A Vegan in South America
If you are planning a trip to South America and are concerned about what you will find to eat, read on. Travel always has its challenges, but overcoming them is all part of the adventure. Being vegan anywhere in the world sometimes means having to plan ahead and being prepared to make the most of what's on offer. With a little preparation, following a vegan diet in South America can become one of the pleasures of your trip and a great chance to meet like-minded people. Our advice should take all of the worry out of finding good things to eat wherever you find yourself in South America. You may not be able to buy all of your favourite foods, but good, wholesome plant foods are available to sustain you on your cruelty-free travels.
1. Be Informed
Your first step in planning your vegan trip will be to use the internet, which is a great resource for finding vegan cafes and restaurants as well as shops that are vegan-friendly. Happy Cow (happycow.net) is probably one of the most useful and wide-ranging sites that you will find. Simply type in a place or an address where you are planning to go in order to see a whole selection of nearby restaurants and shops. While they include vegetarian and veg-friendly places as well as vegan, a vegetarian restaurant will of course offer many dishes that can be more easily adapted to your vegan diet. The site also lists shops where you are likely to find suitable snacks for carrying with you on your journey, or even interesting new ingredients to try or take home. You can also use your search engine to look for any local vegan or vegetarian societies, where you will usually find a list of veg-friendly businesses. Who knows, you may even find out about vegan events going on in the area you are travelling to. Vegan Travel (vegantravel.com) is another useful travel resource for vegans, offering tips about local vegan dining, places to stay, travel blogs, and more. It's a good idea to make a list of what you find out in the order you will need it. At the end of this article you'll find our list of a selection of restaurants to start you off.
2. Get to Know the Locals Before You Go
Start with a simple online search with the name of a town or city and 'vegan'. Have a browse through the results and you will find all sorts of useful information. Look out for a local blog that will help you connect with the vegan community in your destination. A similar search on Twitter and Facebook can also net you some new friends and/or contact with vegan organisations and even animal sanctuaries. You may even find yourself changing the route of your trip in order to visit some of the great places and people that you find. Once you've made new friends you will have access to a fund of local knowledge, much of which could never be found in any other way. The locals will know which local dishes are 'accidentally vegan', which products at the local bakeries you can and can't eat, and they will definitely tell you the best places to head for. Even your choice of accommodation can be a way of meeting new people and making contact with other vegans. Check out Couch Surfing (couchsurfing.com) where you chat to people, have discussions, find out about events and even arrange to stay for free with a local host if you wish. You can connect with other vegans in this way, and use the site to make friends, even if you don't wind up staying with anyone.
3. Have a Stash of Vegan Goodies
Carrying snacks for most people is a luxury - a few favourite things packed away to supplement the plentiful food options all around them. For the vegan traveller however, it's an essential part of your preparations for the trip. Think about a few snacks that you could take with you that will be both tasty and nutritious, and will tide you over until you get chance to visit a local supermarket or health food shop for more supplies. Keep it simple - good options are crackers, nuts, seeds, peanut (or other nut) butter, vegan pâté or other long-life spreads, yeast extract. If you don't want to give up drinking plant milk in your tea and coffee, you could carry this in powder form. Supplement these foods with local bread, fruit and vegetables that are available almost everywhere and you shouldn't ever find yourself with nothing to eat, even in quite remote places. It is usually considered a good idea to keep food in its original packaging for identification purposes at any customs checks. Finally, don't forget to pack your vegan vitamins as well if you usually take them.
4. Do It Yourself
Cooking for yourself can sometimes be the easiest option for vegan travel, especially in remote areas where there may be very few or no veg-friendly restaurants. Finding accommodation with a kitchen, even if it's a hostel with a communal kitchen, will give you lots of options over what you eat. If you are planning on doing this, have a think in advance what kind of meals you will cook and what it might be worth carrying with you, in the way of utensils and even some ingredients such as spices that might not be available locally. A good knife is always worth carrying, as well as a spoon and fork per person, that can come in handy for picnic lunches as well. Making sandwiches for the next leg of your journey whenever you are staying somewhere with a kitchen is a good option, so it might be worth taking a suitable reusable container for packed lunches.
5. Communication is the Key
Take the time to learn the local language of the countries you are visiting before you go, or if you are planning on being somewhere for long enough, take a few lessons on arrival. Spanish will generally be the most useful language, but of course if Brazil is on your itinerary it would be wise to learn a little Portuguese as well. Focus on the words for things that you don't eat, just to be sure of avoiding any confusion. Don't be afraid of using your new-found language skills. People will appreciate the effort, and it will enhance your trip in many more ways than just finding vegan food. A good idea is to make a set of cards with essential phrases for visiting restaurants, especially non-vegetarian ones, where you need to be especially careful in getting your message across. If you really don't have the time or doubt your language ability, see below.
6. Take Your Own Virtual Interpreter
No matter how much effort you have put into learning the local language, it's always good to have back-up. The 'Vegan Passport', currently in its fifth edition, is a vegan phrasebook that provides you with all the language you will need to explain what you do and do not eat, and cope with any other challenges your vegan diet brings. In no less than seventy-nine languages, covering ninety-six per cent of the world's population, what more could you need? There is even a pictorial section to resort to if all else fails. The Vegan Passport is also available as an app from Windows Store, the App Store and Google Play.
7. Give Yourself a Raw Deal?
In case of difficulty finding suitable food options, it should always be possible to go back to basics and eat a raw diet of fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Even if this does not have great appeal, it can be a good strategy for surviving a few days away from the main centres where more vegan options are available. You may even find your travels take you to some places associated with a raw diet. The village of Vilcabamba in Southern Ecuador, for example, is known as the 'Valley of Longevity' due to the high number of centenarians living there. This is credited to the mainly raw diet of the inhabitants and has led to the village becoming something of a magnet for travellers seeking an alternative, and longer, life.
8. Tell the World You're Vegan
Travelling as a vegan can be a great way to spread the message of veganism, so don't be afraid to talk about it or to ask for vegan options. Remember to book a vegan meal if any of your flights have a meal option, and if you want plant milk for your coffee, ask for it! Even if they don't have it, they may remember your request and eventually things will change. If you are staying anywhere with friends or locals that you've contacted through couch-surfing or similar, make sure you tell them in advance that you're vegan and if necessary explain more fully what that means. Speak to staff at hotels and hostels about your vegan lifestyle. They may be able to recommend eateries, or may even do a little research to help you find places to eat and shop.
9. Help People to Help You
Although there are many vegans in South America, and veganism is rapidly increasing, as it is in other parts of the world, it would be wrong to assume that others automatically understand the term vegan. You can't expect to walk into a regular supermarket and restaurant and ask to be shown the vegan options. You may need to explain in more detail exactly what it is you want, by listing the things you don't eat one by one. Make it easier for people by asking for a non-vegan item to be made without the animal products. For example, pizza can easily be made vegan by choosing a vegetarian option and omitting the cheese, and why not ask for some extra herbs, chilli or additional vegetables to make it more delicious. In bakeries, be specific about asking what ingredients bread or pastries contain, rather than just asking if they're vegan. With this strategy, you will probably find you will be better understood. If there is time and you do get chatting to someone, you could drop in the term 'vegan' to help spread the message, but never expect it to be a passport to instantly getting what you need. If you get the opportunity to cook with others, who may not be experienced in vegan cooking, offer them recipes or show them how to make one of your favourite and most impressive vegan dishes. Who knows, you may even change somebody's outlook.
10. Share Your Experience
Why not keep a record of your vegan experiences in South America to share with others? No doubt you will be adding to your list of vegan-friendly establishments throughout the course of your travels. A little time spent sharing what you have found through reviews on sites such as Trip Advisor, or even through magazine articles, is a great way of helping to spread the vegan message and smooth the path for the vegan traveller of the future. 'The Vegan' (the magazine of the Vegan Society - vegansociety.com) welcomes submissions on many topics including travel. You could also take part in Driftwood Magazine's 'Vegan Faces' project (driftwoodmag.com) by submitting photographs and short interviews of any willing vegans you meet en route.
Above all, enjoy your trip in South America – here's our list of vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants to give you a head start.
Casa Felix - Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires Verde - Buenos Aires
Arte Sano - Buenos Aires
Bio - Buenos Aires
Verdellama - Buenos Aires
Kensho - Buenos Aires
011Vegan - Buenos Aires
Konu - Buenos Aires
Lorenza Vegan (Fast Food Vegano) - Buenos Aires
Alma Vegan Resto - Cordoba
Chirimoya Resto Vegano - Salta
Namaste - La Paz
Red Monkey - La Paz
Natur Center - La Paz
Cada Dia - Santa Cruz
Prem - El Arte de Vivir, Sucre
Las Chicas Vegan - Belo Horizonte
Cafe Bonobo - Porto Alegre
Refeitorio Organico - Rio de Janeiro
Vegan Vegan - Rio de Janeiro
Barao Natural - Sao Paulo
Vegacy - Sao Paulo
Anna Prem Restaurante Vegano - Sao Paulo
Planet Maestra (takeaway and shop) - Santiago
Shakti En Chile - Santiago
Vegan Bueras - Santiago
Vegan Bunker - Santiago
Rama - Barranquilla
La Esquina Vegetariana - Bogota
Manantial - Quito
Quinua - Quito
Vegkery (Vegan bakery) - Quito
House of Flavor - Georgetown
Isun - Georgetown
Veggie King - Georgetown
Alma Zen - Asuncion
Be Okay - Asuncion
Pink Cow - Asuncion
La Verde - Lima
El Jardin de Jazmin - Lima
Alma Zen - Lima
Golden Food - Lima
La Casa de Bea - Lima
Rincon Verde - Jose Ignacio
La Papa - Montevideo
Living Food - Montevideo
Vegan Wraps y Licuados - Montevideo
Mercado Verde - Punta del Este
Krishna - Punta del Este
El Gourmet Vegetariano - Caracas
El Gigante Verde - Caracas
Olivo Restaurant Cafeteria - Barquisimento
La Tienda Naturalista - Santa Elena De Uairen