There’s no need to leave your cruelty-free diet at home when you travel. In fact, think of your time away as an excuse to try tasty new vegetarian cuisines. You’re likely to bring back a few ideas for new meals to whip up in your own kitchen. I travel all the time for my job, and I relish any opportunity to sample satisfying snacks from around the globe.
While it can be more difficult to find vegetarian fare in some countries (I’m looking at you, Japan), I often find suitable options where I least expect them – in fast-food restaurants, for example. But of course, it’s easier to find meatless meals if you plan ahead and take advantage of all the resources that are now available for vegetarian travellers.
Whatever your destination, you’re sure to find filling plant-based foods. Vegetarians abroad will likely feel at home in Singapore – in fact, it may be one of the most vegetarian-friendly cities in Southeast Asia. But other countries can be veggie oases, too! You can order veggie burgers at McDonald’s and Burger King in Kuwait and a “vegan shake” at Cafe Coffee Day branches in India.
I’ve spent most of my life in America, where I travelled frequently to various cities and states. It really is a land of opportunity for vegetarians. Many restaurant chains – including Johnny Rockets, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Quiznos and Chili’s – have options such as veggie burgers, subs, quesadillas and tofu burritos. And popular grocery stores such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s stock a plethora of vegetarian and vegan foods.
Trust me: I’ve been vegan for many years, and I’ve spent most of those years on the road. It’s easy to find vegetarian-friendly establishments, even in a strange land. The trick is to research your options before you get to your destination. And you’ll also likely find other fitting options once you’ve arrived – consider them the icing on your vegan cake.
Lonely Planet guides give suggestions for vegetarian travellers, and there are many regional guides out there that cater exclusively to vegetarians. Websites that list vegetarian friendly restaurants categorised by city, such as HappyCow.net and VegDining.com, are life-savers. Your destination’s tourist bureau may also be able to suggest some vegetarian-friendly restaurants or, at the very least, refer you to an organisation that can. When my co-workers at PETA visited the tourist bureau in Penang, Malaysia, they were given a booklet that listed vegetarian options in the area. It was produced by a local vegetarian activist. In fact, you’ll often find local vegetarian-advocacy organisations wherever you travel. They’ll be
happy to offer a list of suitable options in the area. Remember: It never hurts to ask. You can also ask your hotel concierge or check the local yellow pages for vegetarian restaurants.
If your schedule is flexible, you may want to visit another country during a spiritual observation that involves vegetarian feasting. For example, every October, Thailand celebrates the Phuket Vegetarian Festival where many people observe a vegetarian diet during 10 days of spiritual cleansing and merit-making – street stands, restaurants and bakeries display yellow flags with red writing indicating that the establishments serve food that has been cooked without dairy products,
eggs or meat.
You can even eat delicious vegetarian food en route to your destination and when returning home, too. The next time you fly, be sure to request a vegetarian meal when you book your flight – not when you check in. When given advance notice, most airlines can accommodate requests for “special” meals. You’ll also find that your meal is often served first!
If you prefer to eat before boarding a plane, many airports have restaurants and snack bars that offer vegetarian items. My favourite is the Be Lohas Healthy Cuisine, a vegetarian restaurant that’s open 24 hours every day of the week in the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. It has a small health-food store and serves countless vegan dishes, but the scrumptious soya milk curry laksa gets my vote. If you’re concerned about a language barrier, pack a copy of the “Vegan Passport” – a passport-size booklet that will help you explain that you’d like a vegetarian meal in any of 56 languages. It even gives a detailed description of what vegetarians and vegans don’t eat. Let the waiter show it to the cook so he or she knows that you want an animalfree feast. The “Vegan Passport” is a truly invaluable tool. It’s available online, along with other travel guides, from VegetarianGuides.co.uk.
On the surface, the Philippines doesn’t appear to be the most vegetarian-friendly place. That’s all a façade, though – no matter where you go in this beautiful country, you’re sure to find something gulay lang (“only vegetables”). There’s even a vegetarian resort, The Farm at San Benito! However, you needn’t splurge on an expensive resort to satisfy your veggie needs, as places such as Baguio are hotspots for fresh vegetables and exciting cuisine. This city is home to an abundance of vegetarian restaurants as well as certain dishes that are unique to the area. Don’t start your day without sampling some delicious strawberry taho, which is made from silken tofu, strawberry syrup, and sago pearls. No matter where you go, if you’re patient and polite when communicating your dietary needs, you likely won’t have a problem. Just be clear, ask questions, and don’t assume that the waiter or waitress knows what vegetarians and vegans want. After all, some people still think that fish is a vegetarian food!
And remember: Travelling is an adventure, and although some dishes may be foreign to you, it’s always fun to explore new vegetarian foods. You never know what great things you’ll discover. Here’s wishing you a tasty trip!