Vegan holidays advice

Travelling as a vegan is getting easier all the time. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of hurdles still, but with preparation, patience and ingenuity you can travel pretty much anywhere in the world in confidence that you won’t need to compromise your diet – or your principles.
It’s true that in some countries even the concept of veganism is still unknown. That might seem daunting, especially when you don’t speak the local language. But as anyone who’s been a vegan for a while will know, there’s always something you can eat. It may not be gourmet cuisine, but it will be enough to keep you nourished.
And if, like yours truly, eating well is a big part of the reason you travel in the first place, then why not opt for a foodie tour that is either expressly designed for vegans, or can be easily adapted to suit your diet?
Many countries and culture have a cuisine that naturally lends itself to plant-based food, such as Ethiopia where religious fasting means that many meals are entirely vegan, or can easily be made so. And you can also meet people halfway. If you can turn up at a restaurant with a few meal ideas of your own that could easily be whipped up from standard local ingredients – as a very basic example, in Korea simply rice with some freshly vegetables, or in Italy gnocchi with marinara sauce – then few chefs will have trouble swallowing your suggestions.

We’ve drawn together some advice for those new to taking vegan holidays, which will hopefully not only give you the encouragement you need to take the leap, but also serve as a useful resource for planning your trip.

Food for all

Neil Coletta from our specialist travel operator Intrepid Travel says that vegan holidays aren’t niche anymore: “We launched our vegan food adventures because we identified a demand in the market and also because we strive to offer an inclusive product range. Vegans face some specific challenges while travelling and we wanted to create the same amazing food tours that we were already running, but with the food, activities and logistics tailored to vegan customers. The vegan tours are of course the ones that are 100 percent vegan, but we want our customers to feel confident sharing their particular requirements with us and we'll always do our best to offer them a great experience. Our real food adventures can accommodate vegans and a wide variety of other diets and lifestyles.”

Vegan inflight meals

Dominika Piasecka, spokeswoman for The Vegan Society:
“We’ve recently launched a first ever rating system for inflight vegan catering, called FlyVe. We are campaigning to see a vegan option added to standard inflight menus so that everyone has the choice to order them. Offering vegan in-flight options is positive in terms of inclusivity and menu streamlining, as almost everyone can eat a vegan meal, and is a more environmentally-friendly option than meat-based meals.”

Research before you go

Probably the most important thing to do before booking a vegan holiday is to know what to expect from the destination, and from the local culture, so that you can adequately prepare. Are there regular markets near your accommodation where you can pick up fresh fruit? Are supermarkets and health food stores open late or on Sundays? And how are animals treated there? Might you be faced with upsetting experiences or scenes in some areas?

If you’re travelling as a vegan for the first time, or you’re worried about getting your needs across due to a language barrier, then consider joining an organised vegan holiday as a way to dip your toe in the water with absolute confidence.

Flying long haul? Check which airlines offer the best vegan options on their in-flight menus. And perhaps see if there’s a vegan festival going on at the time of your visit, in which case pack as much Tupperware as you can fit in your bag!

Helping hand

Emma Fry, from our specialist travel operator Vegan Adventure Holidays, says things have changed over the years: “Travel is often the number one reason people have for not committing to going fully vegan, and while it used to be quite hard work, today it’s much less complicated – especially if you’re prepared. My key piece of advice would be, if you’re going somewhere where you don’t speak the language, join an organised tour. It makes your whole experience so much more pleasant and relaxed.”

First-time vegan travelling

Dominika Piasecka, spokeswoman for The Vegan Society:
“It’s worth researching the cuisine of the country you’re visiting ahead of time so you know what to look out for. For example, when I went to Thailand I found out fish sauce and shrimp paste are added to many dishes, including curry sauces, even those used for vegetable curries. On the other hand, dairy and eggs are rarely used so I discovered that a Thai vegetarian option is almost always vegan which made looking for it easier. You can use Google Translate’s photo option to photograph labels and translate their ingredients, or to ask locals about vegan options. The app and website HappyCow is a brilliant resource to find vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants around the world. The Vegan Society has produced a Vegan Passport with some helpful phrases in as many as 79 languages.”
Charlotte Pointing from Live Kindly:

Easy v hard

“For me the easiest country to travel as a vegan was Indonesia! The warungs are cheap and always offer an array of plant-based foods: you can get tempeh, tofu, rice, and loads of veggies. Fruit is always on hand too, wherever you go. The hardest I think is France, it's very meaty and cheesy there. However, it's not impossible to get vegan food! You just have to work a bit harder, asking to adapt meals off the menu etc. I would say always do thorough research before you travel, and take plenty of snacks in your luggage!”

Little essentials

“A bamboo toothbrush is good to have, and mouthwash tabs from Lush. I love anything from Lush! Their shampoo bars are great too. I'd say always stock up on things like protein bars and nuts to keep you going in case you get peckish on long journeys.”

Travel bucket list

“I'd love to visit Berlin! I haven't been yet but I've heard the vegan scene is amazing. I'd like to visit Voner for a vegan doner kebab and 1990 Vegan Living for Vietnamese tapas.”

Pack smart

Vegan holidays require slightly more strategic packing. If you’re heading to remote areas, then you’ll probably want a supply of your own health foods, vitamins and minerals, as they may be hard to find otherwise. Bringing your own cosmetics and toiletries can also be essential. It’s worth thinking about snacks such as dried fruits and nuts or protein bars for travel days, or when you’re heading to a place where you’re unsure about the vegan options available. And of course, you should stock up on these whenever you have the opportunity.

Also spend some time learning about likely local ingredients you’re going to encounter. For instance, ghee (clarified butter) is used for cooking throughout India, so perhaps bring a jar of coconut oil you can ask street stalls to use instead in case they don’t have their own. And in Thailand a common ingredient - even in ostensibly vegetarian dishes – is fish sauce. Again, being prepared to whip out a bottle of your own soy sauce means that you can indulge in some of the world’s best street food without compromising your principles.

Our top Vegan Holiday

Vegan holiday in Belize, multi activity

Vegan holiday in Belize, multi activity

Sand in your vegan friendly sandals guaranteed!

From US $1365 7 days ex flights
Small group travel:
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Vegan or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

While you’re there

You can be reasonably sure of having a fair bit of choice when it comes to vegan options on the menu in cities, even if it means relying on chain restaurants. Places like Berlin, Jerusalem and our own lovely Brighton, of course, are famed for the breadth of vegan cuisine they offer. But in remote, rural areas how will you cope?
You might be pleasantly surprised at how many vegetable dishes you’ll find. Don’t be afraid to ask restaurants to ‘veganise’ a dish either, just as you might at home, or to combine a couple of side dishes into a main.
Other good tips include hitting up local markets as often as possible. They’re always your best option for fresh, local fruit and veg at good prices. It’s also worth considering joining a type of trip where you can expect to find vegan cuisine readily available, such as holistic or yoga retreats.

Resources

Remember that wherever you want to go, the odds are very long that you’re the first vegan ever to set foot there. A trail has more than likely been blazed already. That means that there will usually be at least some useful advice available online. And if not, then crowdsource it, reaching out to the international vegan community on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Where’s a good place for a vegan to eat? What should I look out for? What words or phrases do I need to use?

And if you’re joining an organised tour, be sure and talk to your operator in advance of travel, as they can easily communicate your needs to their ground agents to ensure that they are met. Many trips can comfortably accommodate vegan and other diets with sufficient notice.

Here’s a few of our favourite resources for vegan travel...

Happy Cowgazillions of restaurant and shop locations worldwide for vegan, vegetarian and healthy food. Veg Guide – not as comprehensive as Happy Cow, but a worthwhile back-up AirVegan – handy app with a guide to vegan options in airports Veganagogo / Live Kindly – useful translation apps for helping vegans negotiate the language barrier Vegan Passport – the bible (or passport, anyway) for vegan travellers worldwide

Appy days

Emma Fry, from our specialist vegan travel operator Vegan Adventure Holidays, says:
“The app that I find most useful, and the one I think most vegan travellers do, is Happy Cow, which is really comprehensive for worldwide travel. The Vegan Passport is also a very useful phrasebook which is indispensable in some situations. The easiest place to travel as a vegan in my experience is always somewhere that you have a command of the language so you can make yourself understood. I went to France recently and had a nightmare because I don’t speak French. These are the times where a phrasebook really comes in handy.”
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Edgar Castrejon] [Top box: Jasmine Halki] [Helping hand: RubyGoes] [Warung - Indonesia: Dennis Sylvester Hyrd] [while you're there: Marco Verch]
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