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THE BEST VEGETARIAN TRAVEL DESTINATIONS IN THE WORLD

best-vegetarian-travel-destinations

First, the bad news … traveling around the world as a vegetarian can be really hard. When you say you are veg in many parts of the world, people still look at you with a mixture of confusion and sadness or try and convince you why you should be eating meat. Although it has gotten much easier over the past decade or so to travel as a vegetarian or vegan, there is a strong likelihood that you will find yourself living off of potato chips and candy bars at some point during your travel adventures simply because there are no vegetarian options.

Now, that the bad news is out of the way, it is time for the good news! While certain areas of the world are painful to travel through as a vegetarian (I am looking at you Central Asia!), there are other places that will make you feel like you have died and gone to vegetarian heaven. Many of these will likely even offer significantly more variety than what you are able to get at home and you may find yourself signing up for cooking classes and stocking up on tons of spices and ingredients that you can use to recreate these amazing concoctions on your own!

Traveling is one of the best ways to learn about the world around you and being able to enjoy the local food is a big part of learning more about the culture of a destination. While this can be slightly more difficult in some places as a vegetarian, if you love trying different types of food and really immersing yourself in the culinary scene of a country, there are a few simple “tricks” that can give you an idea of how vegetarian-friendly certain destinations are that will help you prepare a bit in advance.


Spice Up Your Trip With a Scavenger Hunt

If you’re looking for a way to add even more excitement to a trip, don’t forget to check out our fun-filled scavenger hunts! Each one will have you racing your nearest and dearest through a city, as you make your way from one destination to the next. You can even pause the hunt if you see a cute little vegetarian place!


Tricks to Finding the Best Vegetarian Travel Destinations

Trick #1 – Find out the dominant religion of a destination.

While this one is far from fool-proof, it can serve as a very loose guideline as to how meat-heavy a destination will be. For example, many Muslim majority countries (excluding the Levant) tend to eat a lot of meat and it can sometimes be challenging to find vegetarian options that aren’t falafel. Meanwhile, destinations with a large Buddhist population such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Thailand tend to have a lot of vegetarian restaurants and some of the best vegan meals in the world. Hindus are more often than not vegetarian so India and Bali are always a safe bet for vegetarians. 

Trick #2 – Know the geographical location and climate.

This one is kind of obvious but places close to a sea or ocean tend to have a lot of seafood options; whereas areas that have inhospitable climates where it is hard to grow fruits and vegetables tend to rely more heavily on meat. If the land surrounding a destination is extremely fertile, you are more likely to find fresh fruits and vegetables and even if a country isn’t well-known for being one of the most vegetarian-friendly destinations, the diets are usually rich with fresh produce which makes it easy to piece together a great meal.

It is also a good idea to see how interconnected a place is. Singapore is one of the world’s major transport and business hubs and despite its tiny size, you can find dishes there from all over the world including authentic Indian cuisine, Malaysian and Vietnamese street food, and good old Americana food. The same goes for places like Dubai and Istanbul. This is great to keep in mind when you are traveling long term and find yourself really, really craving a particular type of food so make sure that you leave plenty of time to eat!

Trick #3 – Understand the culture.

Let’s face it, there are some places in the world where people still don’t quite understand what being vegetarian means. Some people even assume that vegetarians eat chicken and fish! If the culture of a country tends to be very meat-heavy, people may struggle to figure out what to feed you. Luckily, this is slowly changing and hopefully, the amount of countries where being vegetarian is befuddling to most of the population will continue to decrease. 

For example, while backpacking through Central Asia many years ago, I ate almost entirely potatoes. Although I am sure that there were plenty of other options available, my inability to read the menus (they were written in Cyrillic) made it very difficult to figure out what to order and my Russian was limited to saying the equivalent of “I am vegetarian”. Although the waiters tried to be extremely helpful and were always pleased when they could offer me some form of potato, it did get a bit exhausting after a few weeks. On the other side of the coin, when people are familiar with vegetarianism (most likely due to religious reasons), people will go out of their way to help you find something good to eat. 

Trick #4 – Do plenty of research.

Before you head to a new destination, make sure to do plenty of research on what the vegetarian or vegan food options are, and make sure to write them down somewhere handy so you can refer to them later. This is especially important if you are traveling to a destination that you know isn’t going to be veggie-friendly. This can help save you a lot of time in restaurants since you can simply ask if they have the dishes available and it can help serve as a bit of a guide to the waiters or cook what type of food you are looking for. Even if they don’t have something on the menu, they may still be able to prepare it for you.

Below you will find a list of some of the best destinations in the world for vegetarians. 

Here you will find some of my favorite destinations across Asia, the Americas, and Europe for vegetarian travelers. Most of these destinations not only offer a great variety of local dishes but also a healthy selection of international meals (which trust me, no matter how much you love a particular cuisine, it is nice to change it up every once in a while if you are traveling long term in a country!). Due to space limitations, there are a few places that didn’t make it on this list that are also great for veggie travelers including Georgia, Ethiopia, Lebanon, and Sri Lanka that are well worth checking out!

Expert Tip: If you are a vegan traveler, East Asia (since they don’t eat much dairy) and Western Europe are likely to be the easiest places for you to find a wide variety of wood to eat. Always check if fish sauce is used when you order anything in East Asia though as it is frequently used as one of the base ingredients in many dishes. 

Full disclaimer: I have been vegetarian for 25 years but definitely wouldn’t consider myself a foodie. While I love good food just as much as the next person, this doesn’t usually make a huge impact on where I travel to or what I do during my stay. However, it does make me really, really appreciate being able to simply walk down the street and find something to eat without having to go through the headache of trying to explain what being vegetarian is in broken English and have to check and double-check where something has meat in it. 

India

After spending two years living in Delhi, I strongly believe that India is a country that everyone must visit at least once in their lives. Everywhere you look there is a mind-boggling juxtaposition between the old and the new (and sadly, the rich and the poor). Traveling through India introduces you to a whole new world of sights and sounds and changes the way you look at the world – at least temporarily!

While you are there, not only can you see some of the world’s most recognizable sites like the sparkling Taj Mahal, the chaotic heart of Old Delhi, or the twinkling skyline of Mumbai but you can also indulge in some of the world’s best vegetarian cuisine. Make sure to bring plenty of loose pants with you as this is one country that you may not be able to resist overindulging in!

With as many as 40% of the population being vegetarian (which equates to around 500,000,000 people which is a LOT of vegetarians!) India is like the holy grail for non-meat eaters. India is one of the most diverse countries on the planet and this diversity can easily be seen in the different types of cuisine on offer. You can find a dazzling array of different foods across the entire country ranging from the thick, spicy curries of Punjab down to the coconut and rice-based dishes of Kerala. While it is possible to find vegetarian restaurants in some of the big cities, it is often not necessary as most of the restaurants will have a long list of veggie options and most of the street food is vegetarian-friendly (it is generally pretty obvious when it is not).

Expert Tip: Although Indian food is known for being spicy, most restaurants are happy to prepare dishes exactly how you want them. However, it is a bit tricky ordering food sometimes in India if you like to have things mild to medium spicy. If you say that you want it to be mild, the waiter may not be sure if you want it to be Indian mild or foreigner mild (and trust me, there is a HUGE difference). Foreigner mild usually has absolutely no taste and unless you are looking for something very simple, it is probably best to be avoided. After years of trial and error (and plenty of stomach aches), I have found that the best way to order is to say “white girl/boy medium, Indian mild”. Most of the nicer restaurants are used to European guests and can prepare your food accordingly. 

Expert Tip #2: Try to go to McDonald’s while you are in India. It is likely not going to be at the top of your list of restaurants to eat at during your travels but it is definitely worth visiting in India just to see the sheer range of options available for vegetarians. The cooking areas are even divided between vegetarian and non-vegetarian. How cool is that?

Italy

A trip to Italy is on many people’s bucket lists and it is no surprise why. Italy boasts splendid Roman ruins, fascinating history, spectacular architecture, and some of the world’s finest art collections. A journey through Italy ticks many boxes and is perfect for history buffs, culture vultures, beach bums, and pretty much anyone who delights in walled cities with lots of cobblestones! Oh, and also, one of the world’s most popular cuisines.

When it comes to tasty vegetarian food in Europe, Italy is where it’s at! With a mouth-watering array of pizza, pasta, risotto, salad, and freshly baked baguettes, it is extremely easy to be vegetarian there. A large part of Italian cuisine is made up of diced tomatoes and wonderfully prepared vegetables with flavors that seem to come alive in your mouth. 

Expert Tip: Like in many, many countries, most of the restaurants geared towards tourists sell mediocre food (at best) and it is usually best to skip these no matter how cute and charming they look from the outside. The better option is to wander through some of the back streets and find the hole-in-the-wall eateries where Italians go when they are on their lunch break from work or hanging out with friends and family. And if you are lucky enough to find one of these places, be selfish and don’t tell anyone about it (and certainly don’t blog or Instagram about it!). The last thing you want is to go back to your little hidden gem a few years later and find it full of other tourists. 

Germany

When it comes to food, Germany is famous for many things: charming towns, magnificent castles, cosmopolitan cities, beer, wiener schnitzel, sausages, apfelstrudel, and pretzels to name a few. While it probably isn’t one of the first places that pop into your mind when you think of vegetarian-friendly travel destinations, you would actually be surprised to see just how easy it is to eat well as a vegetarian there in one of the many, many vegetarian-friendly restaurants and eateries. Besides the extremely traditional beer halls, you can find veggie food pretty much everywhere as well as plenty of vegetarian and vegan restaurants. 

Arguably, Berlin is the most “open” place in the country and it is one of the easiest places to find something delicious to eat, especially when it comes to fast food. You can even get vegan sausages from some of the sausage stands there! Conversely, things may feel a bit trickier in places like Munich where people tend to eat a diet heavy in meat. However, you can almost always find a heaping plate of kase spaetzle (i.e. German macaroni and cheese) just waiting to be devoured. If all else fails, you can always treat yourself to a giant soft pretzel.

Food in most parts of Germany is cheaper than what you will find in most other countries in western Europe, especially in France, Belgium, Switzerland, or Austria). Since many people also speak English which makes it much easier to order and make sure that you are getting a meat-free meal, this is a good opportunity to indulge.on some of your favorite vegetarian and vegan dishes!

Israel

Israel is home to many of the world’s most important religious sites including Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Hebron. Not only that, but you can also find some incredibly well-preserved Roman ruins. While many people rush to Israel for the historic and religious value, there is one other major attraction that can’t be forgotten – the delicious food. 

If you love falafel, hummus, and delicious fresh vegetables (and honestly, who doesn’t?), Israel may be just the place for you. Although most places in Israel aren’t vegetarian per se, many places strictly observe kosher rules which effectively means that places that serve meat, don’t serve dairy products and vice versa. This basically creates a whole slew of vegetarian restaurants by default. You can also find great veggie-friendly street food throughout the country. 

One of the best things about being vegetarian in Israel is that most of the Israeli food is relatively healthy, even the street food, which makes it much easier to keep your energy levels while you are traveling rather than having to scrounge around for any meat-free options that you can find. If that isn’t enough to make you want to hop on the next flight to Tel Aviv, there is even a vegan village set in the hills of Northern Israel where you can stay and happily immerse yourself in a food culture that is both ethical and delicious!

Thailand

Thai food is one of those cuisines that is universally loved by pretty much everyone on the planet. The mixture of sweet, spicy, and sour fills your mouth with an explosion of flavors and it can be easily adapted to different palettes, meaning that there is something for everyone here!

Although Thais do tend to eat a lot of meat and seafood dishes, it is actually very easy to get many of the Thai staples made seafood and meat-free! From the nutty sweetness of a pad thai made with fresh vegetables to a red curry rich with spices and coconut milk, each dish packs in a magical array of flavors, and even as a vegetarian, you can try something completely new every day for weeks and never feel bored.

After a delicious meal, you can always finish it off with a portion of mango sticky rice (seriously … yum!) or head out and grab a bag of freshly cut, unbelievably sweet pineapple that melts in your mouth. 

Expert Tip: One of my absolute favorite things to do when I arrive in Bangkok or Chiang Mai is to head straight out for a freshly made serving of pad thai from one of the street vendors. You can usually decide what condiments you want with it (I always put on tons of extra peanuts). It certainly isn’t the healthiest version of pad thai out there but it is certainly one of the fastest, cheapest, and most delicious!

Taiwan

While there are many challenges to being vegetarian in China, Taiwan is quite the opposite! Thanks to a large Buddhist and relatively health-conscious population, you can find plenty of vegetarian restaurants selling vegan versions of some of your favorite Chinese and Taiwanese food.

Having a vegetarian diet is so popular there that they even have vegan all-you-can-eat buffets in Taipei where you can eat to your heart’s content. And these aren’t just a few buffet tables of vegetarian dishes, these buffets are enormous restaurants with piles of delicious vegan foods for you to try including succulent dumplings full of mushrooms and vegetables, silky tofu dishes, and sauteed vegetables cooked in tasty spices! HappyCow also has a great list of places that you can try ranging from small hole-in-the-wall spots serving soup noodles to sit-down restaurants serving cuisine from all over the world. 

Expert Tip: One great thing that I have found in traveling through East Asian countries is that as soon as they understand that you are vegetarian (and this is the important part, making sure that they understand what a vegetarian actually is), most restaurant staff will go out of your way to make sure that you don’t eat anything with meat in it. I have been told that I can’t order a seemingly innocent plate of vegetables to later find out that the vegetables are cooked in animal fat. This is extremely important because if you have been vegetarian for a long time, these fats can wreak havoc on your stomach and I am sure that that is one of the last things that you want when you are on vacation!

Mexico

People from the United States and Canada have been rushing to Mexico for decades to soak in the country’s warm Caribbean waters, lounge around on white-sand beaches, and consume copious amounts of tequila and tacos. And let’s not forget the fantastic colonial towns and fascinating Mayan and Aztec ruins!

Mexico clearly has a lot to offer visitors, including vegetarian ones! Like Germany, Mexico is known for being a pretty meat-heavy place. However, Mexican food is actually incredibly diverse and it is surprisingly easy to be vegetarian there. (Sorry to say—vegan travelers may find it slightly more difficult, but certainly not impossible!) There are plenty of dishes consisting of perfectly cooked beans, tangy salsa, mouth-watering vegetables, and buttery avocados. 

In many cities across Mexico, especially Mexico City, you can find a wide array of vegetarian restaurants where you can try the meat-free version of your favorite Mexican specialty and unique twists on international foods (Mexicans take their food very seriously so you know that these are going to be good!). If all else fails, you can always head to a local street vendor for a quesadilla, or torte (i.e. sandwich made with freshly baked bread).

Expert Tip: Make sure to check what kind of oil is used when cooking and make sure to explain that you are vegetarian. I got really sick eating at a restaurant in Merida and I suspect it was from the oil that was used.

United Kingdom

Going to the UK can sometimes feel like going to a much cuter version of America. The language is the same, the culture is more or less the same, and it is pretty easy to get around once you get used to the other side of the road thing. This cultural similarity combined with historic towns, beautiful landscape, and the cosmopolitan cities of London, England, and Glasgow, Scotland combine to give you all the ingredients that you need for a stress-free vacation. As the icing on the cake, it is also very vegetarian friendly!

Like many other countries in Europe, the United Kingdom offers a great array of vegetarian and vegetarian-friendly restaurants. Most cafes will offer at least a few different options for non-meat eaters where you can fill up on a delicious brunch, healthy smoothie, or an after-dinner ice cream and while you may not be able to head over to the nearest pub and bury yourself in a full English breakfast or Sunday roast, you can certainly build your own meat-free version of it!

Expert Tip: If you happen to find yourself in a place that doesn’t seem very veggie-friendly and you don’t want to have French fries or pizza for dinner, try to find the nearest Indian restaurant. British people love Indian food and have a huge South Asian immigrant population so you can often find Indian restaurants even in the tiniest of towns. 

Indonesia

While finding vegetarian foods in Muslim majority countries can be challenging sometimes, Indonesia is one of the exceptions. Although meat is the most “important” component of many meals, most of the side dishes eaten with it tend to be vegetarian. This is amazing because you can actually build your own meal of many different taste combinations just with side dishes! Besides sauteed vegetables, you can try stews made from coconut broth, fried tofu or tempeh, or corn fritters. 

If and when you venture to Bali, it gets even better! Bali has historically been a Hindu society which means that animals have long been viewed very differently from other parts of the country. Today, you can find plenty of vegetarian restaurants serving both Balinese and international foods as well as enough veggie options at local restaurants to keep your belly happily filled. This will give you just the energy you need to go for an amazing day of snorkeling, a beautiful hike, or a fun urban adventure! 

Expert Tip: Make sure to take advantage of the incredible array of fresh fruits on offer in Indonesia. I once tried something called a snake fruit, which is easily recognizable by its scaly skin (hence the name). I immediately fell in love with it and despite only finding it one other time in the past decade, I still fantasize about it!

United States

With a country as large and diverse as the United States, it is nearly impossible to not include it in this list. While not everywhere in the country is vegetarian-friendly, most restaurants in big cities have at least a few options available or you can always head over to the local Italian, Thai, or Indian restaurant. 

There are also places like New York City, Portland, Seattle, and San Francisco (and Vancouver!) that are known for being vegan-friendly cities where you can find vegan options for pretty much everything you can think of whether you are looking for ice cream or brownie to satisfy that gnawing sweet tooth, a hearty vegan casserole, or a thick and juicy veggie burger loaded with deliciousness. 

Ready to Roam?

I hope that this has helped awaken your taste buds a bit, and you are ready to hit the road running as a vegetarian traveler! If you want some inspiration on other great places to visit, make sure to read about “The Countries With the Best Food in the World,” and check out the other travel articles on our blog!


Frequently Asked Questions

Which country has the most vegetarians?

When it comes to vegetarians per capita, India tops the list! Generally, approximately 38-40% of the country refrains from eating meat, which makes it one of the best vegetarian travel destinations.

What are some tips for vegetarian travelers?

Find a largely vegetarian travel destination! Do some research on cultures and climates to see which countries might fit the bill. India, Indonesia, and Israel are excellent choices.

While on a strict diet, what can I do for fun in a city other than going out to eat?

Sometimes, people with dietary restrictions find it hard to avoid restaurants when going out or traveling with friends. Why not try a scavenger hunt? Enjoy seeing attractions without worrying about menus!

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