A decade ago, traveling as a vegan meant stocking up on the nearest tropical fruit vendor, cooking rice and beans in a hotel microwave, and missing out on the obligatory cultural experiences – street meat, chocolate tasting, wine tours, etc. Cut to 2022 and there are designated vegan restaurants in virtually every country. You can go to Nairobi, Kenya and find vegan mac and cheese (yes, really) or travel to the literal edge of the Arctic Circle and eat falafel. To hell with rice and beans.
I became a vegan five years ago at a campsite in New Zealand. Even then, options were limited to $3 avocados and alternative milk at the odd coffeeshop. Now, New Zealand travelers have meatless pies, gelatin-free pick ‘n’ mixes and more than one brand of soy or nut milk in their arsenal. They may never even need to cut up a whole pumpkin and cook it on a camp stove, lucky bastards.
It’s true: despite our penchant for announcing our veganism to the world, being one of the these people is no longer marginal or different. But by losing our edge, we’ve gained endless food options in every corner of the world, so hey, I’ll take it. Here are the best countries to feast on vegan food now that living off vegetables is not only acceptable but cool.
No matter how much power clotted cream, Sunday roasts and shepherd’s pie once had over Britain’s past – this historically meat-loving kingdom has become a vegan mecca. A number of places now even make their beloved “fish and chips” with banana flowers wrapped in seaweed.
London, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Bristol have repeatedly ranked among the most vegan cities in the world. London was in first place HappyCow’s 2021 Rosternot least because it is home to 125 all-vegan restaurants within a five-mile radius of the city.
Another reason to visit? You’ll never be far from a McDonald’s McPlant burger, a Greggs sausage-free bun or the famous Burger King Vegan Royale “chicken burger”. Road trip junk food, sorted.
Veganism and kosher share some of the same principles, and Israel is home to a predominantly Jewish population. That is to say, Israelis ate falafel and hummus long before vegans made chickpeas their own food group. Even the Israel Defense Forces welcome vegan soldiers with plant-based food and leather-free boots.
Tel Aviv, home to nearly 100 vegan and vegetarian restaurants throughout the city, is certainly the vegan capital of Israel, but also, according to The Independent, the “vegan capital of the world”. Thanks to its Mediterranean climate, colorful foods sprout from the ground with little coaxing and fill the vibrant shuks with sights and smells that spark vegan joy.
You won’t run out of fresh salads at the many local Middle Eastern restaurants, but if you have a penchant for fake meat, try the New York-style vegan “steak” – or just about anything on the menu, for what matters, at the Western-inspired cocktail bar Four One Six.
India is another country known for its colorful and spicy cuisine and its associations with vegetarian-leaning religions. A vegan simply cannot go hungry in the birthplace of chana masala, aloo gobi, aloo matar and dal. Just watch out for that sneaky staple of South Asian cuisine, ghee, and you might even manage the trip without accidentally ingesting dairy.
India is believed to have the most vegetarians worldwide, with up to 42% of the population avoiding meat products. There is more than 70 fully vegan restaurants nationwide, with the highest concentration being in Mumbai, Bangalore and, unsurprisingly, Auroville, a hippy-dippy “utopia” that has been described as a year-round Burning Man festival.
Australia is a strange place for a vegan. It continues to be one of the most meat-consuming countries in the world, with savory pies, fish and chips and “shrimp on the barbie” reigning supreme. But it’s also the world third fastest growing plant market and home to one of the most iconic vegan fast food institutions of all time, lord of fries. (Don’t you dare underestimate the delight of meatless Chicago dog, best washed down with a peanut butter shake.)
HappyCow ranked Melbourne and Sydney as honorary veggie-friendly cities (i.e., not top 10, but contenders). Besides greasy burger joints, you’ll find a whole host of whole-food cuisines, including Melbourne’s. Vegetarian Bar and that of Sydney Vegan kindness and bodhi in the park.
Thailand is synonymous with the starting and ending point of the Banana Pancake Trail, a hiking route that circles Southeast Asia through Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. The travel scene here has long been associated with introspective backpackers wearing elephant pants. In other words, vegans.
It can be hard to get a meal without meat in some of the more remote areas – I myself spent five weeks in Thailand and couldn’t avoid being served egg fried rice because of the language barrier – but urban areas have “jays” (Thai for vegan restaurants) galore. Bangkok and the island city of Phuket are extremely vegan-friendly, and their northern counterpart, Chiang Mai, has been dubbed the “vegan capital of Asia.” Red and yellow เจ signs mark vegan restaurants on every corner.
Whoever said traveling as a vegan is expensive has never been to Sri Lanka. With the exception of seafood, most of the traditional cuisine here is naturally vegan. Classic dishes include eggplant moju (pickle), jackfruit curry, mallung (salad), dal, and any other combination of native rice, vegetables, and fruits, namely coconut. While vegan food is considered an expensive specialty in Western society, a hearty meal in Sri Lanka could cost as little as $2.
Vegan food is so ubiquitous in Sri Lanka that plant-based restaurants are often trivialised. The 86 vegan and vegetarian restaurants listed on HappyCow are just a snapshot of the market. That said, the greatest choice of vegan dishes will undoubtedly be found in Tamil restaurants.
Although traditional German cuisine largely favors pork, today’s schnitzel and a wide variety of sausages are often prepared without meat, much to the alleged chagrin of purists in the region. Believe it or not, a number of German staples are also naturally vegan. Think sauerkraut, pretzels (with mustard instead of cheese sauce) and, of course, beer.
Speaking of beer: a variety of plant-based treats are available at Oktoberfest, including “cheese” spread, tomato bread, dumplings, patties, soy steak, pea cutlet, striezel and meatloaf. In addition to the largest beer festival in Europe, the largest on the continent vegan Festival, Vegan Sommerfest Berlintakes place every year in Germany.
Taiwan is one of the few places where vegan travelers can freely partake in street food traditions rather than judging the composition of mixed dishes by giving them the sniff test. While stalls in other Asian countries are notoriously meaty, those in Taiwan sell everything from vegan dumplings and sesame noodles to sweet potato dumplings and vegetarian soups.
Taiwan has strict laws regarding the labeling of vegan and vegetarian foods, so even if you don’t understand the language, you’ll know right away which packaged foods tick all the boxes.
The capital, Taipei, has 76 all-vegan restaurants and another 252 vegan and vegetarian restaurants listed on HappyCow. Top rated is Shang Ding HuangJia, a stall across from Taipei Main Station, which sells the only two things you need in Taiwan: vegetable dumplings and fried buns.
American cuisine, whatever it is, is hit or miss for vegans. You couldn’t walk a block without stumbling across a vegan restaurant in LA’s most health-conscious neighborhoods, but in the rib-eating, butter-loving South? Where is seafood served for breakfast? Yeah, not so much.
Vegan culture thrives in places like New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Portland. There are nearly 50 vegan restaurants within a five-mile radius of Los Angeles and a staggering 111 in New York City.
Vegan travelers to the Big Apple might not be able to afford a $2 hot dog at one of the quintessential street carts, but they can try another New York staple: a “big slice.” of deliciously greasy pizza offered by Screamer in Brooklyn.
It’s no surprise that Indonesia is a hotbed for vegan food, with Bali being the wellness capital of the world. Buddha bowls and green juices run through the veins of yogis and beachgoers. It doesn’t hurt that many traditional Indonesian dishes – tahu gimbal, peanut tofu, tempeh goreng, kering tempeh, etc. – are vegan by default.
While Bali is certainly one of its most veg-friendly provinces, the island of Java actually has the highest concentration of vegan restaurants listed by HappyCow in the country. His speciality ? Pepes tahu, spicy tofu steamed in banana leaves. Oh, and serabi, coconut pancakes served with palm sugar syrup. Just… yum.