In this post I will list some general basics and some vegan specific tips for traveling in Thailand.
Ordering (vegan) like a Thai
Speaking just a small amount of Thai could help you out a lot and vendors will mostly be more willing to help you when you try to speak their language. So train that brain!
In Thai, men and women use a different ending at their sentences and sometimes different sentences to say the same. Men use “kgrap/khap” and women “kha/ka” at the end of most sentences. Listen to the Thai people on how to pronounce these words. It can differ per region.
Basic Thai words:
Hello/bye = Sawadee (krap/kha)
Thank you = Khop Khun (krap/kha)
Yes = Chai.
No = Mai
One = Neung. Two = song. Three = sam
Very delicious = Aroy mak (krap/kha)
To acknowledge they understand, the Thai will mostly reply with krap/kha.
> For more basic Thai: get an language-learning app or check online.
Ordering vegan food:
“Pom kin jey kgrap” (sounds like tjay) [Male] / “De chun kin jey kha” [female] = I eat strictly vegetarian / I am strictly vegetarian. Note: just saying that you’re a vegetarian doesn’t mean they leave out fish sauce, shrimp paste, eggs or other things. ‘Jey’ is more like pure vegetarian/vegan so try to speak a bit of Thai :) You can also show the following characters: กินเจ
If you want to ask if they can leave out the fish sauce use: “mai ow nam bplaa” ไม่เอานำ้ปลา, or no oyster sauce: “mai ow nam man hoy” ไม่เอาน้ำมันหอย. They will then most likely just use soy sauce. Ordering without shrimp-paste can be done by: “mai sai kaphi” ไม่ใส่กะปิ.
Is the Thai cuisine vegan-friendly?
Personally I expected to see a lot more vegetarian/vegan food in a mostly Buddhist country. However, Theravada Buddhism does not prohibit or even discourage the eating of meat. Only as a voluntary ascetic practice. Animal flesh and eggs are unfortunately commonly used in many dishes. But don’t get discouraged and read on!
There are still a lot of vegetarian/vegan dishes in Thailand but it could cost you (a bit) more effort to get them on your plate. The huge amounts of meat and fish-options that are in the local cuisine could be frustrating and scaring you off in the beginning but with a couple of tips you could easily stay on this healthy, environmental- and animal friendly path.
Almost all food on the street is made on the spot. If it doesn’t look like they have any food for us vegans, just ask if they can make or have something vegetarian for you (also ask for leaving out the egg). I could even get vegan sushi (although I did made the vendor, and all his colleagues, laugh a bit by asking for it).
If you start communicating, try to talk short and simple: trying to explain your beliefs or all the things you can and cannot eat in detail will mostly cause total confusion.
If you feel like you can’t eat anything on the streets you can always get your sweet and juicy companion: the fruit shake! There are a lot of fruit shakes, mostly made without milk and sold all across the country. So stock up on some tasty vitamins and stay hydrated! If you, like I do, try to lessen your sugar-intake: ask the seller to leave out the (liquid) sugar, that sweet water they add is no exotic coconut water!). Mostly shakes cost around 30 to 60 baht.
You can of course always get some snacks for traveling or just for some late-night munchies. Although you’ll mostly get less food, quality or healthiness for the same price (or higher) as street food. So keep an eye out on that budget!
Snackxamples from convenience stores are; lots of dried seaweed, potato chips, dried tamarind and other fruits and all kinds of nuts.
Soy-milk: there are quite some soy-milks in the stores although be cautious with the soy- and cow milk-mix. Also try the low sugar ones, most drinks are filled with sugar and the low sugar ones are still sweet enough.
In Thailand you’ll pay in baht’s. Get your cash from an ATM on arrival but watch out with the offered conversion by the ATM operators. It could cost you, unnecessarily, a lot more! Just let your own bank do the conversion.
Around €1 = 35 baht , $1 = 32 baht (rates are always changing, please check online)
Where to eat
Here is the post about the restaurants I’ve went to in Bangkok. Rest of Thailand will follow!
And of course check out HappyCow!
Also look for the yellow flags that tells you a place is vegan. Read more about these flags here: Yellow vegan flags
An extensive list of useful websites and more translations can be found on CircleOurEarth: http://circleourearth.com/vegan-travel/vegan-country-guides/thailand/
Enjoy the amazing Thailand with its rich culture, amazingly tasty cuisine and very kind people. I am sure you’ll love it!