Vegan Travel Guide
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As I write this we've been traveling full-time for almost three years mostly in the RV but we've also taken a two month international trip to Southeast Asia.
And we've managed to find plenty of vegan food while traveling from the east coast to the west coast, from Alaska to the tip of Baja, Mexico and beyond. And not just sustenance but delicious vegan food in most cases!
So how do we do it?
For many vegans and vegetarians, finding appropriate foods is a big concern when considering travel. But we're here to tell you that with a little preparation and research, traveling can be nearly stress free!
Recently we gave a talk at Atlanta Veg Fest titled "Veg Travel - thoughts & reflections from 3 years on the road" where we shared our tips and methods for finding the best places to visit as a vegan, how to find the awesome food, and what to do in those no-so-friendly spots.
Since not everyone could be at Atlanta Veg Fest, this post is all the information we shared about traveling while vegan. If you have any questions or we missed anything, drop a comment we'd be happy to help!
How do you pick a good place to visit for vegan food?
Visit a place known for its awesome vegan options
If you're brand new to plant-based eating, you might not know about the most friendly cities for vegans. As long-time vegans, we know off the top of our heads some of the biggies: Portland, OR, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City, Austin, TX, and so on.
For those new to eating vegan, all you have to do is an internet search for "top vegan cities." You'll come up with a number of lists to get you started, like these:
You get the idea. There are a bunch of lists like this out there.
You'll notice that they don't all agree. Lists like these are subjective and rely on the author's experiences to shape the recommendations. It's hard to get excited about places you haven't been! But any city on these lists should keep you in tasty food for your trip.
How can you determine how veg-friendly a city is?
Aside from the lists mentioned above, when traveling how do you figure out whether or not a place is going to have nice vegan options? You do a little research!
Check Happy Cow
We recommend Happy Cow every chance we get because it's what we rely on most to find vegan eats. But it's also useful for researching places that you're thinking of visiting.
Search the city and see how many options are listed. Will that be enough to keep you fed during the time frame you'll be there?
Don't forget to check opening hours. Some spots might only be open weekends, at a farmer's market, or just not open when you'll be there.
Look for local groups
Search for local veg groups on Facebook. See how active they are. Do they have any events planned when you'll be there? They're also a great place to get the inside scoop on the local scene.
If Facebook is a bust, you can try Meetup. Most groups have migrated to Facebook but some might still be using Meetup.
People LOVE to post about food on Instagram and that makes it a great place for researching vegan options. Search #veganCITY and similar. This will lead you to local restaurants, groups, and events.
Look for veg-friendly accommodations
Search the city on Vegvisits. It's like a veg-friendly AirBNB. Even if you don't plan to stay in this type of accommodation, it will give you an idea how friendly the area is. Happy Cow also has a section for veg-friendly B&Bs.
How to find the GOOD vegan food
Sure, anyone can get a bean burrito at Taco Bell. But hopefully you won't have to settle for that! Below we give our tips on finding the good stuff. Because no one wants to pay good money for bad food.
How to get the most out of Happy Cow
First, we search for the city on Happy Cow. Then, we narrow it down by filtering just the vegan results. After that, we sort by highest rated. Then we look at reviews and photos (on Happy Cow and Instagram) to choose the first place to visit.
Vegan staff are a wealth of information
Now that you're having an awesome meal somewhere, start chatting with the staff. Are they vegan or vegetarian? What other spots in town do they recommend? People love to talk about their local favorites! We've even had someone write out a dozen spots for us to try with details.
Join the local vegan Facebook Group
Now that you've decided a place to visit, go ahead and join the local Facebook Group. Ask questions. See what they have going on. This is how we found a potluck in Fairbanks, Alaska and caught a screening of The Game Changers in Chiang Mai, Thailand. And we met a bunch of cool people!
Visit the local co-op
If there's a co-op or natural foods store in town, they are often a wealthy of information. You can often find local and regional products that you might not get to try otherwise. They often have bulletin boards where you might get some inside info on events.
We love visiting markets. In addition to locally grown produce, you'll often find micro businesses that make small batch vegan food. Look for fermented foods, sourdough bread, artisan vegan cheese and prepared foods.
Food delivery service
Sometimes the awesome vegan food you want to try is just out of reach, Maybe you don't have transportation across town or you simply don't have time to get there and back. See if they deliver! You'd be surprised at the options you can find on food delivery apps these days. We used Grab in Thailand to have amazing food brought to us when we didn't have to time or energy to go get it.
Vegan travel tips for a veg food desert
Sometimes you don't have any choice about your travel. You're traveling for work or with family or to see a particular sight and you have to make do. In that case, there are a few things you can do to avoid the dreaded pile of iceberg lettuce and dry baked potato.
Bring your own kitchen
Get an RV! Then you have your own kitchen, pantry and refrigerator. No more guesswork! It's not for everyone but it is an awesome way to travel. But we might be biased.
You guys, there's so much vegan fast food available now! It's not our first choice but boy are we glad it's an option. We already had options at Chipotle and Taco Bell but now you've got Carl's Jr., Del Taco, Hardee's, Dunkin', Subway, and more!
Get a place with a kitchen
Kevin learned from his years of traveling for work that getting a hotel room with a mini kitchen can be a life saver when there are minimal options around. Even just having a mini fridge can save you. And often there will be a microwave near the lobby if you need it.
Now you can bring food, go get groceries, or have it delivered via Amazon Prime or Instacart. A few ideas for hotel room cooking include:
As mentioned above, it might be possible to have vegan food delivered. It can't hurt to search the local food delivery app for vegan options. Each city is different, but here are some popular food delivery apps to check:
Traveling with non-veg people
It happens to all of us. We're traveling for work, with family, or as part of a tour group and we have to go with the flow. Here are some tips for making that situation less painful and more tasty.
- Is the group into going to veg spots? If yes, do that. Easy!
- If not, take control! Find a spot on Happy Cow that will satisfy your companions but has good veg options too.
- Plans already set? Call ahead and ask about veg options.
- Still no options? It happens. Eat before or after.
Additional Tips for International Travel
We've spent time in. a few areas where English is not the first language like Quebec, Mexico, and Southeast Asia. These additional tips will help you find vegan options when traveling internationally.
Happy Cow or Trip Advisor
Happy Cow will have you covered in most places. Some countries seem to use Trip Advisor more so don't forget to check it if you're having trouble finding options. You can sort Trip Advisor by dietary preference and then search the reviews for "vegan" to find the ones specifically talking about their vegan experience.
Download the Google Translate app to your phone and download the local language for off-line use. You can use it to help make yourself understood. You can also point your camera at labels and it will translate them with varying success.
There are a bunch of different phone apps out there now that explain vegan in different languages. One you can try is The Vegan Passport from the Vegan Society. It includes 78 languages. You can also get printed versions of some of these.
Find local vegans to take you on a food tour
In some cities, there are people excited to meet traveling vegans and show them what their town has to offer. The easiest way to find these options is to do an internet search for "vegan tour CITY." Some might be paid tours and others might just be friendly allies.
Local vegan cooking classes
We found cooking classes to be very popular in Southeast Asia. In Chiang Mai, Thailand there were a few that had vegan and vegetarian options! We took a class at Ning's Kitchen and learned to make some of the dishes we loved like Tom Ka soup, Khao Soi noodles, and more.
We hope this helps you feel more comfortable traveling! Do you have any further questions or tips for others? Please share in the comments!
About the Author
vegan. digital nomad. cycling. scuba. intj. former vegan bakery owner.