Bethany is a plant-based foodie with an insatiable hunger for travel and she’s sharing her tips for travelling with a dietary restriction with us.
9 Tips for Travelling with Dietary Restriction
The best way to get a taste of a country’s culture is through its cuisine. But diving head first into the exotic culinary droves can be a bit tricky when you have dietary restrictions buoying you to the surface. Here are a few tips to prevent you from going hungry (or to hospital).
- Learn how to say, “I can’t eat ____” or “I’m allergic to____” in the local language. It’s always a good idea to learn a few basic phrases of the country you’re travelling. The locals appreciate the effort and will likely be more accommodating to your needs.
- Download an offline phrasebook before you leave. A lot of translation apps require an internet connection, but if you’re in a remote location or don’t have a local SIM card, you’ll be stuck relying on hand gestures in a game of food charades. TripLingo (free) and AllergyFree Passport (AU$4.49) have loads of pre-loaded phrases to help you order food in various languages.
- Pack emergency snacks in case of dire situations. Although gluten intolerances and vegetarian diets are common, and almost trendy, in Western countries, you may be hard pressed to find a restaurant that caters to vegans anywhere off the beaten tourist track. Though even in well-trodden countries like Spain and Portugal, it can be tough to find something that doesn’t have ham or fish in it.
- Download the ‘Google Translate’ app to translate in real-time. The app allows you to scan over a passage of text with your camera and see it automatically translated into your chosen language. This is great for reading packaging labels and restaurant menus to see whether an item is suitable or not. It’s always 100% accurate but it’s pretty impressive and extremely useful!
- Be specific when ordering your food, as some terms carry very different meanings depending on where you are in the world. After ordering a ‘vegetarian sandwich’ that came out piled high with tuna, I learned to explain exactly what I could and could not eat. It can be painstaking, but it’s worth it in order to avoid going hungry and causing unnecessary food waste.
- Notify the airline of your dietary requirement before you fly. Often, you can do this at the time of booking, however, you should always double check at the desk when you arrive for your flight. Most major airlines accommodate a range of religious, health and lifestyle dietary restrictions. From my experience, the ‘special’ meals are usually tastier and fresher than the generic ones, perhaps, because they are made with a little more care.
- Pack your own snacks for short-haul or low-cost carrier flights. Aside from being outrageously expensive, the range of snacks offered in-flight is often limited. You may not find a bag of potato chips without milk solids or a packet of nuts without gluten. Packing your own food is the safest (and cheapest) option. Just make sure you comply with airline food and carry-on regulations.
- Carry a digital AND printed copy of relevant medical documentation whenever you travel. This is for more severe or life-threatening allergies. Bonus points if you have it translated into the local language.
- Carry a few pocket-sized cards with allergen information when you eat out. BrokerFish.com has free downloadable allergy cards in six different languages, but you can easily make your own. They’re handy for times when you can’t remember the Japanese word for “soy” and leave little room for confusion.