Travel is the one thing we love as much as salad. Sometimes these two go hand-in-hand, especially in regions with good growing weather and flourishing agricultural practices like Southern Europe, Southeast Asia, or the west coast of the United States. However, there are definitely some places we’ve traveled where salad doesn’t make it to the table very often. In places like Central Europe and South America, where meals tend to be based on starch and meat, salads exist but are not revered. It can be hard out there for a salad lover, and to eat great salads while traveling a challenge.

During our travels, we’ve had to hunt. We’ve had to improvise. We’ve had to go without. Here’s some tips so you don’t have to.

How to eat great salads while traveling: Follow the vegetarians

In the center of Košice, in the east of the meat-and-potatoes-centric country of Slovakia, there’s a quaint little restaurant called Góvinda. Its owners are followers of Krishna and its buffet-by-the-kilo is stocked with meatless curries and casseroles—and Košice’s most interesting selection of salads.

Basic common sense: if you want a delicious raw-vegetable-based meal (aka salad), go where the vegetable eaters are.

Vegetarianism is more more widespread these days than it used to be and most major cities have a ton of vegetarian restaurants where you are almost guaranteed to find filling, fresh, and tasty salads.

Eat great salads while traveling

Salad in Platis Gialos, Mykonos, Greece.

Happy Cow, an information hub for vegetarians, has a restaurant search tool on their website and app where you can look for vegetarian and vegetarian-friendly restaurants. Sites like TripAdvisor have vegetarian or vegan filters that can help you narrow your search results to show veggie-only spots or those with a decent vegetarian menu.

Oh, and while you don’t have to be a follower of Krishna to eat at Góvinda, leave your bad vibes at home.

How to eat great salads while traveling: Get yourself a kitchen

Youth hostels are not just for youths (or youts if you’re Vinny Gambini).  We love hostels because they are cheap relative to hotels, they’re full of interesting travelers who love the communal atmosphere, and they have kitchens. Kitchens usually stocked with everything you need to make salad, including occasional freebees like vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper, and almost-but-not-quite-expired feta cheese left by long-departed guests. Sharing your extra salad with broke backpackers is a sure way to make friends and connect with people. Salad, after all, is an act of peace.

Hostels not your style? Renting a house or an apartment is another way of exploring a new city or town, getting away from the touristy areas, and having a nice, clean kitchen of your own to make salad whenever you damn well please.

We once rented an apartment in Athens, Greece, in a quiet but convenient part of town, just steps from a fantastic supermarket. We made our own Greek salads for 1/4 of the restaurant price, from the freshest ingredients, and enjoyed them on our balcony overlooking the Athenian rooftops.

Eat great salads while traveling

How to eat great salads while traveling: Visit a farmers market

If you think farmers markets are for the 30-something, hipster-liberal-elite you have never been to markets such as Mercado Central in Arequipa, Peru. At this sprawling covered market you can find small stacked pyramids of fresh vegetables and fruit, bins of spices and fresh fruit, and fresh squeezed juice stands. There are even stalls where you can sit down in the midst of it all and eat an excellent lunch. While you’ll definitely encounter a few wide-eyed tourists, there’s nothing pretentious or yuppie about Mercado Central. It’s a place where local people go to buy their food, and it’s a great place to learn about local cuisine and dream up the salad possibilities.

Eat great salads while traveling

Mercado Central, Arequipa, Peru.

Outside of the USA, you’re less likely to find artisan soaps and small-batch kombucha at farmer’s markets. In fact, some only sell fruits and vegetables and only produce that’s in season.

A simple chopped salad is an easy way to savor the local produce and can easily be prepared back at your hostel or kitchen. Pick up a few cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes, peppers, corn, green beans  or any other vegetable that strikes your fancy. Chop everything into small pieces and add some lemon juice, herbs, and if available olives or marinated peppers or artichoke hearts. Mix together. Munch away on the freshest meal you’ll likely have on your entire trip.

How to eat great salads while traveling: Only resort to chains if you have to

We agree that unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks lunch combos for $6.99 are enticing, especially for budget travelers who just need to get some food in their travel-weary bodies. A certain pizza chain’s pizza and salad bar special has saved us a few times and even inspired a salad recipe.

But except in times of hangry desperation, avoid chain restaurants to satisfy your salad fix while traveling.


The salads at large chain and fast-food restaurants tend to not be very healthy, very interesting, or very tasty. Most of us travel to experience something new and different, not more of the same. Get out of your comfort food zone and explore what independent restaurants and cafes have to offer. You’re likely to have a tastier and healthier experience.

Think about where chain restaurants get their ingredients. Because they are more concerned with cost than quality, restaurants owned by large corporations are less likely to use fresh, local ingredients. Interestingly, the cost savings of buying ingredients in bulk doesn’t always trickle down to the customer as many chain restaurants like Applebee’s, Chili’s, and Cheesecake Factory still sell entree salads for $10–$15. You’re likely to find salads for the same price at a local, independently-owned cafe or bistro that uses fresher, more local produce and has more diverse and interesting options.

How to eat great salads while traveling: Don’t worry, eat happy

Sure, in a perfect world we could travel and eat our salad too 100 percent of the time. For a number of reasons, that may not be possible.

You may be visiting a country where it’s not advised to drink the local water. If this is the case, eating a salad from a restaurant where they wash the produce in tap water could lead to your spending your trip hugging porcelain. As much as we love salad, and as many salads as we’ve eaten around the world, we don’t recommend taking the risk. Or, especially if you’re eating mostly at restaurants, you might find the salads really expensive and not very good.

It’s okay. You don’t always have to eat salad. Yes, you read that correctly. Enjoy your trip, try to eat a piece of fruit for balance, and enjoy the local cuisine and culture. There’s always time for salad when you get home.

Our next trip will be The Big Island of Hawaii where we imagine salad is easy to come by given the climate and plethora of farms.

How do you travel and eat your salad too?

13 Responses

  1. Erin @ Platings and Pairings

    We are headed to the Big Island this weekend – Can’t wait to try some of these tips for enjoying great, healthy food on the go – I’m definitely looking forward to all the fresh produce and poke!

  2. Create/Enjoy

    Good tips! We love making our own salads when on road trips and bring a bunch of stuff with us in a cooler. I agree, chain restaurants and most salad bars are not the greatest, but at least you can control what’s in them!

    • Lindsay

      I love this idea – I find grain and bean salads are great for road trips and camping.

    • Lindsay

      Why yes! Roughly 1/3 of Indians are vegetarians. Chana masala and vegetable korma are some of my faves. 😀

  3. Erin

    I am always trying to balance outrageous gluttony with some healthy eating while traveling, so this is a great resource. Plus as a vegetarian, I’m going to definitely check out Happy Cow. I’ve never heard of that before, thanks for sharing!

  4. Pech

    Happy Cow was a great resource for us traveling in Japan, though I’m countries that I can’t trust the water I always go for cooked vegetables and no salad unless I’m at a nice hotel – I’d pick that over a chain restaurant

  5. Jen

    “In fact, some only sell fruits and vegetables and only produce that’s in season.” THE HORROR.

    Kidding – pure farmstands are the best. Our favorite farmer’s markets were in Central Europe. Seemed like there was one on every corner, staffed by a friendly local who was always willing to give a sample and then chat with you for five minutes despite your mimes that you didn’t speak the language. Good memories.

    Enjoy lots of avocadoes and palmelos on the Big Island! Great salad additions. 🙂


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