There has never been a better time to be a vegan on the move as Clea Grady shows as she shares her tips for seeing an animal-friendly world...
The days of being a vegan and feeling like there was nowhere to go that catered for your lifestyle are long gone – no more need to feel trapped at home doing all the cooking and never daring to go out.
It’s not just that the world is changing and providing more vegan-friendly places to stay and eat, it’s the far greater ease with which we can track down those places – and make yourself understood when you have! It all starts with a little search…
1. Do your research
We’re lucky to live in an age where information is literally at our fingertips, so take full advantage of the internet before you head away on holiday.
You can find out so much about a place before your feet even touch the ground and you’ll enjoy your trip all the more if you’re feeling confident (especially if language is a potential barrier).
Social media – Twitter and Facebook especially – is great for chatting with other vegans who’ll happily offer advice and tips on everything from restaurants and supermarkets to eco-friendly accommodation.
2. Learn a little of the local lingo
It’s amazing how far you can get with just a few words! I swot up on the words for ‘without’ or ‘no’ and ‘egg(s), ‘meat’, ‘cheese’, ‘fish’, ‘milk’ etc, before going away and then feel OK ordering off a standard menu.
Try not to fret about looking silly – usually restaurant staff are so pleased you’re trying to speak their language that they’ll help you out. And remember, a big smile goes a long way!
Pocket-sized phrase books are also brilliant – you can identify the names for chicken, prawns and so on to prevent nasty surprises when the meal arrives! Learning how to say ‘I am/we are vegan’ or ‘I don’t/we don’t eat animals/meat/fish etc’, can help a lot too.
3. Trusted resources
Websites and apps like Happy Cow and Vanilla Bean are great for locating vegan and veggie-friendly eateries anywhere in the world.
When my husband and I unexpectedly found ourselves in Malaga, Spain a few years ago, Happy Cow proved invaluable. We ended up having some of the best meals of the trip thanks to this info-packed app!
Download it before you leave for hols and you’ll feel way less anxious about eating out overseas, especially when feeling spontaneous.
3. Ask for recommendations
Not booked your holiday yet? Ask other vegans where they’ve had great experiences and go places that are definitely vegan-friendly!
Berlin, New York, Melbourne, Belfast, Glasgow, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Israel, Sweden, Tokyo, San Francisco, Portland and Greece are all on my radar thanks to well-travelled vegan buddies.
4. Hunt down “vegan versions”
If a country or city is known for a particular dish, then someone has created its vegan counterpart. Whether you’re craving a cream cheese bagel, Philly cheesesteak, haggis or paella, you’ll find a vegan version for anything with a little research.
Again, ask on social media – vegans love sharing food experiences!
5. Go self-contained
Choosing an Airbnb, holiday cottage or campsite makes for a more relaxed, and typically cheaper, travelling experience all round. Plus you get to experience the fun and novelty of shopping in foreign supermarkets (one of my favourite things!).
I love creating meals out of local ingredients and eating in a less traditional way than at home.
Mediterranean platters or mezze type lunches and dinners are easy to throw together when holidaying in Europe and you’ll often find riper, sweeter fruits and veggies in these sunnier climates.
Embrace the fact that meals are likely to be different and more informal and I guarantee you’ll enjoy it. Going self-contained is also great when travelling with non-vegan friends and family. We went to Norway with a group and easily catered for all tastes and preferences from the local Spar!
6. Vegan destinations
It’s becoming easier to find cruelty-free getaways, with vegan-friendly B&Bs popping up all over and even such a thing as an all-vegan cruise!
Easy to locate via Google or social media, these establishments cater for vegans – either exclusively, or because they’re vegetarian.
Similarly, many yoga, meditation and health retreats offer only vegan food – allowing you to combine a break with self-improvement and wellness.
One of the best presents I’ve given myself was a week at a vegan animal sanctuary in Spain. Jacob’s Ridge offers volunteer breaks in gorgeous glamping-style tents to work with the animals.
Home to horses, pigs, goats, donkeys, dogs, cats and humans alike, it’s a haven in every sense of the word. Fully catered, with a pool and in mesmerising surroundings, I had no idea how much I would benefit from my time there.
It was like an MOT for the soul! If you’re looking for hands-on time with animals, a dose of sun and a real sense of community, then I recommend it highly. It’s magic.
7. Eat the local fare
Accidentally vegan foods exist all over the world, so read up before you jet off and you’re likely to be pleasantly surprised.
A couple of fab foodie destinations are:
Start your day with a traditional and totally vegan Spanish breakfast! Bread with tomato and olive oil, usually served with coffee and orange juice (kind of like a ‘meal deal’), is available all over the place and you’ll feel like you’re ‘one of the locals’ ordering it.
For lunch and dinner, you can’t get more authentic than tapas (small plates) and the great news is that there’s so much available for us. Tapas varies from region to region, but these options are commonly found in most places…
- Patatas bravas – fried potatoes in a spicy tomato sauce.
- Patatas a lo pobre – fried potatoes with green peppers.
- Judias verdes – green beans with garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts.
- Pimientos del padron – small green fried peppers.
- Gazpacho – a delicious and traditional tomato soup that’s served cold and completely vegan by design.
- Ajo blanco – another chilled soup made from almonds, bread, olive oil, garlic, salt and water. Usually served with grapes or melon cubes on top.
- Esparragos con alcachofas – asparagus and artichokes.
- Tomate alinado – sliced tomatoes with garlic and olive oil.
- Paella de verduras – vegetable paella. A glorious thing!
- Zanahorias aliñadas – really delicious! Carrots marinated with olive oil, vinegar, garlic, cumin, other herbs and spices.
- Champiñones – mushrooms cooked with shallots, garlic and oil.
- Pan Catalan – toasted bread with tomato and garlic. Perfect for mopping everything up!
It’s not all feta and lamb! Most people have no idea how vegan-friendly Greek food actually is, but here are delicious examples…
- Briám – an oven-baked dish of potato, zucchini and some other vegetables.
- Gigantes – giant white beans cooked in a tomato and herb sauce.
- Tomatokeftedes – tomato fritters (almost always vegan).
- Dolmades – stuffed vine leaves filled with rice and herbs (sometimes these contain meat, so be sure to check).
- Fava – a speciality of Santorini; creamy dip made from puréed yellow split peas.
- Spanakopita – pastry filled with spinach (the Nistisimo version is vegan but double check for no cheese).
- Skordalia – a dip made from mashed potatoes and lots of garlic.
- Melitzanosalata – another dip that’s made from eggplant/aubergine (similar to baba ghanoush).
- Hummus – the vegan’s best friend! Just add bread and wine and you’re all set.
If you’re planning a trip abroad, don’t forget to check out our city guides to find the best places to eat, stay and visit.