Traveling is an opportunity to sample flavors from all over the world. Aside from being fun and delicious, experiencing new foods is one of the best aspects of travel. But while many people can eat any food or drink item they choose, some travelers do not have that luxury. For those who follow a gluten-free diet, traveling can add another layer of stress and worry.
When you have a gluten intolerance, wheat allergy, celiac disease, or follow a gluten-free diet for other health reasons, finding gluten-free choices may be challenging. The number of snacks or other gluten-free products in grocery stores can vary. Language barriers create the fear of important information getting “lost in translation.” Cross-contamination is always on the minds of those extremely sensitive to even trace amounts of gluten.
With the overwhelming need for gluten-free food, a noticeable increase in availability of products, menus, bakeries, and dedicated facilities has appeared abroad. I spent six months backpacking around the world with celiac disease last year and did so successfully. There are gluten-free options everywhere! If you are concerned about where you can vacation and eat safely, check out these five travel destinations for gluten-free eaters.
Ireland has a high concentration of citizens with celiac disease—approximately 1 in 100 people. Since the gluten-free diet is so common among the Irish population, the presence and availability of safe foods is incredible. It’s one of the best destinations to visit if you follow a gluten-free diet.
Locating gluten-free products will be extremely easy. Grocery stores have entire aisles dedicated to gluten-free and allergen-friendly products, and the quality is top notch. The package of gluten-free rolls I sampled in Ireland tasted so good and so much like the real thing, I had to double check the label!
The Irish understand that eating gluten-free isn’t a choice for a large number of people, and they take great care when preparing foods. In addition to savory stews, fresh fish, wonderful dairy products, and hard cider, you can find a variety of safe dishes, including international cuisines, in Ireland. There’s a huge push for farm-to-table quality meals, and Ireland’s culinary scene is fantastic.
You’ll find gluten-free menus in Ireland truly mean gluten-free and safe from cross-contamination. Some pubs serve special stews with celiac gravy, and many restaurants have gluten-free rolls. Try Milano Restaurants for pizza, Murphy’s for ice cream, and Lidl or Spar for groceries.
While the overwhelming presence of bread in the Italian diet may be cause for alarm, fear not! Italy, like Ireland, has a large percentage of citizens with celiac disease. The Italians have adjusted accordingly and now offer some of the most scrumptious gluten-free foods around the world! You can enjoy gnocchi, pasta, pesto, pizza, gelato, and fresh Italian bread in Italy, just like everyone else.
Dedicated gluten-free facilities can be found in all major cities, and the Italian government provides celiac patients with vouchers to buy gluten-free food on a monthly basis. The Italian Celiac Association has an extensive list of safe restaurants with great gluten-free options. Options abound in Rome, Milan, and Venice, with dedicated gluten-free gelato shops, pasta making classes, and extensive gluten-free menus.
Try Grom Gelato for the safest and most delicious Italian treat. This 100% dedicated gluten-free facility has locations all over the world. If you are visiting the Vatican, eat at La Soffitta Renovatio for calzones and pizza that will knock your socks off!
Argentina is made up of millions of people who immigrated from Europe, thus making the presence of celiac disease more common than other countries in South America. The lively culture combined with the presence of gluten-free food makes Argentina another wise vacation spot. Like Ireland, 1 in 100 Argentine citizens has celiac disease.
The Argentine diet focuses on a lot of grilled meat, usually found at una parrilla (“a grill”) as well as vegetables and potatoes. The government is cognizant of the need for proper food labeling, and any product that is gluten-free will have the label “sin T.A.C.C,” which stands for “sin trigo, avena, cebada, y centeno”—without wheat, oatmeal, barley, and rye.
Dedicated gluten-free facilities abound in the capital of Buenos Aires. Visit Sintaxis and GOUT Gluten-Free for a milanesa sandwich or a medialuna pastry. Gullón is an Argentine cookie company with lots of gluten-free varieties—check Coto supermarkets for these gluten-free treats. Even as far south as Patagonia, gluten-free options won’t be difficult to find, making Argentina a great choice for gluten-free travelers.
New Zealand’s wild landscape is a perfect destination for hikers and nature lovers. As a society, they pay close attention to food allergies and dietary restrictions. New Zealand is another country with a large influx of European immigrants, making gluten-free food in higher demand.
Food in New Zealand can be expensive, but not if you cook your own meals. There is a wide array of gluten-free products available in New Zealand grocery stores, including items such as Kellogg’s Corn Flakes—gluten-free! Normally, these corn flakes contain malt, which comes from barley and is not a gluten-free grain, but they are processed differently in Australia and New Zealand.
Fresh and local produce, meats, and cheeses, as well as organic grocery stores and shops, make this a great place to prepare your own meals. If you choose to splurge and go out to eat, have no fear. The New Zealand Celiac Association has listings of safe restaurants, and the New Zealand community is very careful with food allergies. The servers and staff were all extremely well-informed in every restaurant we visited.
For the best burger and fries, check out Fergburger in Queenstown on the South Island. They have gluten-free buns, dedicated fryers, and delicious aioli sauce.
Bali is a tropical escape for many yogis, vegetarians, travelers, and backpackers. It’s eco-friendly and strives to be a health-conscious retreat with cafes, spas, and wellness classes. It’s one of the most popular islands in Indonesia.
Bali’s economy thrives on tourism and hospitality. The Balinese people go out of their way to make you feel welcomed and everyone is incredibly kind. A visit to Bali is a must for many travelers, gluten-free diners included.
In this lush paradise, there are multiple dedicated gluten-free facilities, as well as tropical fruit, fresh juices, smoothie bowls, and healthy dishes. Head to the town of Ubud for the best options in gluten-free facilities and gluten-free menus. Visit Fussy Bird or Gluten-Free Kitchen for tasty meals that are not only safe but also delicious.
Having a limited diet doesn’t mean you can’t travel. It’s all about rethinking what is possible! Don’t let a gluten-free diet prevent you from exploring—give these five spots a try.
Jennifer Fitzpatrick is a gluten-free travel writer based in Boston, MA. She spent six months traveling around the world with celiac disease last year. Jennifer enjoys hiking with her husband Dylan, speaking Spanish, and cooking. Follow her adventures on Instagram and visit her website for travel guides, gluten-free recipes, hiking trails, and more!
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