How I Stayed Vegan in Thailand (And Tips I Wish I Heard First)

I can’t believe it’s been almost two months since my trip and I’m finally blogging about it. Thailand is amazing for so many reasons: the islands, the jungles, the elephants, and the food, among them. And it’s an especially great destination for vegans!

Here are my top tips for traveling Thailand as a vegan:

  1. Order the “VGML” choice on all your long flights. You’ll have to do this in advance, which means you can’t book through Orbitz/Expedia/etc. The planes usually have maybe one extra vegan meal for people who don’t order in advance – this was the biggest mistake I made with my trip.
  2. A lot of restaurant servers won’t speak any English, but usually one will know at least a few words. I learned to ask for vegetarian rather than vegan most of the time as I learned from my cooking class that vegetarians in their culture didn’t eat eggs or seafood-based sauce either, and this was a much more common word for eating this way. Also, coconut milk is the main source of cream in the curries, so dairy isn’t a concern. You could print out “I am a vegan. I cannot eat fish, oyster, shrimp, egg or milk” in Thai for an added sense of relief when ordering.
  3. Most traditional Pad Thai is made with fish sauce, oyster sauce, and eggs – ask for mushroom and soy sauce in place, and no eggs. It will taste just as good.
  4. Even curries may contain fish or oyster sauce, or even shrimp paste (which smells awful, by the way), so be sure to ask for it vegetarian.Green Curry vegan vegetarian Koh Phi Phi ThailandVegan vegetarian yellow Curry bangkok Thailand
  5. Really, just ask for everything vegetarian, even if it looks that way on the menu already. ๐Ÿ™‚
  6. Watch out for snacks at the 7-11s. Asian crackers and crisps may contain sneaky animal products. I learned this from my friend’s rice cracker obsession.
  7. Eating uncooked veggies is not advised unless it’s been peeled, like cucumber.
  8. There are tons of fresh fruits available on the cheap at the markets and from street vendors. Fresh fruit street vendor vegan in Chiang Mai ThailandEat any that have been peeled or you can peel yourself.
  9. Try durian once. I’m not going to say I liked it, but some people do. When else will you try it if not in Thailand? But beware – don’t try bringing it in a train or taxi – it’s banned in almost all public modes of transportation.
  10. Breakfast is a great time to load up on fruits. On Koh Phi Phi, my hotel had a continental breakfast with tons of watermelon and pineapple, but at my resort in Krabi, breakfast cost $30 a day, so I skipped out and ordered a smoothie from the bar instead.  If free food is included, definitely eat it.
  11. If you find yourself in Bangkok on the weekend, you’ve got to try Kruakrungkaow. Hands down, this was my favorite meal of the entire trip, and I have yet to find any Thai food as good here in the states. Bangkok weekend market Thailand vegetarian vegan Pad ThaiChatuchak weekend market bangkok Pad ThaiThe best part was they advertise vegetarian food on their signs, so you know they know what they are doing.
  12. Don’t be afraid to try new things! I picked fried plantains as my dessert during our cooking class, but ended up loving my classmate’s black rice pudding the best. I made a point to try all my favorite Thai dishes at least once, and then some that looked interesting.
  13. When it comes to animal rights, choose to refrain from any Elephant parks where patrons are allowed to ride the elephant, whether bare back or in a basket. Tiger zoos are also horribly unethical, as the animals are drugged for customers to pose for photos, and should be avoided if you care about animal rights whatsoever (vegan or not). 
  14. Be sure to let tour groups know in advance that you require a vegan/vegetarian meal so they will have some options available. 

I’ve got a few more Thailand posts I want to cover, but I’ll save those for another day. I hope these tips were helpful and if you’ve got any of your own, please share them below! 

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