Meal Choices for the Vegetarian Traveler
Few lifestyle choices can be as difficult to work with as being a vegetarian or vegan when traveling the world. It can be a bit more challenging trying to find food to fit your dietary needs when visiting foreign countries (and sometimes even your home country) and trying to explain how meat products are not an option to people who do not speak your language.
While the selections can certainly be slimmer in some destinations than others, they are not impossible to find. Traveling vegetarians can be creative when looking for dining venues, even within the airport, where food choices can even be limited for those that eat everything. And nobody wants to spend their entire vacation eating salads for every meal.
Visit veggie-friendly destinations – Yes, there are some vacation destinations that are more accepting of those who do not eat meat and do not consider chicken to be a vegetarian option. If you are just testing out the travel waters, the top 10 countries that are most accommodating of vegetarian and vegan diners are: Canada, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States and Vietnam.
Be prepared – Do some research at home on restaurants you can eat at and make reservations there if you can (use OpenTable in the U.S. and TopTable in the UK and Europe to gain points for free meals). If you are not sure where you will be traveling or like to be more spontaneous, download the app for HappyCow.net, which has listings worldwide for vegetarian and vegan restaurants as well as natural food stores. PETA has a list of menu items at popular chain restaurants around the globe that are vegan.
Be resourceful – Wherever you travel, there are likely to be several options that will suit your food preferences. Look for buffets. With their wide variety of food items, there is bound to be plenty for you to feast upon, without feeling like you settled. Enjoy ethnic food. Asian and Mexican restaurants are generally full of choices that you can eat, from bean burritos to meat-free curries. You can even have vegetarian sushi. Another big hit for the veggie eater is farmers markets. Chock-full of native fruits and veggies that you can make a fantastic meal out of, they are also fresh, enable you to try something regional and are a great way to interact with the locals.
Stay in an eco-lodge – These alternatives to traditional hotels were built specifically with environmentally-conscious travelers in mind. Built using sustainable – and often reclaimed – materials, eco-lodges generally have their own farms and grow their own produce to make meals they serve to guests. The results are super fresh, vegetarian dishes that you want to take home the recipes for. While not all eco-lodges are strictly vegetable-based, it is quite common. Make sure to confirm the small details, like if they have electricity or meat-free meals included. It could make the difference between an awesome stay or an awful one.
Eating at the airport – Practically every terminal has a McDonalds nowadays, but not all have a Jamba Juice or Einstein Bros. That's okay, though, because you have options, no matter which airport you fly into or out of. Some of the most popular airport dining establishments are widespread and offer delicious (and varied) food that even the pickiest vegetarian can work with. Au Bon Pain, Auntie Anne's, Moe's Southwest Grill, Panera Bread and Starbucks are prevalent chains that provide more than a few vegetarian menu items, and if you come across a Cibo Express, you've hit the mother lode of fresh and nutritious vegetarian choices. They offer more than 1,000 ready-to-eat, grab-and-go meals that are made with all-organic ingredients. A good portion of them are vegetarian, too, so get something yummy and you can eat it nearby or on the plane.
Even airlines serve vegetarian and vegan meals and snack boxes on many flights. If you are flying on an airline that still serves food, make sure to confirm your meal choice at least a week before your flight, if not sooner. Unless you are flying internationally, there is a good chance you will be paying extra for the food onboard, so you might as well get something you can actually eat. Make sure to stash some snacks in your bag, so you do not get caught out if nothing suitable is available.
So, while it is not always easy to travel with food restrictions in general, it is more than possible to do it and not feel like you have eaten the same thing for three days straight. With these tips in mind, you can focus more on other aspects of your trip, instead of planning everything around where you can eat.
About the Author
Shereen Rayle is author of the blog Shereen Travels Cheap and a book of the same name that will be published in late 2011. For years she has been planning her own vacations using the Internet to extend her limited budget as far as possible and shares the tips and tricks she has learned, along with useful sites like FareCompare.com, to help others get the most out of their travel dollars. And to further inspire budget travelers everywhere, she finds terrific travel bargains and posts them each day on her Facebook page.