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7 ways to travel as a vegan

Hurdle over the language and cultural barriers that make nutritional options limited with these tips and tricks

7 ways to travel as a vegan
Vegan shish kebab. Image: Getty

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1 // Get a new passport 
Whether you’re trying to turn down cheese in Hausa or buy salad in Xhosa, the Vegan Society’s ‘passport’ has you covered. A multilingual vegan phrase book — now in its fifth edition and also available as an app — it explains what vegans can’t eat, and what they can, in 79 different languages.

2 // Plan ahead 
Wherever you are in the world, you’re only a click away from a decent tempeh burger thanks to one of the greatest resources for travelling vegans, Happy Cow. Its searchable directory lists vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants worldwide. Fastidiously maintained by an involved community of vegans and vegetarians, restaurants are rated and reviewed in forensic detail. 

3 // Play your cards
Bustling night markets are rarely a good time to fumble through a phrase book. Communicate quickly by drawing up your own flashcards: a clumsy doodle of a shrimp with a line through it is worth a thousand words. If you’re not confident in your own artistic ability, order laminated, credit card-sized flashcards from Select Wisely: usually used to communicate allergies, they also produce illustrated vegan cards in multiple languages.

4 // Time it right 
For the seven weeks before Easter, practising Christians in Orthodox countries observe a Lenten Great Fast and abstain from animal products. It’s a penitential season for meat eaters, but for vegans it’s an ideal opportunity to indulge in the many traditional recipes that are tweaked for the fast. In Greece, for example, you’ll find veganised fassolatha (white bean soup), stuffed vegetables and vine leaves, and cheese-free spanakopita (spinach pie).

5 // Say a prayer 
In countries with Buddhist, Hindu and Jain populations, a form of strict vegetarianism is widely practised that’s pretty close to veganism. Restaurants next to temples cater to pilgrims, so tend to be good neighbourhoods to find vegan food. Look out for shojin ryori (Zen Buddhist) food in Japan, mock meat restaurants near temples in China and (dairy-free) Ayurvedic food in India.

6 // Community spirit
From blogs to old-fashioned chat forums, veganism may not be a niche interest any more but it still inspires impressive levels of close-knit community spirit. Search Instagram for your destination plus #vegan to get up-to-date, community-approved tips and inspiring photos. If you want to get involved in local activism, search a hosting network like Couchsurfing for vegan listings to stay with a vegan-friendly host.

7 // Vitamin power
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you’ll end up eating various incarnations of potato for three meals in a row. On a longer trip, offset the damage by packing a good, vegan multivitamin: look for one rich in zinc, iodine and vitamin B12, all things that vegans can easily incorporate into their diet when cooking but that can be hard to guarantee on the road. Dissolvable tablets — like Berocca — come in easy-to-pack tubes, and are straightforward to incorporate into your lifestyle: simply drop one into a bottle of water at the beginning of the day.

Vegan destinations

Berlin is the most vegan friendly city in the world, according to listings website Happy Cow. Its annual top 10 ranks cities by the number of vegan businesses they have as well as overall vegan friendliness. Warsaw, Taipei and Tel Aviv all made the list in 2017 — alongside old favourites like Los Angeles, California, and Portland, Oregon. 

Published in the June 2018 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)