Ask people about their favourite part of a holiday and, unsurprisingly, food and the dining experience will often feature high on the list. However, travelling with any sort of dietary requirement or preference can make the experience stressful, even more so when you don’t speak the language! The good news is that vegan and vegetarian lifestyles have long been the norm in some regions, and are gaining in popularity in others, meaning it’s getting easier to enjoy authentic cuisine without compromise.
If you’re looking for where to put on your short-list with tasty food in mind, here’s a roundup of some of the best places to visit for a successful vegetarian or vegan foodie holiday.
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Often considered one of the most vegan-friendly places on the planet, the Taiwanese Buddhists follow a similar diet to veganism and are widely catered to, with many traditional foods already free of animal products. The Taiwanese government also actively encourages a reduced meat diet and has strict food labelling standards that make it easier to identify food that meets various dietary needs. This rich history in vegan cuisine means vegan-specific restaurants, as well as street food vendors, market stalls, and grocery stores can be found throughout the country.
Local Foods that are often Vegan or Vegetarian: Sesame noodles, steamed dumplings, shao bing (flatbread), stinky tofu (the pungent aroma comes from being marinated in fermented bean curd, but luckily most people agree it tastes better than it smells!).
Popular Vegan or Vegetarian Restaurants in Taipei: Shàng Dǐng HuángJiā (Vegan street stall selling dumplings and buns), Yiihotang Bakery, Vege Creek (Vegan build-your-own noodle restaurant, with multiple branches throughout Taipei), Flourish.
Traditional Indonesian cuisine is pretty veg-centred from the get-go, and when combined with the holistic tourism focus throughout Bali, it delivers a vegetarian and vegan heaven. Bali also gets points as it’s easy to find restaurants catering to both across the island and English is widely spoken. Popular areas Ubud and Canggu have particularly impressive offerings, with trendy new eateries opening all the time. It’s also worth checking out the cooking schools on the island, a number will offer vegetarian-specific classes so you can recreate a piece of your holiday once you return home and make for a lasting introduction to the culture of the region.
Local Foods that are often Vegan or Vegetarian: Gado gado (vegetable salad with peanut sauce), tempe goreng (marinated tempeh), bakwan (vegetable fritters), rujak (fruit/veggie salad).
Popular Vegan or Vegetarian Restaurants in Bali: Moksa Ubud (Ubud), Bali Buda (Cafe and shop with branches across Bali), Living Food Lab (Canggu), Give Cafe (A Canggu not-for-profit cafe offering plant based Indonesian dishes), Sayuri Healing Food (Restaurant and cooking school in Ubud), KYND Community (Seminyak).
Israel has the highest percentage of vegans in the world (estimated at 5-8% of the total population) and Tel Aviv has a tonne of cool vegan eateries as a result. Variety is key here, and you will find a blend of Israeli, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and Western cuisines in the vegan and vegetarian eateries dotted throughout the city centre. Restaurants range from fine dining to fast food, and there are a few vegan delis and grocery stores for supplies on the go, so this location is great at any budget.
Local Foods that are often Vegan or Vegetarian: Falafel, hummus, sabich (stuffed pita bread), baba ganoush (eggplant dip), halva (sesame confection).
Popular Vegan or Vegetarian Restaurants in Tel Aviv: Anastasia, Falafel Mevorach, Goodness (Vegan diner providing comfort food - mushroom nuggets are a must), Tenat (Vegan Ethiopian restaurant with regular live jazz music).
Polish food may not bring to mind a plethora of vegetable-based dishes, but Poland is in fact one of the most vegan friendly countries in Europe! They boast a rapidly growing number of fully vegan restaurants across the country, and veganism is well understood and catered for. Many of these eateries offer cuisine from across the globe, though you will also find that several traditional Polish dishes are naturally meat or animal product free. Unlike many other countries, vegan preferences have spread beyond the main cities and you are likely to find suitable meals in most places (especially those popular with tourists). Warsaw and Krakow do, of course, provide the largest choice - boasting extras such as vegan bakeries and grocery stores as well.
Local Foods that are often Vegan or Vegetarian: Pierogi (dumplings), grillowane warzywa (grilled veggies), risotto z grzybami (mushroom risotto), buraczki zasmażane (fried beets), kisiel (fruit dessert).
Popular Vegan or Vegetarian Restaurants in Poland: Youmiko Vegan Sushi (Warsaw), Vege Bistro (Warsaw cafe specialising in vegan versions of classic Polish dishes), Krowarzywa (locations throughout Poland), Lokal Dela Krem (Warsaw bakery).
India is one of the most vegetarian friendly nations out there, with over half a billion residents identifying as vegetarian. Vegan travellers will still find dairy products quite prevalent in Indian cuisine - think ghee (clarified butter) and paneer (soft cheese). However, it is getting easier to find vegan-friendly options, with Chennai in particular seeing a recent increase in vegan restaurants. If you’re a fan of going out for a curry already, you know they can all be prepared with vegetables and chickpeas - and they only get more delicious when you try them in India!
Local Foods that are often Vegan or Vegetarian: Onion bhaji, dahl, chana masala (chickpea curry), pani puri (filled dough balls), palak paneer (spinach curry), chikki (nut brittle).
Popular Vegan or Vegetarian Restaurants in India: Saravana Bhavan (Locations throughout India), Burma Burma (Locations throughout India), Earth Cafe (Mumbai), Bhaja Govindam (New Delhi), Tamu Tamu (Chennai).
Plenty of vegetarian and vegan options can be found throughout Sri Lanka and not only in the big cities. There are several religions represented throughout the country and an expectation of varied food requirements as a result. English is widely spoken and, while the term “vegan” may not be well known, vegetarianism is common. Due to less prevalence of dairy in their cuisine, you can find many dishes that are vegan by default; of course, it’s always best to double check as ghee can sometimes be used instead of oil for frying, and milk powder is added to coconut milk in some instances.
Local Foods that are often Vegan or Vegetarian: Jackfruit curries, mallung (green leaves salad), kiribath (coconut white rice), string hoppers (rice flour dough cakes), kesari (semolina pudding).
Popular Vegan or Vegetarian Restaurants in Sri Lanka: The VOV (Colombo), Ranbath (Colombo), Balaju Dosai (several outlets in Kandy), Amirthaa (Colombo), Sriyani (Colombo vegetarian restaurant with buffet and bakery options).
Although many Brazilians still eat meat every day, the sheer volume and diversity of inhabitants (particularly in the big cities) means there is an increasing awareness of vegetarian and vegan lifestyles. Foodie hotspot São Paulo definitely tops the list with many well-established vegan specific restaurants, ice cream shops and fast food options. Outside of the cities, people are less likely to be familiar even with vegetarianism, but beans, rice, and vegetables are staples of the Brazilian diet and will be found almost anywhere. Brush up on your Portuguese so you can check for sneaky additions like pork fat, which is often used to add flavour to bean stews.
Local Foods that are often Vegan or Vegetarian: Polenta, beans and rice, açaí bowls, paçoca (peanut candy), goiabada (guava dessert).
Popular Vegan or Vegetarian Restaurants in Brazil: Banana Verde (São Paulo), Dona Vitamina (São Paulo), Bio Carioca (Rio de Janeiro), Camaradería Gastrobar (Belo Horizonte).
Thai cuisine has been plant-based from the get-go, owing largely to the cruelty-free philosophy of devout Buddhists in the country. Over time animal products have been widely introduced, however, it is still easy to find restaurants with vegan (“kin jay” in Thai) or vegetarian (“mangsawirat”) offerings. The country’s foodie hotspot, Chiang Mai, has long been home to a tonne of suitable restaurants, and they have new eateries popping up all the time. Fish sauce or shrimp paste are common flavorings so you will still need to be diligent, and expect eating out in the busy street markets to be challenging. A must-do when visiting Thailand is going to a cooking class, and you’ll find plenty of schools that cater exclusively to vegetarian and vegan diets, with classes ranging from traditional dishes and desserts through to making tofu from scratch.
Local Foods that are often Vegan or Vegetarian: Gang jay (vegetarian curry), laab jay (vegan spicy salad), pad thai, som tum (papaya salad), pad phuk tong (stir-fried pumpkin), mango sticky rice.
Popular Vegan or Vegetarian Restaurants in Thailand: May Kaidee (vegetarian restaurants and cooking schools in Bangkok and Chiang Mai), Goodsouls Kitchen (Chiang Mai), Chuan Siang (Chiang Mai), Vistro (Bangkok), Barefood Bangkok (restaurant specialising in homemade nut cheeses), The Vegan Table (Phuket).
Tips and tricks no matter where you’re visiting
Even if you are touring a country that caters more to vegetarianism and veganism than average, it’s not always smooth sailing - particularly when you come up against a language barrier. On the flipside, destinations that aren’t known for their plant based cuisine shouldn’t be considered impossible to visit. With some preparation you’ll be all set to get your munch on, wherever you end up! Here are a few things to consider:
Use apps to your advantage
Numerous apps have sprouted up dedicated to the vegetarian and vegan food scenes, and are helpful to speed up the search for the best foodie spots on your travels. Happy Cow is widely regarded as the most comprehensive and covers restaurants, as well as stores, hotels and resorts. There are also vegan specific restaurant apps, such as Vanilla Bean and Abillionveg. Be sure to check out The Vegan Society’s Passport for a handy multilingual phrasebook app.
Overcome the language barrier
Bring cards printed with your dietary needs translated into the local language(s) of your destination – not everyone will understand the term “vegan” so instead try translating a list of specific foods you avoid, e.g. “I do not eat meat, seafood, dairy, eggs”. These V-cards can be saved to your phone, but it’s also a good idea to have printed copies as a backup.
Find a space for DIY meals
Booking accommodation that has cooking facilities, such as a serviced apartment, Airbnb or even hostels, will allow you the flexibility to cook for yourself and takes the pressure off having to find a suitable place to eat out for every meal. You can also make the most of local markets to create versions of the region’s specialities without meat or animal products, if you can’t find suitable options at restaurants!
Bring an emergency food stash
Take some key supplies with you from home. Pack your favourite dry and tinned ingredients if you are unsure if they will be available at your destination (only if you’ll have cooking facilities available, of course!). Bringing snacks such as protein bars will ensure you never get caught out on travel days.
Keep up those nutrients
Pack supplements (such as B12 and iron) to keep healthy on the road, even if you don’t usually need them at home. This one is particularly important to avoid deficiencies on long journeys when you may struggle to find your usual food sources of essential nutrients.
Connect with locals
Join local groups, such as on Facebook (for example, try searching “Vegans in [your destination]”), to connect with fellow vegans and vegetarians for the most up-to-date advice on where to eat and shop.
With these tips and a little preparation we hope you can enjoy a stress-free and vege-filled holiday. If you’re not already a member at Jack’s Flight Club, click here to join, we’ve shared cheap flights to all of the destinations mentioned in this post in the past. Let us know about your favourite vegan- and vegetarian-friendly holiday spots - and send us your best food snaps!
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