Five Great Destinations for Gluten-Free Travelers4 min read
When you’re gluten-free, traveling internationally can be a challenge. Not all countries have the same level of awareness about celiac disease and gluten sensitivities, or education about what gluten-free really means. Plus, language barriers can make it harder to communicate your needs to servers at restaurants or read ingredient lists in grocery stores.
There are ways to visit places where gluten-free options are less widespread. You could stay somewhere with a kitchen and primarily cook for yourself, or find a city with a restaurant that is explicitly gluten-free and stick to that one option. You can download and print travel cards that explain your gluten intolerance in other languages or get the Gluten-Free Card app if you don’t want to carry a piece of paper.
None of these tactics are completely foolproof, though, and the last thing you want when you’re on vacation is to be sick from accidental gluten consumption. If you are looking to play it safe and visit a country where you can eat local cuisine with your travel group, we have a list for you. Just remember that this list is not exhaustive and your experience of a country will depend on which regions you visit.
We know what you’re thinking—how could Italy, the land of pasta and pizza dough—make the list? The answer is culture and awareness. The Italian government and Celiac Association have thoroughly educated the public on gluten intolerance. Because dining is so central to Italian culture and so many of their meals are gluten-based, restaurants, schools and hospitals have prioritized making sure those who are gluten-free have a chance to dine with friends and loved ones.
Nearly 4,000 restaurants in Italy have been recognized by the Italian Celiac Association as having gluten-free options. To achieve that recognition, restaurants must prepare their gluten-free menu in separate areas to avoid cross-contamination. You can download the Italian Celiac Association app or look online to find vetted gluten-free restaurant lists.
According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, Australia and New Zealand have the strongest labeling laws in the world. Foods labeled “gluten-free” not only have no detectable gluten—but also are not allowed to contain oats or malt. If you shop for food in New Zealand and read labels closely, you’ll be safe.
For restaurants with gluten-free menus, stick to cities like Queenstown, Wellington and Wanaka.
Ireland is a country where awareness of gluten intolerance is widespread—not just in the cities. Of course, Dublin is a hub where gluten-free restaurants and establishments with gluten-free menus abound, and it’s easy to find lists online of the best places to eat.
In the countryside, look for gluten-free options in hotel restaurants. Tourism is a major industry in Ireland, and hotels are accustomed to accommodating a wide range of needs. Check out Gluten-Free Ireland to find lists of snack brands, restaurants and even hotels that offer options.
It can be more challenging to find gluten-free options outside English-speaking countries and the EU, where awareness is not as wide and labeling practices vary. In these countries, gluten-free dining often comes down to eating natural, unprocessed food, knowing what to order and avoiding cuisine that may include gluten.
For this type of travel, Ghana is a great option. Many staples of the West African diet are naturally gluten-free. It’s a region where rice with starches like cassava, yams and plantains are plentiful, and where the grain fonio comes from. Look for dishes like fufu and peanut stew. If questions about gluten are met with confusion, ask if there is bouillon in a dish—that’s a common hidden flavoring ingredient to look out for.
Though there are many languages and dialects spoken in the country, English is the official language, which can help when trying to communicate your dietary needs.
You can easily find long lists of gluten-free restaurants and options in Argentina’s cosmopolitan capital Buenos Aires. Ordering outside of the capital comes down to picking the right dishes. Asado, the Argentinian barbeque, is typically gluten-free. Argentinian cuisine is meat-heavy, so if you eat meat, you should find many options. Remember to carry your gluten-free card of choice to share with servers and hosts.
If you’re nervous about dining out, know that there is also extra protection for grocery shopping in this country. Look for the logo that reads “Sin T.A.C.C.,” a logo established by the Argentinian government’s National Program of Food Controls.