look out for. Using Thai food as an example. you might learn that there are many traditional Thai dishes that are vegan friendly or easily made vegan, while fish sauce and shrimp are ingredients to keep an eye out for in most food.
I think this is really important because it gives you foundational knowledge, and also allows you to dip your toe into the local cuisine (which you should) with a little more confidence. Also, it reduces the chance of accidentally eating something that LOOKS like it could be vegan, but ends up not being vegan. I would highly recommend doing a little research on street food and snacks too, to find out what might be available to you. You might be surprised what you find!
learn the language
As a follow-up to your local research, do make it a priority to learn a few words in that language. If languages really aren’t your thing, write or type out some key words that you can point to and use to communicate. Some words/phrases that I like to learn and keep in a handy dandy phone note are:
vegan / I am (a) vegan / I do not eat ___ / meat / fish / dairy / eggs / honey / cheese etc.
I am allergic to (this one is helpful as sometimes it’s easier to say you are allergic, and may be taken more seriously)
does this contain ____ / please do not add / please take out / is there something you can recommend?
hello / please / thank you (because these are just common courtesy, and kindness goes a LONG way especially when you’re asking someone to accommodate for you, trust me!)
This will make navigating restaurants 200% easier, and believe me when I say that things often get lost in translation. Better to use a local language than to assume someone understands you completely. No shame in pointing to a print out card or phone note if you have to. It’s always good to know.
social media hacks
Ah, now this is my favourite part and how I’ve found most of my hidden gems when traveling. It is the most essential part of my How to Find Vegan Food When Traveling guide and it’s social media!
I consider myself quite hip when it comes to social media because it’s kind of my job, but even before it was, I used social media to find vegan food that wasn’t listed anywhere else. This is how I’ve found some of my favourite gems you guys.
First, Instagram. Step 1. Search profiles and accounts by typing into the search bar “vegan + [destination]” on the Accounts tab. I’m using Thailand here as an example, and the more specific you can be to the city, the better. You’re looking for vegan accounts focusing on vegan finds in that city, vegans who live in that city and vegan restaurants. If you find a vegan account sharing vegan spots, you’re in luck and if you find a vegan that lives in the city, you can ask a local for their recommendations.
Once you find a vegan restaurant, click the little drop down arrow on the right of the screen. This reveals similar accounts, and you might find other suggested vegan restaurants in that city thanks to the Instagram algorithm. It usually recommends accounts that users also follow, or accounts followed by the same user.
Step 2. Search combinations of “vegan + [destination] in the Tags tab. Try the following combos:
#vegan[destination] / #veganeats[destination] / #[destination]vegan / #vegansof[destination] / #vegan(in the local language) / all of the above with vegetarian instead
You might also find some hashtags that are similar and specific to the city as you’re searching, but scroll through photos quickly and stop when you see a photo that looks like it may have been taken at a restaurant. Do be sure to try a variety of combos too, as each city uses different hashtags.
Next, YouTube. On YouTube, I recommend simply searching “vegan + [destination]” and you may find What I Eat In a Day style videos, or travel vlogs showcasing vegan restaurants. I’ve found many recommendations this way and you can also check out some of my previous travel vlogs highlighting TONS of vegan eats.
Ok now Facebook. I suggest searching groups and looking for the same queries. You might find communities of vegans local to that area, and once you do you can ask for restaurant recommendations and help.
And finally, Pinterest. Search for queries along the lines of what we searched for in Instagram hashtags. You might find smaller blogs who have pinned their blogposts, and this is important because not all blogposts will rank high on a google search. Smaller ones tend not to show up, especially if the blog is not set up the right way.
stick to the basics
Now let’s say you’ve followed all the steps in this How to Find Vegan Food When Traveling guide and have not found anything yet. Not to worry. The one thing about vegan food is that even if no restaurants exist, and the food isn’t glamorous, it does exist everywhere. What I mean is, you can find simple fruits and veggies almost anywhere in the world.
If you’re not having luck, get back to the basics and think about things like simple grains, rice, bread, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds and consider canned beans perhaps. It may suck, but it is doable and a trip to the grocery store could be the way to go when all else fails. I’ve had to make all my food out of grocery store basics in cities that didn’t have vegan options and it shouldn’t be hard to make a meal out of what you find there. You may also save money in the process.
Another option to consider is going to restaurants offering cuisines that are usually vegan-friendly. For example, can you find an Indian, Japanese or Middle Eastern restaurant? If so, you might find a vegan curry or samosas, avocado and cucumber sushi or falafel and hummus.
To jazz up your grocery purchases if you’ve ended up in a not-so-vegan destination, you might consider bringing your own food. Of course, you’ve got to bring things that won’t go bad and you should consider whether or not you’ll need to access a kitchen to make use of it.
I recommend non-perishables, ready to eat meals, meals requiring only hot water and snacks. Some things I’ve packed with me included rice cakes, almond butter (for toast I would purchase once there), Right Foods ready meals (just add hot water), protein bars, dried fruit, nuts, Right Rice (can be made if you have a hot water boiler) and granola.
This is also great to do for long flights, as oftentimes, airplane vegan food can be… questionable in taste or even worse, nonexistant!
Well that wraps up my guide to how to find vegan food when traveling. These are all my tips, and I hope you’ve learned at least one new technique to use before your next trip. If you try any of these tips out or find them helpful, let me know in the comments, tag me on Instagram @veggiekins or DM me to let me know!
Happy travels, herbivores!