Vegetarian and Vegan Traveler’s Survival Secrets

Traveling abroad while vegetarian and/or vegan can be challenging. Awareness of vegetarian and vegan diets is spreading across the globe and there are restaurants ranging from hole-in-the-wall cafes to fine dining that are entirely vegetarian or vegan. But on the flip side there are still restaurants that offer pretty limited vegan or vegetarian choices. This will continue to change over time.

In all of my travels over the last 15 years, for the most part, I’ve found 1 or 2 restaurants in every destination that have really gone all out to be vegetarian and/or vegan friendly. In other words they have a vegetarian and/or vegan section on their menu or a sign outside their door touting their vegetarian/vegan offerings. So…the key is to find those places. I am continuously posting articles about this on EVERY trip I go on and have been on. But you can also refer to HappyCow, Yelp, OpenTable, and Zomato.

{Extra Trip Planning & Research}

For vegans and vegetarians, trip planning requires a bit more research as where you go and stay could be influenced by where you can find good food.

Here’s my method for trip planning. I start by researching the various activities I want to do and sites I want to visit. Then I map out where each of those places is relative to each other and then figure out how to get to each. That helps me figure how much actual moving we’ll be doing vs. day-tripping.

And then, I start looking up food. My first stop: Google. I start my search with “vegetarian (or vegan) food in <location>. And that usually leads me down a path to various websites including TripAdvisor, blogs, and restaurants and then I can start putting it all together – including where to stay in order to have access to good vegan and vegetarian food.

{Where You’re Going Matters}

Your Destination: How much effort to put into this research varies depends on where you’re going. If you’re going to pretty much anywhere in India, you’re golden. You’ll find delicious vegetarian and vegan food everywhere. So you don’t even really need to spend a lot of time doing research upfront.

When I went to San Ignacio, Belize earlier this year that did require more time and effort to research and we decided to stay at a hotel where we could walk to town vs. a hotel that was actually less expensive, but further from town and the restaurants. We would have had to take cabs back and forth to town. Factoring the gist of cabs back and forth for the number of days – the two hotels ended up being about the same price.

I’m headed to Uganda next week for a 2 week trip and decided to stay at more upscale lodges because I knew those places would be more accommodating with our meals. But that means paying more for the trip overall. So you can see how food can really impact an entire holiday.

Don’t Hesitate to Ask: Call/email/WhatsApp hotels and restaurants to ask them about their vegetarian and vegan menus. I’ve done this a few times and it pays off every single time.

Real Experience: In Victoria Falls a couple years ago, my research upfront of calling/emailing/WhatsApping restaurants and hotels, shaped where we stayed. I had info about lodges with vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurants. But I was also considering distance to the Falls and other variables.

My fellow vegans and vegetarians can attest to how trip planning can be a more involved process because you’re gathering info around all of these factors to make the best decisions.

Beware of the Canned Response: If you’re staying at a resort that’s pricey for the area, I think it’s fair to expect a higher standard of service. Whenever I get the canned, “don’t worry, we can make vegetarian food” without anymore detail or thought into the response, that’s disconcerting and not convincing. I know to {kindly} ask for more information and details.

{Two Experiences in Belize}

My best friend just got back from San Ignacio, Belize. Unlike my trip she stayed at Chaa Creek Resort in San Ignacio which is $700/night for a suite and they left left the resort to do day activities. But they are all of their meals at the resort. At $700 per night we’re talking fancy. But that place only offered only 1 vegetarian dish on their lunch and dinner menus, which changed daily. And when she asked them to make simple things for her kids such as Mac & Cheese, they refused.

On the other hand the Rainbow Bar & Grille as well as Caribbean Colors Art Cafe, both on Caye Caulker had whole vegetarian and vegan sections on their menus. See our article on vegetarian and vegan food on Caye Caulker.

{It Depends on Your Definition of Vegetarian}

There are so many variations of vegetarian diets: lacto, ovo, lacto-ovo, Hindu vegetarian, pescatarian, to name some of the most popular ones. Needless to say not everyone is up to speed on these nuanced diets so a lot depends on your definition of vegetarian and your ability to clearly define that definition to the hotels and restaurants where you’re staying. I recently had to specify meal preferences to an airline and a quick Google search helped me figure out what was that. More than anything I was appreciative that the airline offered those variations.

{Packing Your Own Food for Vegans and Vegetarians?}

I’ve done this…to a certain extent. I really value packing light and immersing in the local cuisine as much as possible. And I also like going with the flow.  But I’m also vegetarian and an aspiring vegan. So balancing all of that is tricky.

I tend to pack snacks for the plane as opposed to food for an entire trip. I love chai though….like real legit Indian chai — not the chai “tea” lattes you get at Starbucks. And I always crave chai on holiday.

It can be hard to find in some places because a lot of Indian restaurants won’t just make chai for you. They’ll want you to order a whole meal. But I recently discovered these instant chai packets. Normally I’d turn my nose up at such a thing (yes I’m a total chai snob) but I tried these and they’re REALLY good. You can get different flavors. I bought these Masala Chai and Cardamom flavored ones from the Girnar brand. I tried other brands but I liked this one the best. All you do is add hot water! So I’m taking them with me to Uganda. As you can see, the pouches are super packable, and they even come with stirrers.

I’m also going to make vegan chocolate chip rosemary cookies to snack on, on the plane and vegan burritos to eat when we get to the airport. The international terminal at SFO has restaurants, but none that look particularly appetizing for vegans and vegetarians. We will arrive at the airport right at lunch time, so by the time we go through security and get to the gate, I’m sure we’ll be hungry, so the burritos will be nice to have. Other than that, we’re going to be eating at the various hotels and lodges that we are staying at on this trip. We already informed them about our dietary needs and I’m really hoping that they’ll come through.

Reviews I read online were pretty glowing so I’m not too worried about it.

Clif bars and other energy bars are great for traveling too – they fill you up, compact and tastiness is subjective. The mint chocolate ones are the only ones I can eat. I order a box of 12 from Amazon or Google Shopping Express.

My friend who is vegan, also told me about these three snacks that you can find at Costco and Trader Joe’s.

Caveman almond-coconut bars at Costco
Vegan coconut vanilla bites
Hemp seeds are healthy. You can find these bars at Trader Joe’s.

Vegetarian and vegan in Hawaii. Whenever I go to Hawaii, I do pack more stuff. Instead of staying at hotels in Hawaii, I prefer renting a condo with a kitchen. I know that for many people cooking and doing dishes on holiday, is not holiday. And to each his/her own. But I prefer it and I tend to pack some things with me like spices, Indian lentils and chocolate. Things like the snacks above are also great to take with you to eat on long days out. And the rest I buy on arrival. Maui, Oahu, The Big Island and Kauai all have a Costco and they’re strategically located near the airport on each island so it’s super easy to stop by and buy what you need.

If you don’t need Costco size items, you can always head to Safeway or Walmart.

Vegetarian and vegan in Brazil. I went to Brazil over ten years ago (as a poor backpacker staying in hostels) and I was very pleasantly surprised how vegetarian and vegan friendly it was, even back then. It must be even more so now. A lot of restaurants were buffets. But I really liked that they weren’t one price fits all, like the buffets in Vegas. Instead you were charged by volume of food. So I didn’t feel like I was getting jipped. In fact it was awesome!

I’m headed to Uruguay next month, so I’ll update this post with that info when I get back. But so far I’m encouraged as it looks like vegetarianism has permeated there – pretty cool for a country where fishing and meat processing are amongst their largest industries!

(Side note: here are recommendations for vegans and vegetarians in Vegas, on and off the strip!)

Vegetarian and vegan in Costa Rica, Panama and Belize. The staple Central American diet consists of plantains, beans, and rice so it’s already vegan! But if you’re looking for variety, that’s where it gets tricky. But these destinations all attract enough tourists that you can always find carbs: pizza, pasta, fries.

I stayed at La Cusinga Ecolodge in Costa Rica, an upscale yoga retreat in the middle of the rain forest in Uvita and their staff was happy to customize items for us.

San Ignacio, Belize. There aren’t that many restaurants in downtown San Ignacio in Belize but there were enough for us to enjoy a variety in the food: The Guava Limb Restaurant was my favorite. The food was delicious and they have a wide vegan and vegetarian selection. They’re owned by Chaa Creek.

Vegan appetizer at Guava Limb Cafe, San Ignacio, Belize
Gluten free, vegetarian chocolate cake at Guava Limb Cafe, San Ignacio Belize.

 Ko-Ox Han-Nah (“Let’s go eat”) aka han-nah for short, was another favorite in San Ignacio. They had several vegetarian and vegan dishes. The food was delish and fresh and the servings were huge It’s in downtown San Ignacio and has outdoor and indoor seating.

The San Ignacio Resort on the Hill is an upscale hotel walking distance to downtown San Ignacio. The hotel restaurant has a few vegetarian options. Honestly the food was so-so. But they made up for it with their Bailey’s coladas. This is the vegetarian nachos we ordered. The cheese is actually like cheez whiz. We didn’t like it so we didn’t eat it and they didn’t charge us for it.

Cheez whiz nachos at San Ignacio Resort, Belize
Baileys Colada at San Ignacio Resort, Belize

Vegan and vegetarian options on Cake Caulker.

outside view of han-nah restaurant, San Ignacio, Belize
Vegetarian burrito at Han-nah, San Ignacio, Belize. This could have been made vegan as well.

Vegetarian and vegan in Capetown. Capetown is a major metropolitan city so finding really good vegan and vegetarian food, especially if you’re staying centrally or in Camps Bay is very easy. And there’s lots of great cuisine from all over the world.

Vegetarian and vegan in the UK and Europe. London has awesome vegan and vegetarian food from all over the world. I found Paris a bit more difficult and also there’s a language barrier there. There are Pret-a-Manger cafes everywhere, which specifically market their many vegan and vegetarian options.vegetarian-food-london-vegan-travel.jpg


It’s getting easier and easier to be vegetarian and vegan around the world, in general. There’s more awareness, especially due to the health benefits of being vegan and/or vegetarian. People, restaurants, and companies are recognizing these diets more and more and offering more on their menus.

There are also more options available at grocery stores. And they go beyond tofu. Now you can find soy yogurt, soy cheese, and soy protein powder. There are entire vegan and vegetarian cooking blogs, books, and other resources. And doctors are seeing patients transforming their lives by going vegan and/or vegetarian.

Vegetarianism has permeated society so much they even had a quip about it in the “Black Panther!

I hope this article was helpful and gives you some good ideas for your travels across the globe! Happy and safe travels. Keep adding stamps to those PassportPages!


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5 thoughts on “Vegetarian and Vegan Traveler’s Survival Secrets

  1. This is a great post. Yes totally agree. As a vegetarian who is slowly becoming lactose-intolerant, doing my homework before traveling is a must-do!


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