Gluten free and travel
- There's no reason that coeliac disease should stop you travelling abroad.
- Forward planning and research will help make your trip enjoyable.
With a little planning, it's possible to manage your gluten free diet while you're away on your adventures and we're here to help.
Make sure you understand where gluten containing products are used in the food where you will be travelling. Our Travel Guides, which are available to our members, give you an overview of the country's cuisine and key phrases to help you check your food.
Planning your trip
- When you book, contact the tour/cruise operator to let them know that you will require gluten free meals
- Some tour operators have a specific department that you need to contact about the provision of gluten free meals in your chosen hotel so do check this with them when making your booking.
- Visit our Venue Guide to search for hotels and bed and breakfasts in the UK that can cater for the gluten free diet. The Guide is made up of member recommended venues and those that have our GF accreditation.
- When travelling independently, research the local food and whether it is suitable for a gluten free diet. Work out what foods you can rely on in an emergency.
- Pack some emergency gluten free snacks in your suitcase – you never know when you may need them.
- We have Travel Guides for over 50 countries, with translations of useful phrases that you may need while you’re out and about.
- Each one also has information about the local cuisine, labelling laws and contact details for local coeliac societies.
- The local organisation in the country can sometimes provide lists of hotels/restaurants and shops which supply gluten free foods, as well as their gluten free food list.
- Arrange travel insurance and inform the company that you have coeliac disease. Many insurers do not charge extra for covering someone with coeliac disease.
- Shop around if you are unhappy with the quote.
- As insurance policy cover can vary from company to company, you should always check the full details of your travel insurance policy carefully.
- In EU countries, take the EU Health Insurance card as well as arranging normal travel cover. If your EU Health Insurance card is now out of date, you will need to apply to Global Health Insurance card to replace it - you can do so here.
- Ask for gluten free meals at the time of booking
- Double check these arrangements before you leave and make yourself known to staff when you arrive.
- Gluten free choices can be limited at some airports, train stations, motorway service stations and on ferries, so plan ahead and prepare food or take snacks for the journey.
- Always make sure you have emergency snacks in case of delays or cancellations.
Taking food abroad
- Check with your airline or tour operator whether sealed packs of gluten free products can be brought into the country you are visiting. They can sometimes also give you additional baggage allowance if you request it. Some countries are extremely strict on what plant based products you can bring in so it's best to check in advance.
- If you require further reassurance, your GP can provide you with a letter explaining coeliac disease and why you need these products.
- Take some supplies to keep you going while you get to know what is available locally.
- Don’t forget to use our Gluten Free Food Checker app or Food and Drink Guide when staying in the UK, but remember that the information doesn’t apply overseas.
- Gluten free products are increasingly available in Europe and other Western countries, but can be difficult to source elsewhere.
- Bread and pasta are frequently found in large branches of supermarkets and health food shops, as well as some pharmacies, often located under the Diet section.
- Sometimes it is possible to order online in advance and have the goods delivered to your hotel or villa.
Hotels and restaurants
- Book your accommodation and restaurants in advance, requesting gluten free meals at the same time.
- Speak to the chef or front of house staff when you arrive to confirm that gluten free meals have been arranged.
- Follow your instincts if you are unsure whether a dish is safe and speak to the chef again.
- Although Western style buffets are increasingly found all over the world, ensure that the gluten free options are safe and not contaminated (for example, check for separate serving spoons).
- Use the translations in our Travel Guides to ensure that you have been fully understood.
- If using recommendations from the local coeliac organisation, check that the information is still current and the chef has not moved on.
Food labelling abroad
- All packaged foods in the EU are covered by the same food labelling legislation as in the UK. Manufacturers must list all deliberate ingredients in the ingredients list, regardless of the amount used. Manufacturers must emphasise the particular grain, for example, wheat, rye, barley or oats.
- Specific information for each country is given where possible on the individual Travel Guides.
Enjoying your holiday or trip away need not be a stressful experience, prepare thoroughly and use Coeliac UK’s resources to help you have a memorable time.