. Paris, Lebanon, and why you should eat at McDonalds when traveling : Budget Travel Adventures

A taste of Paris, Lebanon, and why you should eat at McDonalds when traveling

eat at McDonalds while traveling in Paris

Paris - the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and a Big Mac!

You’ve spent days or weeks traveling.  You’re tired, a little hungry, but you just don’t want to find some local place to eat.

You want to connect with the locals, experience the culture, and see the sights.  Then it hits – you are homesick and want something familiar.

You walk along the streets when you finally see them – the golden arches of McDonalds.

Do I eat at McDonalds when there are local places to eat?  Does eating at McDonalds make me a bad traveler?

Those who love food and travel cringe at these questions.

However, I am not the first traveler to face this decision.  Sherry Ott wondered whether it is OK to eat at McDonalds when you travel. Katie Aune contemplated the question as well when she found a McDonald’s in Turkey after spending months traveling through Russia.

Andy Jarosz got travel advice at McDonald’s.

I’ve stopped to eat at McDonalds in Poland, Germany, Spain, and France.  I’ve eaten at a Burger King in Germany and Spain.

I’ve never made this choice because of the nutrition in McDonalds food.  I didn’t even try and justify it by saying I would make healthy fast food choices.  Yet I did it anyways.

If you’ve ever faced the fast food when traveling dilemma, here’s why eating at McDonalds in a foreign country can change the way you travel.

I promise you won’t read another McDonald’s on the road story like this one.

McDonald’s, Lebanon, and a taste of Paris

Paris France skyline Eiffel Tower

The skyline of Paris, the Eiffel Tower, and...McDonald's?

Here’s another travel confession – I haven’t eaten at a McDonalds in the US in years.

I don’t even like McDonald’s.

I am not a fan of fast food so the irony of eating at McDonalds in a foreign country isn’t lost on me.

However, I’ll never look at McDonald’s the same way after Paris.

My trip was nearly over.  After a month in Europe, I was spending my final day in Paris.  I had a great trip but I was tired, a little homesick, and just wanted something familiar.

I wandered the streets of Paris in a neighborhood I didn’t know.  I was hungry when I spotted McDonald’s.  So I decided to stop and eat.

Guilt washed over me and I felt ashamed to be eating at McDonalds – in Paris of all places.  However, I hadn’t lost my sense of adventure.

As I sat down to eat, I noticed a woman a couple of seats away.  In my best French accent and with what little French I remembered from high school, I said “Excusez moi, quelle heure a t-il?” (Excuse me, do you have the time?)

She answered me in French but quickly realized that I wasn’t French at all.  After failed attempts to speak in French, we began a conversation in English.

After learning a little about Mina, I found that that this was the first time she had spoken English in five years!

I was in awe of this and wanted to learn more about her life.  Mina was originally from Lebanon and had recently moved to Paris.   While her family still lived in Lebanon, she left a few years ago after visiting Nice.  Now she was working in Paris.

Today was her day off and she was on the way to the doctor for a quick appointment to complete some forms.  I don’t remember whether she invited me along or I invited myself but since I had nothing planned for the day, I accompanied her on the trip to the doctor.

I rode the Metro to an area of Paris I had never been.  I had never seen the inside of a doctor’s office in Paris but in talking with Mina, I learned a little about the French health system and what she had to do on this visit to the doctor.

After a trip to the doctor, we were off to see a movie in Paris at Montparnasse.  Watching a movie in a local theater in a foreign country is quite the experience.  You learn a lot about the culture’s sense of humor and find yourself watching them as much as the movie.

However, I did have to pay close attention to the screen.  The movie was dubbed in French so I read the subtitles.  (You didn’t think the French would watch a movie in another language do you?)

In the evening, we decided to skip a rendezvous at McDonald’s.  So we opted for a Lebanese restaurant in Paris.  I didn’t know anything about Lebanese food nor would I have discovered this place on my own.  Located in a quaint Parisian neighborhood, the food was as fascinating as my company for the day.

As the sun set on a beautiful Parisian evening, we talked about our lives.  Mina and I were going through some tough adjustments.  She wasn’t happy with her life in Paris or her current situation.  I was struggling with my own demons.

However, the day was a pleasant escape from our daily lives.  I started my day tired of traveling, missing home, and wanting something familiar.  For Mina, this was a day off from work that didn’t go as planned.

Who thought a bite to eat at McDonalds in Paris would lead to a day like this?

Today, Mina and I are still friends.  I’ve only been to McDonald’s one time in the last few years here in the US.  I’ve returned to McDonald’s a few times abroad but I will always remember the day I stopped to eat at McDonalds in Paris.

How to eat at McDonalds while traveling

Eiffel Tower at night Paris France travel

Enjoy your Chicken McNuggets and the Eiffel Tower at night

I don’t recommend eating fast food when traveling.  It is not something I do often at home and I prefer to eat local food and easy meals on a budget when I travel.

However, if you feel that need to eat at McDonalds while traveling in a country, here are some tips on making it a memorable experience.

1.  Learn to order your food in the local language

2.  Eat healthy or try something that is unique on the menu at McDonalds

3.  Strike up a conversation with a local (many locals eat at McDonalds)

4.  When you are finished, wander the local neighborhood and meet more people

If you eat at McDonalds while traveling, you don’t need to feel guilty.  While I wouldn’t make it a habit, you can still make it a cultural experience you’ll always remember.

Maybe you will have your own story about the local you met when you ate at a McDonalds in a foreign country.

Do you eat at McDonalds or other fast food places when traveling?  Do you have any fun stories to tell while eating on the road?

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  1. Michael says:

    I am not myself a big fan of McDo, as the French call it. But I also do not shun it when we travel to foreign cities. Their coffee, for one, in Germany, Spain or France, is very decent and cheap. The odd Big Mac now and again will not kill you. And who cares about food snobs anyway?

    • My story was about McDonald’s in Paris and I had no idea it was called McDo. No, I am not a fan of it either as I said. However, it is cheap and quick. Plus, it’s fun to see how they do McDonald’s foods differently and come up with their own creations unique to each country.

      If you’ve noted my take on food in the past, it’s not something I care a lot about but have taken more of an interest in it lately. However, you will never have to worry about me being a food snob! :)

      • Ellen says:

        Interesting. Here in Turkey McD is not cheap; you get get a better, tastier, fresher meal at any pide (Turkish pizza) salon. And you can meet locals anywhere. I see no advantage to McD over a local casual eatery. Now Starbucks, on the other hand, is where I get my taste of home. Not cheap, but they do have wifi and toilets. ;)

        • Agree. It’s not always cheap in other places as well. The first time I ever visited a McDonald’s while traveling was 1995 in Frankfurt. I was stunned how expensive it was.

          Please note that this isn’t my food philosophy when traveling. My goal is to try new things, meet locals, and experience the culture. However, there are times when I do miss home or just want something familiar. So this stop in Paris was one of those times. And I had a story to tell. So if you do it, make it a cultural experience.

          As for Starbucks, I don’t drink coffee. I’ve never spent more than $10 at Starbucks my entire life. However, McDonald’s also has free wifi and toilets too. :)

  2. Andrew says:

    McD’s is a nice thing to see when traveling. I am picky enough eater that sometimes the local food is just not my taste and I run for something I know. I prefer Burger King if given a choice though.

    In the US McD’s is the place I look for for a free bathroom. Not so much the food. In Europe, I have seen them charge even there for the services.

    In Spain and Italy, every time I walk by one, the place is chock full. And definitely not with tourists. So really, as you say, it is not a bad place to go to meet the locals.

    • I don’t mind trying local food when I travel. I actually look forward to it. I used to be a really picky eater but not as much now. Honestly, I don’t travel for food so eating is not something that is a big priority for me. However, I still like eating local when I can.

      However, old habits die hard so sometimes McDonald’s is a welcome sight in a foreign country. I’ve never thought about the bathrooms although I admit to stopping in ones here in the US even when I didn’t eat.

      Maybe people think of McDonald’s as an American treat but if people pay attention, there are lots of locals eating. And most of them probably speak English!

  3. We enjoyed our Royals in Holland! No food snobs here! =) LOL Interesting post, I’m wondering what Mina looked like now.. Did you take any pics with her??

    • Ah the Royale with cheese! I’ve had my share while traveling (I tend to regret it later). The one reason I also give myself permission to go to McDonald’s is due to all the exercise I get while traveling. I walk for miles in cities so it’s OK to eat a little unhealthy. As for me, I am not a food snob either (but I do prefer to eat the local foods).

      As for Mina, yes I do have a photo of us – somewhere. I spent an hour looking for it last night and couldn’t find it. I will keep search and if I find it, I will update the post and let you know! :)

  4. Ashley says:

    A fiend who was living in Germany years ago tipped me off to the “ethnic” burger specials that McDonalds does abroad…and that’s always enticed me to at least pop in once when traveling.

    When we were in Japan earlier this year, they had ridiculous commercials advertising the BIG AMERICAN burgers and I couldn’t resist ordering one. We opted for the Grand Canyon, which was this awful monstrosity of a burger. It was a pretty amusing lunch….and really, whether at McDonalds or somewhere else, ordering funny and strange foods is one of my favorite things to do while traveling.

    • That’s one of the reasons why I put that tip in there. Just because you go to McDonald’s in a foreign country doesn’t mean it’s anything like your McDonald’s at home. There are definitely some interesting choices in the menu that people might want to try.

      Even though I am not a fan of McDonald’s, it’s still a novelty to go into one when you travel. The Grand Canyon burger is a good example. It’s nice that McDonald’s in different countries can put their own little twist on things. And from my experience, a lot of locals do eat there.

      Like I said, I don’t eat it at home but it can be fun and familiar while traveling. You never know what you will find when you get there – or who you might meet! :)

  5. I love that today you are still friends with Mina!!!

    • It’s been a while since we have talked. We are still friends on Facebook though. I had a picture of the two of us in Paris but I can’t find it anywhere. I looked for it for quite a while yesterday. If I find it, I will share with with people on the post.

  6. Amanda says:

    I love the outpouring of support for visiting McDonald’s lately. Haha. I suppose it’s one thing you’re almost always guaranteed to find abroad.

    When I was studying/living in New Zealand, the 2008 Summer Olympics were going on. The McDonalds restaurants there has special Olympic burgers on the menu – ones to represent different countries, ranging from Australia to Japan. I thought that was so cool! They also have their famous “KiwiBurger” there, which includes beetroot!

    • I love all the stories from people as they go to McDonald’s in different countries. Ashley shared a story about the Grand Canyon burger in Japan and now the Kiwi Burger in New Zealand. I’ve forgotten some of the unique things I’ve seen at the McDonald’s where I’ve been.

      I admit I do have a little guilt when I go there and feel a little embarrassed as an American as I like to be considered someone who tries to blend in and soak up the culture. However, most of my experiences have been good ones. And after traveling around a city all day, sometimes their ice cream really hits the spot! :)

  7. Alouise says:

    Great story. I love that you were able to meet someone and have such an interesting experience at something as common as a McDonald’s. I too have been to a McDonald’s in France, but it didn’t go so well for me (food poisoning). I’ve sworn off McDonald’s food for a while, although maybe I’ll go to one in another country and have a coffee.

    • UGH!!! Food poisoning. I’ve had it a few times and it is awful. Years ago, I got sick from smores and spent all night throwing up while camping. I haven’t eaten them since (even though I love chocolate and graham crackers I think it was the marshmallows that did it). I had food poisoning once at Red Lobster on my birthday and haven’t gone back since (even though I always loved that place).

      As for McDonald’s, I am not a coffee drinker. However, another good excuse to stop is their ice cream. After traveling around all day on a warm summer day, their ice cream is really good! :)

  8. Christina says:

    I go to McDonald’s whenever I get tired of local fare (Yes, it happens to me). Besides, there will always be a McDonald’s items that is strictly adapted to local taste.

  9. What a wonderfully inspiring story my friend. Talk about immersing yourself into the local culture…what a fascinating time you must have had and Mina sounds like a lovely woman! Good for you for getting caught up in a very special moment and riding it out!

    • Thanks Jeff. If people read the story, I know they would find it interesting. Not your typical tourist eating at McDonald’s story. This was a fun moment and a great way to end an up and down trip to Europe. I realize was tired and ready to go home. Europe was an escape for me because of other things going on. Nice way to end my last day in Paris for sure!

  10. From someone who NEVER eats at McDonalds, I say…great story!

    • Thanks Kevin. I haven’t set foot in a McDonald’s here in the US for years. However, amazing how McDonald’s can be quite the cultural experience when you travel! If nothing else, I do like their ice cream (and always a nice treat after lots of walking or hiking)! :)

  11. I lived in The Republic of Georgia last year near Tbilisi and the food was probably the least appealing I’ve seen anywhere in the world.

    After a few months there the McDonalds in Kutaisi was like a 5 star restaurant.

    Seriously.

    • Funny that you mentioned Georgia. I just spent an hour watching a travel show last night on Georgia and Armenia. I learned about Tbilisi, the mountain town of Ushuil, Mt Kazbeck, and Batumi. Very interesting country. Must have been a pretty tough country to live in because not many independent travelers go there.

      From what I saw on the show, Georgia is the poorest country in Europe. Doesn’t surprise me that the food wasn’t that great given the conditions I saw there.

  12. Haha – nice one, jeremy ;)
    I guess eating at McD could be sometimes pretty weird if you found one at a very remote area..but that’s not that hard because McD seems not to know remote areas!
    Very entertaining – thx for sharing

    • Eating at McDonald’s can be interesting because they do offer some local foods and cultural spins on the usual items. As I’ve said to others, even if you don’t like McDonald’s food (which I am not a big fan of), it’s hard to go wrong with the ice cream after a long day of walking and exploring! :)

  13. I don’t even eat at McDonald’s in the US, so I never eat there when I travel unless I am desperate. I was desperate on a road trip in Greece, and I was delighted to discover a McGyro on the menu. Don’t remember if it was good, but I loved that I was eating a McGyro.

    • I think that is one thing that is fun about eating McDonald’s in other countries – you get to eat something that is unique to that McDonald’s. So in that sense, it is a cultural experience! :)

  14. What a great story, Jeremy! It’s amazing how many great things can come from a simple choice while traveling :-)

    I’ve been ashamed to admit that I ate at Carl’s Junior once while in Singapore, even with all the amazing food available there…but thanks to your post I’m coming out about it! :-) The food was waaay better than anything I’ve had in the U.S.

    I, too, am not a huge fan of fast food, but I think it’s quite interesting to see how fast food is served in other countries. At McDonald’s in some Asian countries they serve the burgers between pressed “buns” of rice.

    • I have eaten at McDonald’s a few times. I’ve also eaten at Burger King. I remember on my first trip ever outside of the country, I had McDonald’s at the Frankfurt airport in Germany and was amazed at how expensive it was!

      However, I just can’t bring myself to eat at Carl’s Jr! YUCK!

      I’m glad my story allowed you to come out about it. Just don’t do it again (not that McDonald’s is much better)! :)

      A burger on a bun of rice would be interesting. After reading so many stories of other people, I am tempted to walk into McDonald’s in more foreign countries just to see what they have on the menu. Could be quite a fun experience as well as a cultural one!

  15. I loved your story on how you got to explore a different part of Paris and making a friend in the process. I try not to feed my kids fast food at home but we’ve been known to stop at McDonald’s and fast food places while traveling.

    One of the reasons was that they usually had cleaner and more accessible restrooms especially when traveling with kids. We also wanted to see something different and local they offered. We’ve used them for asking directions too.

    My husband loves the spam/rice/portuguese sausage breakfast in Hawaii McDonalds. They served us our food at our table at a Tokyo McDs but I don’t remember if they had unusual food on the menu.

    • I look at a place like McDonald’s as a treat. I don’t eat it at home but eating it on the road is a little different. And yes, clean bathroom and finding someone to speak English is also a good point.

      I really do love the stories of all the different foods at McDonald’s around the world. Makes me want to stop into one even more the next time I am traveling (just not here in the US though but maybe Hawaii!).

  16. Sophie says:

    In Norway, Mac’en (as it’s usually called) used to have McSalmon. Not sure if they still do.

  17. What a beautiful story! I love the way your story ended – with a friendship. I’ll definitely think about it the next time I see a McDonald’s.

  18. Dina says:

    Yes we do!
    We eat McDonalds everywhere. Eating in McDonalds time to time doesn’t mean we only eat McDonald. When we lived in Ontario, or Java, or Tokyo, or Sydney, we ate in many different place, and McD is one of them. Now we are traveling, occassinaly we eat there too. As simple as that. To get a variety.

    I don’t know why people say “McDonald? Go try local food!”
    Maybe they only travel for a week.

    We do eat local food too. A lot! Plenty of chances. But are traveling continously, and it’s already more than 3 years. Local food, yes, comfort food, yes. We eat everything.

    Other good point from McD:
    - cheap
    - free wifi (in many countries)
    - good toilet
    - they don’t bitch if you sit there only with a fries or a sundae for a long time
    - they have country special menu, fun to find out what other country have
    - they often the only option for weird hours (even at siesta time in Barcelona)

    • I am loving all these McDonald’s stories. I still have a hard time admitting that I eat there when traveling as I just don’t eat there at home. However, it’s a nice little reward after walking around a city all day.

      I can imagine that traveling all the time you don’t want to eat local every day. Heck, many of the McDonald’s in other countries are filled with locals so apparently they don’t want to eat their food every day either.

      As for your other reasons, those are all very good points. Actually, that was one of the reasons I ate there in Spain. It was the only place open late at night for dinner in the town I was in.

      With all your McDonald’s stops, do you have a favorite city of country where you ate?

      • Dina says:

        For McD, I like the Indonesian one because it has fried chicken and rice. Also sunny side egg :D.
        Burger is actually not a comfort food for me. In fact, I rarely eat one. and if I have too, and if I can, I open the burger and eat things separately.
        I choose chicken nugget. Which is probably even more boring :)

        • I am not a big fan of burgers either. Chicken nuggets are OK. I am not even sure what I would eat at McDonald’s right now (which is the reason why I don’t eat it in the US). Growing up in the southern part of the US, I don’t think I would go for the fried chicken though. I had enough of that growing up :)

  19. Very cool story, Jeremy. Somehow I’m not surprised that happened to you. I haven’t eaten in any McDonald’s outside of the States, but I’m not totally against the idea as long as someone isn’t eating all their meals there. You just never know who you might meet there.

    • I don’t think anyone who travels could eat all of their meals there. I don’t think anyone does it at home so surely they wouldn’t do it when traveling either.

      So what was it you liked about the story? How come you are surprised it didn’t happen to me?

    • I really liked how you were able to have such a nice experience meeting someone just by striking up a conversation. I said that I wasn’t surprised it happened to you — meaning that you are a friendly person who is interested in other people and probably makes friends easily — and apparently keeps them for a long time, too!

      • It’s interesting to look back at my life during this time. I was actually pretty down when I went to McDonald’s that day. I was tired of Paris and ready to go home. I didn’t have anything else to do that day and was moping a bit. I actually had a battle with my conscience on this day but finally said “screw it, I am going to McDonald’s anyway – I don’t care if this is Paris.” It ended up being a good decision but at the moment I was hardly looking for an experience like this much less being friendly with someone.

        This forever changed the way I looked at cultural experiences though. However, I am glad that the impression I gave off from this story and my writings is that I am friendly and such an eager, enthusiastic traveler :)

  20. Kaylin says:

    Another reason to check out the McDonald’s abroad is if you are searching for wifi, you are almost guaranteed to find a free open wifi signal in McDonald’s! That, and I love McNuggets. Can’t help it.

    • Who doesn’t love McNuggets under the Eiffel Tower right? :) Yes, free wifi is a great bonus. I know a number of people have mentioned bathrooms, finding people to speak English, and the late night hours. All positive reasons to visit (along with the nuggets).

  21. Ayngelina says:

    Jaime from Breakaway Backpacker and I ate McDonald’s Florence. It felt sacrilegious but we were so hung over it had to be done.

  22. Christina says:

    You know, I’m not a fan of MacDonald’s food either, but I did try it in China because I was so curious what the local options were. Was a very insightful trip!

  23. Totally agree with you, McDonald is a rather interesting place to eat when traveling. Like McDonald in Indonesia offer curry, in Japan they offer wasabi McChicken XDD

    • Curry and wasabi – definitely two things you won’t find at McDonald’s here in the US. Such an interesting twist on the food when eating at McDonald’s in other countries.

  24. I generally do not eat at McDonald’s in the US except for an occasional breakfast. While traveling I find it is a good place to find clean bathrooms, wifi and most importantly a cold drink with ice. I just returned from Ireland and stopped in McDonald’s many times just to take a break and get a cold drink.

    I have seen stories about the different types of food that they carry in other countries and would like it if they sold those in the US.

    • A number of people have pointed out the benefits of McDonald’s while traveling – clean bathrooms, late hours, English speakers, free WiFi. Like you, the food isn’t a big draw but there are definitely some good things about McDonald’s.

      I think one thing I will probably do now is go into McDonald’s and try one of the “local” dishes. Will make visiting McDonald’s a lot of fun. And when all else fails, I can always get an ice cream! :)

  25. Cassie says:

    Wow, what fascinating stories (yours, and in your comments, to boot!) I’ve also noticed that the American fast food restaurants I’ve visited are usually full of locals and I always do my best to order in the language! I need to be better about striking up a conversation, the next time!

    I also never eat at McDonalds at home (though McDs was my first job as a teenager and Burger King was my second), but I’m always curious about the local specialties they sell when abroad. I usually visit these chains when traveling for the chance to use a clean bathroom FOR FREE! (though I usually wind up buying a cheap, American-style drip coffee that is oddly comforting when you’ve been away from home for a while)

    • In the US, I think that is a huge problem – there are too many of us at our local fast food restaurants! However, that’s another discussion for another time and post! :)

      One thing that many people have pointed out (including you) are the benefits of eating at McDonald’s. When I had this encounter in Paris, I didn’t think of any of those things. I was just a little down and wanted something familiar. So I definitely wasn’t expecting that to happen.

      After this experience, I will try and visit other McDonald’s when I travel. I still won’t eat it here at home. However, checking out the local foods will definitely be interesting. I do have a comfort food as well (and that’s what I was looking for in Paris) – ice cream!

      So in all of your travels, do you have an interesting McDonald’s story or local food that you’ve seen or tried?

  26. Kay says:

    This article resonated with me. I travel abroad for work and I’ve spend years traipsing around trying to find different “local” restaurants shunning international fast food chains and trying to eat the food the locals are eating. I’ve eaten some wonderful but also some disgusting meals over the years. One night I was jet lagged and fed up in Hong Kong so I wondered into a McDonalds. The place was packed but not with tourists, after all these years I had found where the locals seemed to hang out! Well the young ones anyway!

    • Yep, the reasons you mentioned are the same reasons I find myself eating at McDonald’s when I travel. As much as I don’t like it and won’t eat it here, I find it comforting when I travel. I don’t do it very often but it is a great place to meet locals who speak English. Their menu options are pretty interesting as well so McDonald’s overseas is a cultural experience!

  27. This is so true! I never eat McDonalds in the U.S. but when I travel I sometimes will stop by for a quick bite. Plus, they always have free bathrooms!

    • Glad I am not alone on this. I really don’t like McDonald’s here in the US but there is something comforting when I see it while traveling (especially if I just need a bit of a travel break).

  28. Rachel Lowe says:

    I enjoyed reading this article. I’ve been to McDonald’s in a few different countries. I’m from the UK and I’ve enjoyed a slightly guilty visit to McDonald’s in France, Spain, USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore and Malaysia. I loved my mushroom and swiss cheese third pounder in LA, the Kiwi Burger in NZ and the fact that in Australia, where the chain is lovingly referred to as Macca’s, all the burgers are cooked to order. In Malaysia they serve Ribena and in the States Poweraid and pink lemonade! A visit to McDonald’s is a cultural experience in itself. When travelling on a budget and just wanting to eat something recognizable when away from home it’s the place to go. However when the Euro was at 2 to the Pound I did have to say no to a £9 meal in Paris!

    • I hate to admit it but all the cultural food choices at McDonald’s sound delicious (or maybe I am just hungry!). I think I will probably visit McDonald’s more often when I travel. It definitely can be a cultural experience as I’ve learned. For me, it’s also been a comfort food (but never is at home). May not always be the cheapest meal and I can feel a little guilty when eating there but still a fun experience!

  29. Laurence says:

    What a lovely story. And who would have thought McDonalds was going to be a starter for such an epic day? I usually visit McD’s for the free wi-fi, particularly in countries where wifi isn’t as freely available as air. I learnt that the regional variations of McD’s often have some pretty tasty options, and the coffee in the McCafe’s isn’t half bad! Plus free wi-fi! Yay!

    • Not exactly the day I had planned in Paris. However, it was one I won’t forget. I like the idea of the different menu options at McDonald’s around the world. I am still not a fan of it at home but makes it a bit more appealing when I travel. And yes, the wifi is very popular!

  30. Guilty as charged. We don’t eat fast food at home and tend to shun it even more when traveling, despite the fact that McD’s, BK, the Colonel, Subway, Pizza Hut (and funny local spin offs called Pizza Hot) are in all major cities in Central America to a shocking degree. And it’s pricey–in some cases eating at a US fast food restaurant in Latin America is more expensive than doing it in the US. Still, the joints are always packed. Plus, ducking into a fast food restaurant feels like cheating or laziness in a foreign country where so much of the culture is reflected through their food.

    The one time we did eat at a McDonald’s was in Thailand after a trip to a fabulous hospital to confirm that I had dengue fever. The combination of hunger and feeling sorry for myself and wanting my mommy (and, hence, home) made me crave a cheeseburger. It cost more than my 2 hour hospital consultation and full blood work.

    • I have noticed that fast food in other countries is more expensive than here in the US. Maybe that’s why people in other countries treat a trip to McDonald’s as a treat rather than an every day occurrence (and maybe why other countries don’t have quite the obesity problem we do here)? In the US, I admit I love Subway. It’s a bit more on the expensive side but very easy to eat healthy.

      As for eating the local food, I do agree with you. I much prefer eating at local places rather than a fast food place. However, eating at a fast food place is fine when you are on the go, need something quick, are tired, and just want something from home. I wouldn’t recommend it every day or every week. However, after the experiences I’ve had, you might get more of a cultural/local experience than you would at a local place.

  31. Oh, go ahead, eat Mickey D’s. I’m all for it. I mean, I never eat there at home. And as vegetarians, in many places we don’t even both to go in. But in India we made sure to get a Mexican bean veggie burger and a paneer burger and you know what? They were both awesome! Good article, had to be said :)

    • While I don’t eat it at home, I’ll give McDonald’s credit – having some local foods and twists at McD’s overseas is pretty interesting! Plus I think a lot of locals do eat there so good chance to meet people as well!

  32. Turtle says:

    I’m glad you managed to find something fruitful at a McDonalds – and a friendship at that!
    I have to confess, I eat McDonalds every few weeks when I’m on the road. Sometimes I just need something that I recognise, that tastes Western and that I can point at a photo to order. Does that make me a bad traveller? Probably not. Does that make me a slightly more overweight traveller? Yes.

    • I think my entire post could have been summed up in your comment. However, I will say I exercise a LOT when I travel so I never feel bad about eating there in that respect. Just means more walking/hiking :)

  33. Earthdrifter says:

    Micky Dees in the states is typically cheaper than abroad, so, if I need it due to desperate measures, I hope that I’m in the US. The one great thing about this unhealthy franchise, is that they usually have wifi, seemingly everywhere on earth. That makes a coffee, or sundae or whatever, a great deal.
    While in a city abroad or in the US, if I see a Subway I’m all over it as I absolutely love their veggie subs that are super cheap and super healthy, my favorite combo. :-)

    • I LOVE LOVE LOVE Subway – favorite place to eat in the US. Lots of healthy choices. And yes, McD’s is more expensive overseas. Probably why people don’t eat it as often. I think a trip to a fast food place like McDonald’s should be a treat, not an every day thing. And yes free wifi and an ice cream cone on a hot day while abroad is always a good thing! :)

  34. Did you ever see the Ethan Hawke movie “Before Sunrise”? Your story reminded me of it a bit (IMDB summary= “A young man and woman meet on a train in Europe, and wind up spending one romantic evening together in Vienna.”). Anyway, I’m not a big fan of Mickey D’s either, but there are times when I’ve been happy to see the golden arches, such as a recent road trip across Panama where we’d been driving for hours and were starving. And if you get salads and the yogurt parfait, it IS possible to stay somewhat healthy there.

    • I had never heard of that movie but meeting on a train ride does sound more romantic than meeting at McDonald’s. To be fair, mine was a real life moment and not a Hollywood script though! :)

      Yes, it is possible to eat healthy there and glad they have options. However, as much as I dislike McDonald’s, I have been happy to see it as well (though sometimes it is quite an eye sore as well).

  35. jan says:

    Mina is one brave girl!

  36. I always feel shame walking into Macca D’s but it always comes in handy for lots of things. creature comforts and free stuff

  37. Must admit we avoid it like the plague. Except in Rome train station when we needed something cool and the Macca’s ice-cream was the cheapest about ;)

    • While I am generally not a fan of McDonald’s, I never feel guilty about grabbing an ice cream from there when I’m traveling. That’s one thing they do really well (even if it isn’t healthy).

  38. Jeremy, I sample McDonalds usually once in a new country just to see how the menu differs and maybe try something new. I, like you, don’t make it a habit abroad or at home but every now and then, it is neat to try. I much prefer local cafes, kiosks, etc. I do recall one time when I was in Beijing and was bed-ridden with the flu, I wanted comfort food – the McD’s near Tiananmen Square gave me just that: a chocolate milkshake and French fries. They never tasted better.

    • Raul, I just stopped by McDonald’s in Dublin – mainly for the free Wifi. However, their menu wasn’t any different than in the US. I did have a snack as I was having an Irish dinner that evening but even when there is nothing fun on the menu, McDonald’s is still good for using the internet :)

  39. Liz says:

    Great article! I always try to eat local foods, but on a lot of international trips catch myself in a McDonalds for a soda (with ice!), a free restroom and wifi.

    • I think those are probably three of the biggest benefits to McDonald’s. The free restrooms and Wifi are huge for many people. I used it in Ireland last month. Unfortunately, no unusual foods there but I did use the internet and enjoyed an ice cream treat :)

  40. travel says:

    think that is the best article thet i have read

  41. Alex M says:

    don’t forget that they have different food in each place for different tastes in different locations!

    • I agree. One of my tips for eating there was to try something local. One of the fun things to do in McDonald’s when you’re in a different country is to check out the menu. Many times, they will have something local or unique to that country. Allows you to try some “local food” and gives McDonald’s a different culinary experience. :)

  42. I remember the feeling of guilt when I walked into McDonald’s in Paris. It lasted about two minutes until I looked at the beverage section on the menu. They served wine and beer. Guilt turned to this is great!

    • That’s awesome! I never noticed that when I went there. I was actually a bit down and depressed that day. I was ready to go home. I had been in Europe for a month and had some ups and downs on my trip. My last day in Paris didn’t turn out like I expected but I owe my experience to the Big Mac rather than the wine or beer.

  43. Josie says:

    Hi Jeremy,

    We recently followed each other on Twitter, so have just discovered your site. This article is my introduction to you and I love it! What a fun article — and comments. That special day with Mina is a great story. To me this is the essence of travel — to connect with people around the world and share our lives with each other. Sweet.
    Conrad and I pop into McDonald’s occasionally, mostly to for wifi. And it’s really fun to see the variations on their menus around the world. Someone in comments talked about finding beer and wine!
    Thanks for a great post.
    ~Josie

    • For travelers, McDonald’s WiFi is awesome! A lot of people also check out the menu options. Surprisingly, a lot of locals also visit McDonald’s. While many are the younger generation, you will see business people in there too. While it doesn’t seem like the ideal place to strike up a conversation, I think it can be a great place to connect with the locals. I haven’t tried a local food yet but I won’t forget talking to one (she was from Lebanon and had lived in Paris for years. She’s now back in Lebanon and married).

  44. Jan Ross says:

    We popped into the Paris McDonald’s mainly because we knew the bathrooms would be clean. Even though I knew they charged to use the bathrooms in Europe, it was still a shock to pay to use it in a McDonald’s!!

    • Wow, that’s the first I’ve heard of McDonald’s charging to use the bathrooms! At least you could still use the WiFi for free. Hopefully this is not something all McDonald’s start doing. Wonder if this was just this particular restaurant or a trend with McDonald’s in Europe?

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