Gluten Free Travel: Eat Safely As a Celiac, Anywhere in the World

I have celiac disease and was diagnosed in early 2000s, before awareness was as high as it is now. Knowledge of the disease is understandably low in many developing countries, but myths also abound in the west. As of a May 2023 literature update, the estimated global prevalence of celiac disease is 1.4%, with some regions higher than others.

I traveled the world for a decade with celiac disease, and while I am thrilled that there are more resources out there than when I set out in 2008, they are not always suitable for celiacs. I hope this page, with my long (free!) country and city guides, and the gluten free translation cards, help celiacs feel more confident eating out and finding gluten free food—whether at home or abroad.


Digital gluten free translation cards and celiac travel guides

When I embarked on my travels in 2008, I realized that needing to be strictly gluten free was an added stressor over and above the worries that crop up on the road. A friend and I started this blog around that time, but I rarely wrote about travel with celiac disease. (We were both lawyers, thus the name Legal Nomads!)

She went back to being a lawyer, which was what I had planned all along too. But I deviated from what we’d said we’d do, and kept this alternative career: roaming indefinitely as a digital nomad as my website and freelance writing took off. I traveled with gluten free restaurant cards that I found and purchased or downloaded online.

The problem is, I still got sick when I used them.

So in 2016, after hearing from others with celiac disease who struggled to eat safely on the road, I decided to build my own detailed cards. My plan was for my cards to be longer and more detailed, with special mention of cross-contact and cross-contamination, two issues that got me ‘glutened’ around the globe.

I started with Japan, and built a very long guide to accompany the card. Initially, the cards were donation-only, but no one donated. Since I was paying for translations, and working many hours on the free guides that went with the cards, I decided to start charging for them.

As of 2024, I am offering 16 languages with several others (Croatian, Swedish, Bahasa Indonesia, etc.) in the works for this year.

I hope these cards help you stay safer when you travel, and give you more peace of mind to explore with joy.

gluten free travel guides for celiacs, by Legal Nomads
“No wheat”, by Ella F. Sanders <3

I understand what it’s like to worry about what you’re eating. The effects of eating gluten for me last for days, and can come from something as innocuous as consuming something that was fried in contaminated oil. So if I eat a spring roll made with rice paper that was fried in the same oil as a breaded product, I will still get sick.

You may have seen other gluten free restaurant cards, and many are great for those following a GF diet. As a celiac who is extremely sensitive, I still got sick using them. I very much appreciate the work and effort that went into the freely available cards—but sadly they were not enough.

The Legal Nomads cards are:

✅ Researched by a celiac who loves to eat (me!)
✅ Available for immediate download. You can save this card on your phone, or reduce the size to print and use as you travel. I soon plan to introduce PDF versions for printing, as more travelers have requested this.
✅ Provide detailed instructions with local ingredients and lists of what you can/cannot eat help you eat safely.
✅ Have a clear mention of cross-contact, care with preparation, and contaminated oil.
✅ Are polite but firm: they apologize for any inconvenience, but make clear eating that gluten free is not optional for celiacs.
✅ Go through two sets of translations for accuracy, with at least one native speakers who is familiar with celiac disease.

legal nomads celiac cards, as featured in the new york times

Per the New York Times:

“If you’re traveling with a health-related dietary restriction like celiac disease, as Ms. Ettenberg does, keep a series of handy translation cards that accurately convey your dietary needs.  If you’re gluten-free, Ms. Ettenberg’s own cards account for cross-contamination and many local dish names.”

For roughly the price of an appetizer, you can travel safely, with less anxiety as a celiac — and eat well while you do so.

These cards will not only explain your needs as a strictly gluten free diner, but also address cross contamination using local food names to get exactly the meal you want and need.

Gluten Free restaurant cards for travel
The old branding of the celiac translation cards in action, on an iPhone 6.

On that page, you’ll find a description of the card. English translations are also sent upon purchase!

Note: The card is available for purchase via trustworthy 3rd party site that uses https, so you know your information is safe. If you have purchased a restaurant card before May 15, 2022, you will receive a card with royal blue header and footer. After that date, the cards will be white with the new LN logo to reflect the Legal Nomads redesign. Same content, different look!

Restaurant cards available in the following languages (click to jump to the purchase page for that language):

Catalan (Spain)
Latin American Spanish (Mexico, Central America, Cuba, Ecuador, Chile, Peru, Paraguay, Venezuela, Colombia, Bolivia, Uruguay, Argentina)
Malaysian (Bahasa Malaysia)
Moroccan Arabic
Portuguese (Brazil and Portugal)
Spanish (Spain)
Modern Standard Arabic (for use in Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tanzania, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Western Sahara, Yemen, and more)

NOTE: If you’d like to be an affiliate for these cards, please follow these instructions.

Catalan (Spain) restaurant card (for Catalonia – Barcelona, Tarragona, Girona, etc)

spain catalan gluten free restaurant card

Dutch restaurant card for the Netherlands

dutch amsterdam holland netherlands gluten free restaurant card

French restaurant card (for travel to France)

france gluten free card
(General French card available

German restaurant card

germany gluten free restaurant card

Greek Restaurant card

greece gluten free restaurant card

Italian restaurant card

italy gluten free restaurant card

Japanese restaurant card

japan gluten free card

Latin America Spanish restaurant card (tailored for Mexico, Central, and South America)

mexico bolivia peru argentina gluten free restaurant card spanish

Bahasa Malaysia restaurant card

Gluten free malaysia translation card

Moroccan Arabic restaurant card

Note: if you purchase this card, you will receive two images: a Darija (scripted Moroccan Arabic card), and a transliterated one. Some restaurants or vendors prefer reading in Darija, but per the translators it is also useful to have both versions on hand.

morocco gluten free restaurant card

Polish restaurant card

poland gluten free card restaurants

Portuguese restaurant card (for Portugal and Brazil)

portuguese gluten free restaurant card

Spanish restaurant card (foods mentioned are specific to Spain)

spain spanish gluten free restaurant card

Modern Standard Arabic restaurant card

(While spoken Arabic differs from country to country, a Modern Standard Arabic will communicate effectively in written form throughout the Middle East. This card can be used in Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tanzania, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Western Sahara, Yemen, and more.)

Thai restaurant card

thailand gluten free restaurant card thai

Vietnamese restaurant card

vietnam gluten free restaurant card

Free English restaurant card

Since I started offering these cards, readers have asked for an English version with similar text. I already had my own card that I used in English-speaking countries, so I have made it available for free, via Gumroad (the same platform that houses all my other cards above). You can grab it here, or click on the card below.

IN THE WORKS: translation cards for South Korea, Egypt, China, Sweden, Finland, and Cambodia. If you are traveling to Iceland, many people have found that the English card above suffices. It is what I used when I was there.

Find out a little more about the translation cards and why I started them:

Testimonial from a reader named Nicole who used the Japan gluten free card:
Hi Jodi, the card is excellent and saved my skin the other night. The restaurant that we went to boils its edamame in the same water as its udon noodles.  The poor waiter kept pointing at the card when I said I could have edamame until he managed to explain the way they cooked them.

Needless to say I didn’t get much for dinner that night, but I wasn’t poisoned either.

Indispensable.  Thanks again

Testimonial from a different reader named Nicole who used the Spain gluten free card:
The waitress in Barcelona looked at the card and said it was fantastic, one of the best she has seen :)  The types of food you listed seemed spot on for me…I don’t feel like anything was missed, and I did not get sick. Thank you!

Free, Long (3000-5000 word) Gluten Free Travel Country Guides

how to travel as a celiac safely
Street food treats in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – for more about how to eat street food safely as you travel, see here.

In addition to the cards above, I’ve also created long celiac guides that I am offering on this site for for FREE.

Each guide has foods that are safe, foods to avoid, where to shop to buy gluten free products, local celiac societies, further reading, and more. In the pipeline: South Korea, Cambodia, Egypt, and more! My “Essential Celiac Travel Guides” series are a continuing project. So far there is the:

Essential Gluten Free Guide to France

Essential Gluten Free Guide to Germany

Essential Gluten Free Guide to Greece

Essential Gluten Free Guide to Egypt

Essential Gluten Free Guide to Italy

Essential Gluten Free Guide to Japan

Essential Gluten Free Guide to Mexico

Essential Gluten Free Guide to Malaysia

Essential Gluten Free Guide to Morocco

Essential Gluten Free Guide to Poland

Essential Gluten Free Guide to Portugal

Essential Gluten Free Guide to Spain

Essential Gluten Free Guide to Vietnam

Gluten Free City Guides on Legal Nomads

In addition to the country guides above, there are region-specific guides on Legal Nomads.  These are less about specific dishes to avoid or eat, and more about restaurant recommendations you can enjoy. I try to focus on restaurants that aren’t catered TO celiacs, but rather ones where we can eat safely but without restricting friends who may not have the same food requests.

New York




Northern India 

(not a city, but a post about the region)


(general guide for the city, including a long list of celiac-friendly restaurants and a gluten free bakeries section)


(gluten free guide to Ottawa, including dedicated facilities)

These cards helped me travel safely as a celiac, so I wanted to help readers travel with less anxiety about getting sick.
celiac travel
Gluten free baked eggplant in tomato sauce and topped with fresh herbs and feta in Athens.
For only $8.99, you can communicate your needs – including cross-contamination – and explore the world with more confidence. 

Testimonial from Janice, who used the Spain gluten free card:

These cards were great when I was in Spain.  Yes, “most” times I could find someone who spoke “some” English, but when my health is concerned, I need better.  These cards don’t just say “gluten free” but talk about cross contamination and hidden gluten. A few times my waiter would ask to take my phone back to the kitchen to confirm a food was safe for me.  I never could have conveyed all the information in this handy little card. BONUS – I downloaded Catalan and Spanish for my trip to Barcelona and used both of them daily.

General Resources About Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease—not an allergy. Consuming gluten when you are celiac affects not only the stomach or gastrointestinal tract, but also joints, skin, mood, and in my case my ability to function properly due to brain fog. A wheat allergy is something different, where the body produces antibodies to proteins found in wheat. In celiac disease, however, genetically susceptible people react to a specific protein found in wheat, barley, and rye — gluten. Ingesting gluten for these patients causes a different kind of abnormal immune system reaction in the body, eventually damaging the lining of the small intestine and, if untreated, leading to consequences like malabsorption of nutrients and more.

Celiac is diagnosed via specific blood tests looking for higher than normal levels of certain antibodies (including tissue transglutaminase IgA) in their blood, as well as a gold standard of an intestinal (duodenal) biopsy.

In 2024, Gastroenterology journal an invited review entitled, “Opportunities for Improving Biopsy and Non-Biopsy-Based Diagnosis of Celiac Disease”, which summarized the current evidence both for and against a non-biopsy approach for the initial diagnosis of celiac disease, focusing on opportunities to improve both methods. As technology continues to evolve, we may see new, more precise diagnostic methods. The review above, for example, mentions the use of a molecular microscope to combine additional data with the standard histology data in the future. The authors of that study conclude that an increasing body of data supports a non-biopsy approach in diagnosing the condition where the patient has a high tissue transglutaminase IgA marker. For now, the gold standard remains the biopsy noted above.

Genetic testing can also help determine if someone is at risk of developing celiac disease, since people who have it carry one or both of the HLA-DQ2 and -DQ8 genes. Diagnosis requires more than a genetic test, but if you don’t have these genes, this is valuable information that can help you and your family. In rare cases, a patient can develop celiac disease without these genes, but in over 95% of cases patients will have them.

With SARS-Cov-2 and the Covid-19 pandemic, however, things are changing. Previous studies have suggested that viruses may trigger the development of autoimmune diseases such as celiac disease. A February 2023 retrospective study echos this finding with Covid, finding that patients who tested positive for Covid-19 exhibited “significantly higher risks” of many autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögren’s syndrome, lupus, psoriasis, celiac disease, and inflammatory bowel disease, among others.

Back in 2021, researchers hypothesized that damage to the gut caused by Covid-19 might increase permeability, thus allowing a component of gluten called gliadin to pass through through the intestinal barrier, thus triggering an autoimmune response in the portion of the population who are genetically predisposed to celiac disease.

Whatever the reason, there are more and more people suffering with gastrointestinal symptoms after a Covid-19 infection, a percentage of them finding out they have celiac disease despite being previously asymptomatic.

Awareness of celiac disease is growing, and there are so many more products and accommodations available now compared to when I was first diagnosed. Some countries offer a stipend to diagnosed individuals, to account for the increased cost of gluten free food. Others have strict labeling and menu laws that make eating out a less stressful endeavor.

Still, celiac disease is not as well-known as many of us would like. Here are some general resources that may help inform your gluten free decisions:

Celiac Disease Foundations

Celiac Primer: For those who want to understand what exactly celiac disease is, and isn’t, see this guide.

Books to Read

Interesting Articles About Gluten Free Eating and Celiac Disease

I’ve included a few articles below about gluten and other dietary restrictions and diagnoses that might be related to sensitivity to certain foods. While some of these pieces are controversial, I do think they are important to read as the more we know about celiac disease, the better we will be able to eat safely.

Recipes from the Road: I have a list of gluten free recipes that I’ve posted on the site.

  • For other great gluten free recipes see Viet World Kitchen’s list of Asian GF recipes
  • Jamie Oliver’s Gluten Free recipe page.
  • For gluten free Indian and vegetarian recipes see Manjula’s Kitchen for their landing page on gluten free.
  • Downshiftology has all of her best gluten free recipes under one tag, here.
  • The Minimalist Bakers have a gluten free recipes section here.
  • Gluten Free Living’s recipes landing page is here.
  • My GF Kitchen’s site has a long list of recipes to search through here.
  • Love and Lemons’ page lets you search by added parameters, like vegetarian or dairy-free. Great recipes, here.
  • I follow My GF Guide on Instagram and her recipes are scrumptious and creative. You can find them all here.

A Tote Bag for Celiacs

gluten free travel

Now in the Legal Nomads Shop: a section for celiacs. A percentage of proceeds from this tote will go to the Beyond Celiac Foundation. Donations are made on a rolling basis. The celiac section consists of tote bags and t-shirts with the slogan, “I’m not being trendy, I have the disease”.

Thank you for reading and safe eating!

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