Eating Vegan Whilst Travelling
One of the most common things I get asked about travelling (and one of the things I had to put most thought into whilst travelling) was how did I go about finding vegan food in countries where English wasn't the most common language, or where the vegan food was scarce. Luckily it was surprisingly easy for me to sustain a vegan lifestyle whilst on travels, both on my gap year & after my study abroad and therefore I have some tips for you guys regarding how you can do it too!
1. RESEARCH THE LOCAL CUISINE
This is an essential step if you are travelling to somewhere that has a very different local cuisine to where you live and/or if you do not know the language and therefore wouldn't be able to understand ingredients lists on products or menu descriptions. For example, in Australia I didn't have to worry about this because there was no language barrier and the food there is pretty similar to what I eat at home, however in Thailand it was a different story. However, in most asian countries a large number of traditional dishes are vegetarian and therefore can be easily adapted, do your research on some of the more popular dishes eaten in your chosen country / area and how you can adapt these to be vegan. Also it might help to jot down some phrases in their language like; "without diary or egg please", or "can this be made vegan".
2. DON'T BE AFRAID TO ASK
The project I was on in Thailand (you can read a post all about that here) had 3 meals included in the price from Monday lunchtime - Thursday lunchtime. I emailed the project leader before I went to ask about vegan options and she assured me that if I told them when I arrived they would be able to accommodate me. This actually turned out to work in my favour as not only was I the only vegan there, I was the only vegetarian for over half of my stay meaning that they cooked a whole separate meal for me that was almost as much as the meal cooked for the other 13 on the project, second and third portions was inevitable and much appreciated! Even at restaurants or cafes theres no harm in asking if there is a meat & dairy free or vegan option, I used google translate to communicate with people a lot and that worked fine too! In some places people are easier to understand allergy issues, in asian countries you can explain that its a cultural & moral decision which may make it easier for them to understand. Like they say, if you don't ask you don't get!
3. ALWAYS HAVE SNACKS
Even if you think you're going to be able to find places to eat it is always worth bringing snacks just in case! This is especially important when traveling on planes as even though I picked the vegan option for every flight I got so hungry on the 14 hour flight from Singapore to England and they had no vegan snack options! There was about a 6 hour wait between each meal and I didn't have anything to sustain myself, even on flights where you get a free snack it was always a cheese sandwich - no thank you!! When I was doing domestic flights in Australia I would always grab a boost green smoothie / juice before I got on the plane and some form of falafel wrap, popcorn or granola bar to take with me in case I got hungry. For long haul flights I would take an abundance of snacks with me, if there isn't a vegan option on your flight or you're just a bit skeptical you can always bring sandwiches or cooked options to keep you full along the way!
4. HIT UP THE FRUIT MARKETS
Thailand and many other parts of Asia have the most incredible fresh fruit markets filled with an abundance of perfectly ripe and locally grown fruit that are definitely worth checking out! Mangos, bananas, lychees, watermelon and every other fruit you could imagine are just so much more delicious when locally grown and handpicked! When at the elephant sanctuary we visited the market every week meaning there was a constant supply of fresh fruit to snack on! Appreciate the local fruits as much as you can because I can assure you that when you get home you will dreaming about that mango you ate on the beach that doesn't even come close to the one you can buy in Morissons.
5. CHECK OUT THE AREA
If you are going to spending a significant amount of time somewhere it might be worth trying to research cafes or restaurants that you can find vegan options at using websites such as www.happycow.net, or Instagram! Speak to locals and other travelers and you'll be sure to find somewhere you can eat at. Whilst I was attending a noodle festival in Melbourne I got talking to another vegan traveller and ended up going out for lunch with her at a vegan cafe she loved that I had would never have found by myself. Even asking on social media or meeting up with other vegans you know off of social media will work wonders, in Sydney I met up with a group of vegan girls that I knew from Instagram and they were able to show me the best vegan places in the neighborhood that I then constantly visited during my stay as well as recommending vegan cafes in other areas of Australia that I could visit later on during my travels.
ALWAYS CHECK & DOUBLE CHECK INGREDIENTS
Despite whether its a product or brand you have never heard of or a staple product in your diet always check the ingredients just incase they have sneaked in milk powder or some other animal derived ingredient. Often the ingredients will vary in different countries so its always worth checking even if it appears vegan at first glance - for example I bought a brand of soy milk in Thailand assuming it would be vegan but that actually contained lactose (as shown below)!! Always check everything as you never know what they might have sneaked in there and you don't want to accidentally consume milk powder! Luckily in countries such as Australia or America, I found so many foods in supermarkets that were clearly marked vegan, so it's easier than ever!
If you need any other traveling tips then feel free to ask me over on my social media accounts (@positivesoph) or email me at email@example.com! I would love to hear from you and all about your travels!
Keep your soul happy! - Sophie :)