Your worry-free guide to finding delicious vegan food when backpacking
Plant-based foodies rejoice! The world is yours for the tasting! From burgers in Berlin to smoky tofu in Thailand, it’s never been easier to travel long term as a vegan.
Thankfully the days of awkward mimes and untouched tuna salads are a thing of the past. Veganism is here to be enjoyed! So buckle up and get ready to fill your hiking boots with some of the most delectable treats the world has on offer with our guide to vegan backpacking food.
Vegan food on a plane
How exciting! You’re about to embark on an amazing adventure so you want to start the right way, on the flight! Most major airlines will provide a vegan option for no extra cost, so long as you state your requirements when booking your ticket. Don’t forget to take extra snacks too, such as almonds, walnuts and energy bars, especially if it’s a long haul flight. Try to avoid travelling with fresh fruit or vegetables if possible as this may be confiscated at the border (‘Sorry Miss, but this is a dangerous banana!’).
If you’re backpacking for a decent amount of time, chances are you may end up taking a long bus ride from A to B, and sometimes a 2 hour journey can turn into an epic 7 hour adventure. I’ve been held up by protest marches in Bolivia and even a stubborn pig in Nicaragua (oh, the irony!)
So always pack a little more than you think you will need, and don’t skimp on the snacks and water. Although some bus companies may state that they cater for vegans, this may be an alternative definition of veganism that you’re used to back home (egg sandwich anyone?).
The best apps for vegan backpackers
Make sure you download the HappyCow app. This perfect little pocket companion will tell you where the nearest vegan option is, allow you to download destinations in advance and you can check out the reviews too. This has offered me so many surprising finds that I would have otherwise just walked straight by!
The other must-have is The Vegan Passport. This is a dream for making mishaps a thing of the past. Covering 96% of the world’s languages from Albanian to Zulu, this takes the headache out of ordering vegan. You can also order a lightweight copy of the book if you don’t want to use your phone.
Finally, Google Translate is your friend. It’s always a handy tool for on the go translation, plus it’s a really good idea to learn at least a couple of phrases (I’m vegan / Thank you / OMG that was delicious!). People will always appreciate a little effort and it’s nice to be nice, right?
Don’t be afraid to ask. If you really feel stuck, you can always ask the chef to make a veggie-rich vegan version of something on the menu. Sometimes this can get the best results.
Breakfast when you’re a backpacking vegan
Most hostels have kitchen facilities (and some even have free food). You can stock up at a local supermarket with oatmeal and fresh fruit. Plus it’s a great opportunity to try regional delicacies (hello Dragon fruit granola!). It also pays to ask in your hostel, or even local Facebook groups for recommendations for finding the best spots for a yummy Vegan breakfast nearby.
The perfect vegan lunch when you’re on the road
Even the smallest towns will have veggies and pasta available should you want to make your own lunch. Make filling wraps before you head out but remember you could be stepping into a plant-based paradise! Berlin’s food markets are crammed full of vegan options and you can fill up on just a few euros! Prague has vegan supermarkets, and Tel Aviv is a backpacking vegan’s wonderland!
Finding the perfect vegan dinner when travelling
If you’ve made a lovely bunch of new travelling friends at your hostel, you don’t want to miss out on dinner at the local legendary restaurant. Asian and Middle-Eastern cuisine should offer up a choice of vegan options, and there will even be a salad on the cards at The Steakhouse! If you don’t fancy salad, opt for a few side dishes instead. Most restaurants will be happy to make you something from ingredients they have across the menu. I’m always happy to ask a million questions back home, so don’t hold back when you’re in another country.
Go native and try the local specialities
There are some dishes that you will find on your travels, and wonder “how did I ever survive without this in my life!?” – and one of those dishes for me is mango sticky rice. Sweet, creamy and full of happy memories of doing very little in Koh Lanta. Morning glory in the night markets of Ho Chi Minh, and ice-cold acai drinks on Copacabana Beach are all up there for me with some of my happiest backpacking memories, and who can resist an adorable jar of Swedish cloudberry jam to take home to Mum?
The best cities for vegan food
With a little planning, you will be absolutely fine wherever you go, but there are some cities where you will be spoilt for choice! Heading to the States? You will never run out of options in New York City, Portland, and Los Angeles. Cities in Europe and beyond include Berlin with dozens of vegan only restaurants, Tel Aviv (for authentic falafel and hummus), London, Lisbon, Melbourne, Vancouver, and Ubud. You never know what little gems await you, so pack your (vegan) passport and get exploring! Happy travels!
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