Is vegan travel possible? In this post we share our tips, tricks, favourite vegan tour companies, vegan resources and more. Read on for your guide to getting your fill of animal-friendly food, anywhere in the world!
- What is vegan travel?
- Are vegan travellers rude?
- Is travelling vegan just a rich-person privileged thing?
- Does vegan travel limit your experience?
- Is it really possible to travel vegan?
- Tips for Travelling Vegan
- Best Countries for Vegan Travellers
- Best Cities for Vegan Travellers
- Vegan Travel & Tour Companies
- Our Vegan City & Country Guides
Opportunities for incredible vegan travel experiences have expanded immeasurably during the last few years. We’ve been on the road full-time for 7 years and continually marvel at how much easier it has become to travel as a vegan in this short time.
The world is opening its arms and hearts to embrace veganism — whether for health, animal protection, or the environment — and we vegan travellers are reaping the rewards!
When we first started travelling together 20 years ago, we were vegetarian, and even that was a challenge.
We were offered fish or chicken as a meat substitute more times than we can count. And just as often, our meal would be delivered with secret meat hidden inside, or just flat-out huge chunks of bacon or sausage thrown on top. Even in 2013, when we were cycling through Eastern Europe, we had more accidental encounters with meat than we care to remember.
But now, just a few years later, travelling vegan is much easier than travelling as a vegetarian was in those early years.
For a start, more people understand the basic concept. We get fewer blank stares, fewer questions about why, and many more questions about how to get started being vegan.
Plus, as the idea grows, so does the market, which means there are more vegan restaurants and more vegan options on omnivore restaurant menus than ever before.
Even supermarkets are seeing dollar signs as they sell out of plant-based yogurts, milks, cheeses, meat substitutes, and ready-made meals for vegan eaters.
So if you’re at all worried about getting fed as a vegan traveller, don’t be. Armed with a few tips and resources, you will find that eating vegan as you travel adds to the adventure, the cultural immersion, and the transformational nature of travel!
What is vegan travel?
At its most basic, vegan travel is moving through the world while eating only plant-based foods — avoiding meat, eggs, dairy, honey, and other foods derived from animal sources.
But, for us, vegan travel is about more than what you eat.
Most vegans are interested in helping animals, so vegan travel extends to things like:
- Picking responsible eco-friendly tours
- Booking vegan resorts and hotels or eco-hotels
- Choosing ground transportation over flying whenever possible
- Avoiding all attractions that feature captive animals
- Reducing waste, like plastic water bottles and takeaway containers, when travelling
Vegan travel is really about being conscious of your travel choices and how they impact animals, people, and the world around you.
Are vegan travellers rude?
One of the most famous foodie travellers in the world, Anthony Bourdain, once famously said that vegetarians “…make for bad travelers and bad guests. The notion that before you even set out to go to Thailand, you say, “I’m not interested,” or you’re unwilling to try things that people take so personally and are so proud of and so generous with, I don’t understand that, and I think it’s rude.”
Unfortunately, never having been a vegetarian traveller himself, Bourdain didn’t know what the f*** he was talking about.
For a start, people all over the world, in any culture, in any walk of life, completely understand that people have different eating habits according to their upbringing, their religion, or other beliefs.
Veganism isn’t a “first world-phenomenon” (another Bourdain gem).
There are millions of vegans in India, China, and Southeast Asia. And in places where veganism isn’t a part of the culture or religion, people are still aware that it’s a thing!
Assuming that people don’t understand veganism these days is assuming that people don’t know anything about the world around them — limited colonial thinking at its worst!
Never, ever, in the 50+ countries we’ve been to, has anyone been offended when we explain that we don’t eat meat. In fact, more often than not, they make extra effort that we didn’t request, in order to help us.
So, while it is possible to be a rude vegan traveller, it’s equally possible to be a rude steak-eater. It’s all in your approach.
Use our tips for being a vegan traveller below to make sure you fall on the right side of that line.
Is travelling vegan just a rich-person privileged thing?
Honestly, almost any international travel is a rich-person privileged thing.
If you can afford to travel to another country and if your passport allows you free movement to other countries, you are a person of privilege. In all likelihood, you are among the top 5% of income earners in the world.
Even if you’ve had to scrimp and save for years to go on one trip, you are still more privileged than most people in the world, who are not allowed to freely leave their country.
Back to the question. Is travelling vegan just flaunting your privilege?
As a vegan traveller myself, I’m of course going to say no. On the surface, it’s just another food preference, like not ordering fish because you don’t like it, or not ordering pasta because you’re on a diet. Vegans simply do not order food with animal products. End of story.
Of course, that’s not really the end of the story.
Your choice to be vegan has a thousand times more impact on the world than most food preferences.
The poorest people in the world are already, and will be in the future, the hardest hit by climate change. Subsistence fishermen, for instance, are losing their fish stocks because of human actions. Dry areas are getting drier, meaning farming communities face famine caused by drought. And low-lying coastal areas, which are often populated by the world’s poorer people are being swamped by rising sea levels.
By eating vegan every day, we help slow down these effects.
Sure, you’re only one person and your food choices are only a drop in the ocean. But your choices impact and influence every person you meet. People become curious about being vegan, they might see that it’s not only possible but preferable. Your one-person impact has played a vital role in the avalanche of global change that we’re seeing today.
Does vegan travel limit your experience?
I’m going to be brutally honest here — I think it definitely does.
One of the best ways to get to know a culture is through its food traditions and local speciality dishes. As a vegan, you will have to say “no” to most street food, you might have to decline an offer of a home-cooked meal, and you don’t get to try the local food as it is traditionally prepared.
There are times when we are travelling that I feel left out, or like a fraud, because we can’t sit down with locals and share their meal.
However, there are lots of times when being vegan has enhanced our travel experience, too.
When you’re vegan, you often have to search a little harder for your food. So while most travellers are eating in the obvious place right next to the main tourist hot-spot, or the place that Bourdain recommended on his show, you are exploring neighbourhoods far off the beaten track, to find the few people in the community who share your values.
Our search for vegan food has taken us to restricted areas in St Petersburg, down dark alleys in Rome, into hidden markets in Malaysia, and to hundreds of other out-of-the-way places that we only saw because we are vegan.
So, though the limitation is real — you will have to say “no” to trying weird and wonderful local specialities — sometimes this leads to even deeper and more interesting experience as a result.
Plus, the truth is, you don’t always have to say “no”.
That’s your choice.
There are times travelling that I have said “yes” to non-vegan foods.
I’ve eaten pain au chocolat in Paris and pasta de natal in Portugal. I’ve had milky chai tea in India and egg banh mi in Vietnam. Does that make me a bad vegan? Maybe. Does it make me a bad person? I don’t think so.
I’ve never eaten meat on purpose during my travels (though I have been served it by accident many times). That’s where I draw my line.
But if you choose to try a plate of fresh sashimi in Japan, I won’t hold it against you.
You get to decide what kind of a vegan traveller you are! Even if you’re 98% vegan, or only 75%, you’re still making a huge impact.
Is it really possible to travel vegan?
While it is getting so much easier to travel vegan, thanks to the worldwide trend towards plant-based food, travelling vegan is still tricky.
Whether it’s possible to eat 100% vegan food while you’re on the road really depends on your destination.
If you’re going to a vegan-friendly country, like Canada or India, can communicate well with the locals, and don’t go anywhere too far off the beaten track, then yes, it is totally possible to stay 100% vegan while travelling.
However, if you want to go nomadic through central Asia, visit tiny villages in Eastern Europe, or explore remote corners of South America, that’s when things start to get tricky.
There are certain countries where sticking to a vegan diet can be challenging — or even impossible. That’s why we usually say we’re 99% vegan. If you’re sitting at a bus station in a remote village in Romania, you haven’t eaten breakfast, and the only thing on offer is some kind of weird pastry, just eat the damn pastry!
A starving vegan fainting in the middle of the road never did the world any good.
Especially while cycle touring, there have been plenty of times when we’ve chosen to eat an egg or suffer through a few drops of fish sauce if it meant the difference between crashing on the road or getting to our next destination fit and healthy.
If you’re the type of vegan who can’t deal with a burger flipped with the same utensil that flipped a meat burger, or wouldn’t eat a stir fry out of a wok that has had meat in it, then you might want to consider staying home. Or at least avoid countries that can be challenging for vegans.
Otherwise, you can do as many vegan travellers do — they fool themselves into thinking their food is 100% vegan even when it’s not.
Take our friend in India who was telling us how easy it was to be vegan there. Until we pointed out that most food in India is cooked in ghee (clarified butter). Or the couple I met in Vietnam who happily told me they had been 100% vegan the whole time. It turns out, they didn’t realize how much fish sauce is used, even in meat-free dishes.
So yeah, there are challenges to travelling vegan. And no, you probably won’t be a 100% perfect vegan when you’re travelling, no matter where you go.
But that shouldn’t be a deterrent! It’s all part of the adventure.
Presumably, you are vegan to make a difference in the world — to help animals, to preserve the environment, to improve your health. The huge difference you’re making every day does not get wiped out if you accidentally eat a few drops of fish sauce or gobble a croissant to keep from fainting.
So go out there, explore the world, and do your best. But don’t let a few slip-ups ruin your trip.
Tips for Travelling Vegan
Research before you travel
Before you book that ticket, research your destination — using blogs like this one of course!
Read about vegan eating in your destination from others who have been there before you. You’ll not only find specific places to chow down on amazing vegan food, but you’ll find tips for making your vegan journey a little easier.
Here are a few places we recommend for your research:
- Our vegan travel guides – just scroll down to explore our destinations.
- Happy Cow app – especially useful in remote areas that no one has written about.
- The Nomadic Vegan – solo traveller Wendy, living in Portugal, helping vegans find amazing food.
- Justin Plus Lauren – Canadian couple Justin and Lauren, full-time vegans, part-time travellers.
- Vegan Miam – travel couple Rika & Doni, sharing worldwide vegan experiences and recipes from their global journeys.
- Veggie Vagabonds – plant-powered cycle tourists who focus on nature travel.
- Mostly Amelie – Canadian blogger who lives in Berlin and shares her travels, food quests, and conscious lifestyle.
For city travel, we also recommend you check out Instagram. Search for “vegan [city name]” and you’ll get tons of drool-inducing pictures of food available at your destination.
Once you’re satisfied that you will be able to get fed, then start planning your itinerary. If you’re like us, your schedule will be filled with vegan places and foods you must try.
While the internet is awesome, and apps like Happy Cow really do save the day, we’ve found some of our favourite vegan meals through locals. If we’re in a vegan cafe or restaurant that’s great, we ask the staff where else to eat. Usually, the vegan community in town is small enough that everyone supports each other and they’re happy to recommend other places.
If we’re in a little-visited village in the countryside, we ask at any local food stall or restaurant serving meat. They will almost always be happy to give directions or to actually walk with us to the vegan eatery.
You can also ask the staff at your hotel or hostel. A lot of times, they won’t have any idea. But every so often, they come up with a gem!
There are still lots of places in the world where there are no vegan restaurants at all — what a disaster! In that case, you’ll need to get a little creative.
If there’s nothing vegan or vegetarian on the menu, then you’re going to have to make up your own dish. If the menu is in a language you understand, read it through and then mix and match from the ingredients you see there. It’s rare that a restaurant will refuse your request, as long as you can make yourself understood.
Sometimes, there’s no menu in your language or no menu at all. We experienced this a lot when we cycled through rural China. There was also no hope of communicating, since our Mandarin was non-existent. In that case, we followed the staff into the kitchen (or cooking area) and just pointed at the ingredients we wanted.
Sometimes we’d end up with a beautiful varied meal, complete with tons of colourful stir-fried veggies and tofu. Sometimes we’d end up with a plate of plain rice and some limp stir-fried lettuce!
But we always got fed.
As more people go plant-based, the image of the angry, intolerant vegan is slowly fading away (thank god). Still, when it comes to diet, vegans are not known for their flexibility.
And while I agree that sticking to your principles is important, I’m not sure that’s it’s important enough to starve for. So, when you have explored all other options and completely failed to find anything that even resembles a vegan meal, it’s time to be flexible.
When you’re travelling, you need to eat well and often. Otherwise, the whole thing just becomes a terrible nightmare. We always prioritize our health and wellbeing when we’re on the road.
While these days that rarely means eating dairy or eggs, if we have to, we do.
This is just a blanket tip for all travellers but it’s a good one for we vegans to remember.
It can be easy when you’re hungry and tired to get frustrated or impatient with people who don’t understand your dietary requirements. And when you’re served meat despite your best efforts to communicate, it can make you want to cry.
If problems arise, take a deep breath before reacting. Remember that you are a guest in someone else’s restaurant, someone else’s country. Gauge the situation. If you’re in a nicer restaurant where they obviously have lots of customers and charge tourist prices, try to explain the mistake.
If you’re in a street stall where two women are serving bowls of soup for 50 cents, take the loss. Eat what you can, leave the rest, pretend to enjoy it, and look grateful as you walk away, still hungry.
One great way to prevent food emergencies is to pack vegan snacks.
If you’re travelling in the Western hemisphere, this is usually super easy.
Nuts and dried fruit have saved me from hangry meltdowns about a million times. And there’s almost always bread and hummus available. Fruit, crackers, peanut butter, granola bars… make sure to pick up plenty if you’re taking an adventure and not sure where you’ll eat.
Do a cooking class
One of the best ways to really understand a food culture is to take a local cooking class. It used to be that vegans were out of luck when it came to classes like this. But now, with veganism sweeping the world (hooray), there are opportunities to learn meat-free versions of local specialities all over the world.
Whenever we’ve taken a vegan cooking class, we have learned much more than how to cook the food. We also learned what ingredients to look for, what restaurants to visit, and how the local culture views meat-free foods.
To find cooking classes, we usually check Cookly, which collects some of the best cooking classes around the world and offers a filter for vegan/vegetarian options.
Grab your vegan passport
If you’ll be travelling to places where you have no hope of communicating with locals, then the Vegan Passport app can be a huge help. Created to support the Vegan Society, a non-profit founded in 1944 with the goal of living in “a world where humans do not exploit non-human animals”, this app does the talking for you.
It has a simple explanation of a vegan diet in languages that cover 96% of the world’s population. Plus, for that last 4%, there are pictures as well, showing what vegans do and do not eat. This would have come in very useful on our bike trip through China!
Best Countries for Vegan Travellers
When talking about best countries for vegan travellers, we take two factors into account.
First is the widespread availability of vegan food. Sometimes this is because of cultural or religious traditions in the country, sometimes it is because the general population has been swinging slowly towards vegan eating during the last decade or more.
We don’t include countries that might have one or two great vegan cities but cannot offer vegan options if you go to smaller places.
The second factor is ease of communication for English speakers. (I know, this is inherently ego-centric, but the truth is that English has become the common tongue for travellers to most parts of the world and most of the readers of this English-language blog speak at least some English.)
Where communication is easy, it becomes much easier to get vegan food because you can explain exactly what you want. When communication is more difficult, crossed wires are frequent and the chances of being accidentally served meat, eggs, or cheese is much higher.
After having travelled to more than 50 countries, this is our shortlist of the best countries for vegan travel.
While eating vegan in Vietnam can be tough at first, once you figure out where to look, there is vegan food everywhere.
Being vegan in Vietnam is easy partly because of the religious culture.
Many Buddhists in the country still keep a vegan diet year-round and those who don’t, often observe vegan days twice per month — during the full moon and the new moon. Because of that, all the sauces and dips that the Vietnamese regularly eat are already available in vegan versions. Plus, there are plenty of little vegan restaurants and noodle stalls that cater to the local population.
The other thing that makes being vegan in Vietnam quite easy is the high level of English spoken in the country. While it’s really tough for foreigners to learn to pronounce Vietnamese so we can be understood, lots of locals speak English very well.
Unless you’re getting waaaay off the tourist trail (i.e., cycling through remote villages in the mountains like we did), you’ll almost certain find someone who can understand your requests.
2. Sri Lanka
If the idea of mild vegan curries packed with fresh veggies and complex flavours makes your mouth water, then start planning your trip to Sri Lanka.
Because of the multi-religious nature of Sri Lanka, home to large populations of Buddhists, Muslims, and Hindus, people are used to the idea of dietary restrictions. In Sri Lanka, you’ll never get that “what planet are you from?” look when you ask for food without meat.
Communication is fairly easy in Sri Lanka, as English is widely spoken (often the common language among lingually diverse locals), so even in remote areas, you can usually find someone who understands what you’re after.
In more touristy areas, vegetarian and vegan set menus are common, so you’ll have no problem at all filling your belly and delighting your tastebuds.
3. Indonesia – Bali
While in general Indonesia is not great for vegan travel — Bali is the opposite. In Bali, there are more places to eat vegan food than a person can reasonably count.
Many of these restaurants are owned by and geared towards foreigners but more locally owned vegan places are popping up every day. Plus, since tempeh comes from Indonesia and jackfruit is grown there too, when eating at local restaurants, there are usually plenty of vegan options for you to choose from.
If you can’t get enough of vegan pizza and pasta, then Italy is a fantastic destination for you.
The great thing about Italian cuisine is that, even though the locals are meat– and cheese–focussed, they have loads of traditional dishes that are accidentally vegan.
Many styles of pizza come without cheese, so you often don’t even have to ask for “senza la mozzarella”. Pastas, too, are commonly served without meat or cheese. If there’s nothing on the menu that’s vegan, it’s easy to ask the kitchen to whip up something that works, since all the fresh ingredients are on hand.
Oh, and the gelato! Again, there are lots of traditional gelato flavours that don’t contain any milk. Plus, many gelateria, even in small towns, also feature non-fruit flavours without milk. The phrase “senza latte” is your friend!
There is a growing vegan movement among young Italians, so you’ll also find lots of vegan restaurants or vegan options in most cities.
Language can sometimes be a bit of a problem in Italy — in villages and smaller towns, most locals don’t speak any English. The good news is, Italian is easy to learn and pronounce, so bring a few key phrases with you and you’ll eat like a queen.
There is a fast-growing vegan movement in Canada, which means almost every restaurant you enter has at least one or two vegan options. On our trip through BC last summer, we found incredible vegan eats and treats, even in small towns.
Plus, three of the biggest fast food chains in Canada, Tim Hortons, White Spot, and A&W, have all just added Beyond Meat burgers and breakfast sausages to their menus. While it’s not the healthiest option, we do love the the chance to just to pop into any fast-food chain and have our vegan junk food cravings fulfilled.
Best Cities for Vegan Travellers
There are lots of cases where the vegan scene in a country is pretty poor in general but there are one or two cities within that country that have wholeheartedly embraced vegan eating.
And then there are a few cities where vegans have ample thrilling opportunities to eat a rainbow of vegan delights every single day.
Here are a few of our favourite cities for vegan eating around the world. Click the links to read our full city guides for each one.
New York – I challenge you to read our vegan guide to New York without drooling all over the place.
Los Angeles – LA was pretty great for vegans when we lived there but the unbelievably diverse vegan scene now has us wanting to move back.
Portland – Portland has always been the hippiest of cities in the US, which means the vegan food there is off the hook!
Vancouver – We’re usually in Vancouver a couple of times per year and always look forward to re-visiting our favourite vegan haunts in this our favourite city.
Lisbon – While most of Portugal is a food desert for vegans, in Lisbon, the options for animal-friendly eating are incredible.
London – When we lived there, the vegan food scene in London was lame. Now, there’s so much amazing vegan food that we had to limit our vegan guide to East London.
Amsterdam – The Dutch are a very eco-friendly bunch, so it’s no surprise that there is plenty of delicious vegan food in Amsterdam.
Vegan Travel & Tour Companies
- World Vegan Travel – luxury vegan tours with a focus on animal-friendly activities.
- Intrepid Vegan Adventures – visit India, Thailand, or Italy on Intrepid’s speciality vegan small-group tours.
- Vegan Jaunts & Journeys – travel company offering vegan tours in Europe.
- VegVoyages – adventure tours in Asia for vegans and vegan-curious travellers.
- Vegan Cruises – German company offering all-vegan cruises in Europe.
Our Vegan City & Country Guides
Vegan Travel in Vietnam
Vegan Travel in Thailand
Vegan Travel in Bali
Vegan Travel in Europe
Vegan Travel in North America
We hope this guide to vegan travel makes your next trip a little easier and a lot more delicious. Our goal is to make every trip transformational, so you get more out of your travel days and come home just a little bit different than you left it! Please shout on email or Instagram if you have any questions about travelling vegan.
♥ Happy transformational travels, Jane & Stephen