Traveling and being vegetarian at the same time is not easy, especially when in carnivore territory; more than finding vegetarian food, it’s a task to find healthy vegetarian food. Being born and brought up in India, which has a large population following a vegetarian diet, I never faced any trouble finding vegetarian fare no matter in what part of the country I am in. There’s a vegetarian menu available at each eatery and even pure vegetarian restaurants are a common sight. But not every country is vegetarian-friendly and here are five tips to help you survive your trip without starving.
Head to the local market
If you are a smart vegetarian traveler, the first thing you should be doing after arriving at a destination is to head to the local market and not just the nearest supermarket. There are chances that local restaurants and your hotel doesn’t serve an extensive menu of healthy vegetarian foods, and unless you are ready to shell out money at an expensive restaurant to customize a vegetarian menu for you, the local market is your best bet. Stock up on fruits, vegetables, local cheese, home made jams, sprouts, tofu, multi-grain breads and anything else that can be easily be made into a meal while on the road.
Make your own quick meals
Whenever I’m traveling for more than a couple of days, I either make sure I have booked a hotel room that has a kitchenette or book through Airbnb. It may come as a surprise but I love to cook when traveling, it’s the best way to learn new recipes using local produce and feel at home even while on a holiday. I even love to take cooking lessons, it’s a great way to meet local people who share the same passion for cooking and food. A simple tea kettle and microwave is enough to whip up quick meals, get them packed and you are set for the day. Plus you save a whole lot of money on eating out and you always eat healthy. Soups, salads, sandwiches and rice dishes are super easy to make, plus they are nutritious and wholesome.
Look up Happycow.com
Happycow is the greatest resource ever on the web for vegan/vegetarian travelers. I encountered upon this website a couple of years ago and since then it has taken care of all my woes of being able to find vegetarian food when traveling. Happycow has exhaustive listings of vegan/vegetarian friendly restaurants from all over the world. Type in any city and tada! You get an index of all the vegan/vegetarian restaurants in the city. The listings are complete with addresses, contact numbers, reviews, menu and pictures! In addition to that, the page also lists vegan food stores, health food suppliers and shops that specifically stock vegan/ vegetarian foods. Happycow is a blessing for us vegetarian travelers, because no matter where you are in the world you’ll be rest assured that you will eat better than bread or soup for your next meal. Happycow also has an app which is super user friendly and a must have if you are a vegetarian traveler.
Ask locals for recommendations
When it comes to food, asking locals is even better than looking up restaurants on google. Every city has those hole-in-the-wall eateries that are only known by the people that live there and hardly advertised online. Most of these food joints whip up authentic cuisine that can never be match up by what you will find being served at the touristy restaurants. Every country has a section in the society that is devoted to veganism or vegetarianism and therefore locals will be able to point you in the right direction.
Customize your meals.
Every single meal can be customized to make it vegetarian friendly. When ordering food at local restaurants I always look for meat-free options and also look for items on the menu that can be made meat free. A couple of instructions and you’ll be enjoying a vegetarian meal by requesting a few changes in the preparation. Learning what they call ‘chicken’ ‘meat-free’ or ‘egg-free’ in the local language can be an added advantage. However, one needs to be careful in south east Asian countries where oyster sauce, fish sauce and chicken stock are common ingredients in every dish.
What challenges did you face while traveling as a vegetarian and how did you cope with it?