So I’m continuing with my travel tips, hopefully you have read my post about vegans on a plane and you have now arrived in your destination and are ready to explore. Visiting a new country for the first time should be exciting, thrilling even but also can be a little daunting if you don’t speak the language.
This is particularly the case if you are a vegan and have no idea what’s on the menu. I have had quite a few experiences in the past where lots of pointing, gesticulating and smiling has still left me with something very questionable! Fortunately things have become so much easier over the past few years and if you are reading this you already have one major advantage and that is you speak English.
Sometimes English speakers forget how fortunate they are. As a native Spanish speaker I have two of the most widely spoken languages at my disposal. I find that my Spanish is really helpful when travelling to South America and my English when travelling to Asia.
Certainly most hotels in major cities will have English speakers working there and they are normally very happy to help guide you. The difficulty is when you venture further afield, are staying in self-catering accommodation or even with local families so let have a look at a few really useful tips on how to order vegan food.
Learn the lingo or at least vegan phrases
So as I have said the language barrier is the first hurdle we need to consider when thinking about ordering a vegan meal. Let’s look at some of the options I use when travelling and have no idea what to say! While you don’t have to become fluent in Mandarin for your upcoming trip to China trying to learn a few phrases really can go a long way.
My go to method has always been to have a travel card where I have approx 10-15 phrases in English that I will get translated to the local language. I will also write them phonetically in English so I can read them aloud hopefully without too much embarrassment! This option also allows me to show the waiter/cook the card if my pronunciation is too bad!
The next option is to use an online translation tool. This is great if you have internet access but of course that is not always the case. To be safe I recommend that you download the required language so you have access offline. And finally the vegan society have produced a VEGAN PASSPORT.
It can be downloaded as an app or purchased as a hard copy. It contains all the main phrases that you will need to avoid vegan mishap and ensure that your meal is vegan. It now has all of this translated in to 79 languages including Hausa, Igbo, Xhosa and Zulu. If only I had this resource years ago when I started travelling as a vegan!
Understand the culture for accidentally vegan dishes
The great news is that in many parts of the world that Veganism is becoming more mainstream. However there are still large cultural differences in certain countries. This is all part of the joy of travel so embrace it but my advice is always to do as much research as you can about the country you are visiting particularly if you are heading off the beaten track.
The great news is if you do the research you often find a lot of traditional “accidentally vegan” dishes. This is particularly the case in certain countries and at certain times of the year. For example in Greece followers of the Greek orthodox church eat vegan for all of lent so it is a great time to visit. The same applies in Ethiopia which is another great country to visit as a vegan.
There are however some countries where being vegan is uncommon and not entirely understood. In countries like this, the difficulty isn’t finding food at markets because there are always basic staples like rice, vegetables and fruit. The difficultly can sometimes be interacting with locals and having to explain your diet without seeming to be judging theirs.
Having a local invite you into their home is something many travellers dream of but as a vegan this can be tricky as you now have to try to politely explain that you don’t eat the food they’re offering. Hence why doing your research can help you avoid some awkward situations.
Plan and plan some more
So we have repeated it a few times but the more you plan ahead the more relaxed, vegan friendly and enjoyable you trip is likely to be. There is so much information readily available at our fingertips make sure that you use it. There are vegan travel Facebook pages and there may even be local vegan groups at your destination that you can find.
And of course the go to app for finding vegan shops and restaurants around the world is Happy Cow. This is the app I use when looking specifically for a vegan restaurant and it is really useful. If your destination doesn’t appear to be very “vegan friendly” then I would always recommend opting for self-catering accommodation as the safest way to ensure your vegan dinner is to prepare it yourself.
How to order vegan food
So that’s a few of my tips on how to make sure your food is vegan whilst on your travels, let’s just summarise then again
- As much as possible plan ahead to find out if your destination is vegan friendly. Research the customs and see if there are particular dishes you should ask for, maybe there are some accidental vegan ones.
- Try to learn some of the language. My tip is to have a small language card with a few phrases written in English and then translated with the phonetic sounds written down as well.
- If you are staying in a hotel ask the staff to help you with the translations and make recommendations for you.
- Buy yourself a copy of the Vegan passport either the book or the app whichever you prefer.
- Make sure you have the Happy Cow app on your phone, it really is the best app to find recommended vegan eateries all around the world.
- Try to learn a little of the culture before you go to avoid any embarrassing moments.
- If you’re really worried about the limit of vegan options stay in self-catering accommodation so you can prepare your own food.
- And finally be patient and smile. After all you are in a foreign country, you are there to enjoy yourself and experience the new cultures. If people aren’t sure exactly what you want take the time to explain as well as you can, smile and be patient while you are doing it.
- Enjoy you trip
Have you get any tricks that you use when travelling to ensure your food is vegan? Have you every struggled to explain what you want, or do you have any funny stories? We would love to hear from you in the comments below.