As a traveller who was initially vegetarian but turned vegan while on the road, I have my fair share of hangry travel stories. While some destinations were a pleasant surprise in terms of their plant-based offerings – for example, I LOVED the vegan food in Japan – others were more difficult than I imagined.
Searching for Vegan Food Abroad can be difficult…
Travelling the Balkans in off-season meant having pasta and sauce every day for a month. Without a busy tourist presence, many vegan restaurants closed for the season and I felt quite dizzy from a lack of vegetables and protein. Saying that, when I visited the region in Spring I found many vegan restaurants in Romania, so it’s a mixed bag. I had a similarly difficult experience in Norway, though since I was just there for a weekend I didn’t regret prior planning more. A general rule is that capital cities are usually easier than small towns.
Even in traditionally meaty regions like The Balkans, you can still often find great vegan food if you plan where to eat in advance. Photographed below is vegan food in Mostar (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Romania and North Macedonia.
Fortunately, many destinations are becoming increasingly awesome for vegan travellers!
I actually turned fully vegan in Chiang Mai, which has dozens of vegan restaurants, before finding it easy to continue my journey with veganism in Auckland, New Zealand. My favourite vegan food destinations so far are probably Sri Lanka, Singapore and Malaysia, with Indonesia, Japan and Lisbon as close runners up.
Elsewhere, when living in big cities such as London, Sydney and Melbourne, finding vegan food has never been a problem. Though if you don’t get to choose where to eat, it can get quite samey!
But enough about me!
To give a more well-rounded perspective, I’ve asked other travel bloggers to give their take on the best (and worst) vegan destinations around the world! Bear in mind these are personal opinions, and circumstances may change depending on the season you visit and how willing you are to pre-plan your meals.
That said, many of the below options I hear recommended again and again by vegan travellers! And, indeed, the ‘worst’ destinations for vegans often come up a lot too. If you have any more great vegan travel recommendations (or warnings!), be sure to leave a comment below.
Best – AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands
by Samantha from Sam Sees World
The best place to visit for vegan travelers is undeniably Amsterdam! This is not a city with traditionally vegan food options, since cheese and meat dominate the local food choices. However, there are a plethora of vegan and vegetarian restaurants in the city with amazing and unique food options! From vegan breakfast to brunch to dinner, the Amsterdam vegan restaurant scene is packed with amazing offerings for you to taste.
What is also great about Amsterdam is that almost every restaurant has at least one vegan or vegetarian option, meaning you can branch out and almost always find an option for you! If you are looking for an amazing vegan brunch you need to go to Mr. Stacks, for the best vegan lunch go to Vegan Junk Food Bar, and for a delicious and classy vegan dinner visit Meatless District. If you are looking to indulge in some of the world’s most unique and tasty vegan dishes, Amsterdam is the place for you!
Worst – SERBIA
Continued by Samantha
The worst place for vegan travelers has to be Serbia. There is an overwhelming focus on meat and cheese dishes and veganism isn’t even an option! However, Serbia is a stunning country and visiting is well worth it despite the limited food options. Just be sure to visit with an open mind and be ready to eat plenty of potatoes.
Best – ITALY
By Wendy from The Nomadic Vegan
You may be used to limited vegan options in Italian restaurants in your home country, but the authentic Italian cuisine eaten in Italy is something very different. While you may not see vegan dishes marked as such on menus, it’s a pretty safe bet that you’ll find multiple vegan options at just about any traditional restaurant in Italy.
Unlike in other countries, pizza in Italy does not always come with cheese. In fact, the original pizza invented in Naples — the pizza marinara — is completely vegan! So don’t worry about the waiter giving you a strange look when you order your pizza “senza formaggio”. Of course, you’ll also be able to try many traditional local specialties that are already vegan by default, without any modification.
Italian cuisine is so incredibly diverse that it’s difficult to recommend specific vegan Italian dishes. There are literally hundreds of them, but which ones are available will depend on which region of the country you’re in. Generally speaking, the further south you go, the more plant-based the local cuisine becomes. Puglia, which is located in the heel of the Italian boot, has perhaps the most vegan-friendly cuisine of all Italian regions.
Worst – LESOTHO
Continued by Wendy
For the most part, traveling as a vegan has been so much easier than I first thought it would be. Of course, some places have been trickier than others. The tiny African mountain kingdom of Lesotho proved challenging, as food options of any kind were limited there, and the concept of veganism was completely unknown.
I sometimes had a hard time explaining my strange request to locals. One restaurant owner didn’t believe it was possible to make a pizza without cheese. He downright refused, saying he “didn’t have that kind of expertise”. Luckily, boxed soy meat is a staple there, because it’s cheaper than animal meat and doesn’t have to be refrigerated. So my husband and I self-catered and made a delicious spaghetti bolognese.
Best – BALI, Indonesia
by Rose from Where Goes Rose
One of the best places for vegan travellers (or in fact any hungry travellers) is Bali. This cuisine is certainly underrated around the world but it shouldn’t be. With dishes like gado-gado (veggies drowned in satay sauce), veggie spring rolls, noodles and tempeh, many of the best Balinese food is suitable for vegans. You’ll find tempeh, a soybean substitute at the heart of many meals including nasi campur with is a mix plate meal often containing red rice, cooked veggies, fried tempeh and coconut soup.
Especially around Ubud, there are some fantastic vegan cafes. Siboghana Warung is a lovely vegan restaurant set around a local family’s garden with shrines and small waterfalls. Here you can take a vegan cooking class or try the kare noodle soup with veggies, or the mushroom satay skewers. Another place to eat in 9 Angels, a vegan serve-yourself buffet where you pay in an honesty box when you leave. The highlights are the tempeh skewers, jackfruit curry and sweet potato mash, plus the hipster coffee shop in the garden serving various coffees with plant milk. Warung Sopa also serves amazing plant-based meals on banana leaves. You can mix-and-match between dishes like aubergine curry, falafel, samosas and coconut curry. Finally, wash everything down with vegan coffee and cake at Sawobali Cake & Coffee Shop (or visit for dinner when you can enjoy the generous vegan buffet for £3). Don’t miss the vegan matcha cake or the chocolate mud cake!
Worst – SOUTH KOREA
Continued by Rose
In contrast, one of the worst places to travel for veggies (in my opinion) is South Korea. The cuisine in restaurants is traditionally meaty, there are very few supermarkets and the local market vendors have a habit of overcharging tourists. One day the only fruit I managed to find was a sad banana wrapped in plastic at the 7/11 for £1. Dismal! I just had to eat carbs and wait until I left to get my veggie fix.
Best – BUDAPEST, Hungary
by Nina from Lemons & Luggage
Budapest is certainly one of the best destinations for vegan travelers in the world. Not only are there plenty of restaurants offering vegan food in Budapest, quite a few of them actually come up with veganized Hungarian dishes! Sometimes as vegans we miss out on some aspects of the local cuisine, but this is not an issue in Budapest. From vegan goulash, csusza, and stew to vegan Hungarian cakes, you can find everything a non-vegan can!
And even if you’re not looking to exclusively dine on Hungarian food there are a lot of other options to choose from such as pizza, pasta, and burgers. In fact, there are so many fully vegan restaurants and cafés in Budapest that you might not even be able to eat at all of them on a city break! What’s more is that Budapest is actually so vegan-friendly that the city even has an entirely vegan bakery! Who would have thought that it would be so easy to be vegan in Hungary’s capital?
Whether you have breakfast at Great Bistroa, try Hungarian food at Napfenyes Restaurant, or opt for fresh pasta at Madal Food, there is something for everyone in this vegan paradise. And before you leave try to grab at least one burger from Las Vegan’s.
Worst – TIRANA, Albania
Continued by Nina
There are still cities that are not able to fully accommodate vegan travelers yet. As wonderful as Tirana is as a city it is perhaps one of the worst destinations for vegan travelers in the world. The city doesn’t have a single vegan restaurant as of July 2020 and only one vegetarian place.
If you explain that you’re vegan at regular restaurants and list the ingredients you don’t eat people will admit that it will be very difficult to find vegan food in Tirana. Because Albanians are extremely friendly people they will try to find a solution by veganizing simple Italian pasta dishes. But the best option is to self-cater so you can be sure that your food is vegan.
Best – PENANG, Malaysia
By Marco from Penang Insider
I think that one of the best vegetarian-friendly destinations is Penang Island in northwest Malaysia. The place is famous for its street art and hipster cafe scene, but that’s just for starters and those who don’t really know how to scratch the surface of anywhere they visit.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Penang is a potpourri of cultures, cuisines, and religions, and it has a very strong Buddhist community reflected in Kek Lok Si Temple, one of Southeast Asia’s biggest. That’s why vegetarians will find plenty of opportunities to eat at the many vegetarian shops offering a meat-free variety of local economy rice — a bed of rice to garnish with whatever choice you want on offer in dozens of metal trays. Not forgetting the majority of South Indian restaurants, such as Woodlands in George Town’s Little India, a local staple for flavorsome vegetarian food, and typical banana leaf thalis.
For something a bit more upper end, vegetarians may enjoy the choice at Wholey Wonder Vegan Cafe’ and Yoga Studio, set in front of the popular Hin Bus Depot, or at Pinxin in Lebuh Tye Sin.
Worst – MONGOLIA
Continued by Marco
One of my favorite countries, but a real nightmare for vegetarians, is Mongolia. Meat is so ingrained in Mongolian culture that by even trying to ask for something “meatless” you’d be met by compassionate stares. In Ulaanbaatar is possible to get away with some Western food or pizza, but if you really travel into the countryside, you MUST consider bringing along enough vegetables from the city. Also consider that Mongolians cook almost everything using the sheep fat, so that smell and taste of mutton won’t ever leave you even if you order a bowl of noodle soup with, well, JUST NOODLES.
Best – NEW ZEALAND
by Nadine from Le Long Weekend
The vegan food scene in New Zealand has exploded in recent years with more and more cafes, restaurants & takeaway shops offering vegan options or even entirely vegan menus. In the larger cities like Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch, and to a lesser extent, Dunedin, it’s not unusual to find multiple entirely vegan eateries either.
Smaller towns (especially in rural areas) have a little way to go to catch up, but at the very least you’ll be able to find a vegan pie (the savoury kind that kiwis love!) at the service station, and vegan ice creams, cheeses and meats in the supermarket. Most mainstream fast-food joints also have vegan staples on their menu now too, such as vegan burgers, pizzas, sushi, Thai, Vietnamese or Indian takeaway. That’s another great thing about eating out in New Zealand – the diversity of cuisines on offer! Vegetarian options abound too, so you can usually ‘vegan-ise’ those quite easily if you find yourself in a bind…
Worst – FRANCE
Continued by Nadine
Eating out as a vegan in France can be incredibly frustrating at times. There’s a lot of misunderstanding and ignorance about veganism, although attitudes are very slowly starting to shift. In the larger cities you can usually track down a couple of places that advertise vegan options, but in smaller towns & villages you’ll end up with salad and fries, or a pizza ‘sans fromage’ at best. After too many disappointments, I very rarely eat out in France anymore – and instead stock up on veggie treats at the bio store or online vegan shop instead.
Best – INDIA
by Meenakshi from Polka Junction
India is a haven for vegetarians and vegans. One can pull-over at any roadside ‘dhaba’ meaning a road eatery and order a wholesome meal at most times of the day and night. It’s always served fresh and hot. The term ‘Vaishno Dhaba’ is specifically used for exclusively vegetarian restaurants in northern India and is named after a Himalayan goddess. Do not miss indulging in a lip-smacking ‘Thali’ which is an assortment of all the regional delicacies in small bowls.
A plethora of options is available even in the street food range too. From the lip-smacking Indian gol gappas (small fried roundels filled with spicy water) to idly (steamed rice cakes) and from pizzas to burgers, every popular dish from around the world is given a vegetarian twist across India!
If you are in Delhi, you may want to go a vegetarian food tour in Chandni Chowk, and, if visiting Indore, do not miss India’s only night street food market called the Sarafa Bazar.
Worst – ALMATY, Kazakhstan
Continued by Meenakshi
If I have to name one country where I found it difficult to find vegetarian or vegan food, then it has to be Almaty in Kazakhstan. We as a family had a difficult time as it is a meat-eating nation. They relish horse meat the most. Thankfully, we had packed in some ready-to-eat meals and vegetarian snacks along for the three days of our stay. Also, my handy travel kit of groceries came handy to cook food on our own at the Airbnb that we had booked. However, the people went out of their way to help us though!
Best – LISBON, Portugal
By Daria from The Discovery Nut
Lisbon might seem like a tough place to find a vegan restaurant. After all, the Portuguese cuisine is heavily influenced by seafood, and looking for a plant-based eatery in Lisbon definitely takes a bit of an effort. However, if you know where to look for it, you can easily find vegan restaurants in Lisbon. As a matter of fact, the number of vegan restaurants in Lisbon has been growing, and now there’s at least a dozen of them!
Among some of my favorites are Zenith Brunch and Cocktails that offers perfect brunch options before you start your day of sightseeing. It’s a great alternative to a breakfast buffet or just a regular breakfast at your hotel. However, make sure to arrive early: This is a popular location, and it’s not uncommon to have to stand in line before you are able to get inside.
Another great vegan restaurant in Lisbon is called Veganapati, an Indian-influenced restaurant that also offers Western-type dishes such as vegan burgers. Other popular vegan restaurants in Lisbon are Las Vegan, Vegan Eats and Organi Chiado.
Best – ISRAEL
by Claudia from My Adventures Across The World
Israel easily is the best country for vegan travelers, and it has a deeply rooted vegan food culture. This has been linked to the need of many Jews of eating kosher food – veganism is an easier option in that case – and to their love of animals.
With so many Israelis being vegan, there is an incredible choice of vegan restaurants in Tel Aviv and beyond, as well as of health food stores where you can buy all sorts of vegan foods. Besides, many local dishes such as hummus, falafel or baba ganouj are actually naturally vegan.
The best way of getting acquainted with vegan food in Israel is joining a vegan food tour. There are several throughout the country, but the best are in Tel Aviv. The tour will introduce you to the vegan food culture of the city and take you to some of the best vegan cafés in town, where you will be able to try a great selection of dishes. And if you want a fabulous vegan brunch, head straight to Mi Casa in Herzliya.
Worst – NAMIBIA
Continued by Claudia
If you are a vegan traveler planning a trip to Namibia, be prepared for one of the worst culinary experiences of your life. This country has virtually no vegan food choices, and you will be stuck eating poorly cooked pasta most of the time.
Namibia is for the most part a desert, and with so little land available for agriculture, traditional food is all about meat (and a bit of fish on the coast, in places such as Swakopmund or Luderitz) and virtually no vegetables. Vegan options are scarce even in the capital, Windhoek. Just keep your expectations low!
Best – SRI LANKA
by Lara from Both Feet on the Road
Going to a country with a signature dish called rice and curry is always a good idea for vegan travelers. Curries are by far the most delicious and easy vegan food (in my humble opinion of course).
So as a vegan traveler you can eat your heart out in Sri Lanka. Besides all the options for vegan rice and curry, there are plenty of other vegan signature Sri Lankan dishes. From yummy snacks such as fresh fruit to dishes such as masala dhosa or roti.
One important thing to know before traveling to Sri Lanka as a vegan is that you shouldn’t expect the food to be labeled vegan. The term itself is not widely known, it’s just that Sri Lankan food is delicious and often vegan.
You just need to double-check whether they have used the following hidden non-vegan ingredients: ghee, shrimp paste, dried fish, and milk powder. But Sri Lankans are known for their friendliness, so all you have to do is ask and you will be served a yummy vegan meal in no time!
Worst – UGANDA
Continued by Lara
On the other end of the vegan spectrum, there’s Uganda. I wouldn’t say it’s impossible to travel as a vegan in Uganda. It’s just not as easy as it is in Sri Lanka. You simply have to accept the fact that you won’t have a lot of variety of food. You will mainly be served rice and potatoes. Though if you do your own grocery shopping, you will be able to prepare yourself a decent vegan meal without too much trouble!
Best – PUERTO RICO
by Melissa from Navigation Junkie
Puerto Rico is one of the most vegan/vegetarian friendly places, not only because many of the local dishes are based off of rice, beans, plantains, and fresh fruit but also because of the number of vegan-friendly restaurants are popping up around the country, especially in San Juan. You can also personalize your order at almost any restaurant to make it vegan/vegetarian friendly. Be sure to tell the waiter/waitress you are looking for a completely meat free dish, so that it can be cooked properly (and not in the same dishes as the meat options are cooked in).
Mofongo is one of the most iconic Puerto Rican dishes. It is made from fried plantain and often stuffed. While meat is a popular choice for stuffing you can order a version that is stuffed with mixed vegetables. It is delicious! Tostones are another great option. They are, again, plantains, but they are deep fried, sprinkled with salt, and served like french fries. Another classic Puerto Rican dish is rice and beans. This dish is often served as a stew with vegetables, potatoes, squash, and peppers. Again, this is also often served with meat, so be sure to tell the waiter/waitress you want a meat free version. One of the best vegetarian dish options is the vegetable quesadilla, which can be found at the Carabali Rainforest Park.
There are also plenty of fresh tropical fruit options, whether you are looking for a smoothie or fresh fruit on the side. In many areas in Puerto Rico you will find vendors selling fruit frappes. You must try one, they are very refreshing on a hot day!
Worst – PHILADELPHIA, USA
Continued by Melissa
Philadelphia has proved to be one of the most difficult places to visit as a vegan/vegetarian. Many of Philadelphia’s iconic dishes are meat based, including the world famous Philly Cheesesteak and popular Roast Pork Sandwiches. These dishes are almost always associated with visiting Philadelphia, so missing them may make you feel like you are missing some of the experience. But located around Philadelphia you can find some vegan friendly options, and the number is increasing. You can also try one of Philadelphia’s classic treats-the soft pretzel. So, although Philadelphia is well known for its meat dishes, if you do a little digging you can certainly cope with being a vegan/vegetarian in Philadelphia.
Best – BARCELONA, Spain
by Jenni from Choose Veganism
I’ve enjoyed some of the best vegan food ever in Barcelona. Whilst Spain isn’t generally known for being vegan-friendly, the cosmopolitan city of Barcelona has a myriad of vegan options to enjoy.
My favourite place to eat when I visit Barcelona is Chick’s Burger Bar which is located just off La Rambla, close to the Gran Teatre del Liceu. Although this burger bar serves meat, it also serves an incredible seitan burger with vegan cheese and vegan aioli. There’s also vegan mayo to go with your chips. Delicious!
Another great thing that you simply must try in Barcelona is the tapas. You’ll find authentic tapas in lots of lovely little bars and cafes and there are always some vegan options available. My favourites include patatas bravas, olives and padron peppers.
As with any city, finding good vegan options can be hit and miss, but with the help of a vegan app such as Happy Cow, you’ll find that there are hundreds of places to choose from in Barcelona.
Worst – GDANSK, Poland
Continued by Jenni
When I told my Polish friend that I was going to Gdansk he laughed and said, ‘What are you going to eat?’ It turns out that this was a good question because most restaurants in Gdansk have no vegan options at all. I walked around the city hungry for hours and checked pretty much all of them!
Poles traditionally eat a lot of meat, favouring dishes such as duck blood soup, Polish sausages and meat-stuffed dumplings. Whilst you may find vegan restaurants in big cities such as Warsaw, there aren’t yet any in Gdansk.
The only real options for vegans in Gdansk are to find Chinese or Indian restaurants, or to ask for dishes to be modified. Although most waiters and waitresses in Gdansk speak very good English, I found that they often didn’t quite understand what was being asked, even when using the Polish word for vegan: ‘wegański’.
Best – CHIANG MAI, Thailand
by Alex and Anna from My Travel Scrapbook
One of the best places I have visited as a vegan is Chiang Mai in Thailand. After visiting 35 countries, my partner and I still reminisce about our 5 days in Chiang Mai. We even made sure to get a later flight to Krabi just so we would have time to go back to our favourite vegan restaurant in Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai is one of those places you wish you could stay as a vegan digital nomad. There are so many vegan places it is hard to choose where to eat during your trip! Whether you want traditional Thai cuisine, delicious smoothie bowls, fluffy pancakes, decadent waffles or fresh salads, there is a vegan place for you. Not to mention not just one but several vegan cooking classes you can attend to learn how to cook Thai cuisine! We particularly fell in love with eating at Goodsouls and went there everyday during our stay in Chiang Mai. When we woke up at 5am to catch the Chiang Mai sunrise on Doi Suthep we knew that we would be going to Goodsouls for their insane tofu scramble and mango banana pancakes with coconut cream straight afterwards!
Given the wonderful climate, the abundance of things to do, the welcoming locals, the affordability and the abundance of vegan food – it is no wonder that Chiang Mai frequently appears on lists of the best destinations for vegans.
Anna and Alex enjoying their vegan cooking class in Chiang Mai
Worst – BUSAN, South Korea
Continued by Alex and Anna
The worst place we have travelled as vegans was Busan in South Korea. Busan is a lovely city in South Korea with fantastic beaches, cliffside temples, colourful art villages and fun skywalks. However, given its location to the sea, it is a very fishy place. Fish seems to be in everything! The largest seafood market in South Korea is in Busan (Jagalchi Market) and it can be hard to find anything without fish!
While we managed to find a lovely little vegan café close to our hotel, it has since sadly closed. Before catching the slightly underwhelming Diamond Bridge light show on Gwangalli beach we tried to find something to eat. We really struggled and ended up just getting some plain noodles. This was back in 2017 so it may have changed since then but we pretty much always ate at the same café and struggled anywhere else.
Worst… and Best! MEXICO
by Isabella from Boundless Roads
I have lived in Mexico for 10 years and became a vegan after two. Although in popular touristic areas or big cities in Mexico finding vegan food has become quite easy, it can be challenging if you are exploring small towns where people don’t even know what the word vegan means.
It needs to be pointed out that Mexican cuisine is part of their culture. Although culture is changing and there is more awareness about healthy living meaning more Mexicans are embracing a vegan lifestyle, the basic culture and beliefs are still strong and alive – and meat is very much part of it. It noticed that when asking a waiter in a restaurant if they had anything without meat, I was offered chicken. That tells you all.
If you are in these remote areas, be mindful when you buy bread because most of the time it contains animal fats (“Manteca” which is Pork fats).
On the other hand, markets are full of fresh vegetables and tropical fruits, nuts and dried cereals, and lots of spices to cook yourself a fabulous meal. That’s why I always try to stay in apartments versus hotels.
But on the bright side, during my 6 months trip around Mexico I spent about two weeks in Queretaro, a pretty, historical city in the center of the Republic, in the homonym state, and I was impressed by how much veganism is popular in the city. There are many different vegan restaurants in Queretaro and when I ventured to regular restaurants they were all ready to offer excellent vegan options that go beyond a salad.
Delicious vegan dishes made with vegan cheese and vegetables cooked in the most creative ways. Vegan restaurants are indeed special in Mexico, and the owners, who are normally the chefs as well, put their heart and soul into their restaurant and their dishes. They are more than restaurants – they are the present trendsetters for a cleaner future. Let’s hope we’ll have more of them.
Best – BERLIN, Germany
by Casey from Carefree Compass
If you’re looking for an awesome place to eat vegan or vegetarian in Europe, you have to come to Berlin. After living here for three years, I feel like I’ve only just started to scratch the surface of all the wonderful plant-based eats in town. Nearly every weekend, my partner and I will jump on our bikes in Berlin and pedal to another new restaurant. We’ve found some absolute gems such as organic vegan dumplings, a Michelin star veggie experience, a completely zero-waste restaurant, and not one but two entirely vegan sushi restaurants. There are so many fully vegan and veggie restaurants that you’ll be spoiled for choices.
Perhaps the best thing about being a vegetarian or vegan in Germany’s capital is that the whole movement is very trendy here. No matter where you go or what type of food you’re looking for (with the exception of super traditional German food) you’ll almost always be able to find at least one vegan option and generally more vegetarian options. Being vegan in this town is a cool thing, not an inconvenience or a struggle. Even if you’re not plant-based, you’re definitely missing out if you don’t try some of the awesome vegan and veggie cuisine that Berlin has to offer!
If you can recommend any more vegan travel destinations, be sure to comment and let us know!
While reaching out for this article, I also heard recommendations for the cities of Taipei (Taiwan), Bristol (England) and Glasgow (Scotland). In the USA, Victoria BC, Asheville NC and Denver were all recommended. Ethiopia and Cambodia were also noted.
My close, vegan friend says the vegan food in India was her favourite – though she was sometimes offered drinks containing milk from the friendly locals. But said Morocco was the hardest unless you are happy with chickpeas for every single meal forever. Haha!