Travel With Gluten-Free Restaurant Cards in Many Languages

These cards explain the gluten-free diet with different translations

gluten-free restaurant cards app
© CeliacTravel.com

When dining out gluten-free in another country or even at an ethnic restaurant in your own town, language can be a major barrier to getting the safe meal you need. You may know how to say "gluten-free" in Spanish (libre de gluten or sin gluten), but that may not be enough. That's why many people with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity carry printed restaurant cards that explain the gluten-free diet in a variety of languages, from Spanish to Vietnamese.

The idea is that you carry these cards (or pull up electronic versions on your phone), and then provide them to the chef or manager at a restaurant to explain exactly what foods you can eat (and can't) eat.

Restaurant cards are essential if you're not fluent in the local language. They're not perfect (restaurants still can make mistakes), but they definitely help improve your odds of getting a gluten-free meal.

Instead of attempting to speak the language, you can hand them directly to the people who will be fixing your food. Many come in laminated form, so it won't matter if they get a splash of sauce or a smattering of soup on them (just wipe them off and use them again). Others are printable, so you can leave them with a restaurant after using them, or are available on your phone, so they're up-to-date.

Restaurant cards are included in several travel books aimed at the gluten-free community, and they're sold by a variety of vendors. The explanations and translations vary in their level of detail and thoroughness.

Gluten-Free Restaurant Card Options

Here are five good options for gluten-free restaurant cards in a variety of different languages. Check these sources to see which might work most effectively for you.

  • Celiac Travel: Celiac Travel offers free, printable restaurant cards in 63 languages, ranging from Albanian to Vietnamese. The cards aren't as detailed as some others (they don't list specific dishes or ingredients that contain gluten), but they cover the basics. They are free, but you can make a voluntary Paypal donation. The owner of the site has celiac disease and also has compiled various well thought-out tips and advice for those who travel gluten-free. If you're planning a trip off the beaten path, this site should be your first stop.
  • Gluten-Free Restaurant Card App (iOS): From Celiac Travel, this app includes images of the cards in more than 40 languages. It is a free app. Even if you have physical cards, the app is a good backup in case you mistakenly leave the physical cards at home.
  • Triumph Dining: Triumph Dining sells laminated gluten-free restaurant cards in English, Chinese, French, Greek, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Mexican, Thai, and Vietnamese, in addition to disposable cards with English on one side and Spanish on the other (meant to be given to restaurant staff members). Their cards list hidden sources of gluten specific to these national cuisines.
  • Dietary Card (U.K.): Dietary Card sells several different types of dietary alert cards, including gluten-free diet cards and cards that can be customized to include the gluten-free diet along with other food allergies and sensitivities. Their cards are available in Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese, Czech, English, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Thai, and Turkish. Prices are in British pounds but the company does sell internationally.
  • Allergy TranslationAllergy Translation sells customized downloadable cards in 43 different languages you can use in restaurants and in stores. The cards warn about single or multiple allergies (the options include more than 200 foods, ranging from the most common allergies to very rare ones). They also allow you to specify the severity of your allergies. In addition, Allergy Translation offers free “Chef Sheets” with cross-contamination warnings.
  • Brokerfish Allergy Cards. These are free, downloadable food allergy cards from a company that sells travel health insurance and other forms of insurance. The gluten version is available in six languages: French, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Thai. The cards are not detailed (they don't go into the intricacies of food preparation or the risks of gluten cross-contamination, for example), but they are concise and free.

    A Word from Verywell

    Traveling can be very stressful when you have to follow a special diet, and it's even worse in a country where you can't speak the language. However, these restaurant cards can help. Consider experimenting with the different types to see which ones you prefer, and even get two or three different companies' versions of cards for a country you plan to visit to make certain you're well-prepared.

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