Travel Question – How To Travel As A Vegetarian.
This week we received a question from Mark: “Hi there! I’m a vegetarian about to leave on my first RTW trip, and I came upon your post top 6 countries for vegetarian food lovers. So I’m wondering: what is it like traveling as a vegetarian? I’ve heard it’s very hard finding vegetarian meals in Asian countries” Hey Mark. traveling as a vegetarian isn’t actually as hard as you may think, here are a three ideas to make finding vegetarian meals and traveling the world on a vegetarian diet.
Make Yourself Understood:
We often found that the most difficult task was to make them understand what a vegetarian diet really was.
Often they thought it was something much more complicated, not realizing that a vegetarian salad can be the same as a shrimp salad just without the shrimp.
Sometimes it’s easier to say “no meat please” rather than ask “is it vegetarian?”, also knowing how to say this in the local language is often helpful.
In Asia a very common vegetarian meal is fried rice/noodles with mixed veggies. If you ask for a vegetarian version of fried rice and they can’t make it, then they either didn’t understand you or they only have pre-cooked food and can’t change it
(It’s common to make a big fry up in the morning and have the food sitting there for the whole day, which is something I wouldn’t recommend you eat anyway).
Look For Alternatives – Be Creative:
If there are no vegetarian meals on the main course, just put together some appetizers and make them into your own meal.
One of the downsides when traveling was that we couldn’t always try the local specialties as they often included meat.
We made sure to try all their local desserts instead ;), which turned out to be a lot of fun – it’s amazing what people eat for dessert..!
There might be times when you really can’t find anything vegetarian to eat, so bringing a snack bar or some other snack along with you can be a good idea.
If you’re a vegetarian because of ethical reasons, then be prepared for the animal cruelty you may have to face. It can be difficult at some times, but being prepared for it will make it easier to deal with so it doesn’t come as a shock.
How To Be Vegetarian On Your Travels
Don’t worry, I’m not going to talk to you about ethics or morals in this post, all I’m going to say is that if you want to stay safe from food poisoning, it’s a wise choice to eat mainly vegetarian food. Often during my travels I get the question if I’m a ‘Travel-vegetarian’, which I found out means that I avoid meat when I travel. A lot of people do this, and it’s a good idea.
Why is vegetarian often a better choice when travelling?
When eating meat in foreign countries it can be under-cooked. Eating under-cooked meat is very dangerous, and can cause serious food poisoning. Many diseases and parasites are often found in undercoated meat, such as campylobacter, salmonella and most seriously, e.coli. Many times, especially in interior areas, the meat isn’t fresh, but kept in freezers and fridges that are not dependable. So it’s better to be safe than sorry, and it’s safer being a vegetarian on your trips – as long as you stick to 3 simple, basic but very important rules, and these rule goes for everyone, both vegetarians and meat eaters:
- Stick to cooked food, don’t eat anything raw like salad. You should only eat raw vegetables and fruit if their peeled (preferably by you).
- Don’t have ice in any of your drinks (you never know whether the ice is from tapwater or bottled water
- Avoid eating cold things like ice cream and dairy products
How Do I Stay Vegetarian When I Travel?
A good thing to do is always to research a little about the country you’re visiting. What’s their traditional cuisine, what kind of vegetables and fruit do they grow/are available in the country? Bringing a pocket dictionary is also a good idea. They always have short phrases and interpretations of the normal food they serve in their country. Ask if they can swap or take away something in the dish. For example take away the ham on the pizza or the bacon from the breakfast plate and add something else. Be creative. If there’s nothing vegetarian on the main dishes, order some side dishes and make your own ‘Tapas’. Often the best way to find vegetarian restaurants is just to ask somebody, either on the street or at your accommodation. Bring some snacks with you. These can be life savers when nothing else is available, like on long train/bus/boat rides or sightseeing. A good snack is bread with banana and peanut butter. It sounds stranger than it tastes, but it’s a great energy booster! Bring some fruit and snack bars along, and you’re ready to go. Below is a list of great websites that can help you finding vegetarian restaurants all over the world:
- VegDining.com– Guide to vegetarian restaurants around the world.
- Happy Cow– Global Guide to Vegetarian Restaurants & Health Food Stores.
- Vegetarian-Restaurants.net- USA & Canada vegetarian restaurants, natural food stores, vegetarian recipes, and info on vegetarian and vegan subjects.
- Veggie Places– UK vegetarian restaurant and hotel guide. Find places by postcode, town or county.
- budaveg- Everything about Budapest for veggies! Restaurants, health food stores, sights, calendar of events and a vegan apartment.
How do you feel about travelling vegetarian? Is this something you do, or do you like to explore a bit and test out the local meat dishes? Don’t worry, I’m not going to talk to you about ethics or morals in this post, all I’m going to say is that if you want to stay safe from food poisoning, it’s a wise choice to eat mainly vegetarian food. Often during my travels I get the question if I’m a ‘Travel-vegetarian’, which I found out means that I avoid meat when I travel. A lot of people do this, and it’s a good idea.
Cities Where Being A Vegetarian Doesn’t Suck
Sometimes, being a vegetarian traveler sucks. You can spend hours looking for a place to eat without any luck, and then when you finally think you’ve found a place, you still end up with chicken feet in your soup. For some reason, people still seem to believe that just because you don’t eat meat, you might as well be eating grass – but vegetarian food doesn’t have to be boring, and there are a few places around the world that would get any meat-lover to consider tasting a veggie dish.
Ghent – Belgium
Being a vegetarian in Europe is not necessarily difficult, but often it’s very boring. So, it was a huge surprise to see how out of all the places we’ve been to, the small Belgian town of Ghent turned out to be the most vegetarian-friendly city we’ve been to in Europe. With all the vegetarian and vegetarian-friendly restaurants marked on a city map, it is super easy to find a place to eat, and every Thursday is a “meat-less” day where all the restaurants offer vegetarian meals and lunch deals, and schools serve vegetarian food. We even stayed in an amazing vegetarian B&B called Aanaajaanaa. Ghent is actually said to be the city where the vegetarian movement in Europe began, some 40 years ago (apparently starting with a Japanese guy healing a sick man with a vegetarian diet).
Place to check out: Avalon, Geldmunt 32
Mon – Sat: 11.30am – 2.30 pm
(+32) 9 224 37 24
Chiang Mai – Thailand
“No can do” is a common response in Asia when asking if you can have a meal made vegetarian, but in Chiang Mai, a city in northern Thailand – this is never a problem. Pretty much every restaurant serves vegetarian food, and the food is just amazing! From hawker stalls to restaurants, you’ll find vegetarian versions of all the best dishes (trying Khao Soi is a must!).
Place to check out: Brown Rice Organic Bistro, 103 Phrapokklao Soi 8, Phrasingh
Mon – Sat:11am – 9pm
(+66) 87 324 9728
With its huge diversity of culture and people, Singapore has a lot of different cuisine to offer any traveler. From Chinese to Indian fare, there are a lot of vegetarian friendly restaurants in the city, no matter what type of food you like – there are even Satvic restaurants, where they are very strict with what they cook.
Place to check out: Komala Vilas, No. 76-78 Serangoon Road (one of several locations)
Tel: (+65) 6293 6980
New York – USA
New York are often first with the hottest trends, not only in fashion but also in food trends, and they’re not afraid to play with new ideas and concepts. This means that there are tons of really cool vegetarian diners and restaurants, with a huge diversity and everything from cheap eats to fine dining. According to “The Bay Back Hotel”, however, Boston is trying to catch up, especially with their popular vegetarian food festival that’s held there every year.
Place to check out: Red Bamboo, 140 West 4th Street
(between 6th ave & macdougal)
Mon-Thur 12:30pm-12 midnight, Fri-Sun 12pm-12 midnight.
(+1) 212 – 260 7049
Mumbai – India
Mumbai has the largest vegetarian population in the world, so travelers are spoilt for choice. This is thanks to the large number of Hindus living in Mumbai, and most restaurants will follow their religious beliefs, serving dairy but no egg, meat or fish. So whether it’s a food stall or restaurant, you can be guaranteed that they will whip up some spicy delicious meal for you.
Place to check out: Rajdhani, Level – 1, Nirmal Lifestyle, LBS Marg, Mulund (West)
(+91) 022 – 65888088
Top 6 Countries For Vegetarian Food Lovers:
Being a vegetarian traveler is an advantage as well as a disadvantage. The good part is that we’re less likely to get food poisoned, as meat is often badly cooked and tend to have a lot of bacterias and bugs on it. The downside however, is that there often isn’t much to choose between on the menu, your choice stands between a salad, a Margarita pizza or French Fries. That’s why I have made a list of the top 6 countries to visit for vegetarian food lovers.
India is a vegetarian heaven. I remember having dinner with a group westerners in India. They were all meat eaters, and wouldn’t stop complaining of the lack of food choice; Lamb, or lamb? I was surprised and said that I thought there were heaps of choices of food. ”Yes, for you who are vegetarian maybe, but not for us!”, as if meat eaters couldn’t eat vegetables…However, being a vegetarian in India doesn’t raise any eyebrows. In fact, instead of having vegetarian choices on the menu, they have a section for Non-vegetarian…
One of my strongest memories from Kuala Lumpur was when we went to a vegetarian restaurant that only had duck and ham on the menu, but I found out later that it was all vegetarian. It was kind of like the western people’s Quorn, it reminds you of duck but it’s made of something else. Malaysia is known for the best cuisine in South East Asia, their food is inspired from China, India and Europe – a pretty cool mix.
They’re known for having the most advanced vegetarian cultures in the world. I would guess it’s because of two reasons; They have a widely mixed population with people from all over the world, and they are ahead of other countries in the food thinking and have caught on the latest trends. More and more westerners are realizing how much healthier it is to eat vegetarian based food, so there are heaps of Health food- and Raw food restaurants to choose from. I wouldn’t call their ‘native’ food vegetarian, but as good as every restaurant and fast food place have vegetarian options.
Israeli restaurants abide by the ‘Kosher’ laws, meaning they don’t serve pork or shellfish. Plus my favourites falafel and hummus are available everywhere!
Even if chicken seems to be the most common food, you can easily get around being a vegetarian. Many of the dishes are prepared with fish sauce, but for those who don’t like that, you can most often ask to have it made with another sauce.
Apparently, Toronto is said to be the most diverse city in the world, and there are heaps of vegetarian choices from all kinds of cultures. A bit like London I guess.