I often get asked whether it’s difficult to travel to other countries as a vegetarian, especially when I’m heading to meat-heavy destinations.
I’ve been vegetarian for around 6 years now. I won’t get into details on why I chose vegetarianism as a way of life – I’ll just say that there’s a whole range of reasons that I think it’s a better choice for both animal welfare and for the environment.
There have been some challenging countries (like Poland, Bolivia, and even regional USA) which have tested my abilities to source veggie-friendly food. There have been times where I’ve wandered around a foreign city for hours, hungry and frustrated, with no ideas on where I was going find a meal without meat.
Luckily, most of the time it’s pretty easy, and over time I’ve found ways to embrace vegetarianism while I travel. It’s also become easier in recent years – when I backpacked through Europe 5 years ago, it was definitely more difficult to find food than it is these days. The vegetarian revolution is spreading, and I’m loving the growth of plant-based food options around the world!
If you’re wondering how I manage to find the best veggie foods when I travel, here’s a few ways that I make vegetarian travel super easy!
I eat whatever I can. There’s always something, even if it’s just a bread roll and an avocado (which is pretty much what I lived off in Bolivia!) or a plate of steamed vegetables (which was the only veggie option at a dinner stop on my California road trip). I’m never going to go hungry just because I don’t eat meat. Vegetarian food might be difficult to find at times, but I’ll take whatever I can get.
I’m not fussy about food. I know some people who are picky about certain foods, and it seems like such a frustrating way to eat! I can’t believe how fussy some people get about miniscule things. It’s so much easier to find food when you just go with whatever veggie option the restaurant has, without trying to substitute ingredients or ask whether they can do it differently.
I don’t try to be vegan while abroad. I know that veganism is a more ethical choice than vegetarianism, and while I do tend to make some vegan choices at home, I’ve also found that it’s 1000 times more difficult when I’m abroad. There are certain places where making vegan choices has been easy (like Glasgow!) but generally I stick to being vegetarian so that I have a wider variety of choices.
I use Google Maps or Yelp to look for vegetarian restaurants. Most cities have a handful of vegetarian restaurants, but there are plenty of other restaurants that offer veggie meals, even if there’s also meat on the menu. By searching ‘vegetarian’ on Google Maps or the Yelp app, all the places that have tagged that term will show up. I usually pick a few highly rated ones (4+ stars), then check the menus online before deciding on a place for dinner. Easy!
I learn to ask for a vegetarian meal in the local language. This is a trick that I started using in Mexico because I knew that it might be difficult to find vegetarian food when I didn’t know how to speak Spanish. One of the first things I looked up in my translation app was how to ask which menu items were sin carne (‘without meat’), then the restaurant staff could point out the meals that I could eat.
I visit grocery stores. Not only does this mean saving money on eating out, visiting grocery stores is also a super easy way to find vegetarian food. I frequently sought out local delis and convenience stores in western Europe to pick up a baguette with some cheese and fruit, or a pre-made salad to eat with crackers. These simple meals make for a perfect lunch time picnic between sightseeing activities, and they hardly require any utensils!