Travel isn’t a drag if you’re vegan. In fact, half the fun of travel is discovering fantastic new vegan possibilities. Wherever you go, you’ll encounter sensational menu offerings unlike anything available at home. You’re likely to return from your journey with a broader appreciation of the diversity of vegan cooking.
No matter where you go, you can discover a wealth of vegan options. A little advance research can turn up all sorts of exciting restaurants to visit. Since travel is all about stepping outside your comfort zone, why not make an extra effort to try new foods during your journey?
Since your usual favorites may be unavailable, you’ll have an extra incentive to give new foods a try. So don’t order the exact same dishes you opt for at home. Instead, actively search for unfamiliar vegan offerings. Most of the world’s cuisines offers exciting vegan foods unlike anything you’ve ever eaten. Give these unfamiliar foods a shot and you’ll invariably come away impressed.
If you’re going to be gone for any length of time, remember to bring your supplements. Two supplements in particular that are favored by vegans—a cheap high-dose B-12, and vegan DHA/EPA capsules—are all but impossible to find in most countries. So make sure to bring enough doses of whatever supplements you take to cover the length of your stay.
Vegan Travel Via Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Regardless of how you get from point A to point B, you can usually eat well when you’re in transit. But it can require a little extra preparation.
If you’re bringing food to eat on the plane, bear in mind that airport security enjoys confiscating tubs of hummus and jars of nut butter.
You can usually select vegan meals when purchasing long-distance airline flights. Discount airlines typically sell snacks and meals during the flight. You’ll often have at least one vegan snack or meal option. If you can’t eat well on the plane, it’s usually possible to grab a satisfying meal at the airport. Many airports have good vegan food choices, and there’s even an app called GateGuru that displays your airport’s restaurants. Consider ordering your food to go, and bringing it on the plane.
For trips within your country, you’re probably already familiar with vegan-friendly fast food and chain restaurants. If you find yourself someplace unfamiliar you can often turn up vegan-friendly restaurants nearby through HappyCow.net, Yelp.com, or a Google search.
In the United States, there’s usually a Taco Bell or Subway every few exits. At Subway, order a Veggie Delight without cheese or mayo. Get it on white bread if you wish to avoid honey. Taco Bell has far more vegan options but the simplest is a bean burrito ordered “fresco style”.
Of all the modes of travel, vegan travel by rail may be the least appealing. Long-distance trains usually have good albeit unspectacular dining options. Amtrak offers a vegan burger and vegan entrée salad in its dining car. Their snack bar has decent offerings too, including a vegan burger and several other vegan choices.
For multi-day trips, bring plenty of energy bars, nuts, chocolate, and other goodies that you’ll look forward to eating. And consider also bringing pre-made salads kept cool with an ice pack.
Various organizations host special vegan cruises, typically featuring vegan health experts. If you do a web search for vegan cruises you’ll undoubtedly find a few upcoming possibilities. On these cruises, special provisions have been made to serve vegan food.
Unfortunately, on most other cruises, vegan offerings are slim and unreliable. But there’s one shining exception: in 2017, Oceania Cruises introduced a 250-item vegan menu to its dining rooms.
The Finer Points of Vegan Travel
When you’re planning your trip, a little advance research on vegan restaurants can pay off enormously. Try doing a Google search for vegan and the names of the cities you plan to visit. Also check out HappyCow.net, which can help you discover some of the world’s best vegan-friendly restaurants. There are also dozens of vegan bed and breakfasts worldwide. If you’ve got the budget for an upscale stay, these places are tough to beat.
Here’s the most helpful and surprising piece of advice I can offer regarding vegan travel: in many cities, nearly all of the vegan restaurants are in one particular neighborhood. In Mexico City, for instance, the Roma Norte and Condesa neighborhoods have about twenty vegan restaurants within walking distance. By contrast, the equally nice Polanco neighborhood doesn’t have a thing nearby.
So if you’re traveling somewhere unfamiliar, scout out the vegan restaurant locations using HappyCow and then find yourself a rental in the most vegan-friendly area.
Overcoming Language Challenges
Sometimes, language barriers make it hard to understand the menu, or to communicate with the waitstaff. If you’re visiting a country where you don’t speak the language, consider taking along some free V-cards on your trip (they’re currently available in 106 languages!) Just find the page featuring the desired language, print it out, cut up your cards, and keep them in your wallet. These cards can help you get a fantastic vegan meal in situations where you can’t otherwise make yourself understood.
For tips on eating vegan at non-vegetarian restaurants, some of which are relevant to international travel, check out our vegan dining guide.
What to Eat When There’s Nothing to Eat
Depending on where you’re going, vegan options can range from plentiful to nonexistent. But even the worst-case scenarios are rarely unworkable. Most travel destinations offer easy access to fruits, vegetables, nuts, and breads. The more vegan-unfriendly your destination, the more you’ll need to rely on preparing your own food rather than dining out. How can you determine which places are sufficiently accommodating to vegans? If your research reveals a lack of vegan-friendly restaurants, you may also find the local grocery offerings unimpressive.
Admittedly, some places—like Amarillo, Texas or rural France—are extraordinarily difficult for vegans. For these sorts of locations, lodging that’s equipped with a kitchenette will enable you to do your own cooking. No matter how challenging your destination, you can usually find a decent variety of vegetables to cook, along with beans, rice, and pasta.
Finding Vegan Grocery Items When Traveling
In most towns and cities around the world, you can find a corner grocery every few blocks. These groceries typically won’t offer many vegan items. If you can’t find a decent selection of vegan foods, look around for a large supermarket. No matter where you visit in the world, supermarkets offer a great selection of pasta, vegetables, and beans. Most also carry items like tofu, vegan milks, and perhaps even vegan meats and cheeses.
For shorter visits, you can avoid having to cook (and the added expense of renting a place with a kitchen), by eating things like fruit, nuts, sandwiches, and wraps. If your destination is especially inhospitable to vegans, consider bringing some food with you. Choose calorically-dense items such as energy bars, protein powder, and nuts. If you’re not carrying much luggage, try to pack the most calories into the smallest space.
Best Vegan Cities
Countless cities around the world have plentiful vegan options, but which cities are the very best? I travel constantly, and can say with some authority that some of the world’s best vegan cities are:
- Portland, Oregon
- San Francisco & Oakland, California
- New York, New York (especially Manhattan & Brooklyn)
- Tel Aviv, Israel
- Prague, Czech Republic
- Guadalajara, Mexico
- Canggu, Bali
- Chiang Mai, Thailand
Each of these cities offers an unbelievable assortment of vegan restaurants.
Vegan Travel Books
Not so long ago, you’d have a tough time finding any sort of book on vegan travel. Today there are a bunch of good ones. What’s more, they cover a nice diversity of topics.
If you’re going to buy just one vegan travel book, get The Vegan Travel Handbook, which is published by Lonely Planet Food. It’s a full-color 168-page guide to traveling to every part of the world, nicely organized and beautifully illustrated. A cheaper alternative is The Essential Vegan Travel Guide, which lacks the gorgeous layout but is full of practical advice, and costs just four bucks on Kindle.
There are also vegan travel books devoted to these regions and cities:
Not everyone has it in them to travel to the four corners of the earth. If you’d rather live vicariously through other people’s journeys, two vegan travel memoirs may interest you. Bestselling cookbook author Lindsay S. Nixon has written The Happy Herbivore Abroad, in which she recounts details of her travel while offering up her recipes for 135 foods she sampled while eating internationally.
On the opposite end of the travel spectrum, Kristin Lajeunesse wrote a vegan memoir covering her two years on the road. Her book relates the experiences she had while driving her van 39,000 miles through eighteen states. If you feel the calling to explore America’s great outdoors, check out this vegan guide to camping in U.S. national parks.
Eating vegan while traveling rarely poses serious difficulties. You’ll often have an unrivaled opportunity to sample a variety of delicious foods you could never find at home.