Vegan travel needn’t be tough. On the contrary, it can actually add an exciting new dimension to your trip. In most cases you’ll discover some terrific new foods that aren’t available at home. You’re likely to return from your journey with a broader appreciation of the diversity of vegan cooking.
Wherever you go, you can probably discover a wealth of vegan options if you research your options in advance. Since travel is all about stepping outside your comfort zone, why not make an extra effort to try new foods during your journey?
Since your usual favorites may be unavailable, you’ll have an extra incentive to discover all sorts of enticing new foods. So don’t try to eat the exact same foods you’d buy at home. Instead, actively search for unfamiliar vegan options. Most of the world’s cuisines offers exciting vegan foods unlike anything you’ve ever eaten. Give these unfamiliar foods a shot and you’ll invariably return from your trips having discovered new vegan foods that you adore.
If you’re going to be gone for any length of time, remember to bring your supplements. Two supplements in particular that are favored by vegans—a cheap high-dose B-12, and vegan DHA/EPA capsules—are all but impossible to find in most countries, so be sure to pack enough to cover the length of your stay.
Vegan Travel Via Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
No matter how you travel, it’s usually simple to eat well when you’re in transit. But it can require a little extra preparation.
When booking an airline flight, you can usually select a vegan meal when you’re purchasing your ticket. Discount airlines often sell snacks and meals that are ordered during the flight. Most of these airlines offer at least one vegan snack or meal option. Even if you can’t eat well on the plane, you can often grab a satisfying meal at the airport. You can also order this food to go, and bring it on the plane. Many airports have good vegan food choices, and there’s even an app called GateGuru that displays your airport’s restaurants.
If you’re bringing food to eat on the plane, bear in mind that airport security enjoys confiscating tubs of hummus or jars of nut butter.
If you’re staying inside your country, you’re probably already familiar with the most vegan-friendly fast food places and chain restaurants. If you find yourself someplace unfamiliar you can often turn up vegan-friendly restaurants nearby through HappyCow.net, Yelp.com, or a Google search.
In the United States, there’s usually a Taco Bell or Subway every few exits. There, you can always get a reliably vegan meal. At Subway order a Veggie Delight without cheese or mayo, and get it on white bread if you wish to avoid honey. Taco Bell has far more vegan options but the simplest is a bean burrito ordered “fresco style”.
Of all the modes of travel, vegan travel by rail may be the least appealing. Long-distance trains usually have good albeit unspectacular dining options. Amtrak offers a vegan burger and vegan entrée salad in its dining car. Their snack bar has decent offerings too, including a vegan burger and several other vegan choices.
For multi-day trips, bring plenty of energy bars, nuts, chocolate, and other goodies that you’ll look forward to eating. And consider also bringing premade salads kept cool with an ice pack.
Various organizations host special vegan cruises, typically featuring vegan health experts. If you do a web search for vegan cruises you’ll undoubtedly find a few upcoming possibilities. On these cruises, special provisions have been made to serve vegan food.
Unfortunately, on most other cruises, vegan offerings are slim and unreliable. But there’s one shining exception: in 2017, Oceania Cruises introduced a 250-item vegan menu to its dining rooms.
The Finer Points of Vegan Travel
When you’re planning your trip, a little advance research on vegan restaurants can pay off enormously. Try doing a Google search for vegan and the names of the cities you plan to visit. Also check out HappyCow.net, which can help you discover some of the world’s best vegan-friendly restaurants. There are also dozens of vegan bed and breakfasts worldwide. If you’ve got the budget for an upscale stay, these places are tough to beat.
Sometimes, language barriers make it hard to understand the menu, or to communicate with the waitstaff. If you’re visiting a country where you don’t speak the language, consider taking along some free V-cards on your trip (they’re currently available in 106 languages!) Just find the page featuring the desired language, print it out, cut up your cards, and keep them in your wallet. These cards can help you get a fantastic vegan meal in situations where you can’t otherwise make yourself understood.
For tips on eating vegan at non-vegetarian restaurants, some of which are relevant to international travel, check out our vegan dining guide.
What to Eat When There’s Nothing to Eat
Depending on where you’re going, the vegan options at your destination may be plentiful or they may seem nonexistent. But even the worst-case scenarios are rarely unworkable since most travel destinations offer easy access to fruits, vegetables, nuts, and breads. The more vegan-unfriendly your destination, the more you’ll need to rely on preparing your own food rather than dining out. How can you determine which places are least accommodating to vegans? If your research reveals a lack of vegan-friendly restaurants, you may also find the local grocery offerings unimpressive.
Admittedly, some places—like Amarillo, Texas or rural France—are extraordinarily difficult for vegans. For these sorts of locations, lodging that’s equipped with a kitchen or kitchenette will enable you to do your own cooking. No matter how challenging your destination may appear, it’s usually easy to find vegetables to cook, along with beans, rice, and pasta.
Finding Vegan Grocery Items When Traveling
In most towns and cities around the world, you can find a corner grocery every few blocks. These groceries typically won’t offer many vegan items. If you’re having trouble finding a decent selection of vegan foods, see if the city you’re visiting has a large supermarket. No matter where you visit in the world, supermarkets offer a great selection of pasta, vegetables, and beans. Most also carry items like tofu, vegan milks, and perhaps even vegan meats and cheeses.
For shorter visits, you can avoid having to cook (and the added expense of renting a place with a kitchen), by eating things like fruit, nuts, sandwiches, and wraps. If your destination is especially inhospitable to vegans, and you won’t be staying long, consider bringing some food with you. Choose calorically-dense items such as energy bars, protein powder, and nuts. If you’re not carrying much luggage, try to pack the most calories into the smallest space.
Best Vegan Cities
Countless cities around the world have plentiful vegan options, but which cities are the very best? I travel constantly, and can say with some authority that some of the world’s best vegan cities are:
- Portland, Oregon
- San Francisco & Oakland, California
- New York, New York (especially Manhattan & Brooklyn)
- Tel Aviv, Israel
- Prague, Czech Republic
- Guadalajara, Mexico
- Canggu, Bali
- Chiang Mai, Thailand
Each of these cities offers an unbelievable assortment of vegan restaurants.
Vegan Travel Books
Not so long ago, you’d have a tough time finding any sort of book on vegan travel. Today there are a bunch of good ones. What’s more, they cover a nice diversity of topics.
If you’re going to buy just one vegan travel book, get The Vegan Travel Handbook, which is published by Lonely Planet Food. It’s a full-color 168-page guide to traveling to every part of the world, nicely organized and beautifully illustrated. A cheaper alternative is The Essential Vegan Travel Guide, which lacks the gorgeous layout but is full of practical advice, and costs just four bucks on Kindle.
There are also vegan travel books devoted to these regions and cities:
Not everyone has it in them to travel to the four corners of the earth. If you’d rather live vicariously through other people’s journeys, two vegan travel memoirs may interest you. Bestselling cookbook author Lindsay S. Nixon has written The Happy Herbivore Abroad, in which she recounts details of her travel while offering up her recipes for 135 foods she sampled while eating internationally.
On the opposite end of the travel spectrum, Kristin Lajeunesse wrote a vegan memoir covering her two years on the road—39,000 miles spent living out of a van while traveling through eighteen U.S. states. If you feel the calling to explore America’s great outdoors, you’ll want to check out this vegan guide to camping in U.S. national parks.
Eating vegan while traveling isn’t a bummer and rarely poses serious difficulties. Rather, it offers an unrivaled opportunity to sample a variety of delicious foods you could never find at home.