Hi all, hoping you guys can share some light on the issue. Is it easy to be a vegetarian everywhere? Please share.
I am curious, I am kosher/vegetarian and wanted to know if anyone had any advice on traveling. Really I know its just about coming prepared, so I am hoping anyother vegos out there can tell me about their own experiences. I am hoping to do an around the world trip (no not major urban centers if I can help it) but before I set my heart on going anywhere, I would love to hear what you guys have to say.
Thanks again in advance.
Yoshi Reply to this
Probably the easiest place to be a vegetarian is India, mostly because so many Indians are vegetarian so the traditional food is made to suit them, rather than being some adjustment to some dish that is not vegetarian.
It is possible to travel as a vegetarian anywhere, because there is always something vegetarian your can buy, in the shops or markets, if you are openminded about what you eat.
It can affect your social life in some places though. The attitudes of restaruant staff towards vegetarians in some countries has put me off going out for dinner there, unless it is to an actual vegetarian restaurant. At restaurants they would sometimes treat me like I was some kind of self obsessed nuisance, because I wanted vegetarian food. Others would look annoyed, when I ordered a few side dishes on the menu, because all the main courses were unvegetarian. I think, they didn't like this because it costs less than ordering a 4 course meal, and were reluctant to serve those who are not big spenders.
The country(when travelling) where I experienced the worst attitude towards vegetarians was Peru.
Mel Reply to this
Hi Yoshi, some places/countries are better than others in terms of awareness of vegetarian and vegan requirements, as I am sure you know. If I cannot find anywhere that will have vegetarian food on their menu I will either phone ahead and politely ask if they can provide something simple, maybe a vegatarian starter can be made bigger into a main meal with the addition of salad or vegetables perhaps.
If you have accesss to internet you can scope out where you might find something to eat, but that is not always practical, yet if you know where you are headed then you can get an idea of the food culture of a country and usually there will be some kind of thing that will be suitable for you somewhere. You might just end up buying fresh produce and local breads at a local store if all else is failed, but you will not go hungry. Some prior knowledge though will help you be prepared for wherever you go.
I have found that if hyou take time to explain your diet needs to someone and make it clear they don't have to be elaborate, you often find people are pleasant, helpful and interested too. Most cities around the world you will be able to find veggie staples like falafel, pizza, haloumi, pasta, salad bowls and veggy filled baked goods and bread. Paris for example has an ethnic population resulting in some of the best falafel and salad filled breads. London and Uk has a massive Indian subcontinent influence which results in some of the most amazing tasty food you will ever eat!
What are your favourite veggy meals Yoshi and what countries are you thinking of heading? Reply to this
I think it varies a lot by country, and by your take on 'Vegetarian.' If you define vegetarian as no meat ever in any form, it is a lot more challenging. In many places I have been to a 'vegetarian' meal is a dish where the meat has been removed, but was part of the original cooking. Often times fish is not considered a meat, sometimes neither is chicken. My friend had a memorable experience in Ghana when her host family told her that dinner was going to be delicious and vegetarian because it wasn't meat, it was lamb! Many countries have a meat-heavy diet, or include meat as a part of many or all meals. If you are not staying in someone's house, it is a lot easier to avoid meat because you can cook for yourself in hostels, and hotels that cater to international travelers often have more experience and understanding of vegetarians then the general population of a country. I have never actually traveled as a vegetarian, though I tend to avoid meat if possible, but I have traveled with vegetarians. They often eat a lot of eggs, rice, and bread. If you are traveling in warmer climates there are usually fresh fruit and vegetables available year round. Good luck with your traveling! Reply to this
I have been a vegetarian for 23 years now although the last 5 years I have eaten fish due to the difficulty of living or traveling abroad as a more strict vegetarian. I would say it is quite difficult to be a vegetarian while traveling.... at least if you want to eat healthily anyway. One can always eat salad abroad but that is not exactly healthy. I have also had problems with asking for vegetaian meals and being understood but for instance still getting a salad with ham on it... apparently the definition, if there even is one, of vegetarian is different from place to place. Good luck, however I do suggest you try to be a bit open if you want to stay healthy while traveling. Reply to this
We travelled from Vietnam to Hong Kong through the south of China. This was the most challenging time for me as a vegetarian. At most places I could find one dish, a side - wilted spinach - that was vegetarian on the menu. I ate a lot of wilted spinach! They do however, have vegetarian restaurants which are quite popular, but I always found these quite off-putting as everything is fake meat, and smells and tastes like real meat which is not really to my taste. The fast food and snack food is also mostly meat based too. I took the approach of just eating what I could to fill my tummy that wasn't meat or fish.
I have also heard Mongolia is even harder than China for vegetarians. Reply to this
I would like to second the opinion that India is the best place for vegetarian travellers! It really is a vegetarian's paradise. You walk into a restaurant and order whatever you want off the menu, and down there at the bottom are the non-vegetarian options. I also found that as well as being quite common it is fairly well respected. It is certainly the only country I have been where people admire vegetarianism and will apologise for serving meat dishes in your presence!
Other countries can be more dfficult. African diets involve a lot of meat and all too often I had to go for the bread and fruit from the local shop option. I remember one taxi driver's exclamation after I explained I couldn't go to McDonalds for lunch because I was veggie. 'Vegetarian???? You are the first one I have ever met!!'
Mexico was easier, but the vegetarian options quickly grew boring as they were the same everywhere I went. I am currently in Spain and finding it quite trying. Going to restaurants quickly loses its appeal when you realise it's the pasta/pizza option almost everywhere and tracking down vegetarian products in supermarkets is difficult. I think we take Linda McCartney and Quorn products for granted in the UK. Deprived of them it is harder. I eat far more eggs and cheese when travelling than I ever do at home. Yes, you can buy lentils and beans and so on and cook from scratch at home or in hostels, but the ease and variety of the veggie products I have at home are sorely missed. Seriously, who would ever think you could get cravings for a vegetarian sausage??!!!
Having said that, there is always a way to manage and getting used to different foods and so on is part and parcel of travelling. It has never bothered me on holidays or short trips. It is only when living abroad long term that I start to wish frozen goods could survive the post! Reply to this
You can usually find decent vegetarian options in most larger cities in South America but it can be challenging in more remote places. If you eat eggs, then rice topped with a fried egg is usually possible everywhere and beans and rice a staple in a lot of Andean countries. Vegetables as a side dish are not that common and tend to be mixed into stews and soups. Salads are popular in cities, but you need to be careful of raw vegetables in a lot of remote places. Certainly the capital cities will have restaurants and products which cater to vegetarians. I notice you also say kosher. Excuse my ignorance, but would this impose limitations on your diet, combinations of food or you were looking for kosher products? Buenos Aires does have a good amount of kosher options (including the only kosher McDs outside of Israel) but this would not be true of other places in SA. It is a challenge but can be done. I have a niece who travelled SA for several months and survived! Reply to this
I've got a really difficult diet as I'm vegetarian but also gluten-intolerant (thank christ i'm not lactose intolerant...yet) so that rules out pastas and breads unless it's gluten-free. I usually have to order water and salad at restaurants, even in Canada! So I tend to make most of my meals at home. Having said that, when I travel I'm probably going to eat some meat to keep up my vitamins/nutrients/energy/carbs, since my vegetarianism is by choice but my gluten intolerance is due to health reasons.
I have been told that the hardest places to stay on a meat-free diet is South America as meat is a big part of their culture and diets, but I'm sure you'll be able to get lots of sandwiches and pastas and rice/bean dishes that don't contain meat. In Buddhist-Asian countries you'll have absolutely no problems, especially if you like tofu! Reply to this
I think India is the best place for a visit if you are a vegetarian. Otherwise it will be difficult for you to stay at other country. Reply to this
The information you guys provided has helped me out alot!
I just had my itinerary confirmed for this summer and I am visiting jordan and Austria. If anyone has any details on being vego in either place I would really appreciate it.(I will be in major cities as this is part of a university course.)
ps. mmmm INDIAN FOOD! delicious, I will definately be making time for a trip to India one day!
Reply to this
Hummous is a staple food in Jordan and there are a good number of foods you would be able to eat like stuffed vegetables and vegetable couscous. Why not also try ask a question of the Jordan forum and Austria forum on Tripadvisor. I have seen names of particular restaurants mentioned and recommended there. Reply to this
I haven't been to Austria, but from my experiences with my Swiss family, expect to be eating fish or chicken when you ask for a "vegetarian" meal. Traditional dishes often include sausages, veal, etc, so yeah, you might be finding yourself eating a lot of salads and roesti (potatoes) or bichermuesli (yogurt, fruits and muesli).
If you are in major cities in Austria, there should be at least some options. I would recommend visiting the tourist bureau or picking up a magazine that lists restaurants - there should be at least one vegetarian or vegetarian-friendly place in a big city! With such magazines I've found vegetarian places in Lyon (known for their bouchons - restaurants that are very meat heavy), as well as major cities in Switzerland.
And I don't know what immigrant population has ended up in Austria, but in Germany it was very easy to get falafel! Reply to this
at first I didnt really wanna eat it when we visit some where in Asia. but in eventually I started to like it ;) Reply to this
Back to the original question; I travelled for a week in Hong Kong. I REALLY struggled (weird considering it is such a developed country). A lot of the dishes in the local restaurants were not vegetarian, they were instead the original meat dish with the meat chunks taken out. No thank you.
Went on a day tour to China and was told that my vegetarianism is considered rude to the Chinese culture by the tour leader.
The chinese vegetarian resturants that I did try had meat replacements which aren't really my thing. Even the tofu dishes were cooked in beef or chicken broths (I hate tofu anyway). I unfortunately ended up eating a lot cheese pizza from Pizza Hut. In terms of protein and iron replacements I again struggled; chickpeas, beans, spinach and egg all those things I use at home to get my energy levels up were nearly impossible to get my hands on.
In terms of international cuisines - back home (in Australia) I eat Turkish, Moroccan, Mexican, Italian which are all in abundance here but unfortunately, not many places in HK and the places that did exist were not viable to make my way to just for a meal. Indian i soon realised was my only option, however, I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the Indian food in HK. Reply to this
We had a couple of weeks in Italy followed by another couple of weeks in France. Both places were difficult to get good vegetarian food. Just about everywhere we had difficulty getting them to understand what vegetarian meant, even when we said that we do not eat anything that has ever lived they still say do you eat chicken, no we do not eat anything that has ever lived, this goes on through fish, white meat and seafood. Some try to tell us that we must be vegan but we are not, vegan means people who in addition to a pure vegetarian diet do not use leather, wool, silk, honey, dairy or any animal product at all. In the end we had to just accept what ever vegetables were going for the day. At one hotel we asked if we could have a plate of green vegetables, twenty minutes later two plates of chopped lettuce arrived. As we came to the end of our Italian tour we were looking forward to going to France because they have such a good reputation for their cooking, biggest myth we've come across, it only seems to apply to a few very high class restaurants, the average cafe or restaurant is very ordinary and most of the menus are mainly Italian food, pasta and pizza. The worst experience was breakfast in the hotels, we were desperate for protein so had to have scrambled eggs, they were the most evil that we had ever tasted and we couldn't eat them, when this happened at the third hotel we asked them what they had done, they said they'd added vanilla flavoured cream to improve the taste, we wondered if they did chocolate chip mashed potato for lunch.
In Venice we saw in the distance down a back street a Chinese Restaurant, we thought great we'll get something like a stir fry tofu. As we got closer we could see that it was not a mirage and was a genuine Chinese Restaurant, couldn't get inside quick enough, the menu was all pizza and pasta, not a bit of Chinese food anywhere.
We had a four day stopover in Singapore on our way home to Australia. We looked forward to that because we'd never had any problem getting good vegetarian food. Even our hotel, the Ritz Carlton had very limited vegetarian choices. We found that Singapore had changed such a lot since our last visit ten years ago. Hardly any restaurants or cafes catering for Europeans, like many other places they have gone after the wealthy tourists from Mainland China and India, we might have been able to get something there but the menus were all in their own languages and hardly anyone spoke English.
We had gone back to coach trips and self organised accommodation because we'd had a few bad experiences on cruise ships recently. Seems like we might have to go back to cruising but will have to stick to at least 5 star vessels. Reply to this
Hello! I have to say I am really surprised at some of the responses! My husband and I have traveled independently to 54 countries. I am vegetarian and , while it isn't always easy, it's not half as hard as some of these answers seem to suggest. Yes, India is ridiculously easy. But so is every South East Asian country we've been to - Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, and most of all - CHINA! There are actual traditional vegetarian restaurants in these countries - I'm not sure how it could get any easier! (Observant Buddhists are vegetarian - people truly get what it means and take it seriously).
Yes, sometimes you need to be very specific when you ask what a dish is. We lived in France for a while and I can tell you that eggplant parmigiana often comes with ham, as do mushroom tortellini! But, if you're willing to be flexible you shouldn't have any problems. Often a couple of appetizers work as a meal, for example. Or, dinner may not contain much protein, but does it really matter if you've had eggs for breakfast and cheese sandwich for lunch? (Or something else with protein?) In a pinch, we have never been ANYWHERE that didn't have pizza or spaghetti. I've often joked that some day I'll write a book entitled "Around the World on pizza and falafel!"
In short - just go, and don't worry about it! I have starved yet, and neither will you! :)
Wendy Reply to this
Hello, I am originally from Austria and you will have no problems as a Vegetarian. It is true that our traditional dishes are based on meat. However, as there are many vegetarians and vegans nowadays, all restaurants have vegetarian options. There are a few traditional dishes without meat e.g. Kässpätzle and Eiernockerl (little dumplings with eggs or cheese). Austria has great bakeries and sells many sandwiches/rolls without meat as there is a tradition of vegetarian spreads (Liptauer, Erdapfelkaas and more). If you have a sweet tooth, you could just order hot desserts instead of main meals (probably not very healthy but delicious). Reply to this