Vegetarian travelers develop strategies for maintaining routines while on road

Posted October 14, 2013


Beef from Buenos Aires, pork from the Dominican Republic, and fresh fish from Colombia are all foods that vegetarians will not get to eat when they are traveling.

However, there are ways to sample local cuisines, stay well fed, and keep your vegetarian lifestyle while traveling.

Tofu and vegetables from a Korean Restaurant (Photo by Anabell Bernot).

Tofu and vegetables from a Korean Restaurant (Photo by Anabell Bernot).

“As a vegetarian, it is useful if you know how to cook,” said Moraima Martinez, a vegetarian for more than 20 years. “It’s an inexpensive and healthy way to live.”

Martinez is right. If you find yourself in a foreign country, it is a good idea to rent a temporary home, stay at a hostel, an apartment or with a family. That way, you will have access to a kitchen.

“Being vegetarian has lots of health benefits, such as reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity,” said Linda Hull, nutritionist at LA Fitness. “If you can stick with your routine while traveling, you’ll be doing your body a favor.”

No matter whether you are in Madrid or in Paris, you will always find ingredients in markets to cook a wide range of vegetarian meals. If you are not the best cook or are short on ideas and don’t have a vegetarian book handy, check out the vegetarian cooking videos on

With websites like Video Jug, vegetarian travelers can prepare themselves easy, tasty meals like tomato soup and pizza margarita that only take about 15 minutes to make. Each video is only about four minutes.

“When I was living in Colombia for a semester, I relied on Video Jug to make all my meals,” said Andrea Orozco, 23, “I would make a big batch of food for a couple of days and would live off that.”

Another great piece of advice for traveling vegetarians is knowing that the translation of “vegetarian” is not useful.

Whether you say, “I’m a vegetarian” in French or Spanish, some cultures do not understand exactly what it means to be vegetarian, or they might have different interpretations.

For instance, when you say you are vegetarian in Spain, residents might think you don’t eat red meat, but eating shellfish is okay. Or if you go to France and say you are vegetarian, a restaurant might only serve you plain lettuce with a bit of olive oil.

Rather than saying you are vegetarian, ask your waiter if there are menu items that do not have meat, chicken or fish.

“I find the more specific I am on my diet restrictions when I travel, the easier it is,” said student Melanie Gomez, currently residing in Barcelona for a semester. “It is important to communicate with the people serving you your food to avoid surprises.”

Other than being specific with your diet restrictions, learn the vocabulary for certain foods you can’t and can eat. Phrasebooks have a normal dictionary in the back and sometimes have an entire section dedicated to food. Knowing basic words, like “beef,” “lamb” and “chicken” can help you avoid them and save you time reading a menu.

Mushroom risotto (Photo by Anabell Bernot).

Mushroom risotto (Photo by Anabell Bernot).

However, there are restaurants you can visit and eat freely. How is this? Believe it or not, there are vegetarian restaurants all over the world. If you are having a hard time finding them, say “hello” to

Happy Cow helps you narrow down restaurants in your area. All you have to do is type the city, state, and country you are in for nearby listings. Users post their reviews and others can vote if they are helpful or not, similar to Yahoo! Answers.

“When I moved to Miami, I wasn’t sure what I would eat,” said Hanna Laurence, a University of Miami student, “So I went on Happy Cow and found restaurants mostly downtown and in the Brickell area that were strictly vegetarian.”

But let’s say you are going out with a bunch of your friends when spontaneously the group decides to eat at a restaurant and you don’t know if it will cater to your needs. Do not panic. Most restaurants will allow you to make a request or will serve you the vegetarian equivalent of a dish you like.

“When I worked in Mexico, I had several customers that wanted their food without meat,” said Reina Paz, a waitress. “It was easy to make a dish without meat and just replace it with beans or lots of cheese!”

If you want to hear advice from other vegetarian travelers go to and read their forums on food and travel.

Remember, you are not the only vegetarian and you have the right to enjoy yourself while traveling. Just make sure to ask questions about menus or where you are staying, be specific in what you want to eat, use directories to help you, and talk to other travelers and see what worked for them.  By following some of these simple tips and utilizing the websites above, you won’t go hungry abroad.

Tips for Traveling Vegetarians

  • When traveling, choose to stay at an apartment, house, or hostel- any place where there is a kitchen and a grocery store nearby.
  • Be sure to take vegetarian cookbooks and recipes with you on your travels.
  • Check out websites like to make easy, quick, vegetarian recipes.
  • Forget the “v” word. Instead of telling people you are vegetarian, be specific on what you can and can’t eat. That way you will know your menu options.
  • Speak to other vegetarian travelers and ask them what they do when they are traveling. Check out blogs and message boards like the one on
  • Most importantly, enjoy yourself! If people give you a hard time about your eating restrictions just laugh it off and don’t take it personally.

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