written by Evan Ceretti May 12, 2018 for Intrepid

India has long been known as one of the best countries in the world for foodies, as well as a dream destination for vegetarians. Its cuisine is also known for being heavy in dairy products – paneer dishes, lassis, milk-based ghee-laden curries, curd, and the list goes on.

However, just like it’s easy to find meatless dishes, it’s also easy to find completely vegan dishes. In fact, many meals are simply referred to as being vegetarian, while they are actually 100% vegan and uncompromisingly delicious. Veganizing many non-vegan dishes in India is often as simple as “kickin’” the dairy, if the chef or restaurant has no qualms with that. And though ghee is widely used in Indian cooking, oils – such as mustard and coconut – are also ubiquitous and are an easy vegan replacement.

If you’ve had the luxury of tasting authentic Indian vegan food, that in itself is probably enough to make you book a ticket to this incredible country, however, if you need a few more reasons why India is great for vegan foodies, we’ve got you covered:

Vegan food in India is wonderfully diverse

Approximately 30% of Indians follow a vegetarian diet. And food is deeply respected within Indian culture, which becomes apparent the moment you step foot off the plane. The entire country is full of culinary adventures and gastronomic journeys. One of my favourite things about India is following your nose and navigating the maze-like streets in order to find out what your next snack may be.

The craft of cooking particular Indian dishes has been practiced and perfected over centuries, resulting in crowd-pleasing, richly-spiced, magically-aromatic dishes that will take your taste buds on a wild ride – one that you’ll want to experience over and over and over again.

The bang for your buck is the best in the world

India is one of the cheapest places to travel to in the world. You can eat the most amazing and intricate dishes around for less than ZAR15, particularly on the street. In restaurants, you can order an exquisitely-delectable thali – a platter of different Indian dishes, ranging from as few as six to as many as 20 – for ZAR50 or even less. In some cases thalis are refillable at no extra cost. I often ate until I could eat no more – it’s just so good!  It’s so cheap that sometimes it’s difficult to spend a lot of money, even when you’re trying. One of the best things about vegan food in India is that it’s even cheaper than vegetarian food (and veggie dishes are already cheaper than meat dishes!). Think about all that money you’re saving and you’ll be one happy vegan. Now, go buy yourself an extra samoosa.

It’s safer than non-vegan food

Digging into mouth-watering street food is part of the fun while in India, and it’s an experience not to be missed. However, it’s important to be cautious when eating it. Be sure the food is thoroughly cooked, and that it hasn’t been sitting out for a long time. Avoid fresh produce, drinks that may use polluted water, any food items that may have been prepared unhygienic, and do not drink tap water. Stick to vendors that have line-ups of people waiting for the food.  Though there are ways of trying to prevent illness in India, there are no methods that are foolproof. However, not consuming meat and dairy is a great start, as animal products are often the culprit of illness in India. By avoiding dairy that may have been left out sitting in the heat, you’ll have a much better chance of avoiding Delhi Belly.