Keep Your Gap Year Meat Free
My name's Nikki and I’m a vegetarian. I went on a 10-month trip and I wanted to share some of my experiences.
First off let me just state that it was awesome and I can't thank the people on this site enough for all their input before we left; it was such a great help! I had such an amazing time and if you’re worried about travelling, don’t be - it’s the best thing you’ll ever do!
It’s time that I thought I’d add a little back. This topic doesn't come up much: travelling as a vegetarian.
I went travelling with my boyfriend and we're both vegetarians. I thought I would list how I found it in each country I went to and add any restaurants we discovered afterwards that helped us out. Anyone else who is/has been/or travelled as a vegetarian, it would be great if we could have the input of your experiences too so together we can help out other veggies who are going off travelling for the first time!
Firstly, check out - Loving Hut - an international chain of vegan restaurants worldwide. You can find them in several countries and most have local vegan menus with local dishes, which I find absolutely amazing! There are many Asian, Australian, European and State side locations; they aren't everywhere but they're slowly expanding!!! I only ate in two (Toronto and San Francisco) and yum yum. Perfect.
The route we took was (click on each country to take you straight to see our advice):
If you want, you can see our recommended restaurants here.
Thailand was great for veggie food, although if you are incredibly strict (e.g. you won’t eat meals cooked on the same grill as meat, you may struggle a little).
Generally, most places we ate had noodles and rice dishes with vegetables and no meat, so we never once had problems finding something. It's the kind of country where you have to excuse your veggie dish arriving at your table with one piece of chicken in the bowl, by accident, as they're trying their best to cook several meals. Understanding/ politeness does go far and they will correct it if you’re polite. You also should have plenty of choice at hawker stalls - we would pay 25/40 baht for vegetable pad thai (optional with scrambled egg mixed in), which was so delicious. Massaman Curry was another favourite!
I won't lie, we crossed the border and we did have a hard time finding vegetarian 'Malay' food. We were on peninsular Malaysia for only two weeks and we basically survived on curry, but then again we only visited three places (Cameron Highlands, Kuala Lumpur and Penang) so it may be different in other parts...
Penang was amazing for curry, so it was heaven for Veggies. If you’re worried, just find a curry house and you'll be fine!
In the Cameron Highlands the choice isn't huge, so yet again it was more curry.
In Kuala Lumpur (KL), we really did struggle if I’m totally honest - maybe we didn't try hard enough but most the menus we looked at we couldn't find anything, so we would resort to hitting the golden arches for a large fries, or finding a pizza hut (which we had to do as well).
A note here - Nando's DO NOT do their veggie option like they do in the UK. I don't know how many countries this applies to, but in Malaysia, it’s not available!
Indonesia was a great country (from the tiny part of it we did see) and their food was incredibly varied, so we always ate something different and generally always had a veggie option. Their national dish Nasi Goreng was always offered without meat, or we requested it without. There was never a problem here.
We ate from a couple of street stalls in Yogyakarta and could get veggie spring rolls, fried potato things, deep fried bits of vegetable etc. If there was a limited menu in the tourist areas there was always something western instead (plain spaghetti with tomato sauce crept up quite often!).
Tempeh is used a lot in veggie dishes and was a new concept to us which we both enjoyed. Tofu was often used also.
Singapore is small, so I will keep this short- stay near/in Little India! There’s an entire street (which I will detail below in my restaurant list) of vegetarian places to eat, about 6/7 places in a row; it was heaven for us! If you stay at Fernloft (little India) then this place is a five minute walk away. Fernloft wasn't an amazing hostel, but handy for the food!
I hate to say it, but we found OZ to be quite a challenge. We did the East Coast, Ayers Rock, Adelaide to Melbourne and the GOR. I’m sure there are many veggie places if you can afford to eat out every night, but who can afford to eat out every night as a backpacker in Australia?
Supermarket shopping was limited on options, so if you're a veggie going on a WHV, I would suggest learning (and taking) some recipe ideas with you, so you won't be as fucked as we were. Having pasta with tomato sauce and cheese three nights a week wasn't appealing!
We would occasionally find things like veggie lentil burgers but they were quite dry, so we didn’t buy them regularly.
Our lifesaver here was curry though - we found 'tasty-bite' - they basically do curry in a foil packet that you boil for five minutes and ALL OF THEM are vegetarian. Find these generally stocked in world foods/Indian food sections. One packet is enough for two people with rice.
We drove a van round NZ for eight weeks and I’m pleased to say eating here was much easier.
Bean Supreme is a range of veggie stuff that we would get at the supermarket which we liked, normally well stocked at Pak'n'Save in the chilled meat/cheese area. Pak'n'Save also has a walk-in fridge section thing (where milk/ cheese is, really cold!) and there was always a small veggie section too with a few other bits of soups/ burgers etc. The curries I mentioned above in OZ can be found in NZ, BUT are much harder to find. We only found them in Auckland and Queenstown. If you find them in these cities, stock up!!! Not easy to find here.
I can't say much for Fiji I’m afraid - we were there two weeks and it wasn't very local; one week in a hotel and one on Robinson Crusoe Island. We struggled with Fiji because most islands (if you want to island hop) just say 'we have salad' so it isn't helpful (and once you're there and have paid, you're kinda stuck). We had western food on the mainland, mainly pizza, curry (again!!) veggie spring rolls, and veggie fried rice...
On Robinsons Crusoe Island they do a proper menu so you can actually see what's offered before you commit, which I really liked. There was a lot of potato and salad but veggie burgers, veggies curry, and veggie pizza were included, so we were really pleased they made a lot of effort for us.
This country has it sorted for veggie food (especially vegan) in the main cities, especially California.
We never had trouble here either eating Mexican or other western fast food. If you want healthier veggie options, or supermarket veggie options, check out 'Whole Foods Market' - it's a chain of Grocery stores with the most impressive vegan/veggie section I have ever seen. It includes extensive fridge/ freezer produce, plus lots of food like gluten free, lactose intolerant, organic etc...
They also have a large lunch/deli/salad area where you can go in and get a hot lunch, salad, or whatever. It isn't cheap, I won't lie, but it’s an amazing place! They've got stores in London now too, which we plan to visit soon.
They also had the biggest vegan ice cream selection ever, stretching over about four freezers; it was crazy! Made us really sad to live in England where choice for vegan (which my bf would like to be) just is non-existent.
We also found those ready curry packets in the states too, so look for those also if you want.
Below is a list of places to eat that I wrote down that were either veggie or had great veggie food (with either an address, or a vague attempt at my directions!)
Ethos (Bangkok, Thailand)
If you go to the Burger King end of Koh San Road, turn left, and do the first right (it’s like a little side street) directly behind Burger King is another street with loads of smaller food places - several of these are vegetarian and vegan. I had THE BEST desert of my entire trip here.
Good Dream Guesthouse (Krabi, Thailand)
Probably listed in the LP. This guesthouse is run by an awesome guy and has wicked food. Menu had so much to offer everyone, but had a good few veggie options.
Kopitan (Penang, Malaysia)
Located on 'Lebuh Chulia' (big road that Love Lane comes off, near the tourist area) this is a big Indian place that you'll have to fight the locals to get a table at. Amazing food, a full meal (curry, rice,naan, drink) set us back about £1.50 each. Utter bargain…
Bukit Bintang area (Kulala Lumpur)
Near the station. This one is a tad tricky to find. It's either in 'Bukit Bintang Plaza' or, the 'Sungei Wang Plaza' these are next door to each other. One of them has a food court (4th floor). If you head into here, there is a vegetarian buffet where you pay for what you take (around £2 a plate). Amazing substitutes, but you have to look for it. It's in one of the corners of the room with a big sign saying 'Vegetarian' in English, near some stairs. Again - fight the locals on their lunch break to eat here!
Milas (Jogjakarta, Indonesia)
Jl Prawirotaman IV 127B, Yogyakarta 55153. This place is amazing. Hard to find (you'll need to catch a Becak) but fantastic vegetarian and vegan options here, all made fresh and a charity organisation. Money goes back to the community helping youths. Bonus…
Atap Café (Jogjakarta , Indonesia)
Listed in LP (I think). Address- Jl Sosrowijayan GT 1/113, near Setia Kawan/Bedhot restaurant. I had a 'Vegan Steak' here and it was THE BEST meat imitation I’ve ever had, and the whole dish with sides only set me back £2.50. My boyfriend had a tempeh burger, which was also really delicious!
Rainbow Café (Kuta, Bali, Indonesia)
This is definitely listed in the LP. It’s just off Poppies Gang2- great little place with amazing veggie curry and veggie burger and it’s cheap for Kuta! Good beer too..
Bali Buddha (Ubud, Bali, Indonesia)
jl. jembawan #1- Great selection of vegan dishes, health food, raw food, plus veggie and meat dishes/store to buy snacks etc
Cafe Salivation (Singapore)
75 Syed Alwi Road Singapore 207555. There are also several other places on this street but this café had the best soup I’ve ever eaten.
Deli-Vege (Chinatown, Singapore)
200 South Bridge Road, Chinatown. AWESOME Chinese veggie/vegan food.
Circadian Café (Dunedin, New Zealand)
72 St Andrew Street, city centre. Gluten-free, vegan and veggie. Drinks, cakes, currys, etc. yum!
Takaka Infusion (Takaka, New Zealand)
On the high street. This is a small town near Abel Tasman, an amazing little village. This is a veggie cafe selling all sorts of cafe foods/drinks, teas from all the world and fresh bread, etc.
The Lotus Heart (Christchurch, New Zealand)
On Cathedral Square. Won't re-open for a while due to the earthquake but the food here is amazing. Mostly vegetarian/health foods, but they offer vegan options daily.