So you’ve decided you want to take a trip. You have the time off and you are dreaming of the beach or a historic city. If you are vegan most likely your vacation is going to revolve around food because you are a foodie or you would like to not starve while on holiday. Traveling and eating vegan is not an easy feat. But with a little planning and the use of the HappyCow website and Smartphone application you can get fed anywhere across the world.
Since I’ve done more traveling to more countries in the last few years that I have in my whole life, I’ve become quite the expert on eating healthy while on the move. I will be honest, it takes a lot of time, research, and motivation, in foreign countries especially, but it’s all worth it when you show up to that one place that has a delicious meal you can enjoy. Here’s a bit of my process.
Planning a Destination
When I travel I first look on HappyCow to see which cities in the country I am visiting have the most vegan options. Yes I like to go off the beaten path as well, but I leave those places for day trips where I can pack a lunch. Also look at travel blogs of vegans to see what places they visited that were veg-friendly.
- When planning your accommodations, look for areas that have vegan or veg-friendly restaurants within walking distance or a short trip on public transportation. Usually these are the “hot” spots or backpacker areas. Most likely there are hostels in these areas. Personally I like to stay a bit further from the backpacker areas, but being close to places I can eat is really at the top of my list when choosing a place to lay my head. You aren’t going to be hanging in your room anyways!
- Look for accommodations that have mini fridges and microwaves or that let patrons use a communal fridge and kitchen. Consider doing a farm stay. The photo above is of my own private kitchen on a farm I volunteered at in Japan. That way you can buy food from the grocery store and make your own meals. You don’t have to eat out every meal and it saves you money if you don’t. Every town, no matter how small, will likely have fresh produce, canned beans, and grains so you can whip up a simple hotel meal for yourself or microwave oatmeal.
Utilize Your Smartphone
When I went to Asia for three months last year I put my cell phone on hold, but took it with me to use it for wifi. Almost everywhere I went, save for Japan and tiny cities, had wifi all over town. Make sure you have Google Maps and the HappyCow applications on your phone. Make sure you know what international chains (like McDonald’s, Starbucks, CoffeeWorld, etc.) have free wifi in case you get lost.
At least 2 hours prior to lunch or dinner I would get on HappyCow to research where I was going to eat. There are 3 different ways you can find restaurants on the site: (1) Browse by area, (2) use the Distance (radius) search, or (3) Search from top header of any page using Google. It’s good to call ahead, especially if there are no recent reviews. Always have a back up place in case that one is closed or something else happens. If you are without a car and using public transportation give yourself at least an hour to get to your destination. When I was in Bangkok, Thailand it was literally a 3 hour sojourn to eat lunch across town.
Ethnic Food is Your Friend
If you can find an ethnic restaurant like Indian, Thai, Chinese, Moroccan, Mediterranean, Italian, Japanese, or Mexican you will more likely be able to get a vegan meal. Invest in the Vegan Passport guide that has a page for every language saying what vegans eat and don’t eat.
Find a Natural Food Store or Farmer’s Market
Listed on the HappyCow site are all the natural food stores and food co-ops where you can find not only fresh produce and snacks, many of them have a prepared food section with plenty of vegan options. Ask the employees where the best vegan restaurant options are because they will have the inside scoop. Farmer’s markets are also listed which are a haven for fruit, vegetables, snacks, free samples, and other natural products.
Eat Light and Raw If all you can find to eat is fruit or fresh vegetables than that’s fine! I know many people who survived for long periods of time traveling in Asia just eating from fruit stands. You don’t have to stuff yourself silly at every meal, so go light and eat only raw foods at some meals. It saves money and frustration of having to find somewhere to eat.