Backpacking through new countries and sticking with your vegetarian/vegan diet can be quite daunting (try ordering something vegetarian other than a pretzel at Oktoberfest in Munich!) but luckily there are a few foolproof ways to stick with your dietary convictions. There are wholesome foods available at low prices available throughout most of the developed world (if you know where to look), and there has been a renaissance of vegetarian and vegan food cultures in the United States and Europe. Just because you are vegetarian does not mean that you have to miss out on the traditional meals when traveling. These traditional dishes are usually meat-based, but they are often offered with vegetarian substitutions. We found that even the full English breakfast (usually consisting of sausage, bacon, eggs, etc.) was offered with vegetarian substitutions at most eateries in the UK!
Of course you cannot (and should not) be eating out constantly when you are backpacking on a budget, so make sure to take advantage of the farmers markets and grocery stores to make your own meals. Cooking at your hostel/couchsurfing/housesitting/airbnb/shipping container (yes we’ve stayed at all of the above) saves you money and it helps to ensure that you are eating healthy and getting enough vegetables and protein! It’s not difficult to find a market or grocers with good stuff; seriously let’s take a second to check out these cheeses! The image below was taken at a grocery store in Scotland… who doesn’t love this?
Bread, cheese, pesto, hummus, vegetables and fruit are staples of ours (especially for breakfast and lunch) while traveling abroad. These ingredients are extremely cheap, sourced locally, and would be labeled “artisanal” if sold in the US. We learned quickly that there is no better satisfaction than putting together a gourmet meal yourself for a fraction of what you would pay at a restaurant. This also makes a great excuse to have a picnic!
When you do decide to dine out, make sure to check out the menu before going in (most eateries will post their dishes and prices outside the restaurant near the entrance). There are countless restaurants specializing in healthy vegetarian/vegan fare, and Yelp is an excellent resource for finding them. Jaime downloaded the Yelp app on her phone so we can do a quick “vegetarian” search. We have found that even the restaurants boasting a meat-based menu will almost always offer vegetarian options.
Many restaurants in more remote locations may not be familiar with vegetarian dishes, so make sure to ask politely if the dish you are about to order is appropriate (we always look up how to say “is this vegetarian?” in the local language before traveling somewhere new). When backpacking through the Austrian Alps in 2012, we stayed at a chalet in a tiny ski town where the cook would wake us up in the morning and insist that we join her for breakfast. She was quite offended when Chris did not devour his meat and carbs-based Danish breakfast, but she was gracious enough to listen as Chris explained his dietary restrictions and even invited him into the kitchen the next morning to cook beside her! This was the first time in her life she had seen scrambled eggs.
^^^And last but certainly not least, Jaime has a secret for success: find the savory PIE! This Cornish pasty shop in King’s Cross Station in London (of Harry Potter fame) has a wide selection of vegetarian savory pies and they are dirt cheap! Yum!