Traveling as a Vegetarian
The world is shrinking, and people are leaving their comfort zones in search of new experiences. They are becoming more adaptable, adventurous, and experimental. However, we all have certain values and principles that we follow wherever we go.
I am a Jain, and eating non-veg of any kind is forbidden to me. I don’t even consume eggs. Traveling for so many years has not been easy. Finding vegetarian food was difficult 15-20 years ago, and we often survived on fruits, ice cream, yogurt, and French fries. Food habits have changed as a result of globalization, and there are now more diverse food options available wherever you go. There is a lot of information and awareness out there. Life has become much easier for vegetarians. The latest fad for vegan food has been the biggest boon. The entire world is going vegan, which means we have vegetarian options in most places.
Vegetarian food is widely available in most European countries and the United States. However, it is not all smooth sailing. It is still challenging to find vegetarian food in nations like Brazil, Argentina, Japan, Germany, China, France, and many coastal areas. Furthermore, the menu is extremely limited, and you are forced to rely on sandwiches and pizza the majority of the time. When you’re on a long trip, eating pizza every day can become tedious.
To compound matters, there is a widespread misconception that vegetarians only eat salads and bland foods. You would be surprised at the variety of delicious vegetarian delicacies that can be prepared. Life would be so much better if we could enjoy even 5% of that diverse selection while traveling. Unfortunately, the options are very limited. So if you are vegetarian, it is best to plan ahead of time.
1). Pre-Book a Vegetarian In-Flight Meal
Remember to reserve your vegetarian meal at least 48-72 hours before your flight, depending on your airline. That is an option available to all airlines. The food will be subpar, but at least you won’t go hungry. The added benefit is that you will be served before anyone else.
2). Pack Some Food
Please bring some food with you when you travel. You can bring Theplas, parathas, pickles, Bhujia, Mathri, ready-to-cook meals, and any other food items that have a long shelf life. They turn out to be a blessing. You would not like to touch the ready-to-eat food packets while in India, but I can assure you that when there are no vegetarian options or you are missing Indian food, you will relish them. Everything closes early in Europe and many other countries. When you arrive in a city at odd hours, it’s impossible to find a restaurant that serves vegetarian food nearby. Then this food comes in handy.
Fortunately, the market is now flooded with some good options, such as Eze Eats, that are easier to carry, taste better, are not overly spicy, and are simple to prepare. Please stock them. And it’s always a good idea to make a separate bag for this, as it may contaminate other belongings.
PS: Certain food products may be prohibited in some countries, such as the United States, so please check ahead of time. Also, don’t overpack food or you’ll end up paying extra-weight fees.
3). Learn The Lingo
If you are traveling to a country where there are language barriers, you must be well prepared. Write down the key phrases, or print them if the alphabets are illegible. Learn the local terms for chicken, fish, and eggs so you can eliminate dishes that contain these ingredients while perusing the menu.
In different countries, the term “vegetarian” has different connotations. Many people believe that cheese is off-limits to vegetarians, while others believe that eggs, fish, and chicken are vegetarian. ‘I don’t eat chicken,’ ‘I don’t eat eggs,’ and ‘I eat cheese’ written in the local language will make your life much easier. It will make sure that no pieces of fish or chicken end up in your gravy. Please be cautious of the cooking medium. I’ve had food cooked in lard or fish oil, and it’s a no-go for me. Digital translations can also be used.
4). Book an Airbnb
It would be a massive boon if you could book an apartment or Airbnb with access to the kitchen. If finding vegetarian food is a struggle, you can cook or even buy frozen food from the grocery store and have a hearty meal. There are plenty of quick-to-prepare options in the supermarket, so it wouldn’t be too difficult. Your phrase list will assist you in checking the ingredients of cans and packets. Fruits, nuts, and snacks are readily available in stores and would be immensely helpful.
5), Enjoy a Hearty Breakfast
Breakfast is usually included in the price of your stay. Please have your fill if you are staying in a hotel. Vegetarians generally have no hot options, but they can eat croissants, fruits, cereals, toast, yogurt, and so on. If you stay in a pricey hotel, you may be served hash browns, baked beans, and grilled tomatoes. Using the vegetarian spread, you can always be innovative and rustle up sandwiches.
5). Research Before You Arrive
Things would be much easier if you took the time before your trip to research restaurants in your destination. Make a list of all potential options and their addresses by surfing Google, speaking with friends, reading travel books, and talking to locals. Before you hit the road, do some research on the local vegetarian cuisine. Subway, Pizza Hut, and Domino’s always have vegetarian food and English-speaking staff, so use them as a last resort.
You can also go to an Indian restaurant if you can find one, as they will most likely have a variety of choices. Indian restaurants are typically on the pricey side. Look for Italian, Mexican, and Lebanese restaurants in addition to Indian. They have the most vegetarian options. Furthermore, their spices and tastes are similar to ours. Avoid Chinese because we are too accustomed to Indian Chinese to appreciate their authentic flavors.
6). Make Use of Apps
Apps can help you find vegetarian/vegan restaurants. Happy Cow is a game-changer. It not only tells you about vegetarian restaurants, but it also recommends other regular restaurants where you can find good vegetarian dishes.
7). Embrace Vegan Food
Veganism is a global movement and an accepted way of life. Vegan is more of a trend than vegetarianism now. And it is easier to find vegan food than vegetarian. So, if you are craving hot cooked meals, go for vegan options. They taste quite similar and you will have so many dishes to choose from.
Keep these points in mind when traveling to places where vegetarian food is scarce. Regardless of how well you specified your restrictions when placing your order, always inspect your food when it is served. In China, my friend, who spoke both Chinese and English, gave the waiter detailed instructions, but I still had chicken in my meal. So, before you take a bite, carefully check your dish.