How to Stay Vegan in Vietnam

How has my SE Asia vacation already come and passed? It’s crazy how long you plan something like a vacation across the world and how quickly it passes once you’re there. It’s safe to say I’ve caught the travel bug on this trip and am already thinking of how I can plan my next one.

Until then, I decided to drop my first blog post about my travels by sharing my best tips for staying vegan in Vietnam! 

  1. If there’s anything the US travel clinics will warn you of, it’s to avoid uncooked vegetables and fruits you can’t peel. There’s no quicker way to ruin your trip than eating contaminated vegetables washed in dirty water. As much as we vegans and vegetarians love our salads and fresh veggies, just say, “No.”
  2. Most tourist-friendly restaurants or tour groups may not know what “vegan” means, but they should all know what “vegetarian” means. From what I’ve encountered, the SE Asian vegetarian is usually the same as a vegan in the states (though some will ask if egg is okay – say no!) Restaurants should know to sub the seafood-based sauces for a vegetarian ones as needed. 
  3. Vegetarian spring rolls can be made using rice paper, glass noodles, cabbage, onion, salt and pepper. Ask that your cook not use pork spice or egg!
  4. Vietnamese restaurants love fried sweet potatoes. Just don’t expect what you’d get in the states – yellow sweet potatoes will be breaded and deep fried. Try them at least once!
  5. Look for specialty vegan or vegetarian restaurants! These do exist in big cities like Hanoi – I ate at The Veg in Old Quarter and everything was excellent
  6. Hotels often feature a continental breakfast for free or a small fee which will include assorted local fruits. Try all of the local ones and don’t feel bad taking a banana to eat as a snack later in the day. 
  7. When booking tour groups or flights, be sure to include your dietary restrictions with your online reservation. This is particularly important for flights, where the meals are pre-counted before departing. I got lucky that the crew meals on China Southern were vegetarian and could be traded with me, but you may not always get that opportunity.
  8. Work with a travel agent. These folks are the most well acquainted with the city and usually speak the best English. They can do anything from book tours, hotels, taxis, or just tell you where to eat. 
  9. Don’t feel like you have to eat Vietnamese food for every meal just because you’re in Vietnam. We ate dinner at a small Italian restaurant near the lake in Hanoi and it was one of my favorite meals in the city. I was able to get spaghetti with a spicy garlic tomato sauce while my friends all had pizza. We also found a couple highly populated and recommended Indian restaurants in Old Quarter. In spots like these, you can feel more comfortable knowing there won’t be any unknown fish sauce potentially contaminating your food on accident – because it’s not even in the kitchen!
  10. Personally, I avoided Pho until I knew for certain it would be truly vegan. Several restaurants said they could make it “no meat,” but I wouldn’t trust them to skip the broth. For this reason, I didn’t try any until the airport where I found a vegetarian section on a menu.
  11. Research restaurants beforehand! Read as many blogs and ask as many previous travelers for recommendations as possible.

I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to experience a new culture and cuisine, and hope you will too! Stay tuned for my Thailand tips coming soon! 


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