12 Tips For Vegans Traveling Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is the perfect destination for vegan travelers.

The small country is packed with wholesome veggie foods, warm people, exotic wildlife, and natural attractions to suit every kind of adventure.

There is a rare beauty that shines from Sri Lanka which makes it one of the best destinations on earth for vegan travelers.

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1. Most locals aren't familiar with the term 'vegan'

While vegetarianism is wide-spread throughout Sri Lanka, the word 'vegan' will be met with a confused expression.

But it's not a big deal. Sri Lankan food is extremely easy to make vegan, and most meals are naturally vegan anyways.

Sometimes saying "100% vegetarian" means without eggs and cow milk, but most of the time you'll just have to spell it out.

You can also use one of the many vegan travel apps to make life a little easier if you're going off the beaten path.

2. Hidden fish in coconut sambol

This is a real shame and caught us out while in Sri Lanka.

While coconut sambol is served with curries and is common with a typical daal breakfast. It appears and tastes vegan, but it's often (but not always) made with Maldive fish.

There's nothing fishy about coconut sambol, so to ensure it's vegan you'll need to ask.

3. Lots of snacks are vegan-friendly

It's really refreshing to travel in an Asian country with so many quick vegan snack options.

Whether you're on a train, waiting at a bus stop, or you're lost after taking a wrong turn in your tuktuk, there are vegan snacks everywhere.

You can read our Sri Lankan vegan snack guide here.

4. Eating local will almost always be vegan

The best vegan food in Sri Lanka will always be found in the small, dirty, hole-in-the-wall restaurants.

These local places might seem a little intimidating at first, but Sri Lankans are super accommodating to tourists and will make you feel right at home.

Not only will the food taste incredible, but it'll be an experience too.

5. You'll eat enough daal to last a lifetime

Sri Lanka has the best daal in the world.

You can eat daal and roti for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if you want. And, between meals, you can always snack on Dal Vada, which are fried daal fritters.

The levels of thickness and spice and varies from one restaurant to another - but you can almost always be sure daal will be on the menu.

6. Vegan 'hotspots' are starting to pop-up

Some areas of Sri Lanka are catching on to the vegan movement coming in from the west.

Towns like Ella and Dickwella-Hiriketiya have a decent range of western-style vegan food. At places like Verse Collective in Dickwella, you can even get a big vegan burger.

You'll pay higher prices for the western vegan meals, but who doesn't love a good cheat meal?

7. King coconuts are everywhere

If you're a coconut lover, you need to try Sri Lanka's king coconuts.

They have a distinct orange shell and oval shape and they have a different taste to other coconuts. Some people love them, others don't. But if you're in Sri Lanka, you have to try them.

Sometimes locals have cold coconuts, so it's always worth asking.

8. Supermarkets suck for vegans

Generally, supermarkets are small and limited in Sri Lanka.

We spent most of our time in Dickwella, and one local Food City supermarket had no vegan snacks besides fruit and veggies, which are widely available at local shops.

Besides some basics like coffee, we rarely shopped at the supermarket.

9. Watch out for ghee & shrimp paste

Probably the worst thing about being vegan in Sri Lanka is the subtle animal products that are sometimes hidden in meals. The main culprits being ghee and shrimp paste.

What's worse, is it's not always easy to tell if food contains them. While a lot of locals speak decent English, their understanding of veganism is generally limited and ghee might seem acceptable to me.

In any case, it's always a good idea to ask for no ghee or shrimp paste directly.

10. Seek out Hindu communities

Sri Lanka has a vibrant mix of religions.

You'll see about every kind of religious place of worship here and with them multi-cultural communities.

Hindus, (which are primarily Sri Lankan Tamils) make up close to 13% of Sri Lanka's population, meaning there are large Hindu communities. Hindus are vegetarian, so finding these communities will lead to some delicious cultural eats.

Most Hindu communities are based in the northern and eastern regions of the country.

11. Exotic fruit stands are everywhere

Sri Lanka has some of the most delicious tropical fruit you'll ever taste.

There are fruit stands everywhere in Sri Lanka, and it's common to see juice stands connected or nearby, where locals will juice fresh oranges for you.


12. Sri Lankan people are extremely accomodating

Lastly, Sri Lankan people are some of the nicest people on the planet. Most will go far out of their way to ensure you're comfortable and happy.

We had locals invite us into their homes, restaurant owners bend over backward for us, and all without hesitation.

Being vegan in Sri Lanka is not only easy, but it's also extremely delicious and will have you missing their food until the day you return.

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