8 International Travel Tips for Vegetarians and Vegans

Dietary needs don’t have to inhibit your dreams of seeing the world.

Foreign destinations can be intimidating for would-be travelers who don’t consume some (or any) animal products. I’ve been a vegetarian for most of my life, and I know the trip jitters well: it’s easy to worry that dietary restrictions will lead to perpetual hunger, exasperated companions or — perhaps worst of all — offended hosts.

Happily, the same planning habits and 21st-century tools that can simplify every other aspect of travel are equally if not even more helpful when it comes to plotting out veggie-friendly adventures. Consider these tips your ticket to tastier exploration.

1: Request a Vegetarian/Vegan In-flight Meal

Many airlines offer meals for passengers with dietary restrictions on long-distance flights, and some will even give you the opportunity to request a lacto-ovo-vegetarian or vegan meal when you book your ticket. If that’s not the case with your carrier, you’ll need to call them directly and inquire about your options — and travel pros recommend you do so as far ahead of time as you can.

2: Pack Snacks

Trail Mix

Trail Mix

Trail mix combines dried fruit, nuts and other ingredients for a healthy “on the go” snack.

Photo by: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo by Mick Telkamp

Both before and when you arrive at your destination, you should have a few nutritious items on hand to tide you over in a pinch. Travel-friendly items like protein powders and bars, energy bites, whole-grain crackers, granola, nut butters and dried fruit can all help clear the path from one satisfying meal to another.

3: Download the HappyCow App

Loving Hut Vegan Restaurant

Loving Hut Vegan Restaurant

Photo by: Tony Webster via Flickr

Tony Webster via Flickr

Founded in 1999 to help users find plant-based food all over the world, HappyCow.net now offers millions of hungry visitors a searchable international guide to vegan and vegetarian restaurants, as well as travel tips, information on veggie-friendly accommodations and the top-rated app for locating meat-free eateries in more than 180 countries.

4: Use Google Translate

Photo by: Allie Caulfield via Flickr

Allie Caulfield via Flickr

An ultra-powerful tool that generates written translations for typed text, images and audio in up to 103 languages (and counting), the Google Translate app will help you make sense of foreign menus, signage and more. No internet? No problem: you can download translation files in 59 languages for offline use.

5: Do Your Research

Photo by: charlieontravel.com

charlieontravel.com

Hit the ground eating with the help of local vegetarian and vegan Facebook and Meetup groups, as well as Yelp and Eater reviews. The thrill of discovery is part of the magic of travel — but who says you can’t make some of those discoveries before you arrive?

6: Pick up a Vegan Passport

This guide is the same size as your international ID, but its purpose is quite different: in 79 different languages, it offers one-page descriptions of what vegans can and can’t eat. If you lack the foreign vocabulary to explain your restrictions to a server or kitchen, the Passport can offer clear guidance on your behalf.

7: Keep Non-Veggie Friendly Ingredients in Mind

Most vegetarians and vegans are accustomed to keeping their eyes peeled for certain animal-based additives when they’re on home soil. That can get a bit trickier when one goes abroad, but knowing local terms for butter and chicken or fish broth can go a long way. You should also consider non-vegetarian ingredients that can sneak into "non-meat" dishes, such as fish sauces, anchovy paste, lard, gelatin and animal rennet (an enzyme found in calves’ stomachs which is used in most artisanal cheeses, especially in Europe).

8: Pay it Forward

Photo by: Rod Waddington via Flickr

Rod Waddington via Flickr

When you stumble upon a particularly excellent plant-based dish — or overcome an unexpected challenge in your veggie travels — revisit the websites you researched before your trip and let your community know. Each time vegetarians and vegans share their experiences, the world opens up just a bit more.

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