So you’re a vegan and planning your holiday in the UK and Ireland.
You can handle meal planning and eating out at home; but you’re heading to unknown territory, where fish and chips, haggis, and Irish stew seem to be the only things people eat.
Don’t worry, the UK and Ireland are amongst the most vegan-friendly countries in Europe. Plant-based restaurants and cafés are popping up all over the British Isles, so it’s a perfect time for a visit. Sure, things can get trickier when you venture off the beaten track. But I hope these top tips will help you prepare for your holiday.
Our way of looking for information has changed. We’ve moved to relying entirely on search engines, started joining various online communities, and following specific hashtags.
Use social media before you start your adventure, and reach out to local vegan groups to ask for their recommendations. The vegan scene and restaurants’ listings are changing dynamically, but the local herbivores keep the finger on the pulse and know about all new eateries.
You can start broadly on Facebook by posting your questions in the Vegan UK or Vegans of Ireland group. Alternatively, you can narrow your search down and contact plant-eaters in the areas or cities you’re going to like Vegan Edinburgh + Glasgow, London Vegans, or Vegi and Vegan Dublin.
Instagram and Pinterest
Armed with specific hashtags or keywords, you can navigate the deep waters of these amazing platforms.
Just type Vegan London in Pinterest, #veganlondon on Instagram, or any other bigger place you’re going to, and you’ll get some mouthwatering suggestions for meals and eateries at your destination.
Also, it’s worth keeping an eye on #accidentallyvegan or #accidentallyveganuk to find out about plant-based products in the supermarkets that may not have been labelled ‘vegan’.
Blogs are a fantastic way to find out about the experiences of other fellow travellers.
There are as many great blogs about vegan travel in the UK and Ireland, as there are passionate herbivore explorers. You can start reading here, or just type your keywords in a search engine and pick the most relevant content.
With an app for almost everything, our life and travelling are becoming easier. And of course, there are apps for vegans that can make visiting the UK and Ireland much simpler. From finding a plant-based café in a city you’re visiting to checking a selection of drinks in a local pub; these pieces of software can save you a lot of time and worry. Download a couple of them on your smartphone and you’ll be unstoppable.
This app is handy for all herbivores. It searches for vegan and vegetarian restaurants nearby; it’s great if you’re travelling or you want to get an update on your local plant-based food scene.
Use it in advance to find eateries at your destination and you’ll avoid wandering around the city with an empty stomach. The great thing is, it allows you to store the details offline, so you can look up your next eating place if you run out of data or don’t have Wi-Fi.
HappyCow is a paid app but it only costs £3.99. There’s also a website version if you aren’t keen on using apps.
A free app that focuses on England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland (and some other places in the world). It’s very similar to HappyCow but Vanilla Bean allows you to look for eateries serving gluten-free dishes, or using local and organic ingredients.
Is it Vegan?
If you’re travelling on a budget and buying your food in a supermarket, this free, simple app will make your hunt much easier. Just open it up, scan a bar code of a product you’re interested in, and you’ll know if it’s vegan or not.
Vegaholic and VegeTipple
Do you drink alcohol, but feel unsure about a local tipple on your travels? These apps will come in handy because they asses if a drink is vegan-friendly. Get them before a visit to a pub and you’ll know which of the local spirits to try.
Vegaholic is available on iOS and costs £0.99. VegeTipple works on Android and is £1.59. If using an app is not your thing, use the Barnivore website.
Choosing the right place to stay has a big impact on your holiday. So, notify an accommodation provider about your way of eating to avoid living on bread, baked beans, and jam for a couple of days.
The word ‘vegan’ can still be a bit abstract or daunting for some people; that’s why you should suggest easy ways of ‘veganising’ a standard menu. Ask for porridge with vegan milk; avocado toast; or simply humus, bread and raw veg on your plate. Of course, there are business owners and cooks who like experimenting with food; so a bit of explanation may get you a creative vegan dish on arrival.
Another way of tackling the accommodation issue is booking an Airbnb apartment with a kitchen. This gives you the freedom to cook your favourite meals, prepare snacks for the day, and stick to your budget.
If you get hangry* easily, prepare some nibbles so you remain a happy herbivore throughout the day.
Choose food that is easy to carry around. You don’t want to end up with a bag of unidentified mash after a couple of hours of exploration. Nuts, dried or fresh fruit, cut-up vegetables, trail mix, sandwiches, wraps, energy bars, and salads should keep the hunger at bay. Also, pack a big ziploc bag and lightweight plastic food boxes or cups to store your goodies neatly.
The greatest thing about having snacks with you is the freedom to eat wherever you wish. So, pack your nibbles and have a spontaneous picnic by the Cliffs of Moher or on a Scottish beach.
*angry and irritable because you’re hungry
Veganism is on the rise, but there are still people who don’t fully grasp this idea. Sometimes saying you’re a ‘vegan’ can only result in a confused smile from the waiting staff or a shop assistant.
If English is not your first language, look up how to ask for plant-based food. Write down a couple of phrases like:
“I don’t eat meat or fish.”
“I don’t eat eggs or dairy.”
“Does this contain butter, lard or honey?”
“Is it fried in butter or animal fat?”
And if you want to buy food in a supermarket, look out for words like buttermilk, beeswax, lactose, casein, gelatin, isinglass, and whey.
You’re staring at a menu outside of a restaurant or a café and it seems like there’s nothing vegan. Instead of turning away, go in, smile, and try to talk to the staff. If the food is prepared on the premises, the chances are that a cook can tweak your meal a bit. Sometimes you just need to ask for no cheese, mayonnaise or butter to ‘veganise’ a dish. And who knows, your inquiry may give someone food for thought and lead to changes in the menu.
Make your holiday hassle-free and pack your animal-friendly cosmetics. Saving space in your bag and buying vegan cosmetics once you’ve arrived at your destination can be a false economy. You are likely to end up wandering around the shops looking for what you need, instead of having a great time.
*Holland and Barrett also offer a great selection of plant-based food
There’s a wealth of plant-based food you can discover at local food markets and grocery stores.
Food markets are often the hubs of creative, local snacks and raw produce. So, if you want to try superb street food or talk to the local producers, head to the nearest market for a real feast. But do your research first, because some of them only pop up during the weekends.
Grocery stores and supermarkets are the easiest places to get equipped with your meals and snacks. With an estimated 3.5 million vegans in the UK, food stores have been expanding their product range. Gone are the days of settling for some falafel; now you can have mushroom bolognese, sticky toffee pudding, and a Magnum ice cream.
Vegan products are normally marked with a special logo, but it’s also worth checking labels. So, keep your eyes peeled; you can find some delicious accidentally vegan products like Oreos.
With the momentum of ‘Veganuary’ and a global shift in thinking, veganism is here to stay. And as a result, most of the big food places have introduced a selection of plant-based dishes. From McDonald’s and KFC to Starbucks and Subway, your vegan menu options are now bigger than you think.
Have a look at the latest list.
The cuisine in the UK and Ireland is very multicultural, and this is good news for travelling vegans. Whether you’re venturing into rural England or the Scottish Highlands, you’re bound to come across Indian, Chinese or Thai takeaways. So, if you struggle to find anything suitable to eat, pop into a local takeaway and try exotic specialties.
You’re in a tiny village; you’ve eaten all your snacks, nobody serves anything vegan within 5 miles, and you’re hungry.
It might be a moment when you let go of what you believe in and eat something vegetarian. But don’t beat yourself up about it, it’s only for a moment.
Of course, the decision is yours to make. But when you travel and things get really difficult, it’s worth relaxing a bit so that your mood doesn’t affect your holiday. Vegan travel isn’t always perfect, but it’s your effort that counts.
I hope my suggestions have convinced you that travelling as a vegan can be easy. So, do a bit of research, pack your essentials, and enjoy the plant-based food scene in the UK and Ireland. And when you come across any challenges; keep your mind open, treat them as puzzles you need to solve, and have fun.