The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

Traveling Ireland as a Vegan

Posted on October 10, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor

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By Alicia Hückmann, intern visiting from Germany

When I decided to move to Dublin for two months for an internship, I had no idea what to expect in regard to food. Although I had already been to Ireland a few years before, it was my first trip to this country as a vegan. The only thing I remembered from going shopping back then was how exorbitant the prices for groceries were (in comparison to German standards) – so at least I was prepared to spend a fortune on food. Upon my arrival, I soon had to find out that Ireland is anything but a vegan nation. Not very surprising considering the fact that their farms come frighteningly close to these romanticized illustrations of picture perfect farms, grinning cows on milk cartons or packaged meat on first sight. I can actually understand why some people wouldn’t immediately think of animal cruelty when seeing herds of outdoor sheep and cows grazing on the idyllic meadows of Eire. Then again, I never noticed any pigs, male baby chicks or calves jumping around happily, so I came to the conclusion that being vegan in Ireland was still a very good idea.

While vegan labels and meat alternatives were a rarity in many of the common grocery stores I went shopping at (I remember going to Tesco, Aldi, Lidl, Gala, and SPAR on a regular basis), products directed at lactose intolerant people are much more common – even the smallest supermarkets had at least one type of plant milk! This and porridge basically saved my breakfast. Porridge (like oatmeal) does not require much time and effort and can be prepared on a stove or in a microwave within a few minutes. I usually added some fruits, berries, and cinnamon for a richer flavor.

As my workplace’s cafeteria only offered non-vegan options, I had to bring my own lunch box. This mostly consisted of some bread, hummus, vegetable sticks, and fruit. At home (I lived in a place that had a fully equipped kitchen), my meals usually contained frozen vegetables, rice, beans, noodles, or lentils. These were not only some of the products available most easily but also some of the cheapest. In return, I treated myself to Dublin’s relatively pricey vegan options at restaurants (like a bar that offered vegan pizza – turned out to be a regular veggie pizza just without the cheese).

Depending on how you choose to travel Ireland, cooking your own meals can be really simple. Hostels are probably the most convenient type of accommodation for young adults and much, much more common all across Europe than they are in the USA. As a low-budged traveler, hostel dorms are your best friends – I booked in advance and managed to get a bed in Galway, Belfast, and Cork for €10-15 per night in a room that I shared with 5-9 other people. Be warned, however – the less you pay, the more likely you will be to require high-quality earplugs at night! The truly great thing about hostels (for vegans in particular) is that they usually have a fully equipped kitchen or at least basic kitchen tools that you can use for free. You’ll never have to worry about finding a suitable place to dine out and quite frankly, hostel kitchens are one of the best places to find new friends! In my experience, the smaller a hostel is the cleaner its facilities are but I would always check reviews on websites like hostelworld, just to be sure.

While some hostels don’t have an age limit, others won’t accept people older than 35. In that case (or if you are simply not a fan of these places), you will have to find a different kind of accommodation. Airbnb is a popular alternative and definitely a great solution if you are planning on staying somewhere on the countryside.

The biggest mistake I made when going out to eat was not joining Dublin’s vegan Facebook group much earlier. Many of its members are not only long-term vegans but have been living in Ireland for most of or all their lives. They are absolute experts when it comes to helpful insiders’ tips for vegan tourists. Here, I also learned about a vegetarian restaurant called Cornucopia, which quickly became one of my favorite places in the country (http://www.cornucopia.ie/)

If you plan on going to Belfast, by the way, I promise you will cry sweet tears of vegan happiness. Like the rest of the United Kingdom, this city is a lot more vegan-friendly than the Republic of Ireland in my opinion. In fact, one of the first posters I came across in Belfast advertised a vegan festival! Besides, I also found a lot more plant-based products in regular supermarkets.

All in all, Ireland is a beautiful country that is definitely worth the visit if you are ready to make a few compromises. And since Guinness has recently switched to a vegan recipe, you can always just drown your frustration in some good, bitter Irish beer if you have to.

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