I have been a vegan for around 5 years. Before that I was a vegetarian for around 40 years. First I’ll give you my tips for travelling as a vegan. Then I’ll write about my own experiences.
My top tips for travelling as a vegan:
Read vegan travel blogs to give you confidence and ideas. The Nomadic Vegan says
“I scour the globe to uncover vegan treasures in the most unlikely places! It’s my mission to empower vegans and aspiring vegans to live their travel dreams without compromising their values.”
Check out vegan travel companies.
I love Vegan Cruises. They offer amazing all-inclusive vegan cruses where you’ll meet people of all ages. The vast majority will be vegan or vegetarian. The ones that aren’t are usually partners of vegans. The food is highly imaginative, plentiful and all vegan. have done two cruises with this company and really enjoyed the experience of being immersed in a vegan living bubble while travelling.
If you want to be more independent, go to the Veggie Hotels website, which offers links to vegan hotels around the world.
“From a cosy vegan B&B on the mountains to a stylish yoga retreat on the beach, from vegan luxury travel to vegetarian or vegan weekend breaks – here you will find just the right vegetarian or vegan vacation for you.”
Whatever you do, don’t give up travelling just because you’re a vegan.
(These short reviews of vegan travel companies are not afficliate links. I recommend them because I like them!)
Now to my personal experiences as a vegan traveller
My main reason for becoming vegetarian and then vegan is to reduce animal suffering. The environmental and health benefits of a plant-based diet are important but secondary for me.
If I were vegan solely for health or environmental reasons, I might feel that it was OK to eat animal products when I was travelling – such a small amount wouldn’t matter. One or two meat dishes wouldn’t compromise my health in any significant way. Two or three fish meals wouldn’t have a catastrophic effect on the environment.
But eating animals or products derived from animals causes suffering. In fact, in many countries the legal restraints on how people treat animals are much less than in the UK. So, for me, it is often even more important to avoid eating animals and animal products when I’m travelling. In many ways I now find the idea of putting the flesh of another creature in my mouth deeply disturbing. I find the idea of consuming dairy products designed for the babies of another animal revolting.
This was really put to the test in 2012 when i was doing a bike ride from St Petersburg to Istanbul. I arrived at the first hotel after around 60 miles of riding. I was ravenously hungry. Sadly, the hotel hadn’t done anything to provide me with a dinner I could eat, even though they’d been told in advance. My dinner was two helpings of potato and some boiled cabbage! I stayed hungry and dissatisfied. Most of my fellow cyclists urged me to eat meat “just this once” and “in these extreme circumstances”. I refused because my temporary pleasure/hunger cannot be weighed against the suffering of the animals I would be consuming. (If I was in a situation were I would starve to death if I didn’t eat animals, I’d probably come to a different conclusion.)
In 2019 I returned to Russia and found one of the best vegan cafes anywhere. I used the app “Happy Cow”. Using this app, which is free (if you don’t mind the adverts) you can find restaurants and shops that are vegan-friendly. We were in St Petersburg doing some tourism trips after the conference. I found Mir Restaurant on Happy Cow and decided to try it. The food was great, and everyone was relaxed and friendly. The people who worked there and people who were at the next table wanted to know how I’d heard about the place. I wouldn’t have found it by accident. It’s down several side roads, through a courtyard and up some stairs to the first floor. The people who worked at Mir didn’t know that customers were writing glowing reviews about the café on Happy Cow!
On another night I took two colleagues to eat there, one a confirmed meat eater. They were both totally impressed by the taste and quality of the food. At the end of the meal one of them said that she’d really enjoyed the meal and didn’t feel that she had missed anything. The other one said it was nice not to feel bloated after a meal. I think it gave them both a new perspective on what a vegan diet could be like.
One of the great things about places like this is that they are not usually part of the tourist scene. When I go to them, I meet local people. Many are young but intrigued about how I found their restaurant. Fortunately, most young people speak excellent English. This sparks a conversation, which then often leads on to other topics. I often have quite long conversations!
When I was in Riga, Latvia, for an conference a few years ago, I found two wonderful restaurants. I simple did a web search for “vegan restaurant Riga” before I went there. One was raw vegan with the most exquisitely visual food. The other served much more earthy vegetarian and vegan comfort food. In both places I was the only tourist, but people made me very welcome. They appreciated that I was vegan and had managed to find their restaurant.
When I travel, I very rarely put on weight. This is because I am not over-indulging in lots of high-calorie unhealthy food. Being plant-based makes many choices naturally healthy and nutrient dense. That is definitely an unlooked for benefit of being a vegan traveller.
I don’t want to paint a totally glowing picture of what it is like to travel as a vegan. The biggest problem is when I’m travelling with a crowd of other people. Very often there is only one choice on the menu for me. When people comments, I usually say:
“I’m not here for the food. I’m here for the conversation, so you’d better make it good!”
That always makes people laugh. I did a tour with a group in Albania and Kosovo a few years ago. Some days I ate spaghetti with tomato sauce for both lunch and for dinner. It was hard because everyone else was tucking into regional delicacies and eating a very varied menu. But when I think back to that holiday, I remember the two good friends I made on the trip. I remember the time I was able to spend with one of my daughters-in-law who came with me. I don’t remember the food. The dullness of my food didn’t spoil my holiday.
In many countries meat eating is associated with success and affluence. Some people find it hard to understand why I voluntarily choose to forgo this “status symbol”. Because of this, it can take some digging to find local or regional dishes that are naturally vegan. More expensive restaurants tend not to have them on their menu, whereas cheaper more authentic restaurants do.
Being a vegan traveller takes me to places off the beaten track and involves me in adventures where I find a more authentic experience. Yes, it is sometimes difficult, but being a vegan is an important part of who I am. I don’t give up that part of me just because I am travelling.