Written by Kayla
As someone who lives in America, I can say it’s pretty damn easy to live a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle. Though, it’s not this easy in many countries around the world. I’ve been asked many times if I have found it difficult to eat vegan while living in the places I have recently traveled to (Thailand, Czech Republic, Vienna, Austria, Ireland…), and frankly, it hasn’t been as difficult as everyone expects.
Veganism is exponentially becoming more popular around the world and people are starting to accommodate for us more than ever. Vegans everywhere are starting businesses, vegfests are popping up in cities, and grocery stores are carrying their own “free from” foods.
As you may know, my last trip was to Ireland. I spent three weeks traveling to multiple cities and towns throughout the southern half of the island, mostly near the coast. As a passionate foodie, I made sure good vegan food was high on my list of priorities when traveling. A happy tummy equals a happy Kayla!
So… how do I find vegan awesomeness when in a foreign land?
- The beloved HappyCow.net is my first step. This website/app shows you almost all of the restaurants or health food stores that are vegan, vegetarian, or that offer veg options. I just search the city I’m headed to and write down a list of the places that peak my interest, their hours, location, and options, and I refer back to it later when I’m hungry!
- Do a quick Google or YouTube search of [insert the country or region] vegan blogs/vlogs. I happened to find irishvegan.ie and veganinireland.com. Two wonderful blogs that are gold mines of information on restaurants, products you can find in grocery stores, and even vegan groups and events like vegan food tours! YouTube is also great for “What I Eat in a Day” and vlog style videos of destinations all around the world.
- Hop onto Instagram for a little hashtag action. #veganireland or #vegandublin got me to where I wanted to be. People love sharing the vegan or vegetarian food they find with the world, hoping to inspire and educate people like you and me! I happened to find countless accounts that gave me hints on where the best vegan restaurants and vegan products in grocery/health food stores are. Did you know the most popular grocery stores in Ireland (Tesco, Lidl, Dunnes Stores, and Aldi) have their own brands of vegan ice cream?! What! They also have their own “free from” food sections, which hold foods that do not contain major allergens.
- One of the best things about Europe (not sure if this exists in other regions, it sadly doesn’t in the states) is allergen lists on almost every menu! They assign a number to each common allergy (soy, tree nuts, peanuts, sesame, milk, eggs, fish, wheat, celery, etc…) and put the numbers next to each dish that contains those allergens. So I would always know if a dish I was interested in contained something I was allergic or sensitive to, then I could possibly see if the dish could be made without it.
- Stay at a hostel where you can use the kitchen. To save money, buy ingredients at your local store or farm stand and cook up your meals at your hostel. Many hostels also have free ingredients you can use like pasta or rice and seasonings. Cooking up some veg love may even spark some conversation with other hostel mates. Food and foreign friends, there’s nothin’ like it!
Other tips & tricks:
- Always have snacks on you while out and about or on a long bus/train/plane ride. You never know when you might get stuck in a small town with few healthy veg options… and if you’re doing a lot of walking, you’re going to need fuel! I brought a box of Health Warrior chia bars with me from the US and made it last the entire three weeks. When in Ireland, I bought Nairn’s organic oat crackers to munch on wherever I went, and often paired them with vegan cheese or dips I found in Tesco.
- Airlines that offer meals usually don’t offer a vegan option unless you request it ahead of time. I always forget to and end up bringing my own food with me. Once upon a time, on a 14 hour plane ride to Asia via Cathay Pacific, I asked if they had any vegan options and I was brought a HUGE bucket of ramen. It was like 4 small ramen cup’s worth…
- Farmer’s markets and festivals are hot spots for fresh local produce and plant based food companies. Ireland had some amazing strawberries I found in multiple cities/towns (even had locally grown strawberries in grocery stores!).
- Reach out to local vegans or vegetarians you find on social media. Ask them where or what they like to eat or even meet up with them for a meal!
- When in doubt, order a salad and a couple different sides! Restaurants must have SOME plant foods right?! The funny thing about Ireland is that it’s extremely popular to have vegetable curry as the veg entrée option at restaurants. Irish curry huh? Don’t mind if I do!
I hope that was helpful and may inspire someone to stay vegan/vegetarian while traveling abroad. People I know have been hesitant or hopeless when thinking about traveling as a vegan, saying they might just eat animal products during their trip, despite their beliefs… but I am here to tell you it doesn’t have to be that way! It can be challenging at times, but the hunt is usually worth it. It can also be difficult seeing all the traditional foods and drinks that aren’t vegan, wanting to try them and feel more like a local, like fish and chips or Irish coffee… but sometimes there are hip veg restaurants that offer vegan versions of traditional dishes and dishes that’ll make you forget about the cheese toasties and Irish stew!
A Traditional Irish Breakfast vegan style from Bia Blasta in Cork City, Ireland
Even the oldest pub in Ireland, The Brazen Head, has delicious vegan options. I got the Irish Soda Bread with cranberry sauce instead of butter, along side the Mediterranean Quinoa Salad & Roasted Vegetables (with no feta cheese). My vegetarian friend got the Three Bean Chili which can be vegan without the sour cream on the side, with chips.
Need a quick snack or want to eat a meal back at your accommodation? Stop in a Tesco, convenient store, or health food store for healthy little noms like these. Innocent makes delicious juices and nut milks that can be found in many places around Ireland and Violife is the best vegan cheese brand I’ve tried in Europe thus far!
Also found in Cork City was the cutest little vegan spot, 143V, where I had savory spirulina pancakes with sautéed veggies, greens, avo, smokey ‘cheese’ and crispy potatoes. Ketchup and vegan mayo on the side of course!
I even hunted down pistachio gelato at Gusto d’Italia in Limerick! #eatyourcolors am I right?
For more drool worthy vegan food from Ireland, the states, and my own kitchen, visit @earthfulliving on Instagram!
Until next time, happy travels!