Vegan Travel is Hard!

Home » Travel » Vegan Travel is Hard!

This post may contain affiliate links.

My first attempt at being vegan while travelling failed miserably in the face of London and a surprising lack of options, but I’m back on track and going for vegan travel again. We have a few months of home cooking ahead of us to ease us into veganism, then back on the road. Will I even manage it? I don’t know. The rest of my family like meat and still want to eat it sometimes so it’s tricky, but as always, I can only do my best.

In Vietnam, after 6 months living in Hoi An, I had it nailed, I’d found the vegan places and even a family-friendly burger joint with vegan options, but it took a while to get settled and find the good eating options.

I also managed vegetarian, possibly vegan, in Thailand, although I can’t guarantee there was no fish sauce in my plant-based Thai dishes. I did my best and it was easy to eat well at regular street food places in Thailand without meat, eggs, or dairy. I’m feeling good about veganism, more determined. So let’s have another go, after all, every time we go without animal products it helps the cause in some small way. There is no such thing as failure, we can all help the plight of animals by just doing what we can and if I can only manage part-time vegan, so be it.  5 years ago I wrote:

“I tried, I really did. I want to be vegan. But vegan travel has so far turned out to be about a million times harder than I anticipated. And I’m talking vegan travel in London, one of the easiest places to be vegan on the planet (so I thought).

We live in Romania, vegan travel is hard in Romania, but in London I thought it would be a comparative walk in the park. Turns out I was wrong.

Breakfast with real coffee in Mirissa Sri Lanka
A typical on-the-road breakfast for me. Obviously vegetarian, but is it vegan? I don’t know. Would the street stall owner understand if I asked? Would there be any alternative if that dal was prepared with butter?

Now, before you switch off and tune out, I’m not going to start preaching veganism or become a vegan travel blogger. This is still us, family travel, adventure travel, luxury travel and backpacking, all those things we normally do. I just wanted to try, and hopefully continue to be vegan after being vegetarian for most of my adult life.

My husband and kids are not vegetarian or vegan, but at home they eat what I cook, so they are by default. I’m a good cook, they’re cool with that.

Because we travel for most of the year, we eat out a lot. Food is important to us and a huge part of the travel experience, my husband was a professional chef, after all. We loath self-catering, we eat out and usually do so 3 times every day whenever we’re in Asia. Which is often.

When we’re in restaurants, bars and cafes the other 3 order meat if that is their want. That’s cool and it works for us.

So after this post I will probably shut up about being vegan and won’t bug you with it again. Deal?


Vegan Travel Fail

I did almost zero advance research on where and what to eat. I really thought it would be easy in London.

I like to sit down, with my family and eat 3 ( usually hot) meals a day. Not eat snacks from supermarkets.

I never prepare packed lunches, we like eating out.

I have kids, they get hungry in the blink of an eye. I also get hungry in the blink of an eye, truth be told.

Our London itinerary and schedule was more important than the vegan thing

We can’t afford London’s beautiful, fabulous vegan restaurants or even the great vegan street food, on a regular basis.

Wine is not vegan. ( Speciality vegan wines do exist, however and Saisbury’s carries quite a few, see list)

I have blood sugar problems, I need protein and oils or fats to keep myself upright. I’m not into sugars, sweet foods or any carbs, really. Fruit on an empty stomach has me sweating shaking and feeling faint.

I’ve only been trying to be vegan 3-4 weeks. I’m transitioning.

I’m not committed enough in the face of hunger.

How to Make Vegan Travel Easy

  • Research extensively before you leave home. The more research you do, the easier you trip will be on your veganism.
  • The Happy Cow App, and others, are your best friends.
  • Become the sort of person who grazes on fruit and nuts all day or prepares packed lunches.
  • Come prepared, travel with food containers, knives, forks, cups, plates etc. 
  • Plan your days around vegan restaurant locations, if you want to eat well.
  • Carry nuts for emergencies.

So all up, if you were truly dedicated to a vegan lifestyle, you could be eating like a king all day in London, but the vegan thing would have to take precedence. I tried to carry on as normal and eat in our normal places, it didn’t work.  I wasn’t ready on this trip and should have done more advanced research instead of simply assuming that London would be easy.

Normally if we’re at the zoo, we eat at the zoo, if we’re in the Natural History Museum, we eat there, at breakfast time I need somewhere 5 minutes walk from our hostel that’s open at 7am. Sure there are good places we could go ( lets ignore cost here) and as a single person or vegan couple, I probably would, but dragging the kids across London to a particular restaurant or food outlet when they are hungry and tired wasn’t going to win me any family support. I need to get smarter.

 vegan tofu scramble
Vegan breakfast at home, tofu scramble. When cooking at home it’s very, very easy to be vegan.

Will I Continue to be Vegan?

I’ll continue to be as vegan as possible.

At home in Romania I’ve found it very, very easy. That was a surprise.

Normally I eat eggs every morning, I’m a big fan of breakfast. I’ve replaced those eggs with tofu scramble (which is easy and absolutely delicious) or peanut butter on toast. I don’t normally eat peanut butter and the only brand available at our local supermarket is very sweet, but it will have to do.

Did you know that a lot of sugar isn’t vegan?  Avocado on toast is a favourite of mine but they’re very hard to get in Romania.

I cook up soups, curries, noodles, pastas and stews, produce huge pots of home-made Balkan humus and occasionally make a coconut based Thai soup. There are many choices and variations for home vegan cooking, it’s simple and delicious without having to consult recipes or buy any unusual ingredients.

It’s satisfying too, nobody is hungry. Chef is doing his Ironman training an a 90% vegan diet and isn’t noticing any dip in fitness or endurance.

But when we travel I just don’t think it’s going to be possible. Vegetarian is easy, just about anywhere, but vegan is hard. Everything seems to have some animal product added at some point in its production.

Not one sandwich in M&S was vegan. Nothing, at all, at the Natural History Museum’s café was vegan. I’ve checked the lists, most places we normally frequent when we’re out and about in London, say Pret, Starbucks, or Costa, will have maybe 1 vegan item. Quite often it’s something that contains no protein or something sweet.

Because I have 3 other people with me, I’m not able to tell them no, we can’t eat here, we have to go find somewhere that serves vegan food. It’s just not happening. Sure, I could sit and watch them eat and go find myself a bag of nuts later, but where’s the joy in that? I love food and I love eating.

So, I gracefully give up for now. I will be satisfied with vegetarian while we travel and just go for vegan when it’s possible.

At least I’m trying, but in my heart I feel that vegetarianism is pointless, it’s the egg and milk industries that are the real sickeners.

What Prompted Me To Try To Be Vegan?

We live in country Romania.

Beautiful plump, healthy chickens wander through our garden and orchard. I see natural sheep, goats, pigs, horses and cows roaming the flower-filled meadows and village lanes every day.

I’ve watched many pigs slaughtered and butchered on mud and grass in neighbours’ gardens.

I’ve cried at their deaths, but these animals have reasonable lives and diets. If you’re going to eat meat then these are the creatures you should eat.

What tipped me over the edge to veganism was the lambs and kids. They were beautiful this spring, every sheep and goat had a baby. Rural perfection. But those young animals are slaughtered within weeks, born only to keep their mothers in milk and provide an Easter feast. I only normally eat sheep and goat cheese, I can’t touch cow, I just couldn’t continue to eat it after looking at those lambs and their mothers.

baby goat
My kids play with this baby goat, they cuddle him and love him. I can see him from my kitchen window, bouncing around like the crazy child he is. He will be lunch soon and his mother will mourn, that’s what keeps the milk and cheese coming.

A day or so later I watched a documentary about the egg industry. I knew how barbaric it was already, but watching it again, comparing those poor birds with the plump specimens pecking in the long grass outside was just too much. I couldn’t face another egg.

When we have our own cruelty-free chickens, sure, I’ll eat them again, I’ll be as removed as I can be from the egg industry, where male chicks in their thousands are tossed live into giant mincing machines.

So for now, with sadness, I fail. The reality of how difficult it is to travel our way and be vegan is too much. As vegan as I can be will have to be good enough until the world changes, and it will, it has to.”

If you'd like to hire a car during your stay, use this car rental comparison tool to find the best deal!

We also suggest you take a look at this company to get a quote for all kinds of the more tricky adventure or extended travel insurance.

Try Stayz / VRBO for an alternative way to find rentals on homes/apartments/condos in any country!

About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

19 thoughts on “Vegan Travel is Hard!”

  1. Vegan travel is hard without research and preparation. We’re glad to hear you share your experiences traveling while maintaining an all-green lifestyle.

    • You’re not wrong. But over the years it’s become much easier, this post is from about 5 years ago. Also destination makes a huge difference. I find Vietnam, for instance, the easiest country to travel and stay vegan.

  2. I sympathize, we have just returned from Mallorca and even though we did our research before leaving it was very very hard. The first day I was so hungry I did eat some cheese while my son had baked beans on toast. (I can’t eat them.) After we managed to find a big Aldi we were able to stock up on humus and chickpeas. We found some of the restaurants we’d researched but they were few and far between and only had a few options. So it was doable by going self catering and just eating out in the evenings but as I said not easy! We met one girl who was Vegan and couldn’t eat anything at the hotel’s all inclusive. We live in Kent and have been Vegan for over a year and I am still having to continually read labels and eating out in the UK is possible but as you say you are usually limited to one choice. Very frustrating. Luckily we Vegans are resilient and as you say it’s about doing the best we can. Well done for your honesty.

    • I can’t eat baked beans either – nor kidney beans or really any whole large legume. I ordered dal and chappati the other day in Australia and they’d put kidney beans in with the lentils… *facepalm*. I just do my best. I’m off to Bhutan next week, I wonder what they’ll feed us there 🙂 But Vietnam after that – super easy.

  3. I definitely agree that forward planning is key! Things become a lot easier the longer you’re vegan, you know all the things to look out for and the questions to ask when you’re abroad. Sorry to hear that London was difficult, we’re from the UK and traditionally food is terrible for vegans. There are a HUGE variety of vegan restaurants and international eateries which are better so I guess it’s just knowing where to look.

    I hope you can carry on with your veganism, morals aside it’s a very healthy way to live, particularly if you’re in tropical countries and have access to lots of cheap and delicious fruit!

  4. Hi Alyson,
    I’m thrilled to hear that you are giving vegan travel another try! You are totally right that every step towards a vegan lifestyle makes a difference. It sounds like you have come a long way on that path already!

    • I just do my best Wendy. We just got back from Everest Base Camp, there’s no way I’d demand my dal baht be made without butter up there, it would be unfair of me, our best is all we can do. My men folk were all craving meat yesterday after 3 weeks without, I was very happy with my lentils 🙂

  5. Interesting blog but I am a little disappointed that some travellers are not prepared to make a sacrifice . Veganism and to alesser extent vegetarianism is about the environment as much about ethics, animal rights, health etc. We are senior travellers, just returned from Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Germany, and Austria. We are both vegetarians witha preference for vegan. We have been vegetarian for 26 years, but would eat meat for the taste and texture, if only for our conscience and our health (We will live a longer and healthier life than our peers). We are independent travellers on a budget, travel at about 30% of the cost of a tour. So we stay in self catering apartments at budget prices. The excitement and joy around food comes with the shopping experience. To save on costs we take our own lunch, and this frees up so much downtime waiting in a cafe etc. When we eat out it is a real experience, but to be brutally honest not many live up to my cooking. So why traipse around putting yourself under pressure to find something ethical to eat (try that in Riga or St petersburg).

    • Robert, you are entitled to make your choices and we are entitle to ours. The fact that I choose vegan as possible is still a massive improvement on eating a regular omnivorous diet. Why attack the people who are doing their very best to help a situation, rather than the people not even thinking about it? I have 2 boys and a husband, none of them vegetarian, although the’re used to being vegan at home, no complaints. Our style of travel does not involve self catering. Try that when you’re trekking up K2.

  6. Hi Alyson,
    I’m sorry you found it so hard in London! I’ve been vegan in London for nearly 9 years now and I’ve always found London to be incredibly vegan-friendly so I’m sorry you had a bad experience trying to find vegan food here! (Though I have to say, when I travelled in Romania a few years ago during Lent, I found so much vegan ‘de post’ food, it was very easy!)

    I came across your post when I was doing some research for the new edition of my book and your experience is EXACTLY why I wrote my book, The Essential Vegan Travel Guide, which shows vegans how to find vegan food *anywhere* in the world. In it, I have lots of resources for finding vegan food and I also list common vegan dishes in lots of cuisines around the world.

    Next time you’re in London, you should know that while M&S doesn’t have any vegan sandwiches, they actually have a lot of vegan salads (I think 4 or 5 varieties), and they aren’t just plain leaves, they have protein too, like their bean salads! For dessert they also have a pastry that’s vegan, it’s called the iced & spiced bun.

    Starbucks has a vegan salad, again that might sound not filling enough, but it’s got falafel and hummus so it’s got protein and is filling.

    Pret is actually usually very good for vegans, maybe the Pret you went in was running out of stock. Last year they opened a 100% vegetarian Pret with over half vegan options, and it was so popular they released a lot of those sandwiches in all their regular stores too. They usually have at least 2 vegan sandwiches (they even label them as vegan! :)) or wraps plus they often have vegan soups too.

    I’m not so sure about Costa, but I know Caffe Nero has vegan mince pies at Christmas and they’re really good! Again, they’re labelled vegan. 🙂

    You could also check out the ranges of vegan items in supermarkets for not too expensive vegan food. Sainsburys label everything that’s vegan! And plenty of other UK supermarkets have quite a few vegan foods. They just aren’t always labelled.

    And last, probably the cheapest place for a sit-down meal in the whole of London happens to be 100% vegetarian, and most of their dishes are vegan! It’s called Indian Veg and it’s on Chapel Market near Angel station. They have an unlimited, eat-as-much-as-you-want buffet for £4.50 per person.

  7. I am vegan and found it very difficult to travel with my four kids (who aren’t vegan), even in the US. It is HARD being the only vegan in a group, and vegan restaurants are expensive. I’m vegan for ethical and health reasons, so eating non vegan for long lengths of time really messes with me. I’ve been following your blog for over a year now, and you are truly inspiring. I didn’t even know you were interested in being vegan! People are so hesitant to post much about it, but its so helpful to learn that others struggle with this as well. Most of the vegan travelers I’ve found are either singles, or their entire group is vegan. They always talk about how “easy” it is, but I think these people are just saying that because vegans don’t ever seem to want to make being vegan look hard. Its easy at home, but it can be hard when you’re on the move. I can’t imagine being in a country that is meat based and you can’t speak the language!

    My kids don’t have a problem eating meat and animal products either. I think its one of those things one has to come to on their own. I am trying to figure out how to travel ethically but don’t want to spend my travel days in the kitchen. I too, cook A LOT at home so the idea of totally self catering while away sends shivers down my spine. Thank you for posting this, it is so helpful.

  8. It’s so hard and more so when you love food but also love animals! I was vegetarian for 27 years and my 5 kids were for the first few years of their lives. But we missed out on a lot when traveling and not trying or experiencing various foods. So we added in meat and have enjoyed it over the last 3 years. But like you, I experience sadness at animal deaths and especially in western slaughter houses. We are in Costa Rica right now and got to milk a cow a couple of days ago and drink the milk right away but knowing that the calves had been wrenched away from the mothers so early and many sent to market, made it rather bitter sweet. We are contemplating cutting way back again at home but still enjoying occasional meats on the road. Still a work in progress:)

    • I know, I’m with you Kate. We can only do our best and not beat ourselves up about it. I also HAVE to taste local foods, usually just a taste off my husband’s plate. Luckily I prefer Asia, where local vegetarian foods are superb. I just don’t like failing very much. But it’s very interesting that my children see all the same stuff I do, they watch the animal slaughters here, and have no problem with eating meat, I wonder if when they’re older they will.

  9. Because mostly Rebecca, we’re in Asia or other countries where it’s so incredibly cheap to eat out. We’ve all 4 eaten for under a pound on occasion. We also have a few beers most days. Enjoying our food is important to us, so we economise on things we don’t care about, and spend more on the things we do. For example, I’ve had maybe 4 professional haircuts in the last 10 years. That’s a huge saving. In Romania we never eat out, there isn’t that option, so I’m going to enjoy these 4 days in London as much as I can and do the London things I love Food is important to us, everybody will have a different set of priorities. We’re only in London for 4 days, with no cooking facilities. No choice. We haven’t eaten out most evenings, I’ve grabbed hummus etc. from the supermarket, we’re home then, getting ready for bed, but when we’re out during the day, we need to and want to

    • Okay, yeah, I get that. It’s how I deal with lodging, too. Pay a bit more when it’s necessary and get it as cheaply as you can when its possible. It’s not that food is that important to me, though I certainly appreciate good food when I get it, but I really do enjoy the whole experience of eating out – even a simple £5 plate at an outdoor table at King of Falafel in Bloomsbury, which is one of my all time faves.

      Unfortunately, most of my travel is in Western Europe and big U.S. cities, so really cheap food is not plentiful. But I’ve accustomed myself to picking up baked chicken, cans of beans and tuna fish, bags of spinach, peanut butter and bread, along with some fruit and being satisfied with that. I don’t even cook any more unless I start craving something specific. It saves me time I’d rather be out exploring. But I couldn’t do that when traveling with my family. Most people require more variety than I do. 🙂

  10. I understand how travel can be as cheap as living at home. But, for me, that includes trying to eat as I do at home – which requires mostly self-catering and snacks from the supermarket. I would dearly love to eat out more. Please tell us how a family of four eats out so much on a budget, particularly somewhere like London. I’m sure I’m not the only one who would value this advice.

    I’m fairly new to your blog (which I am thoroughly enjoying), so if you already have a post about this, just point me to it. If not, the information is certainly valuable enough to have its own post. I’m sure many of us would love to have it.

    I totally get your feelings about trying to be vegan. I haven’t even managed to be vegetarian. But I have great guilt over the treatment of the animals that are the source of my food.

    I don’t have much of a problem with animals being raised for food, probably bc I don’t have much contact with cows, sheep, pigs and chickens. And I just consider that as much the circle of life as any other type of death. Ever since I’ve become aware of the treatment those animals are subjected to, however, I do feel absolutely horrible every time I think about it. But the best I can say is that I have drastically cut down the amount of meat I eat and peanut butter sandwiches now figure strongly in my diet. sigh.


Leave a comment