Eating plant based food has become increasingly popular and more and more people are starting to turn to a vegetarian or vegan diet. While it might be very easy to find vegetarian options at home, it’s not always so easy when we travel abroad. If we don’t know where to go and what to ask for.
I’ve traveled to more than 60 countries in the world and have had both very good and very bad food experiences. Some countries have been frustrating to travel as a vegetarian, simply because there’s no such thing as a vegetarian diet there. Some countries have been amazing to travel around in though, because traveling as a vegetarian is just as easy as if you’d eat meat. So if you’re vegetarian and want to know what the best and worst countries to travel as a vegetarian is, take a look at this list.
Best countries to travel as a vegetarian
One of the most vegan, if not the most vegan, friendly countries in the world is Israel. In fact, a whopping 10% of the population are vegans in Israel so the demand is huge. Their diet is based a lot on fresh vegetables, delicious falafels and hummus, which is made of chickpeas. It doesn’t matter where you go in Israel, you can always find at least one vegan option, and several vegetarian ones. Not only is Israel so much fun to travel around in, it’s also a food haven for vegetarians.
It should come as no surprise that India is very easy to travel in as a vegetarian. It’s the country with the most vegetarians in the world – 38% of the total population are vegetarians, which is quite a big number if you consider the fact that there’s 1 billion people in India. You will always find vegetarian options on their menu, and it might be the only country in the world where meat eaters might have trouble rather than vegetarians. If you love spicy, tasty and hearty food, you will love eating your way through India.
Many people don’t know this, but Vietnam is actually one of the most vegetarian friendly countries in the world. The Vietnamese diet might consist of a lot of meat, but there’s also many Buddhists in the country who only eats vegetarian. These days though, more and more locals are turning to a vegetarian diet, partly because of the Western influence but also because people desire to be more healthy. You will have no trouble finding vegetarian food while traveling in Vietnam for this reason. The only word you need to know is “chay”, which means vegetarian, and the staff will know what you want. You can get all the traditional meals in Vietnam, but just vegetarian. If you’re craving pho, you can get it vegetarian. If you want to eat banh mi, there’s plenty of them with fake meat. So if you’re worried about missing out on the local food don’t be – in Vietnam you can get everything vegetarian.
With more than 6,000 vegetarian restaurants in the country, you’ll never have problems finding a good vegetarian restaurant. In Taiwan, 13% of the population follows a vegetarian diet and their government even encourages people to eat more vegetarian food.
You might’ve heard it before, but Berlin has long been considered the vegan capital of the world. It’s estimated that more than 7 million people in Germany follows a vegan and vegetarian diet, so you won’t have any trouble finding a good restaurant which serves hearty vegetarian food.
The worst countries to travel as a vegetarian
One of the first countries I’ve traveled as a vegetarian was Japan, hands down. It might come as a surprise since Japan is known for its healthy food, but there’s fish and meat in almost everything. If you want to find an all vegetarian restaurant, you have to search for it before you start heading out on the streets. You won’t have any luck just bumping into one randomly because there’s not many vegetarian restaurants in the country. Most of their broths are also made of either fish or meat stock, so even if your noodle soup doesn’t have a big chunk of meat in it, chances are, your broth is filled with meat. Fruits and vegetables are also very expensive to buy in the country, so it’s no wonder that it’s more difficult to be a vegetarian here.
2. Central Asia
I recently traveled in four countries in Central Asia: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. I knew I would be struggling, but didn’t realize how exactly how much I would struggle as a vegetarian. First of all, there’s no culture of being vegetarian here – everyone loves meat and they eat it to everything. There’s not a huge food culture in general here either, so there’s only a few staple meals to choose from such as plov and laghman, both containing meat. When you tell people you’re a vegetarian, they will give you a weird look. They simply do not understand why anyone wouldn’t eat meat. So my diet consisted a lot in bread, salads (simple ones though, with cucumber and tomatoes mostly) and I drank tea. Lots and lots of tea, which filled me up. They do eat cheese and they have eggs, so if you just know how to order, you could probably get an okay vegetarian meal. But don’t count with it. Even if you order a meal “bies miyasa” (without meat), you might get chunks of it in your meal anyway. Most of the time, they just removed the meat from the meal and served it to you, so it usually still tasted like meat and I found many times parts of meat. I decided not to be too picky while traveling in Central Asia because if I would be, I would probably not eat a lot. But if you’re a very picky vegetarian, or even vegan, and want to travel in Central Asia, do know that you’re in for a challenge. One that might push you to eat a few pieces of meat every now and then.