travel vegan101

choosing a vegan holiday destination

21 February 2019 | By Cassell

If you are anything like me and love your food, then knowing that you’ll have plenty of decent places to eat is central to enjoying your holiday.  It’s really no different to picking a place based on the quality of the beach or cultural sights, and food tourism is a well established trend.

There are plenty of places that are well-known for being vegan-friendly and I’ll share those with you below.  It helps to be open-minded to ensure that you’ll have no problem finding a location for a comfortable and enjoyable trip.  If you’re familiar with my approach to things it come as no surprise that I recommend doing your research.  After all, in the UK we live in a world where Gregg’s sells vegan sausage rolls and Papa John’s sold out of vegan cheese in a day.  The rest of the world is not necessarily on the same wavelength.  So be prepared!

1. Check out vegan food listings around the world; the numbers don’t lie

I checked HappyCow’s global listings for purely vegan eateries to see which continents and countries top the list of vegan-friendly destinations. The list below shows the number of purely vegan listings. So that means the list does not include vegetarian eateries or chains that may likely serve vegan-friendly meals.  Also we must also remember that not all places are listed on HappyCow, or indeed anywhere online…

Therefore, the actual number of places to get a vegan meal are going to be much higher! So without further ado, drumroll please...

As of writing, there HappyCow boasts a whopping 7,040 vegan listings!

So what are the options for my vegan holiday?

A huge 88% of the 7,040 are in Europe, North America and Asia.  Each continent’s totals along with their top 3 countries are as follows:

Europe – 2,278 
1. England – 423
2. Germany – 296
3. Italy – 228
North America – 2,023
1. USA – 1,358
2. Canada – 336
3. Mexico – 222
Asia – 1,893 
1. Vietnam – 343
2. Thailand – 294
3. Japan – 279
South America – 516
1. Brazil – 255
2. Colombia – 69
Joint 3. Chile & Peru – 49
Oceania – 288
1. Australia – 239
2. New Zealand – 40
3. Tasmania – 5
Africa – 51
1. South Africa – 20
2. Ghana – 7
3. Egypt – 5

That’s plenty of options to get choose a destination from! Amazingly countries like Israel, Taiwan and India which are renowned for the high proportion of meat-free restaurants are beaten out by their neighbours for the top 3. So if these countries don’t tickle your fancy, don’t worry because there are plenty more to choose from!

2. Now lets check the weather

Getting the right kind of weather should be as high a priority as having good food.  You don’t want to head to Thailand during the rains, or end up in the Carribean for hurricane season (as I did when I was 18 and didn’t know better)!

cyclist in rain

You don’t want to end up in a situation like this on your hols!

Check out The Best Time to Visit and search for the destination that meets your high and low temperature needs for a given month. Once it presents you with a filtered list of areas and countries, you can sort based on the average number of rainy days.  Clicking on an option then narrows it further to towns and cities.  When you’re ready to dive into forecasts for your potential trip, head to AccuWeather for upcoming and historical data.

This is a sensible way to narrow your options whether you’re looking for a beach, city, ski or nature break.  By now you should have a shortlist.

3. Next, let’s massage the numbers. In other words, can this work with your budget?

Before you get too carried away with dreams of exotic destinations, now is the time to take your shortlist and check each place against your budget.  There are 2 holiday budgets you need to account for:

  1. What you think is the cost of your holiday:
    • travel to and from the airport (including parking, petrol, train fares etc)
    • flight
    • accommodation
    • travel insurance
    • car hire and insurance
  2. Everything else you spend on your trip:
    • meals, snacks and drinks
    • public transport
    • petrol and parking costs
    • excursions and activities
    • gifts and souvenirs
    • guidebook
    • exchange conversion fees

Together, these add up to the real cost of your holiday.

At this stage I typically start scouring the airlines and Booking.com to see what costs to expect for the time I want to go.

screenshot norwegian flight fare calendar

Having flexible dates can take pressure off your budget

If you’re open to the time of year at which to travel, then try out different dates and look at the airline’s fare calendars to get a sense of when’s best to fly. Start looking at restaurant websites to get an idea of the cost of eating, and figure out other sorts of costs.

If you have your heart set on a place that is out of reach financially in high season, consider travelling at the shoulder seasons to typically get decent weather at lower prices.  For instance, September is a fantastic time to visit Europe as it is warm, if not roasting hot.  Plus, UK children are back at school, which makes it cheaper and quieter to enjoy yourselves in destinations frequented by Brits and indeed Britain itself. It’s easy to find out the school holidays with a quick Google search.

4. How will you while away your days?

By now you should have a reasonable idea of locations and hotels that you’d be happy to stay in.  Preferably you’ll have a choice of no more than 3 countries, with a max of 4 locations in each to choose from.

It goes without saying that you should also find out what cultural icons, tourist attractions and must-do activities your shortlist destinations can offer.  Are you leaning towards a beach break, being in nature or exploring a city?

Alternatively, use what you’re turned off by. For example, you may want to cut the places that encourage or overlook significant animal exploitation. Of course it’s impossible to find a country that doesn’t have something unpleasant going on, but you can certainly avoid those activities that target and thrive on tourists. The needless tourist-driven cruelty towards donkeys and mules in Santorini is why we decided to boycott the Greek Island. Would I boycott all of India because of unethical elephant rides? No, because it’s a different situation in a much larger country, but equally I wouldn’t choose a resort or location that actively promoted or operated them.

Use all of this information as feels right to you to trim your list to the final options.

5. Back to square one; is your shortlist vegan-friendly?

Now let’s go back to stage one and compare that list against HappyCow and some Google searches to see what you can expect in the way of vegan establishments.  This is where you do your more intensive digging and pull all your information together.

After all, there’s little to be gained from seeing that Australia has 230 vegan eateries, to then fall in love with a hotel in the Northern Territory, which only has 1!

If you are willing to cook for yourself on a self-catering trip, then this doesn’t matter so much, as anything extra is a bonus! Just take precautions to be able to buy or take any specialty foods that you may need or prefer.

But what if you’ve got your heart set on something specific and you can’t find anything vegan locally?

You’ll be able to make it work.  First off, check out my epic list of ways essential travel tips for vegans.  Second, remember that forewarned is forearmed.

If can be slightly flexible then an easy rule of thumb is to stick to cities, metropolitan areas and liberal university towns.  For example, cities like Los Angeles, New York, Portland (Oregon), Berlin, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Budapest, Ghent, Edinburgh, Taipei, Ho Chi Minh, Ubud (Bali) and Sydney are all well known for being vegan-friendly.

But be warned, towns primarily aimed at tourists are not guaranteed to be as enjoyable from a vegan foodie perspective as their big city rivals.

A cautionary tale…

For example, a few years back we went to Spain’s PortAventura theme and water park for Tom’s birthday. A few days in Barcelona followed by a few days around Salou (PortAventura’s nearest town), for which there was no information on any vegan offerings.

Shockingly, we couldn’t eat a proper meal outside of our hotel in nearby Cap Salou.  Salou itself was clearly geared towards English tourists, and many signs advertised fry ups and steak and kidney pies (yuck).  Unfortunately most restaurants looked unappetising so we didn’t bother asking for help at any with our dietary requirements, apart from managing to scrape some patatas bravas to go with a flamboyant cocktail.  And of course, as always, ready salted crisps…

bag of potato crisps on a sofa

this enormous bag of crisps got us through some peckish times in Salou… sat on the sofa for scale!

Although our research came up blank, we were still unduly optimistic.  Therefore, I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to go with educated and realistic expectations.  Googling did help us though, as it was due to finding nothing online that we decided to book half board at the hotel.  So, for the few days that we were there until we could get back to Barcelona, we totally relied on the breakfast and dinner provided.

So whether you go all-inclusive at a resort or decide to make it a self-catering holiday, there’s always a way!

5. But what if we’d rather be at sea…

CMV cruise ship at sea

This is the actual cruise ship that Vegan Travel will use for their Baltic Cruise in July 2019

Veganism is truly everywhere now, even when off dry land.  Just check out Vegan Travel – Vegan Cruises & Tours at http://www.vegan-cruises.com for river cruises, and https://www.vegan-cruises.co/ for their sea cruises. I’ve had my eye on these guys since they launched  a cruise from across the river form my hometown in 2017.   They sailed from Tilbury to Norway and toured the fjords on what they claimed was the first fully vegan ocean cruise.

They provide breakfast and lunch buffets, afternoon tea and 4/5 course dinners alongside a fully vegan drinks selection.  The provided toiletries are also vegan-friendly and organic.  The on-board activities include yoga, pub quizzes, discos and talks from well known names in the vegan community.

Let their upcoming sailings inspire you!

 

Wherever you go, I hope you have an utterly amazing time and this article helped to inspire you!

Cassell x

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