Brazilian travel blogger and all-round vegan traveller, Larissa Tedesco, writes about how to stick to a vegan diet while trekking the globe. Check out her IQPlanner profile here.
Being vegetarian or vegan at any given place or time can sometimes be a challenge, but when travelling things can get a little bit trickier.
One of the places where I found it more difficult to eat vegan was in South-East Asia.
While the region is renowned for its mind-blowing beaches and untamed landscapes, there’s also plenty of exotic fruits, an exorbitant variety of vegetables and even more so of...meats. Here, it’s easy to find duck, shark and unexpected bugs like scorpions or even snakes!
The challenge of sticking to vegan
It’s little wonder then that many people find it difficult to stick to a vegan lifestyle while on the road. There are usually many restrictions for finding decent meals that actually taste good, or are made to be vegan.
However, there’s no need to worry, as eating vegan in South-East Asia isn’t as difficult as it sounds. With a little preparation and with some handy tips, it gets easier.
After travelling for 5 months in the region, I've put together these helpful tips to help you explore this wonderful world of ours, and all without going hungry!
How to eat vegan when travelling in South-East Asia
Pack some snacks
When catching a plane (or a bus if you want to go full-on travel mode in Asia) it's essential that you pack some quick snacks like dried fruits, nuts and crackers. Bring anything that’ll help you stay full without too much hassle.
In South-East Asia, it’s easy to find people selling nuts, chestnuts (yum!), fruit (avoid the chopped and packaged ones, and go for the fresh or unpeeled variety) and some other delicious varieties. Buy and prepare the snacks beforehand, so you won't be desperate while on-the-go!
Research before eating
There are many apps and even good old TripAdvisor, that’ll help you find restaurants that are either vegetarian-friendly or vegan. Just make sure you first read the reviews before going!
Stay in the loop and find the best options around you or, if possible, call ahead and see if they can cater for your dietary needs. There’s nothing that a little chat won't fix.
Ask the restaurant to make your meal vegan
If you find yourself in a place where you’re not sure whether they serve any vegan meals, ask the staff to help.
In most restaurants in South-East Asia (especially in Thailand) they’d always confirm whether or not I wanted eggs when I asked for a vegetarian meal.
Most restaurants are aware of vegetarian and vegan meals and are happy to cater.
Learn the basics
When visiting a new country, it’s always worth learning the basics like 'hello' or 'thank you'. As a vegetarian or a vegan, it’s also important to know how to say 'vegetarian' — most countries in South-East Asia treat veganism the same as vegetarianism.
In addition, learn how to say ‘please, no meat/eggs/milk...’. If the language is too complicated, write it down and show the staff what you can or can't eat. It’s a simple way of making sure that nothing gets lost in translation.
Find the best vegan destinations
There are now many cities that cater for a vegan diet. Many of them may be unexpected, like Helsinki or Tel Aviv.
In South-East Asia, make sure to visit Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. It’s a true utopia for vegans and vegetarians alike, with many restaurants catering just for us!
As well as the food, the area offers some of the best things to do in Thailand. Be sure to take some time exploring temples and the restaurants that will no doubt impress.