We have five words for vegetarian travelers in the Basque region of Spain: "Ba al duzue barazkijaleentzako platerik?"
That would be Euskara for "Do you have any vegetarian dishes?"
It's one of many critical phrases -- translated into almost 70 languages, from Magyar to Nepali -- on the International Vegetarian Union's website (www.ivu.org). Founded in 1908, the IVU is now one of many organizations with websites designed to assist non-meat eaters who don't want dietary restrictions to limit their travel options.
The best, in our humble opinion, is Happy Cow (www.happycow.net), a database of more than 3,500 vegetarian restaurants and health food stores throughout the world. You'll learn here that Bilbao actually has eight 100% meat-free dining establishments. The beef-mecca of Buenos Aires has four, and Happy Cow mentions additional places in three other Argentinean cities as well. North American listings are the most extensive, numbering almost 2,000, but every continent save South America, Africa, and Antarctica shows hundreds of places. For the less orthodox, Happy Cow lists vegetarian-friendly restaurants as well.
For $14.95, Vegdining.com (www.vegdining.com) sells an international discount card, good for 10% off in more than 100 vegetarian restaurants in the U.S., Canada, England, Ireland, Scotland, and Australia. Vegdining also publishes an international roster of meat-free places to eat. Far less extensive than Happy Cow, the database is best for heavily traveled cities in Europe and North America, and it lists only venues that are exclusively vegetarian.
Vegetarian Vacations (www.vegetarian-vacations.com/veggie-friendly.html) posts a variety of tour operators that offer strictly meatless getaways, as well as trips that meet the needs of vegetarians with meat-eating travel partners. Vegi Ventures (www.vegiventures.com), for example, specializes in trips to the U.K., Turkey, Peru, and Africa. Another, called Bicycle Beano Tours (www.bicycle-beano.co.uk), runs "veggie cycling holidays" through Wales and England. See the Vegetarian Vacations website for a full listing.
Maryland-based Green Earth Travel (tel. 888/246-8343; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; http://content.onlineagency.com/c/4/4263/553789_4263.htm) provides the broadest array of options. Owner Donna Zeigfinger books escorted and independent tours, as well as hotels, cars, and airline tickets, for vegan and vegetarian clients. Her preference is for avowedly vegetarian hotels, spas, B&Bs, and tour operators, but she'll make special dietary arrangements on trips run by standard tour companies as well. She also provides clients with lists of vegetarian restaurants in their destination cities.
Veg Voyages (tel. 888/834-9297; www.vegvoyages.com) leads two guided tours, with meat-free meals included, through the vegetarian paradise of India. The Desert Kingdoms of Rajputana tour takes travelers on a 14-night, 14-city loop for $975, not including airfare. The tour begins and ends in Delhi, passing through Bikaner in the north, Jaisalamer in the west, Udaipur in the south, and Agra in the east. The package price includes 14 nights' accommodations, daily breakfast and lunch, 11 dinners, admission fees, and all transport within India -- via rickshaw, Jeep, and boat, as well as more conventional vehicles.
Veg Voyages' Buddhas, Beasts, Badlands, and Beaches tour takes you on a 23-day tour of 17 cities in Rajputana and Gujarat for $1,495, without airfare. This trip also begins and ends in Delhi. The price includes 21 nights accommodations, daily breakfast, 20 lunches, 18 dinners, admission fees, and all Indian transport, including a sleeper train. If you don't eat meat because of your love of animals, the highlight of this trip will be the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary. Just hope the lions reciprocate your consideration!
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