Whether you have a dietary restriction or are simply a picky eater, one of the more difficult aspects of travel is ensuring that you won’t accidentally eat something that you’d rather avoid entirely. Traveling with dietary restrictions can be really hard.
Take me, for example. I’m Muslim, so I don’t eat pork or drink alcohol. Alcohol is fairly easy to avoid (my staple drinks are water, tea, and coffee anyway), but pork is a whole other ball game. While pork isn’t popular in every country I’ve been to, I find that it’s an often-utilized ingredient in more places and cuisines than I can count. Let’s face it: the world loves the swine.
And so, while this post offers suggestions from my direct experiences, these tips can be customized no matter what your dietary restriction. Without further ado: traveling with dietary restrictions, a how to.
Being a foodie, researching which foods are “must-eats” in every country is simply a part of my travel planning. It makes it easier for me to know which dishes are popular, and which of those include pork. Obviously, you will never be able to find every single dish in the country that includes your off limit food item, but research will help get an idea of what you might find on a typical restaurant menu. You can even utilize social media or websites to find restaurants that cater to your needs. I understand that not everyone enthusiastically searches for good eats before leaving home, but if you’re traveling with dietary restrictions, it’s worth a quick google search.
2. Bring a restriction card
Sally, what in the world is a restriction card? In simplest terms, it’s an index card that states your restriction in the target language. You can buy one or make your own. Side note: it’s usually better to write “I’m allergic to…” rather than “I can’t eat…”, since “I can’t eat” is more readily disregarded than allergies. At least in my experience. Better safe than sorry!
3. Compromise a bit
Depending on the level / intensity of your dietary restriction, sometimes it’s easier to avoid certain food groups entirely rather than risk eating something you’d rather stay away from. What do I mean? In my case, it would mean (occasionally) switching to vegetarian dishes.
Even though I speak pretty decent Spanish, I sometimes found myself with a meal that consisted of pork while I was in Spain this past summer. Why? Because people who don’t have dietary restrictions don’t necessarily think about what kind of meat something is made of. You’d be astounded by the number of times someone has asked: “Is ham/bacon/chorizo/pepperoni made of pork?” Sometimes, it was easier for me to order a vegetarian dish rather than inspect my meal for pork. So keep that in consideration as well, as it can be really useful when traveling with dietary restrictions!
4. Be prepared
This goes out specifically to those traveling with dietary restrictions including allergies. Not only should you follow all the above suggestions, but be sure to bring a supply of medication to combat any accidental consumption. The last thing you want is to break out in hives because you accidentally ate shellfish and didn’t bring your meds. It’s just not a good look for anyone.
5. Cook your own meals
Frankly, part of the fun of traveling is trying all the culinary goodness that comes with a new culture. It’s quite difficult to partake when you have to cook at your apartment. However, I do understand that sometimes it’s really difficult to avoid certain items in specific countries. That’s where your handy Airbnb or hostel kitchen comes in. Time to let your inner chef thrive!
Did I miss any tips? How do you travel with dietary restrictions or allergies while traveling? Let me know in the comments below!