How to Eat Plant-Based While Traveling
Eating plant-based in your own city or town poses challenges of its own. What about when you’re traveling? We’ve learned a few tips and tricks about navigating a new country since moving to Taiwan that we wish we’d known sooner. Here are our top four recommendations to ease the process of eating plant-based the next time you travel.
1. Make Social Media Your Best Friend
Social Media Platforms are an invaluable way to connect with people or establishments in the country our city you’re visiting. Using the search functions, you can find those who have similar food interests and are posting content that will be very helpful. My personal favorite platform is Instagram. The app makes it simple to search for accounts through hashtags, such as “plantbasedtaipei”, “vegantaipei”. You can then follow accounts or save their posts in their amazing “Saved” feature. I personally have multiple collections for restaurants, dinners, brunch, etc. You can also communicate with contacts through messenger or in the comments, and I’ve found people to be very responsive. In addition, if they’ve listed their location, you can drop pins on maps and label them to easily locate later.
I’ve learned a ton about Taipei through this method and have connected with accounts here such as vegankittycat, plantseatery, oohchaha, veganbifoot and thecaffeinatedvegan, along with many others. Everyone has been so supportive. Best of all, you end up making some pretty cool friends and acquaintances along the way.
2. Up Your Plant-Based Vocabulary
If you’re traveling to a country that speaks a language foreign to you, learning just a few words can get you pretty far. We learned how to read and speak ‘vegan’, ‘vegetarian’, ‘no milk’ and ‘no meat’ in Chinese. We use these words on a regular basis which has helped us locate restaurants and items in grocery stores, ask questions at restaurants, and feel even more connected to the country.
3. Download and Learn to Use Google Translate
Google Translate saved us from several potential hangry interactions. It provides the ability to read and speak words in other languages on the fly, which is key. We’ve also used their image recognition function in restaurants and grocery stores to figure out food items and labeling. Some helpful words have been ‘non-gmo’, ‘no sugar-added’, and ‘milk’. While not all words have been a one-for-one translation, it’s been enough that we’ve gotten the general idea. You’ll also get a bonus giggle from some of the incorrect or mis-guided translations.
This whole process is extremely helpful for learning about brands and products. There’s also comfort in feeling somewhat ‘local’ when you’re able to read ingredient labels in a new country .
4. Research the Local Cuisine
Understanding if you’re traveling to a meat-forward or veggie-friendly country before you visit helps decrease food search stress. Taiwan is very meat-forward, so stopping off at one of the thousands of street-side food vendors wasn’t always an option for us. However, we’ve now learned that there are certain non-meat dishes native to the country, that are available at most restaurants, and of which some restaurants will make a vegan version. In Taiwan, these include veggie dumplings, sesame paste noodles (Liang Mian), tofu and some vegetable side dishes. Looking for pictures of these items on menus or signs, along with knowing a few specific words in the native language will help you find them and ask questions.
We also learned that Taipei, Taiwan has a big plant-based restaurant scene all over the city. From vegetarian buffets, due to the large Buddhist community, to chic and conscious-minded restaurants and grocery stores, it’s been a lot of fun trying these out.
Overall, a little research and planning can really take you far. What tips would you add to this list?!