Traveling internationally as a vegan can take a bit of work. If you’re heading to Tel Aviv, the world’s vegan capital, or India, which is super vegan-friendly, you probably have a lot more room to be spontaneous. But for most international vegan travelers, skipping the planning phase probably won’t work out too well.
This guide will include some simple tips that, if followed, should make your international travel as a vegan much easier. A lot of the tips can be helpful for non-vegans as well.
Before You Go
Best Way to Save Cash for Your Trip
Before you’re set to go, make sure you are stashing away stacks of moola. The last thing anyone needs is to be stuck in a foreign country without enough money to get you through your journey.
What I like to do is set aside money from each paycheck and put it toward my travel fund starting months before my trip so that by the time I’m ready to go, I’ve hit my savings goal.
If you’re disciplined, you should be able to do this yourself. But one app that I personally like is Qapital.
With this app, I can set it to automatically save a percentage each payday. I hardly even notice it’s gone, and by the time I am ready to take a trip, I have an account full of cash.
If you want to try the app, sign up using this link to get $5 free.
Saving on Flights
Scott’s Cheap Flights is a great way to save on travel. This awesome company spends their time looking for unusually cheap flights. These tickets are sometimes up to 90% off and when they find them, they send you an email alert.
If you are on a free plan, they send you flights leaving from the general region around the city you select, and only about one-third of all the deals they find will be sent to you.
Premium members get emails of all the best deals, and they are always out of the exact location they choose.
For example, I used to live in Asia and haven’t updated my location recently so within the past few days, one of the email alerts I got was for a trip from Seoul to Frankfurt for $373 round trip with no baggage fees on China Southern Airlines. Not a bad deal if you ask me.
Buy an Unused Ticket
While you can’t get your money back on a non-refundable ticket, many airlines allow you to change the name on the ticket and transfer it to someone else. This is good news for travelers looking for deals.
People who have bought tickets that they no longer plan to use, for whatever reason, would rather sell them at a discount than to lose everything, so they go on sites like these to sell them for 20-80% off the original price.
How this works is that the buyer pays money, which the transfer company holds in escrow. The seller then changes the name on the ticket. The company confirms that the name has been changed and then releases the funds to the seller.
Flight Search Engines
However, it’s always advisable to check out budget airlines directly as well. Even though Kayak does include almost every major airline, some airlines don’t advertise their rates through third-party sites.
I’ve been able to get amazing deals on budget airlines twice. The first one was a $20 ticket from Manila to Hong Kong on Cebu Pacific and the other was a $20 ticket from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Phuket, Thailand.
So check out sites like Kayak to get a general idea of the lowest fares, but always dig a little deeper on the individual airline websites.
Pre-order Your Vegan Meal
Don’t forget to order a vegan meal for your flight. Check out this article if you don’t know how.
If you are traveling by cruise ship, many cruise lines now offer vegan meals and they usually prefer if you make note of it in advance.
Reach out to Vegan Groups
One thing that I love about vegans is that I’ve found the community to be very helpful.
Reach out to either online vegan travel groups, forums or a group for vegan locals in your destination(s) to get suggestions on meal choices, snacks to buy, etc.
Check out a Vegan Travel Blog
The Nomadic Vegan put together a list of over 100 vegan travel blogs. Many of the people who run these sites are professional travelers.
More than likely somebody on that list has been where you are planning to go and can give you great tips for the best vegan establishments and resources in your destination.
Things to Bring
If you plan to travel to a country where you don’t speak the local language, one helpful tool would be the Vegan Passport.
The Vegan Passport is a book, created by The Vegan Society, which explains what vegans do and do not eat in 79 different languages. You simply show it to the chef that will be preparing your meal.
If you don’t like the idea of carrying a book, Vegan Passport is also available as an app.
The book costs about $6.50, and the app costs $1.99.
There is also a free alternative called VCards: Vegans Abroad, which is available in 100 languages.
Don’t forget to pack all your favorite cruelty-free products like toothpaste, deodorant, and if you think you might get lucky, grab yourself a pack of vegan condoms while you’re at it.
Happy Cow App
The Happy Cow app finds you the nearest vegan, vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurants and grocery stores. This awesome app can be a lifesaver when traveling.
One of the great things is that if you won’t have mobile data while traveling, you can download your location’s Happy Cow map before you leave so you can use it while offline.
Your Own Food
While I have always had my pre-ordered meal available on international flights, many vegans haven’t been so lucky.
Airlines sometimes forget a vegan’s pre-ordered meal or get it wrong, so a large number of vegan travelers say they bring sandwiches, snacks and other food just in case.
If you don’t, you may end up like the vegan woman who had to eat chips and nuts on a transatlantic flight because her vegan meal didn’t make it on board.
The Google Translate app is absolutely amazing. While Google Translate is not known as one of the best translators, it works quite well for basic translation.
This amazing app allows you to point your phone camera at anything, whether a building, a street sign, a dinner menu, or the ingredients list of a product you want to purchase, and have it translated into your language.
It helped me so much when I was in China, and although I usually texted a Chinese buddy just to confirm that a product I wanted to buy was vegan, it always turned out to be accurate.
The best thing about this app is that it also works even when you are offline.
If you have a long layover, the Air Vegan app will be your best friend. This tool saves you time and stress by telling you which airport terminals are the most vegan-friendly.
Green means there are a plethora of options, yellow means there are a few and red tells you that there is pretty much hardly any vegan food available.
Google Offline Maps
Google Maps has a feature called Offline Maps, which allows you to download the map for an area and later use it like you normally would when online.
So, say you are traveling to Paris, you could download the entire map of Paris before leaving and have the GPS feature and directions available to you even if you don’t have mobile data in that city.
It also works great for travelers who are traveling to remote areas that may not have the best internet connection or if you just need directions to beaches, museums or other places.
This is how I personally navigate cities when I’m traveling.
After You Arrive
Consider Staying at an Airbnb
Staying at an Airbnb rental vacation home can make vegan travel a lot easier because you have a kitchen and can cook your own vegan meals.
Not only is this great if you are in a city that is not very friendly to vegans, but it also enables you to save cash and cook healthier meals than what might be available at restaurants.
Stay at a Vegan-Friendly Hotel
Staying at an Airbnb is cool, but if you simply don’t want to cook your own meals or prefer daily housekeeping, hotels are probably a better option.
Keep in mind that you will find many suites on the hotel booking sites that include a kitchen if you want that option.
You also might want to check with the hotel before booking to see if their meals are vegan-friendly (if they offer meals at all, that is).
I’ve stayed at one resort in the past where the only vegan option was white rice with garlic. A bit of research would have probably done me some good.
Get a Hotel Rewards Program
For hotel rewards, I recommend Hotels.com because I’ve found them to offer competitive prices that are almost always cheaper than booking directly through the actual hotel site and are usually very competitively priced with other travel sites.
What I really like about their program is the straightforward reward system. Stay ten nights, get one free.
Before you get too excited, you can’t simply book 10 nights at a $2 a night spot (yes, those actually exist on Hotels.com) and then expect to get a free night at the $700 per night Beverly Hills Hotel.
Your free night is based on the average cost of the 10 nights.
Remember That Veganism Is Mostly Unheard of
Despite the term “vegan” being in the media pretty often these days in America, when my fellow countrymen find out I’m vegan, I’m almost always asked the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that people in some parts of the world have no idea what veganism is, especially when it is still so uncommon globally that many of the world’s major languages don’t even have a term for it.
As such, you are probably not going to have a ton of vegan options if you are traveling to a remote village in a backwater country. However, there is one exception.
When it really comes down to it, every country is technically very vegan-friendly because two foods you’ll find just about anywhere in the world are fruits and vegetables.
If, for whatever reason, you don’t have many options, order a fruit salad or go to a nearby market or grocery store and grab yourself a couple of fruit bowls.
Pack a Snack When Touring
If you are heading off for the day, throw a snack in your backpack just in case.
You can also take some fresh fruit with you. Bananas are one of the best fruits to carry around and fuel you up.
Have a Go-To Meal
Most parts of the world have at least one dish that is accidentally vegan or can be very easily made to be vegan-friendly.
For example, in India, chana masala is usually vegan and so is aloo gobi. In Korea, bibimbap can be very easily veganized by asking for it without the meat or eggs.
When you reach out to vegan locals or travelers during the planning phase, ask them about their go-to vegan meals.
Remind Your Chef and Hosts About Sauces
I’ve found that chefs tend to not consider sauces when you tell them that you don’t eat anything from animals.
For example, one Chinese chef who had been cooking “vegetarian” meals for a former co-worker of mine had, for years, been serving him Korean kimchi, a dish that contains bonito. She had also been using fish sauce in his food.
It wasn’t until I met him and let him know that the dish is not vegan that the cook admitted she forgot about that ingredient and also didn’t realize vegetarians don’t eat fish sauce.
Fish sauce is a big one in Asia, but in West African countries, a lot of their would-be vegan dishes, such as beans and vegetable dishes, are cooked with stock cubes.
Lard is one of the main things to watch out for with Latin American cuisine.
Watch Out for Scam Sanctuaries
Some organizations pretend to be animal sanctuaries or other ethical wildlife tourism parks (when they actually mistreat animals) in order to increase profits.
Make sure you do a lot of research before booking a tour. A good place to start would be checking out tours recommended by established and respected animal rights organizations in your destination.
What to Do If You Need Emergency Cash
The idea of being in a foreign land and knowing that all it would take is for my wallet to get stolen or my hotel room to get robbed for me to lose everything has always made me uneasy.
At least if your wallet gets stolen at home, you can simply cancel your cards to prevent theft and head to the bank to order a new one.
For this reason, I never withdraw more cash from an ATM than what I am willing to lose, and I have a backup debit card at home that is connected to a World Remit or Remitly account so I can send cash to myself at anytime of the day if that were to ever happen.
These two services are both great and allow you to send money to many major countries for cheap. Plus, the cash is available for instant pickup.
Luckily I’ve never had to use these services for an emergency, but I have used both of them to send cash to myself abroad (because it’s cheaper than ATM fees) and they’ve worked great.
Remitly is my preferred choice because I’ve found them to be slightly cheaper, but usually just by a few pennies.
If you want to try Remitly, sign up using this link for a free $15 account credit and a promotional discount rate.
Most major cities around the world will have some vegetarian or vegan restaurants.
You might be surprised to find that some places are far more vegan-friendly than where you may be coming from. For example, I was shocked at how easy it was to find vegan restaurants and options in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
More than likely, unless you’re traveling to some smaller or remote cities, you will be able to find vegan entrée options. With that in mind, a bit of planning is a good idea for vegan travelers.
Like many vegan jet setters, you may find that part of the fun of being a vegan traveler is actually finding and sampling vegan meals.