The first big trip I took after being diagnosed with celiac disease was to Vietnam. I had only been gluten-free for a year, and I worried about how I would be able to communicate my dietary needs in a foreign country where I could not speak a word of the language and the writing was completely unrecognizable to me.
I decided that I needed to have a written explanation of my gluten-free diet so that I could just hand it to someone — a miscommunication could lead to one bite of gluten which could ruin a whole day of my (and my husband’s) trip. I had become friendly with one of the employees at the photo-developing place (remember those?) who was of Vietnamese descent, so I asked if he could help me. He was able to have the sentences I had written translated by his relatives and returned a hand-written note to me. I had the sense to laminate that little piece of paper that ended up saving me again and again on my travels.
I was reminded of this story recently because my parents (who are also gluten-free) were getting ready to travel to Japan and I suggested they bring a dining translation card with them. It’s much easier now to communicate gluten intolerance or food allergies in almost any language because of the available online resources. Some you have to purchase, and some are free. Some are already written for you, and some can be customized. You have to find what works for you, but without a doubt, having a dining card with you will ease your mind and, hopefully, keep you safe, whether dining out in your own country or in different one!
Here are some of the travel and dining card resources I have found:
- Triumph Dining Cards – specifically for the gluten-free diner, it includes 10 languages and is tailored to specific cuisines
- SelectWisely – has cards for various dietary restrictions and medical needs, translated into 65 different languages
- Allergy Free Table – has Chef Cards in English for many different food allergies and gluten intolerance
- Gluten-Free Passport – has dining cards and apps for gluten and food allergies
- Allergy Translation – has customizable allergy translation cards
- Celiac Travel – has downloadable gluten-free restaurant cards in many languages
- SafeFARE – has Food Allergy Alert dining card that you can fill in yourself
- Achoo Allergy – has dining cards in English, very specific to top allergens
- Allermates – has Allergy Alert cards in English for specific food allergy
- Just Hungry – has many food restrictions translated into Japanese
- Allergic Traveler – has customizable cards and luggage tags in over 17 languages
- Food Allergy Translate – has cards and a mobile app that translates int0 33 languages