Thursday, July 2, 2015

Tips for Traveling to Thailand with Celiac Disease

One of my best friends and I decided a few years ago that  one year we’d travel for both of our birthdays.  Sounds quite ambitious I know, but with enough planning and airline miles we made it work! My birthday in September was spent in Italy (posts coming soon) and her birthday in February was in Thailand.   

Thailand is a great gluten-friendly destination as most of their culture revolves around rice, not wheat. That being said, the vast majority of Thais will not understand what gluten is, so I did a TON of research before our trip.  I’m happy to report that I never once got glutened during our 11 day trip and hope that my tips and research will help you as well!

Tips for Traveling to Thailand with Celiac Disease:

1.  Use the hotel reservation comment box to your advantage.
Make sure to alert your hotel before check in of your special diet.  I was surprised to find that my hotels went out of their way to make sure they had gluten free bread ready for me at breakfast.  They also graciously walked me through the breakfast buffet and explained what was safe to eat.  I’ve found that this is the case with most hotels as long as you give them enough of a heads-up.

            2. restaurants beforehand and store their locations.  
Callie downloaded an app called CityMaps2Go and it was a real life saver.  It’s a map that allows you to store points of interest (attractions, your hotel, restaurants, etc.) but doesn’t run on WiFi – so no international roaming charges!  I highly recommend storing restaurants with gluten free selections in this app before leaving.

3. Pack plenty of snacks.
I packed about 3 meal bars for each day we were over there along with a package of rice cakes, a jar of peanut butter and a box of crackers.  Make sure to take a good amount of snacks on the plane as well.  While most of the long-haul flights offer gluten free meals, many of the shorter routes do not.

4.  Bring your translation cards.
These are absolutely essential! I took these everywhere I went and everyone I presented them too was really receptive.  I’d suggest bringing two copies just in case one gets lost or messy (I had one chef assume it was his to keep and threw it in the trash).

5. Ask your hotel concierge to write a simple allergy card.
This may seem redundant if you have your translation cards, but I found this was a much faster and more relatable tactic to use when on the go.  I had my hotel concierge write out  "No Soy Sauce. No Wheat. No Oyster Sauce.”
Quick allergy card my hotel wrote for me

6.   Have an idea of safe food options.
Plain rice, bamboo sticky rice and banana leaf rice were all my favorite go-to snacks while in Thailand and most could be purchased absolutely anywhere.  I’ve also developed an extensive translation card where I’ve noted what should be okay and what shouldn’t be okay.  (More about that in a later post)

7.    If the sauce is dark and you’re in doubt, go without.
While Thailand’s sauce of choice is fish sauce, not soy sauce, a few varieties of fish sauce actually do contain wheat.  The same goes for plum sauce and oyster sauce as well.  So, if you’re served a dark sauce and the restaurant cannot verify that it is wheat-free, go without.  [See post about safe foods for a list of gluten-free fish sauce brands]

Bangkok's Grand Palace

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