As Google searches for “vegan travel” has seen an uplift of 2,800% uplift since the start of the New Year, the travel experts Go2Africa advise how to travel as a vegan/vegetarian and what to do if you are visiting a place that isn’t known for its vegan credentials.
Although veganism isn’t a new concept, travellers can still struggle to find vegan-friendly options when travelling. However, an animal-free diet needn’t pose many difficulties as long as you take the necessary pre-travelling steps to ensure a stress-free holiday.
You will never regret bringing “just in case” supplies. Whether you are on an excursion that doesn’t have any vegan-friendly options, or out exploring the city but unable to find a suitable vegan restaurant, sometimes things are simply out of your control. Packing a few vegan snacks simply allows you to avoid going hungry while travelling and exploring and takes the worry out of finding a last-minute spot.
However, depending on the location you’re visiting, taking your own snacks may not always be possible. Some governments do not allow foreign agricultural produce, such as dried fruits, seeds or nuts, to enter their countries, so check whether this would apply to you. You should also make sure you check the country’s laws on plastic, as many countries, including Kenya and South Africa, are trying to limit the amount of plastic waste they produce.
Opt for self-catering
For total peace of mind, opting for self-catered accommodation is a great way to ensure everything you eat is vegan because you know exactly what is going into the dish. Take some time to research your accommodation options before you book and if you do choose self-catering, ensure there is a big enough kitchen, or at least a fridge and microwave.
Before departing, make a note of a few recipes that are easy to make, not too time-consuming (after all, you want to spend your holiday time exploring not stuck inside cooking) and don’t require specialist ingredients that might be difficult to find. Cooking your own meals with locally sourced ingredients is also a much more sustainable way to holiday and still allows you to experience an authentic meal.
Learn the local lingo
Knowledge is power when it comes to a smooth-sailing holiday. Ordering food in a country that speaks a different language to you can be difficult enough without including dietary requirements. Learning just a handful of phrases in the local language allows you to ask chefs what is in the dish and what shouldn’t be. Most should be familiar with veganism so getting a meal shouldn’t be an issue, however, you shouldn’t assume everyone understands what veganism specifically means, so don’t just learn how to say “I’m vegan” in the local language. Learn how to say key phrases such as “no dairy” and “no meat or fish” rather than just relying on the term, which some people may not understand.
Research the cultural norms
Food is a huge part of most cultures, so take time to do your research on where you are visiting, and you may be surprised by what popular meals are. A lot of countries’ cuisines are traditionally vegetarian and are therefore flexible with veganism. For example, the traditional Indian diet is predominately vegetarian and famously adaptable to being vegan, but India isn’t the only country to experience this authentic cuisine. South Africa, Mauritius and Tanzania all have sizable Indian communities, meaning these countries are ideal for vegan travel.
Communication is key
Whether you are staying at an all-inclusive hotel, or a safari lodge or you are out on an excursion, let your guides know your dietary requirements plenty of time in advance. Assuming somewhere will cater for a vegan diet can be risky, as some caterers may make their own assumptions that all their guests are able to eat anything off the menu. Most caterers will have the facility to cater for you, they just need to have enough notice.
Most travel agents, excursion hosts and accommodation kitchens should state whether they offer vegan options, or at least give you the opportunity to tell them about your dietary requirements. If they don’t, then you should contact your tour guide or the accommodation directly to ensure they have a vegan option for you.