How to Travel as a Vegan and Find Delicious Food Anywhere in the World.

vegan japan, Shivya the shooting star, Shivya Nath

From seafood-obsessed Japan to kebab-loving Iran, I’ve learnt that thriving as a vegan traveller is an acquired art. Behold, all my vegan travel tips.

I’ve travelled to over thirty countries since I turned vegan 3.5 years ago, including seafood-obsessed Japan, kebab-loving Iran and tribal regions of Myanmar, where every kind of animal is relished.

Sticking with my commitment to not consume any animal products, I’ve learnt along the way that surviving – nay thriving – as a vegan on the road is an acquired art. The more well-researched, adventurous and creative I am, the more likely I am to find incredible vegan food, sample the local cuisine and build lasting friendships through the common love of good food.

Also read: 11 Tips to Ease Your Transition Into a Vegan Lifestyle

vegan local and authentic food in sikkim
Vegan travel: Food that is local, seasonal and organic, in Sikkim.

All my tried and tested vegan travel tips

Behold, all my vegan travel tips for vegans who want to travel the world, keep their taste buds (and nutrition levels) satiated and immerse deeply in the local culture.

Keep an open mind but a rigid determination

traveler trying the vegan cake in london
Vegan travel tips: Stay determined. A sumptuous vegan cake in London, UK.

While planning my trip to Japan, I was certain I wanted to spend the majority of my time in small villages, explore remote islands and experience countryside living.

While bigger cities like Tokyo and Kyoto have become vegan-friendly over the years, a Facebook group of local foodies in Japan warned me that travelling as a vegan on the Japanese countryside was going to be “mission frickin impossible!” I took their concern seriously, but I was neither willing to compromise my style of offbeat travelling, nor my commitment to veganism.

I think half the battle of travelling as a vegan is in the mind. If we set our minds to finding vegan food no matter what, we’ll find ways to make it happen. On the other hand, if we tell ourselves that it’s okay to compromise on our vegan beliefs once in a while on the road, we’ll be less prepared, less creative and less adventurous.

Once I set my mind to vegan travel on the Japanese countryside for a month, I got down to work. I thoroughly researched the cuisine. Got a Japanese friend to write a long note explaining my food preferences. Learnt which dishes could be customized. Raided supermarkets for avocados and fresh veggies, and carried back-up food. Surrendered myself to the kindness of local chefs. And indulged in many bento boxes.

Believe it or not, I ended up having incredible vegan food through most of my Japan trip!

Also read: Why Travelling in Japan is Like Nowhere Else in the World

Research the local cuisine (beginning with a search for the country’s vegan travel guide)

local ethiopian vegan cuisine
Tips for going vegan: Figure out the local cuisine. An Ethiopian Beyayenetu!

We’re lucky to be living in a world where we can learn everything about local cuisines from around the world with a simple google search.

That means before I set out for Georgia in the Caucasus region, I already knew that local dishes like lobia (kidney beans stew), lobiani (bread stuffed with mashed kidney beans) and badrajani nigswitz (eggplant with walnut paste) are accidentally vegan, thanks to the orthodox Christianity beliefs of locals.

Before I set out for Ethiopia, I knew that vegan travel would be easy. I could be anywhere in the country and still feast on beyayenetu – a delightful vegan platter with injera, chickpeas, lentils and veggies.

When I’ve zeroed in on a new destination, I read about the local cuisine on wikitravel or other general websites, and try to analyse which dishes are free from animal products and which can be customized to be vegan. I pour over vegan blogs (of which Mostly Amelie, Vegan Food Quest and The Nomadic Vegan are some of my favorites) and forums to draw on the experiences of past vegan travellers.

Having an idea of what I can and can’t eat when I arrive in a country makes it easier to scan menus, order food, speak to local chefs and start treating my tastebuds right away.

Also read: Awesome Places in Mumbai to Chill, Work from Home and Enjoy Vegan Food

Get HappyCow – the most essential vegan travel app

switzerland B&B, happycow app
Vegan Travel Tips: Get the HappyCow App. A charming abode with a Swiss vegan family!

HappyCow is the most essential vegan travel app. It maps out all the vegan / vegan-friendly restaurants, cafes, accommodations and stores near you, along with reviews from past travellers.

It was thanks to HappyCow that I landed up at GustaV, the first and only entirely vegan restaurant in Salzburg (Austria) and feasted on vegan Tyrolian dumplings that I otherwise could’ve never tried.

In Switzerland, the accommodation listing on HappyCow led me to stay with a vegan Swiss family in a dreamy little village, where I feasted on carob brownies and vegan rosti.

Looking for vegan offerings recommended on HappyCow, I’ve found myself in neighbourhoods I wouldn’t otherwise have explored and met passionate vegan owners I wouldn’t otherwise have met. Who knew the search for great vegan food can begin right in your palm!

Also read: Sometimes We Choose Life, Sometimes Life Chooses Us

Get past language barriers by learning how to ask for vegan food in the local language

vegan food in iran
Vegan travel tips: Master how to ask for vegan food. In Iran = bedoone ghoost (without meat).

This is almost a no-brainer, yet it took me a while to master it. The trick is often not to directly ask for plant-based food, nor to explain what you can’t eat. Because many people who haven’t entertained vegans / vegetarians before tend to think that all we can eat is grass salad!

After cringing upon being offered a boring salad too many times, I’ve learnt that I have to lay out all possible options of what I can eat.

So when I travel to a country where English is not the primary language, I try to learn the names of several ingredients in the local language, based on what’s available locally, including what I can’t eat but also what I CAN eat. When I arrive, I also find a kind local to help me write it accurately in the local script on my phone.

In Japan for instance, a newfound local friend helped me write in polite Kanji, that while I can’t meat, seafood (including fish dashi – very common in Japanese food), eggs and dairy products, I can have rice, tofu, yam, soya sauce, soya milk, cold soba noodles, miso, vegetables and legumes – all of them staples in Japanese cuisine. In most restaurants, the staff initially got very worried when I asked for vegan food, but upon seeing my note, whipped up some delicious vegan feasts!

In Iran, I was able to get a friend to write that while I can’t eat animal products, I can eat lentils, beans, potato, eggplant, rice and vegetables – all part of Persian cuisine.

In Myanmar, a local friend taught me to say t-t-lo (pronounced त त लो like in Hindi), which indicates Buddhist vegan food in Burmese!

Also read: The Epic Land Journey from Thailand to India via Myanmar

Connect with vegans in the country

finding vegan food by connecting with the local vegans
Vegan travel tips: Connect with local vegans. My first “Cube of truth” in Chiang Mai.

Harnessing the power of social media has led me to some truly unforgettable vegan travel experiences around the world.

Most recently, in Iran, I stumbled upon the Instagram profile of a guesthouse set up by a team of passionate Iranian vegans – and ended up being their first vegan guest!

After three weeks of sustaining mostly on local dishes like do pyaz alo (stir-fried potatoes and onions) and dal adasi (yellow lentils), I was treated to elements of  Persian cuisine that no one else had been willing to veganise. Think vegan dizi (mashed beans with broth), vegan kebabs (made with sprouted wheat and unbelievably delicious) and vegan chocolate desserts inspired by Instagram!

On their recommendation, I went on to live with a beautiful vegan Iranian family in Tabriz, where even HappyCow doesn’t have a single listing.

In Japan, using Airbnb Experiences, I landed up in the home of a vegan Japanese family to learn macrobiotic cooking that balances yin and yang – and left with a tummy satiated by incredible food and a heart filled with the warmth of a new friendship.

And in Chiang Mai, I ended up joining my first “Cube of truth” after connecting with the local chapter of Anonymous for the Voiceless – a powerful outreach experience.

As the vegan movement grows around the world, it opens up a world of experiences for vegan travellers. Experiences that are rooted in the common love for animals, conscious living and good food.

Also read: What Solo Travel Has Taught Me About the World – and Myself

Stock up on vegan snacks and energy bars incase of unforeseen circumstances

began dessert in iran
Vegan travel surprises: An Instagram-inspired vegan dessert at Khalvat House, Iran!

I used to judge others for carrying their own food on a train or flight. Now, I am that person, and I don’t give two hoots about anyone who judges me 😉

Since I turned vegan – and a bigger foodie than I’ve ever been before – I never leave it up to chance to be fed well.

In the tribal Chin state of Myanmar, where locals eat everything from monkeys to mithuns (cross between a buffalo and yak), I sustained myself over 3 days with bread and avocados. There was an avocado tree in the backyard of my guesthouse!

In both Japan and Iran, where I spent a month each, I stocked up on protein-packed energy bars made on order by my friends from Health Nut and Down 2 Hearth.

On long bus journeys and flights, I always pack a vegan meal to keep me satiated. I always order a special vegan meal online beforehand for long distance flying – but also remember that airport vegan food options, and vegan food on flights, is often bland and boring. In my bags, there’s always some vegan chocolate, chia / basil seeds to whip up a quick treat, and snacks to munch on.

Also read: Don’t Leave Without Trying These Vegan Restaurants in Chiang Mai

Stay with local hosts and inform them of your food choices

staying with a local and having vegan meal in iran
Vegan travel tips: Stay with local hosts. My vegan Iranian host family in Tabriz.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I try to seek out local accommodations wherever I go. If it’s a place that offers meals, I make it a point to inform my hosts well in advance that I’m vegan, including what I can and can’t eat. Some lead time always helps!

In the Lake District in the UK, I was the first vegan to stay at a newly established B&B. At the time of booking, the hosts seemed unsure of what vegan breakfast they could offer – but between the time I booked and showed up, they had come up with an entire vegan breakfast menu that they planned to offer other guests too!

In Tokyo, when I checked in to a guesthouse, my Japanese host told me, quite amused, that he couldn’t think of anything vegan he could offer me for breakfast. The next morning, as I was getting ready to head out, he stopped me and said he had done some research online, and whipped up a vegan breakfast of miso soup and tofu steak! And he was so satisfied with his creation that he planned to add “vegan-friendly” to all his online listings.

As more vegans travel, more hosts and accommodations will become familiar with veganism, and the world in turn will become more friendly for vegan travel!

Also read: How to Find the Perfect Airbnb and Make the Most of Your Travel Experience

Be conscious of your nutrition

vegan breakfast in goa
Yummy and healthy – vegan breakfast at The Secret Garden, Goa.

If you’ve been vegan for a while, you probably already know that there are plenty of nature sources to get protein, calcium and other essential nutrients in a plant based lifestyle. (If you’re unsure, read this).

But while on the road, I’m often dependent on other people to feed me. When I’m travelling to countries that don’t seem familiar with veganism, I try to figure out what kind of nutrition I’ll able to get from the vegan version of the local cuisine. Will I be able to get lentils, kidney beans, leafy greens, nuts and seeds, and plenty of vegetables and fruits along the way?

While preparing to travel to Iran for instance, many vegan and vegetarian travellers wrote that they survived entirely on deep-fried falafels! I had no desire to eat that, so I carried plenty of protein bars and planned to get the rest of my nutrition at supermarkets. Much to my surprise though, I was able to find lentils in many places, and the old Persian bazaars were teeming with all kinds of affordable dates, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices.

I also always carry supplements of Vitamin B12 and D3 – something most people, vegan or not, are deficient in – as well as lysine supplements for when my diet has too much soy and too little lentils / kidney beans, which can cause an imbalance of essential amino acids (read here).

Also read: How I’m Financially Sustaining My Digital Nomad Lifestyle

Get a travel blender (a vegan travel secret)

portable travel blender for delicious vegan food
My portable travel blender that charges with a USB – for delicious vegan travel everywhere!

The best gadget I’ve acquired in recent times is a Vitamer travel blender (available only on Amazon US), which is light, easy to carry, battery-operated, charges with USB and allows me to have smoothies / smoothie bowls wherever in the world I am.

When invited to a conference in Belfast last year, I couldn’t bear to have the drab hotel breakfast with only jam and bread as vegan options. So I went to the nearby supermarket, picked up a bunch of fruits, got some raw cacao, pumpkin and sunflower seeds from my bag and made myself some hearty smoothies!

Also read: How I Fit All My Possessions in Two Bags as I Travel the World

Get creative with menus, and scout vegan travel blogs for ideas in your destination

vegan hot chocolate
Vegan travel tips: Use your creativity. Vegan hot chocolate, anyone?

As vegan travellers, we can’t rely only on restaurant menus with vegan options marked – for the vegan movement hasn’t yet reached many cities around the world, and certainly not the rural countryside of most countries. Over the years, I’ve learnt to study menus, mix and match ingredients, get creative and explain to chefs what I’d love to eat. It works 80% of the time!

While staying at a guesthouse run by an Italian guy in Zanzibar, I really wanted to eat a pesto pasta. After great restraint, I convinced him to try making pesto without parmesan cheese – almost blasphemous for an Italian! At the end of the endeavour, he was rather surprised that it tasted almost the same – delicious.

Similarly while eating cafe-style food in a non vegan friendly place, I scan the menu to swap dairy products like cheese and mayo with vegan dressings like hummus, tahini, pesto (if made fresh without cheese), balsamic vinegar and chilli oil.

Also read: Shh… the Most Beautiful Beach I’ve Set Foot on is Zanzibar’s Best Kept Secret

Stay in an independent Airbnb and get access to a kitchen

making your own vegan smoothie bowl
Vegan travel tips – Get a kitchen. A strawberry smoothie bowl, made by yours truly 😉

I’m writing this post from a sweet Stalin-era abode in Yerevan, Armenia, which will be home for the next month. I can’t quite explain the delight of having access to a kitchen after many weeks on the road in Iran.

No matter where in the world I am, I love to begin my day with smoothies, chia seed puddings, sauteed mushrooms with broccoli, chickpea pancake (besan chila), hummus and avocados on toast, open-face sandwiches and whatever else that is quick and easy to make!

Having an independent space with a kitchen – even if for a few days – is a refreshing change from eating all meals out, and a chance to treat myself to some comfort food and get better nutrition. Besides, as I figure out farmers markets, vegan-friendly stores, local bakeries and organic groceries, I really end up experiencing a place like a local.

Also read: Why You Should Stay on a “Local Island” to Truly Experience the Maldives

Talk about your dietary requirements in a respectful way

tips for travelling as a vegan
Contemplating my food choices over herbal tea in Shiraz, Iran.

We’ve all seen the jokes about vegans who try to shove their lifestyle choices down the throats of others. I don’t know who they are, for on my part, the vegans that I’ve met are rather aware that everyone’s on their own journey.

Anyway, no matter where I travel, I’ve seldom shared a meal with someone – friend or stranger – without being asked why I don’t consume animal products.

I try to talk about my personal journey, as well as the cruelty, health and environmental aspects of veganism. I recommend powerful films like Cowspiracy, Earthlings, What the Health and Okja. I talk about all the amazing food I’ve eaten while being vegan, but also some of the challenges of vegan travel. I try to plant the seed of veganism by encouraging people to decide for themselves, rather than forcing my choices on them.

A few months ago, I heard from a host I had stayed with a couple of years ago, who had initially been wary of offering me vegan meals. Much to my surprise, she told me that she had recently transitioned from eating meat to a plant-based diet!

I’ve begun to believe that wherever in the world we travel, we need to keep planting these seeds. For we never know who’ll be lucky enough to taste the fruit.

Questions I’m always asked:

Is it hard to travel as a vegan?

The answer depends on how prepared you are. Vegan options are more readily available around the world now than ever before. New vegan cafes and vegan-friendly spots are constantly popping up in cities like London, New York, Mumbai and Chiang Mai.

But in remote parts of the world – depending on what is grown locally and constitutes the traditional diet – travelling vegan can be challenging without enough preparation and research.

Before you go, always research your destination, reach out to local vegans who live there, check with your accommodations about food options, try to get access to a kitchen, and carry any essentials from the nearest city!

How can vegans eat healthy while travelling?

I go out of my way to look for vegan-friendly cafes and restaurants with whole food plant based food (still a rarity), or atleast local, seasonal, organic food. If I have access to a kitchen, I try to whip up a salad and pre-eat before heading out. If not, I stock up on nutrition-packed energy bars, a vegan protein powder, fruits (to whip up a smoothie), and other wholesome foods.

Luckily, many vegan / vegan-friendly establishments tend to serve healthy-ish food, and HappyCow is a great place to seek genuine reviews. Besides the local food, I also seek cuisines with relatively healthy vegan options, like Ethiopian, Sri Lankan, Thai, Japanese and South Indian.

What should a vegan pack for travelling?

Here’s my quick checklist for travelling vegan:

  • Homemade energy bars packed with nutrition (think oats, seeds, nuts, dates, cacao etc)
  • Portable travel blender for morning smoothies
  • Organic cacao, moringa, wheat grass, flax seeds and other powders that can easily be sprinkled into smoothies or salads.
  • Healthy vegan snacks, like air-fried puffs, trail mix, dates and other munchies.
  • Vegan chocolate, so I never have to watch others eat dessert when there’s no vegan option available 😉

Have you considered vegan travel? What are your biggest challenges and how do you overcome them?

Join my adventures around the world on InstagramFacebook and Twitter.

Order a copy of my bestselling book, The Shooting Star.


Try These Cafes and Restaurants in Auroville for Divine Food!

Moonlit Cycling, Poetry and Other Meaningful Things to do in Fort Kochi

An Eco-Conscious Wellness Retreat in India for Yoga, Creative Food and Vitamin Sea


The Best Places To Eat Vegan And Sustainably In Amsterdam

Eco-Friendly Things To Do in Berlin

tips on how to travel as a vegan
Pin these vegan travel tips for future reference!

The Shooting Star Academy

Similar Posts


    1. Shivya Nath says:

      Glad you think so 😉 Hope this post will help many fellow vegan / vegetarian travellers.

    1. Shivya Nath says:

      Thanks Chloe! I hope that reading this post will convince potential vegans (or anyone who wants to reduce animal products in their diet) that it’s not that hard to do while travelling – and certainly not in everyday life.

  1. Thank you for this, Shivya! I’ve been vegan for just about 10 years and have had no real trouble traveling in that time, though I haven’t visited as many off-the-beaten-path spots as you. I’ve LOVED your coverage of your time in Iran — it’s one of the countries I’d most like to visit, and the guesthouse you discovered just sounds wonderful. 🙂

    1. Shivya Nath says:

      10 years, wow! I’m sure things have gotten easier over the years though? I hope you make it to Iran someday, and especially to Khalvat House. Such a special experience.

      1. Definitely — it’s so much easier to find vegan eats, both in terms of restaurants with plant-based meals *and* ready-made items at grocery stores. It’s almost obscenely easy across much of Europe and some spots in the U.S. too. 🙂

  2. Himanshu Dutta says:

    This post has opened up so much information to me. Thank you for this very informative blog post Shivya. As a 16 year old, it’s difficult to convince my parents that I want to turn vegetarian at least for now. My parents think I’m being pretentious but like you said, I can force my opinion down on everyone’s throat.

    1. Shivya Nath says:

      I hear you. I was in 8th grade when I decided to turn vegetarian, and initially pretended to have a terrible tummy ache when meat was cooked at home. Then I had a chance to discuss it with my dad, and we both ended up turning vegetarian – to the surprise and resistance of everyone else. I hope you’ll find your way around it sooner than later.

  3. Great post here, Shivya, I am just vegetarian, yet I know that Iranian cuisine, has plenty of vegan meals too, since I was married to an Iranian for 21 years. Happy vegan travels to you.

    1. Shivya Nath says:

      You never stop surprising me Cornelia. I hope our paths cross real soon! What are your plans looking like for 2019?

      1. Awe, thank you Shivya, that’s an honor to hear from you. I wish the same as crossing our path at some point. My travel plans are as small as my budget at the moment, yet my desires are way bigger, Myanmar is still number 1 on my list.

  4. I love making friends through food, especially vegan food! The cube of truth in Chiang Mai must have been a really cool experience. I found the Happy Cow app so handy there (there were so many amazing vegan restaurants!) and everywhere I have travelled! It is a life saver, literally haha. I think when I lived in Salzburg GustaV wasn’t there because I don’t know how I would have missed it!! But next time I will have to go. Thankyou for this post, it is really helpful

    Jenny |

    1. Ooh I forgot to say I have just posted a Vegan Food Guide to London on my blog so maybe you’ll find some places for your next visit! There is lot’s of street food stalls on the list so great for budget travel too 🙂

    2. Shivya Nath says:

      Even though I’m an introvert, it’s so easy to connect with vegans around the world because despite our vastly different lives, we’re connected in such a fundamental way! Yeah, I think GustaV was a recent addition to the Salzburg food scene when I visited – one that came into existence after a crowdfunding campaign. Reason enough to go back 🙂

  5. Thanks for this extensive and practical list. This can be really helpful for vegans and vegetarians both. 🙂

    1. Shivya Nath says:

      Glad you found it useful!

  6. Happy cow? Now that is interesting. will check it out, Shivya!

    1. Shivya Nath says:

      Do that. It’s a life-changer!

  7. Salute to you Shivya! I am a practicing Vegan since last three plus years and have always carried my food wherever I went. I am a person who doesn’t have food in flights or in the restaurants where they serve non vegetarian food. But I always have the inclination to learn more about self cooking and will try some quick and healthy dishes. I reside in Middle Eastern country so I am aware how it’s always a challenging task to get vegan food. But we Vegans the very Tough Nut to Crack😃
    All the very best for your future endeavors.
    Stay Blessed!

    1. Shivya Nath says:

      That’s amazing Kamal! Definitely get the HappyCow app – it’s so amazing to find vegan and vegan-friendly spots in the most unexpected corners of the world. Also residing in the Middle East probably means you have access to amazing hummus, baba ganoush etc. Some of my fav comfort food 😉

  8. prafful goel says:


  9. Awe, thank you Shivya, that’s an honor to hear from you. I wish the same as crossing our path at some point. My travel plans are as small as my budget at the moment, yet my desires are way bigger, Myanmar is still number 1 on my list.

  10. Lovely post…I am not a vegan but your post is definitely very inspiring..

  11. Alphy Jose says:

    Great post shivya…waiting to hear more from u…..

  12. Great article, its very informative. i also want to visit but facing budget problem. hope soon i will enjoy this.

  13. Deepika Rana says:

    that is an awesome blog.

  14. Great Post! Very Informative Article. You have clearly shown us a way of survival even among the meat-loving part of the world. Thanks for some interesting tips!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *