Having been fully vegan for just one year this was my first time backpacking as a vegan. Lots of people had asked me how I would manage out here in a country that predominantly eats a lot of meat but I assured them I would be fine and I’d manage. Despite being vegan, when I’m eating out and food is out of my control (to some extent) I am not a fussy eater. As long as I have food in my tummy I am happy. “If I have to live of rice and beans for the whole trip I’ll be fine”, I said. Funnily enough, in my two weeks in Ecuador I ate rice and beans on just one occasion. Eating “vegeteriano estricto” (that’s strict vegetarian to you and I, the word Vegan simply doesn’t exist in Ecuador, funnily enough) is challenging. With a group it is more of a challenge as you don’t want to be the odd one out eating alone so you have to comprise and eat with the group, hoping that the restaurant you go to can offer you some food on your plate. Avoiding this situation can be done of course and you can buy food from the supermarkets and markets, or hunt down a local veggie restaurant (I’ll come to that later), but this isn’t something I wanted to do 100% of the time.
Buying food here is easy peasy, there’s supermarkets in most places and there are a ton of stalls and markets selling fruit and veg – just be sure to buy them with skins on to avoid consuming contaminated water. I bought a tuppawear container, a knife, fork and spoon, all from the supermarket so that I could prepare fruits and vegetables on the go. Hotels don’t offer kitchens so you have to just be creative, wraps are also a good idea, and most hotels offer buffet breakfast if you can afford that. $5-7 for all you eat and stock up on: toast, spreads, water, coffee, tea, fruits and juices etc.
Veggie restaurants ARE a thing here but there are very few and check if they are open. In my experience a lot have been closed on arrival and with so few you may have to walk a while, therefore it is sometimes easier going to a regular restaurant and finding an option for yourself. Vegeteriano Pizza with “sin queso” (no cheese) is always a safe option. Most places can offer you a vegetable dish and there’s so much avocado in this place that you can live entirely off avocado if worse comes to worse (but it won’t I promise). Also what I found good is ordering a large salad and a side of rice so you can get some good energy in.
My time in Ecuador was short and I’m currently in Peru which offers a much greater choice of vegan options. When my trip here in Peru is over I will give you some more tips and advice on travelling as a vegan here, but for now this is my experience of Ecuador. If you ever visit, have a great time, eat well and stock up on them good carbs whenever you can. Travel is about the adventure, the sights, the freedom, exploration and company. Dining out is also a great part of your trip and experiencing local foods is a part of that, so don’t avoid these situations. Travel is a once in a lifetime experience, enjoy as much as you can and don’t let food get in the way of your great adventure. Eat well, buy local fruits and have the best time.