Egypt, Travel Advice

McDonalds and the RTW Traveler

86 Comments 27 May 2010

The McDonalds stigma is strong...

It has to be said…and this may be controversial…

Eating at McDonalds in a foreign country does NOT make you a despicable traveler.

In all honestly – up until I took my career break and traveled around the world, I would have scoffed at that statement. I thought Americans who ate at McDonalds while traveling abroad were heathens; some lower form of tourist I was embarrassed to associate myself with.

As successful as they are, McDonald’s somehow has a terrible stigma associated with it. Lazy, fat Americans going to McDonalds instead of trying a country’s local food items is often a picture that is painted. People wonder “Why go abroad?” if you are just going to eat at the same places you did at home.

However on the other side of the coin is the argument that there is something comforting in knowing what to expect and having something familiar. This is how I found myself in a McDonald’s in Luxor on one very hot day in July. I had been on the road for 11 months and had been in Egypt for a week touring temple after temple. The problem with this…I’m not a ‘temple person’. They don’t really excite me. Sure – I wanted to see the pyramids, but the other stuff was just ‘extra’.

Temples, Temples, Temples

So when the group I had been traveling with all started lathering on sunscreen and getting ready to leave to see the Luxor Temple, I decided to be different. I didn’t want to go to the temple. Instead, I wanted some ‘me time’, I wanted to sit and be lazy and not explore; a vacation from my around the world travel. After nearly a year on the road, I felt like I deserved this lazy day. However, I took it one step further, I wanted a hamburger; a ‘real’, American hamburger with pickles, onion, ketchup and proper yellow mustard.

After my friends left to dig further into Egyptian relics, I left in search of American greasiness. I had remembered walking by a McDonalds the night before and it must have triggered a craving in me…one that wouldn’t let go.

I walked inside aware of my caucasian skin and for a moment I wondered what other people thought. I wished I could be invisible. However that moment lasted about 2 seconds – until the freezing cold air-conditioned air mass hit my body and I stood motionless just soaking it in. I walked up to the counter and ordered a Big Mac, fries, and a coke. I sat at a table with my many ketchup packets and enjoyed my greasy American feast while listening to old Paula Abdule songs being pumped through the speakers. I savored every moment of this familiar feast. A familiarity I hadn’t had in a very long time.

Yearning for the familiar when you are on the road long term is normal. After all, you spend the majority of your time constantly trying to figure out how to communicate and get around in an abnormal environment; it’s exhausting. I never really got homesick while I traveled for 16 months, however I did have these moments where I just wanted it to be easy for a few hours or a day; and those days were apparently a good day to go to McDonalds. I think I can count on one hand the number of times I went into a McDonalds, but they were all pretty memorable to me.

I sat in the McDonalds in Luxor Egypt, enjoying my alone time; a time when I didn’t have to think. There was just one last thing I had to do with this perfect lazy day; order a hot fudge sundae.

Ok – time to confess…how many of you long term travelers have went to McDonalds while on the road?!

Your Comments

86 Comments so far

  1. Gary Arndt says:

    I eat at least one meal at McDonald’s in every country I visit. The reason is that every country has their own small twist on McDonald’s. While they are for the most part the same, the regional differences really stick out against that similar background. You can learn a lot by looking at the McDonald’s menu in a country.

    Also, they often have free wifi.

    • admin says:

      Come to think of it – that day in Luxor I did use the wifi and sat there in AC and blogged too…no wonder why it was such a good day for me…I wasn’t dripping sweat on the keyboard!

    • So true! I hit a McDonalds in every country I go to as well. Funny enough, until a few days back I hadn’t tried McDonalds in the USA (I am from Portugal).

      You do learn a lot from the McDonalds menu around the world. In India, for instance, there’s no beef > massive twist on the menu = cultural insight. In the Middle East, lamb is super popular.

      And I also enjoy the names of the local burgers around the world: McMahajara in India, Prosperity burger in China, Samurai burger in Thailand, etc.

      McDonalds menu and the different flavors of Lays chips are a great little insight into the local cuisine.. as you say, one might want to go to McDonalds because of the familiarity, but the truth is that the flavors aren’t always as familiar, because they do change a lot depending where you go!

  2. Mike Hodson says:

    I have to vote a very hardy NO on the eating at McDonald’s debate. One of my goals during my RTW trip was no American fast food. First of all — the shit is really horrible for you. Additives. Preservatives. Chemicals. Horrid food. Second, I figured there would be enough local “fast food” when I needed a bite. Came close to caving in a few times, out of convenience, but did make it. 16 months. No American fast food.

    And Gary is right — in Australia for example — free wifi is good. I did duck into McDonald’s occassionally for that purpose, and just ordered a soft drink or coffee. But none of that food! 😉

  3. I totally agree – when you spend so much time on the road, it is nice to enter into a place that has a familiar atmosphere, food and experience.
    @Gary – I had no idea about the free wifi….will be checking that out on our next trip!

  4. Jess says:

    I’ve been living/traveling in Asia for two years, and if McDonald’s/KFC did not exist, I surely would have killed someone in a caffeine-deprived rage by now. Nothing against Chinese food — I just need to wash my breakfast baozi down with some coffee.

  5. Adam says:

    Haha, I love this post. There’s nothing wrong with going to McD’s every so often, even if you’re in a foreign country. This statement rings so true for long term travelers-“I did have these moments where I just wanted it to be easy for a few hours or a day.”

    To me, whatever it takes to make something a bit easier or to think about home or to have something familiar is fine by me. If eating McD’s is that something, then so be it. I couldn’t care less what some holier than thou backpacker thinks of me. Sometimes you just need a break.

  6. Earl says:

    You’re right, this is something that needed to be said! I personally have never eaten in a McDonald’s, either during my travels or when at home, but I don’t find anything wrong at all with travelers who choose to do so.

    Sure, it may be a bit much if you travel around the world and eat ONLY McDonald’s but every now and then, if that’s what helps handle the challenges of travel, why not bite into a burger?

    There’s not much difference between that and drinking soda while traveling or even bottled water that is owned by Coca-Cola…and we all do that at some point during our adventures!

    • admin says:

      Good point – my daily Diet Coke kept me sane – much like @Jess and her coffee! Plus – I had many lunches on a public bus consisting of Pringles and Diet Coke…when you’re in a bind, you have to eat something!

  7. Brian says:

    I’ve eaten a McD’s about once a week since my trip in the US started and all because of their free wifi. I hadn’t eaten at one in years before then. Knowing you can pop in do what you need to on the web and not be hassled is great.

    I didn’t visit one in SE Asia, but there was a trip to Subway and Pizza Hut in Bangkok.

  8. Anil says:

    I’m not much of a McDonald’s person because I’m a bit of a health nut but the ketchup varieties outside of the US are just awesome. Curry ketchup comes to mind…

    • admin says:

      Funny – I’ve always been a fan of American ketchup…in fact I didn’t like the Asian version as it was too sweet. However – Curry ketchup does sound tasty!

  9. We’ve been traveling around the world as a family non-stop since 2006 and we rarely go to McDonald’s and the only reason we go is for the free wifi! That is genius on their part. McDonald’s is not comforting to me, nor do I want it to be for my child ( at home or abroad).

    They do vary in different countries, but I don’t find that fascinating, but rather sad … how we export junk food & culture. ( We’re Jamie Oliver fans). We prefer to eat local or cook our own ( best comfort food!), but we have succumbed to them on rare occasion..although we do try to get the salads or healthier ( oxymoron?) choice.

    We try to avoid junk food if at all possible, but long ago I remember eating a McDonald’s hamburger on a wild trip through the USSR in 1988 that was awfully satisfying, as much of the trip was very hard. ( And we also ate with some locals many times).

    I’d never skip Luxor Temple for McDonald’s, but I sure can relate to not wanting to do something as a group or looking for comfort food after being away from anything familiar for many months.

    • admin says:

      True – I’m not a fan of how the US exports our junk food usually – but there are some days where I just need a small ‘fix’.

      We all have our vices – for some it’s American television while they travel, other’s it’s Diet Coke or Vegemite…or Facebook! Just that time when you long for something familiar.
      Funny though when I lived in Vietnam – I never once went to KFC…never had the desire to do so. I wonder if it’s different when you live somewhere verses long term ongoing travel where you are always on the move?

      • chris says:

        We are in Hanoi, considering staying after being on break for a year from the U.S. We explored southamerica for 6 months and now SE Asia. Can you give a snapshot profile of you and yourr experience here? I agreed totally with your comments regarding McD’s and laughed about the KFC comment. With a bad tummy from some rotten milk in yesterday’s coffee, we too just craved something familiar. BTW, the KFC was the best chicken we’ve had! Would love to pick your brain soon on how to do 4 days of indepth research into viable accomodations/costs here. Any recommendations on nice affordable apt or who to call here to take us around?
        Email to

  10. My question would not be “Why eat in a McDonald’s when abroad?”, rather “Why eat in a McDonald’s?”, but that’s a different matter altogether.

    Stereotypes exist for a reason, that’s all I’ll say on the matter ;o)

  11. SpunkyGirl says:

    I use to think it was shameful, until I was in Beijing, hungry and not in the mood for local food. I literally RAN across the street and up the stairs to the McDonalds. In fact I think I ate my meal in like 3 mins, which is fast for me, as I’m a slow eater.

  12. On our first trip to Paris, we didn’t know that most eateries close between lunch and dinner. After our flight, we were starving… and the only place that was open was McDonalds. How sad that my first food experience in a foreign country was something I can get right down the street.

  13. admin says:

    Wow – we have a great discussion going – thanks for all of your insight and MCD’s stories…good and bad! Keep them coming!

  14. Keith says:

    We caved and went yesterday morning at 6:30am in the Hiroshima train station. It was our first fast food during our 10 days Japan, but it was the only restaurant open and it was cheap. On the upside my guilt was quickly reduced watching the Japanese business commuters eat their breakfast before catching their train.

    We are also looking forward to the free wifi when we get to Australia next week. I see lots of golden arches coffee in my future.

  15. I have to say yes, but on very rare occasions, like when you need to buy something to use their internet or want a cheap sugar fix (50 cent ice cream cones in OZ! Of course I’m going there instead of the $A5 gelato place, but Italy is a different story).

  16. megan says:

    I don’t do it often, but when I am feeling particularly unwell or just plain tired of it all while travelling, those golden arches start to look bright instead of gaudy…!! Sometimes, you just need something predictable.

    I always like to check out the menus, too, even if I don’t get anything to eat – India in particular has some unique items!

    Also, although I never drink it at home, I am a firm believer that a Coke a day helps keep the stomach bugs away. If it can rot your teeth, surely it can rot whatever nasties the developing world can throw at your guts :)

    • admin says:

      I had heard that before about Coke being good for your stomach – always wondered if it was true. I drank a diet Coke a day if possible…so maybe that’s why I never got sick! Else…it was just luck!

  17. Christine says:

    I totally use McD’s for the clean bathrooms and free Wifi when I’m abroad, but I don’t eat there. I’m sometimes tempted by the menu changes–in France, they serve wine!–but I can’t bring myself to eat something abroad that I don’t even eat in the States. If there was an In & Out Burger in France, it might be a different matter :)

  18. Fran says:

    It works the other way, too. When I worked for Maryland’s Tourism Office, I once escorted a group of Japanese travel writers on their tour. One morning, the hotel breakfast did not materialize, so I took them to the Annapolis Mc’Ds for breakfast. They considered it an important part of their cultural experience.(And told me about Japanese Mc’ds and their teryaki burgers) And the Germans I took around really wanted to go to Wendy’s; they all knew the ‘where’s the beef?’ campaign. (They could not understand why no beer is served at US fast food outlets, though.)

  19. In the states almost all fast food is off limits to us, for health & ideological reasons, with a few select exceptions – I (heart) In n’ Out! Since our current journey, more than 3 years on the road, has only been through North America so far we haven’t felt the need to go to McD’s. Indeed, most cities in Mexico where we currently are have them, but there is always a place nearby with much better AND cheaper food.
    HOWEVER, when we were backpacking through Asia for 4 years in the late 90’s it was a somewhat different story. After 2.5 years in India, Nepal, Pakistan, W. China, Tibet & Burma (all w/o McD’s & almost all western fast food at that time except for KFC in India) when we landed in Singapore McD’s was one of the first places we hit, even with all of Singapore’s fantastic food. Sometimes you just want something that feels like home, even if you wouldn’t patronize one at home. Several months later, in Chang Mai Thailand, after Karen recovered from a very bad bout of Dengue, after 10 days in bed the first thing she wanted when she finally stepped outside was McD’s…and she’s the one that made me give up the tasty fat-laden tastiness of Big Macs years earlier. Btw- we don’t do Starbucks either.

    • admin says:

      We’ll forgive you for eating McD’s in Singapore! I think I’ve done it myself!! 4 years in SE Asia in the 90’s…dang…that’s hard core! Oh how it’s changed now!!

  20. Mark H says:

    I have been to McDonalds when on overseas trips but only three or four times in total. It was simply on those rare occasions where I felt like a burger in variety to the local food that I’d been eating for months. One interesting sidelight that a fairly strict Muslim work colleague used to mention. He loved eating McDonalds when visiting Malaysia and Singapore as the meat in the McDonalds burgers there was halal and therefore religiously suitable for his consumption. His expense sheet on return always included several cheap McDonalds meals!!

  21. I can understand the attraction of the familiar – and also I gather that each country’s Macdonlds are tailored to the local tastes. I wouldn’t dream of going in a Macdonalds in the UK and so probably wouldn’t bother either when travelling. There is the issue however of major chains like McD taking over at major tourist sites and pushing out the family run local eateries who can’t compete on the higher rents – I wrote about that problem in Cusco

    • admin says:

      Great article Heather – thanks for sharing. True – the fact that McD’s has pushed it’s way into some of the most sacred places in the world is another whole topic…but an important one!

  22. Lisa says:

    Great post and so true!! It’s a ying and yang thing. Just like being a ‘tourist’…you can’t say it’s wrong.

    I probably eat at McDonald’s once a year in the USA (only at airports!). During my 2 1/2 years out, I probably ate at a McDonald’s a handful of times. Once I remember arriving in Caen, France and needing to waste time before i could meet my couchsurfing host…so i used the free Wifi (love that). My friend and I also had to check out the Kosher McDonald’s in a Buenos Aires Food Court (only one of a few in the world). Oh, and I think once in Romania maybe.

    But more than that, I enjoyed sitting in Starbucks in Turkey and some cities in Asia (where they love it!) on occasion. In many places I couldn’t get my chai tea latte, but that’s okay. I did just always enjoy the comfy couches, and modern clean atmosphere. Sometimes it was nice to get out of the dust and enjoy some jazzy music and comfort for sure!

  23. brian says:

    I normally don’t eat Mickey D’s in the US but on my round the world trip I was fascinated by the difference in menus and tried to visit any I came across. Even in Hawaii they serve Hormel SPAM with white rice and a packet of soy sauce. I love the contrasts!

  24. Matt says:

    Wow. Free WiFi? I’ve been in New Zealand too long!

    I’m guilty of grabbing a quick McDonalds every month or so when I’m away from home. I wouldn’t agree with going on holiday (or a long backpacking trip) and routinely eating the comforts of home. To me, a big part of traveling is sampling the local cuisine or at least food I wouldn’t find at home. Yet every now and then, it’s an oddly refreshing to order a Big Mac and Coke. Healthy or not!

  25. Lynn says:

    What a great discussion you started Sherry! The fast food places in Asia cracked me up – how about a burger on a rice patty (Hong Kong) and would you like a cup of corn with that (Japan). Somewhere my daughter has a great picture of Colonel Sanders wearing a shrimp-head hat from Japan! The ads for KFC in Hong Kong looked so disgusting I couldn’t imagine eating it.

    I never ate fast food in Hong Kong, but there’s so many wonderful places to eat, there was never a need…I just enjoyed the mixing of cultures and the bits of humor here and there.

    • admin says:

      I agree – it’s really fun to see the subtle twists…even if you don’t go in and order a Big Mac! A side of corn…yum!!

  26. Lee Ott says:

    As you know I am not a McD fan, but a burger and fries with coke would have been great when we were at High Camp on the Annapurna Curcuit.


  27. Wow! You are amazingly brave to admit this. I actually ear in McDonalds when I am on the road in the US because I’m vegetarian and it’s hard to find good options when traveling, but I at least know there’s a fish sandwich and fries available at Mickey D’s. I tried here in Mexico when I got really sick of enchiladas, but they don’t have a fish sandwich here!

  28. Marc says:

    We did our share of McD’s on our RTW trip – Sometimes for a bit of comfort (CinnaMelts in Tokyo), sometimes just to see what strange menu items they add in each country.

    I agree w/ Gary & others who find it an interesting to see how they adapt the brand ever so slightly in different cultures.

    It’s also weird to see how they “fancy up” American fast food chains can be in other countries. The Sizzler & Pizza Hut are very upscale restaurants in much of asia, and at KFC in Bangkok they used real ceramic plates, metal silverware and actual glasses. Weird!

    Sometimes looking for the comfort of the familiar can backfire, though – I had the nastiest burger of my life in a McD’s in Buenos Aires, and the fries had a weird fishy taste in Thailand.

    Sometimes you’re better off sticking with the local fare (most times, perhaps), but it’s still fun – and you gotta love AC & wifi!

  29. Stephanie says:

    All I will say is I will never forget how magically amazingly delicious McDonald’s fries tasted that one night in London after not having eaten any in 4-5 months. Of course the next day I felt like shit, but totally worth it.

  30. Fida says:

    I enjoyed that article thoroughly and smiled all the way through it because I remembered my own sudden cravings after traveling for months.

    I vowed always to eat local. But then there are those tiny moments of homesickness after being on the road for so long – and voila, I found myself sneaking around a place that offered sweet treats “from back home”. The craving was so strong that I even ignored the warning of my travel partner that if I would enter that place he would continue to travel without me;)

    Heck, I thought, when I am back home I eat out at Chinese, Korean, Japanese restaurants so why not going to a Swiss pastry place in Asia? The experience was invaluable, because the food was quite different than back home.

    Gary Arndt wrote in his article that dining at American fast food joints actually can show you the difference between eating habits of a different culture much better than eating local because they bring “their own twist” to it, and I totally agree.

  31. [d] says:

    Heh, i remember when we went to Lecco, Italy and were hungry during siesta time, it was a mighty McDonald’s that saved us. Their tiramisu was excellent! When I asked the server about it, he told me that this tiramisu is prepared by a local bakery and sold at their McCafe. So it was local and it was delicious! :)

    • admin says:

      Seriously…the local McDonalds had food prepared by the bakery…how cool! I’ve never heard of that happening before! Thanks for sharing!

  32. Tracy says:

    We also have succumbed to the AC & ice cream cones at McDonald’s in Luxor! It was priceless in the heat of the August day :-)

  33. I don’t normally go to McDonalds at home, but I find myself visiting them when I’m on the road. I try to eat as much local food as possible when I’m abroad, but after a while I do need a change. So, every now and then I do go to a McDonalds. I find it interesting that they have a few different products in each country. Loved the McDonalds in India. I’m a vegetarian, so they had a lot of choice for vegetarians there.

  34. Hayley says:

    When I was studying abroad in Salamanca, Spain, the hangout was the McDonalds right by the Plaza Mayor. I didn’t feel bad about it at all, one of the ways to feel like a local is to eat like a local, and there weren’t just tourists in there!

  35. V says:

    I don’t like to eat at McDonald’s while I’m abroad. If I feel a crave for a burger I just go to some restaraunt and order one. At least in SE Asia it’s often cheaper, healthier and a lot better.

  36. The best McDonald’s I’ve ever tried ever is in Beijing. It was a little bit spicyu but so delicious and fresh!

  37. Hi Sherry!
    New reader here, and current fellow traveler! I’m traveling around Europe for 6 months, and I’ve already discovered the beauty of the free wifi many McDonalds offer. I too feared the stigma of eating there when there are so many other *better* options in Europe, but what I’ve determined is, you just can’t eat well all the time. One, it’s expensive, and two, it’s more work than just going and ordereing what you know sometimes. Sometimes you just want easy, right? I say lets not be afraid to admit to the McDonalds cravings and be Ok with submitting to them…

  38. eddakath says:

    Can’t say I’m a big burger eater but I love KFC & McS’a qhwn I’m on the road, especially during the swealtering summer months and in fact most of my blogs are actually written in of of them while enjoying their AC and an ElcheapO coffee fix…plus living in China for so long I also get to meet a huge range of people who can give me the low down on other villages/places to visit. To me, saying not to eat or have coffee at mcD’s etc when travelling is kinda like saying..oh my gawd, you travel with a lonely planet…each to their own…I’m happy to do both and talk about it! keep up the good work mate…shane

  39. Nina says:

    I too detest the quality of food at McDonalds, and only eat there when under duress, but I’ll tell you, I stopped in a Starbucks in Bangkok once, and it was joy. The air was cold, actually cold, and the coffee was made of actual coffee. It was over-priced, but easy, and after months traveling it was exactly what I needed. I eat street food every day, even when I’m at home, but sometimes corporate America gets it right and gives you exactly the comfort you need…

  40. Randi says:

    Hello, I got on this thread a little late, but was fascinated by the number of replies that McDonalds generated. Like many others, I avoid eating at McDonald’s as a rule. When I do I get a fish sandwich or an Egg McMuffin at breakfast. A few years ago, I visited Oahu while my son was stationed there and was there for a month. I usually ate at small local restaurants or at home. One “secret” food source my granddaughter and I found was at the glitzy Ala Moana shopping center, in the basement food court. There was a small booth serving local favorites over rice. For about $5, we got a huge plate of pork and cabbage and rice that fed both of us. We did eat breakfast at a McD’s in Waikiki and were charmed that the wild birds came into the open air restaurant and ate crumbs. A little different than most McD’s.

  41. Abdulla says:

    I haven’t travelled all that much. i”ve been to Singapore, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. But i really dont like KFC or Mc food in any of these places. I feel that everywhere there is a hint of local taste in the food whether Mc or KFC. So if you are not getting the real thing, why go for it? i always try to find a food court where i’d have a lot more choices for a lot less! and i love Indian food (though it gives me sever problems afterwards). 😀

  42. I eat at McDonalds just to use the free wifi!

  43. 30HomeGames says:

    First of all, I’m a big believer that every person is different and has different value systems. Do what makes you happy.
    I don’t subscribe to the idea of a ‘guilty pleasure’ – As long as you’re not being mean to other people, what’s to feel guilty about?

    At the end of the day McDonalds is a Fast food Burger chain – it just so happens to be the biggest and American but each Country has its own smaller Burger chains: Hesburger in the Baltics, Jollibee in the Philippines. Not to mention local Gourmet burger joints cropping up everyday. I enjoy trying them all

  44. Seven months into our RTW and still no McDonald’s but we didn’t go to them much back in the US. But we did find a Carls Jr in Shanghai that we detoured into. Sometimes you just want a burger.


    Larissa and Michael

  45. Liz says:

    Sometimes you just need some french fries! In Berlin after Sylvester… they called my name too loudly for me not to hear.

  46. Abby says:

    I was traveling alone in China and eaten at Starbucks. I was just so tired and hungry, and it was right there, and I could just point to what I wanted, and I could eat. Heaven! Even in “easier” countries, I sometimes crave a piece of home. But my guilty pleasure is normally Hard Rock Cafe for some nachos or chicken fingers. I don’t think I’ve done that at home since about middle school!!

  47. This is the 4th post I’ve read about eating at McDonald’s (and I will have another one next week!).

    For the most part, I agree with Michael Hodson on this one. As a kid, I loved it. Now I don’t like McDonald’s. Most of the food isn’t good for you and I haven’t eaten there in years – in the US anyways.

    When I travel, I am like Gary. I tend to eat there once on a trip. One time it was in Portugal. Another time was in Germany. And one time in Paris. Yes, Paris (that will be my story next week). However, I had one of the best experiences I’ve ever had at a McDonald’s and so I actually have a special place in my heart for it when I travel (just not at home).

  48. Gina says:

    I remember after living in a small town in England for several months in college while studying abroad how excited my fellow American friends and I got when we stumbled up on a McDonald’s in Dartmouth. There was just something so comforting about it we even took pictures outside of it. First and last time I’ve ever posed for pictures at a McDonald’s. 😉

  49. This is such a good article it completely made my day. I too indulge on McDonalds all the time when abroad. One of my traveling buddies even named me McDonalds biggest fan and urged me to build a blog about me going around the world eating at McDonalds. The idea wasn’t even that bads if it were to be sponsored by McD. I found my own blogging idea just a bit better.

    I must have had a 1000 Big Macs abroad but also eat a lot of local food so I don’t have to feel bad about it.

  50. Madeleine says:

    I was just having this same conversation with a new friend I met while in Bali. People scoff at McDonalds, but trust me, when you’re in the middle of a jam packed city in India and are in desparate need of the washroom (and a moment not to be harassed), then those golden arches have never looked so good.

  51. Lindsey says:

    I never liked McDonald’s. Not as a kid growing up in the US, and not as an adult living in the US and abroad. I do not consider McDonald’s a food option. I really don’t understand the appeal. At all. However, I do agree with an earlier comment that it is fascinating how each country has its own twist on the McDonald’s menu. I do enjoy going into McDonald’s when in a foreign country if only to people-watch, check out the menu’s country-specific quirks, and use the facilities, which are usually quite clean. But never to eat. I have never in my life ordered anything at a McDonald’s and never intend to. Just to clarify, I do NOT look down on anyone who does! Goodness knows I have my comfort foods too.

    Also, the question prompting these comments should read “how many of you… have GONE to McDonald’s…”

    Call me grammar police, sure. But I say, be the change you wish to see in the world.

  52. Emily says:

    The nicest McDonald’s I’ve ever been to was in Antigua Guatemala. I can’t say much for that city — terribly touristy and it has a bad attitude and too massive a division between the ultra rich and the ultra poor — but the McDonalds is to die for.

    It has a huge garden and Ronald McDonald himself sitting on a park bench with his arm stretched along the back of the bench welcoming you to sit by him… and as a full-blooded American I jumped at the chance…and that was the best angus beef burger I’ve ever had!!! (pics here:

    My hubby and I been traveling full-time via sailboat and RV for 6 years, and McDonalds is a staple for us. In the US in our RV we hit up McDonalds for a fun “breakfast out” (we are budget travelers, so eating out in the US is not on our agenda). In Mexico, on our sailboat, we need a burger and fries fix every so often, and McD’s always delivers!!

    Great post!!!

  53. Majida says:

    My sister-in-law, a journalist for a daily newspaper on Pakistan, made it a “mission” to document EVERY Mc Donald’s she came across in Switzerland during their honeymoon. Even if her mission to document them failed, we were surprised how even the smallest town in Switzerland (once to proud of its own roots) had a Big M; we counted more than 50. Want to guess the number of Big Ms today in Switzerland?

  54. Captain Obvious says:

    I cannot fathom eating at Mcdonald’s while in other cultures. That is something a spoiled, ignorant child would do. McDonald’s is garbage food — pre-processed, packaged fat and sugar and salt. If you are in a great food culture and you eat at McDonald’s, then I really do not like you.

  55. When I was traveling around Indonesia early this year I had a similar experience. For that one moment in our two month trip I was sick of foreign food and rice / noodles I wanted something familiar. As soon as I had finished the meal I was happy to carry on eating indonesian cuisine.

  56. laisya says:

    Hi … I just found this website. I am from Indonesia.
    It is true that eating local food is better when traveling. However, sometimes I just want to find the easiest way to eat and go to fast food restaurant during traveling. And I believe you know the fact, that McDonalds has different taste in every country. For example, in Indonesia they sell a package contains “rice, chicken and scrumble egg” 😀

  57. They are not present in some countries like Cambodia and Laos making those countries feel somehow more genuine.

  58. I read this article before I started my RTW trip and I often think of it with a smile as I find myself drawn towards another McDonald’s!

  59. I’ve been to Hong Kong and we ate at McDonald’s there. The only difference I’ve observed is the taste which is quite different. Of course, it tasted so good.

  60. I’ll admit, I’m one of those people who is critical of people who go on vacations and eat at chain restaurants, but you do make a valid point. It is pretty funny that in the middle of Egypt, you can walk in and experience exported America.

  61. McDonalds serves a purpose!

    During a recent stop in Hong Kong, we were totally pooped and couldn’t find anywhere affordable to go, so we popped into ‘Maccers’ for some fries and a coffee – My girlfriend is a vegan so naturally she turns her nose up at McDonalds – But she still ate the fries!

    There’s nothing wrong with a little ‘normality’ and a taste of home when you’ve had the runs for 2 weeks straight in Kolkata and can’t keep anything down… McDonald’s saved the day there too!

    I think it’s snobbery to totally turn your nose up as something.

  62. This is pretty funny because we were in Egypt last year urging some Brits to eat falafel instead of going for McD’s. But they wanted it because they weren’t interested in even trying the local cuisine. A bit different. I agree that after so many months of continuous travel you definitely crave some kind of comfort of home. On our RTW, we felt excited when we found cafes and (surprisingly?) supermarkets. Though we didn’t plop down in aisle 5 for a few hours :)

  63. You are SO right. I can’t think of one single place that we have been that we didn’t hit up the McDonalds. I actually have some pretty hilarious pictures of us in a McDonalds in Kuala Lumpur and we were the only white people!! When we were in Phuket we would go to the McDonalds every day for their super cheap ice cream. :)

  64. Maria says:

    Mcdonalds tastes the same everywhere – which is why I go in occasionally in case I’m not sure of the food in the surroundings.

  65. JD Jones says:

    Ponferrada, Spain. My son and I had been fighting a horrible cold/flu while walking the Camino de Santiago. We desperately missed the comfort of home so when we saw the green sign with the yellow arches (yep different color scheme in Spain)we immediately decided to hike a couple of miles out of our way for a little Mickey D’s. That little bit of home made all the difference in the world.

  66. Phil says:

    Great article. Really makes me laugh and there is so much truth in it. I am not an ideological eater and have no probs with McD. However, I didn’t think I would be caught in one on my foreign travels! But after 20 some odd days of rice and stuff in Myanmar, it was nice to get my grease on in a McD’s in Thailand.

  67. I am in no way ashamed to eat McDonalds abroad. I truly enjoy eating the local food and am eating like a local 98% of the time. Since I’ve been living in Brazil (not traveling around country to country), I get sick of the local food at times and miss home. I probably eat McDonalds about once a month here, I feel like the things you miss while living abroad are different than if you’re just traveling. Also, I enjoy the local versions of the menus! Great topic of discussion, and I love eating at Subway abroad too!

  68. Mike says:

    I definitely make a point to visit McD in every country I visit as there are always at least a few unique items on the menu. Actually I must confess I’m a regular at home too!

  69. Osmanthus says:

    I generally don’t seek out fast food restaurants, but that does not mean I have not eaten at one.
    There was one time that I still can remember after so many years. We were in Paris, France, and we have eaten European food for almost 2 weeks. That afternoon we were on our own for lunch and a group of us decided to go to the McDonald’s near our hotel. Somehow that was embarrassing and satisfying at the same time.

    Now that I often travel with my young son (11 years old this year), occasionally I would give in and we would go to McDonald’s, A&W, Dunkin Donuts, etc. in foreign countries to let him enjoy some familiar foods.

    I have enjoyed your blog and enjoyed your e-book on Hiking the Annapurna Circuit. It was wonderful that you got to spend time with your father for so long and for such a special trip.
    Thank you!

Share your view

Post a comment

Sherry traveling the world

I'm Sherry, a corporate cube dweller turned nomadic traveler. I travel to off-the-beaten-path destinations to bring you unique travel experiences and photography. But it's not just about travel, it's also about life experiences of a middle age wanderer.
New here? Then Start Here.

Where am I and Where am I going?

Minnesota/Wisconsin -> Nebraska

Receive Ottsworld Updates via Email

green line
green line

green line