Where to Find Food Allergy Translation Cards for Travel

If you have food allergies and you're planning to travel to a country where you don't speak the language, you may want to consider packing an allergy translation card to help you communicate with staff members at restaurants, cafes, and hotels.

Woman at cafe looking at a map
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An allergy translation card is a credit card-sized document that you can give to waiters, concierges, physicians, and other people who may be in a position to help you with food service needs while you're traveling abroad.

Allergy translation cards indicate your allergy needs in the language and dialect of the region you'll be traveling in. Typically, these cards will state that you're allergic to a particular type of food or ingredient. The more elaborate allergy translation cards available also may list ingredients and dishes that typically contain your allergen, and may list potential substitutes that a chef could use to prepare a meal without your allergen.

Allergy Translation Card Basics

A small cottage industry has sprung up in translation cards, with prices ranging from free to around $8 to $10. Here are some features to look for and issues to consider:

  • Cards should indicate all of your dietary needs and should mention the possibility of cross-contamination, ideally recommending that completely clean utensils, pans, and cutting boards be used for your food (since it will be difficult for you to clarify your needs with the kitchen, especially if the restaurant staff speak a different language).
  • Cover your bases. Make sure you have at least two copies of your card (in case of loss or in case you accidentally leave one in your hotel room). If you're flying through a country in which you're not fluent in the local language en route to your final destination, consider buying one for the language of your stopover city in case your flight is delayed, especially since these cards are inexpensive and portable.
  • If you're ordering a card that needs to be delivered, be sure to order early enough to check for completeness. Many cards can be ordered via PayPal or credit card and printed on your computer. Consider laminating cards you print yourself for durability or backing them with cardstock.

Where to Find Allergy Translation Cards

Here are three companies that offer allergy translation cards, along with some of the features of each. You'll find that most languages and diets are already represented by these companies, and two of them (Select Wisely and Dietary Card) offer custom translation services.

  • Select Wisely offers cards in over 25 languages and for over 40 foods, including the eight most common food allergens, plus other relatively common allergens like MSG, alcohol, corn, rice, gluten, mushrooms, onions, and peas. Their cards are based on simplicity and brevity. They offer a "strongly worded" allergy card stating that your allergies are severe enough to require emergency services should you eat a trace of your allergen. They can also create special orders for unusual languages or diets.
  • Dietary Card is a UK-based company that specializes in translations into EU languages, although they do offer translations into several East-Asian languages. They offer cards for nut allergies and celiac disease as well as custom translations for virtually any allergy or food sensitivity including combinations of restricted diets. These cards are delivered by mail, rather than printed from a computer.
  • Allergy Translation offers cards in 21 languages for 175 allergens (although this counts each nut and type of fish as a different allergen). In addition to the "big eight" allergens, they offer cards for caffeine, many grains, many spices, animal products, and quite a few religious and medical diets. The cost of these cards is $8, but that price allows you to print an unlimited number of cards from your computer.

A Word From Verywell

Allergy translation cards can mean the difference between a fabulous trip marked by delicious, allergen-free food and a miserable journey marred by constant allergic reactions (and potentially more serious symptoms that require medical attention).

Fortunately, allergy translation cards are available in the languages spoken for most travel destinations. However, if your dietary needs can't be met by any of these companies and you would still like a portable card, consider contacting the nearest major university or a local translation firm to inquire about hiring a professor, graduate student, or professional translator to create a custom translation for you.

1 Source
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. What you need to know about food allergies.

Additional Reading
  • Food Allergy Research & Education. Traveling with Food Allergy fact sheet.

By Victoria Groce
Victoria Groce is a medical writer living with celiac disease who specializes in writing about dietary management of food allergies.