5 Reasons People Eat at McDonald’s When They Travel

mcdonalds-travel
Eating at McDonald’s when you’re traveling: It’s a topic that can really get people fired up. Is it a do or a don’t? While most travelers are traveling for the express purpose of experiencing new things, there are certain times when finding something familiar, like a McDonald’s restaurant, is just right – and that doesn’t make you a bad traveler, does it?! We checked in with frequent travelers who each have their own reasons for eating at McDonald’s when they’re traveling. Here’s what they had to say:

I’m going to be honest … I used to feel so ashamed to admit that I eat McDonald’s when I traveled! I’m all for eating local cuisine and trying out new things, but since becoming a vegetarian who eats fish occasionally, finding food can sometimes be tricky. The thing I love about McDonald’s when traveling (or any major fast food chain), is that I know exactly what I can get and that it will be the same pretty much anywhere in the world (I’m a Filet o’ Fish fan), if I’m in a pinch or in a heavy meat-eating country or city. And I can’t tell you how many times McDonald’s fries have saved me from major hangry moments! –Jennifer Weatherhead Harrington, Travel & Style

I almost always stop by McDonald’s when I travel, especially in a new country. Hear me out. I don’t go there to eat necessarily (although sometimes I do) no, instead I’m there to learn about the local culinary customs. McDonald’s has long had a history of adapting its menu to better fit in with local sensibilities, even here in the U.S. lobster rolls in Maine are a great example of how McDonald’s adapts its menu, but it gets really interesting outside of the United States. In Vienna you’ll find Emmentaler cheese with cranberry sauce, in Paris you’ll see both McBiere and macarons and in Bangkok, choices include chicken and rice bowls with a corn pie for dessert. These variations are a fantastic window into the local culture, and a fun way to learn about what foods they love the most. –Matt Long, Landlopers

When I’m visiting a foreign country and am unsure of the culinary choices, I’ll admit that if I find a McDonald’s, I might just consider it for a quick breakfast or lunch. It might not be the healthiest or most adventurous dining choice out there, but I pretty much know what to expect and the familiarity is kind of comforting. And the efficiency of the experience allows me to spend more time exploring the sights of whatever country I am visiting. –Justin Harrington, Justin Harrington Photography

I’m guilty of eating at McDonald’s from time to time when I travel, but I do so for two reasons: one, sometimes I just want a quick, cheap lunch that’s “like home”, and McDonald’s fits that bill. Other times, I choose McDonald’s because of my nut allergy: if I’m travelling through airports or places in Southeast Asia, McDonald’s is sometimes the safest thing for me to eat because I know the company is based around providing a consistent product around the world. A Big Mac in China is very much the same Big Mac served in Canada. –Aaron Saunders, From the Deck Chair

I have a love hate relationship with McDonald’s. On one hand, the fries and Big Macs are soooo tasty. On the other hand, it is not at all healthy.  When I travel, McDonald’s falls into two camps for me: one is running through an airport or train station and I am just hungry and want to eat without looking at a menu. And the other is knowing exactly what I am eating as I travel.  As someone with a number of serious food allergies, I know if I walk into a McDonald’s in Tokyo or Seoul, and there is a language barrier, I can order a meal where I know precisely what I am ordering. –Steven Frischling, Flying with Fish

So: What do YOU think? Do you eat at McDonald’s when you’re traveling? Why or why not? Leave a comment below!

Johnny Jet

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Johnny Jet
I used to be afraid to fly and at times even leave the house! I conquered my fear (long story) and now I travel to 20+ countries a year sharing my firsthand knowledge, tips and deals with friends, family and readers. Please sign up to our free newsletters and tell your friends!

23 Comments on "5 Reasons People Eat at McDonald’s When They Travel"

  1. When we travel internationally, we’ve eaten at McDonald’s for the following reasons: yes the familiarity of the choices, especially when you’re uber-hungry; the sheer curiosity of how the menu looks in other countries or how they call their items (or reading familiar items in their language); and hello, free Wi-Fi! It’s gotten easier, but a few years ago, our cellular network did not have good international plans and the hotel WiFi was spotty. We could count on McDonald’s to provide good WiFi to keep in touch with family.

    • My wife and I go to Vietnam twice a year. We eat at the local places and we do eat at McDonald’s. Also we eat at KFC, Wendy, Popeyes. What I like about all of them is when you eat in you get real china, silverware, and glass ware. I don’t see that her in the states or Canada.. Why is that we don’t get real china in these places in the states?

  2. I was recently in Hong Kong and they served sweet potato ice cream, it tasted exactly how it sounds! And in the Philippines I experienced McRice with fried chicken for breakfast instead of a traditional Egg McMuffin. I usually end up eating there when I travel in “desperate” situations (like running through an airport), but my past trip through Asia I ran I ate there probably 7 times!

  3. “since becoming a vegetarian who eats fish occasionally”

    Then you ARE NOT a vegetarian and stop calling yourself one. How does that fact that fish aren’t part of a vegetarian diet escape you?

    In addition, their french fries are not even vegetarian…

    “McDonald’s said in a statement that the restaurant chain had never claimed its French fries were vegetarian.”
    http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=93386&page=1

    Nothing more annoying than when people say I’m a vegetarian but i eat…..fish, chicken, etc. As a vegan who travels. I find the logic that you eat at McDonald’s because it’s easier with dietary restrictions laughable. There is real vegetarian/vegan food available the world around. You don’t need to keep feeding the corporate greed machine of McDonald’s.

  4. I absolutely agree with the comment by Matt Long, Landlopers. I had forgotten about the local flavor/taste aspect of it.
    As a matter of fact I am going to make it a point to at least check into a local McDs and see what they have and try something if it is specific to that city/country.

  5. The bathroom in McDonald’s has saved me on more than one occasion while abroad…especially after a long night on an overnight train coming from Switzerland into the Florence train station. So I may grab a Coke Light in an effort to justify using a nicer bathroom, but that is usually where it ends. I will say though I enjoy looking at the menu to see how it has been adapted for that particular country. Overall, though, in Europe at least, I would much rather duck into a bakery or sandwich shop for a simple baguette sandwich or other quick meal than eat at McDonald’s.

  6. Yes, It is always interesting, to eat at a Mickys D’s in a different country. A pie is still fried and not baked, and in China can be so many different fruits, inside. In Singapore you had to order a sunday the day ahead, for the next day. Only so many are made. And the food seems to taste better. I think they take their time making it. And care more about their customer.

  7. I have not eaten at McDonalds since I broke open a Chicken McNugget in the 80’s to find a disgusting pressed chicken “thing” coated in breading. They sell the cheapest possible grade of food they can find and I do not trust their “upgraded menu”. I want the restaurant chef to tell me something is Angus or whatever…not some corporate attorney.

    So to answer your question: NO…never…ever.

  8. McDonald’s along with Starbucks are two locations we visit for the free wifi or at least free wifi for with a purchase. Sometimes a simple place that allows you to sit around for a while and get out of the heat, etc. is a nice place.
    I want to also add that the menu at McDonalds is often unique in other countries with a few different items. Seeing these changes is a fun activity to explore as well.

  9. mary ellen jones | March 30, 2016 at 2:15 pm | Reply

    You can always find someone who speaks English and can give you directions. The coffee is always good also.

  10. I’m in the yes camp – clean bathrooms, good coffee and wifi, and a chance to mingle with both the indigenous and international traveler populations!

  11. Best McCafe on Avenue des Champs-Élysées with sidewalk seats.

  12. I with Matt on this one. I go to see what is on the menu reflecting the tastes of the local population. I lived in Hawaii, and loved the Portuguese sausage, eggs, and rice they had on the breakfast menu. I’m in Thailand next week and look forward to visiting a McDonalds to see what they have. It will however, probably be a one-off visit. I love the street food in Thailand.

  13. Emily Pascal | March 30, 2016 at 9:43 pm | Reply

    When I was traveling solo almost 10 years ago (Wow time has flown!), free wifi was not so readily available. I promised myself I wouldn’t step into a McDonalds during my adventure, until I realized they had free wifi. Being a young, solo, woman traveler only months after “Taken” was released in theaters, my parents wanted daily updates to know I was ok. I was young with not a lot of extra cash so filling my belly on $1 menu french fries while getting free wifi vs. expensive coffee and pay by the minute internet, Mickey D’s won. Hey, I was cash tight and every dollar meant another beer in the pub or museum admission. So hiding in a corner and whispering my order, I too was an embarrassed American in a McDonalds abroad.

  14. I am pretty disciplined on avoiding McDonald’s, M&Ms, drinking Coke, etc. I spent a lot to get AWAY from my culture. However, I am a practical person. If the hotel kitchen broke down and there’s a McD’s across the way with no other option than buying candy and potato chips for breakfast, I will do McDonald’s reluctantly. I was in France one time and it was the only place that took cards/was open. I REALLY did NOT want to eat there and it was SO gross. I paid like, $12 or $14 for a combo and threw 70% of it away. Inedible. BUT, I saw the automated ordering pad and was glad that I saw something we don’t yet have in the U.S. It’s all an education. Once when in Italy, I hadn’t eaten fried food in like 3 weeks. I never knew I’d crave it, but travel puts you under stress. So, I just gave in and bought a small fry. No harm done. Hit the spot!

  15. I always tell my clients staying in Honolulu, where breakfast is seldom included with your hotel and is VERY expensive, where the McDonalds is located in Waikiki. It’s tasty, filling and affordable a good start to a great day in Honolulu.

  16. We ate at McDonalds in Peru and China. Yes I like to eat authentic local food but sometime a taste of home is necessary.

  17. I think eating McDonald’s when travelling is something everyone’s done on more than one occasion. Sometimes you just want to eat something you understand and wherever you are in the world McDonald’s allows that to happen.

    Although I’m guilty of it, I also understand why people are ashamed to admit they’ve done it – it’s definitely not giving in to new experiences, is it? That’s why triporiais so great. It’s a travel site which, first and foremost is there to help you book accommodation but it also provides a comprehensive street view so you can see exactly what’s around your chosen accommodation before you book. If you’re the sort of person who needs to know their local eateries to avoid binging at McDonald’s then it’s great to be able to see exactly what’s on your door step.

    If you get chance to take a look, please let me know what you think :)

  18. On my first trip to Europe we visited Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary. We ate at a McDonald’s in Berlin (Hauptbahnhof), Vienna (next door to the hotel on a quick overnight stay), Bratislava (at a mall), and Budapest (a couple minutes from the hotel). We skipped the McDonald’s in Kosice, but did eat at a Pizza Hut, as the service in local restaurants in Kosice was not very good. It is interesting to compare/contrast the different McDonald’s and sometimes the familiarity is a comfort.

    On our second trip, we were in Reykjavik and I didn’t think twice about “missing” a McDonald’s. On the other leg of the trip we did stop at a McDonald’s in London.

  19. Two reasons I go to McDonalds in Europe:

    #1 Restrooms are available and free

    #2 Cappuccinos are consistent and inexpensive

    While headed to southern France I anticipated #1. But #2 was a surprise as I expected to enjoy great cappuccinos in local cafes. The reality was that McDonalds $10,000 dummy-proof machine produced excellent cappuccinos compared to the highly inconsistent ones from locals.

  20. On the culinary bucket list are things like Pizza in Naples, Sushi in Tokyo, Ceviche in Peru, Steak in Argentina, Dim Sum in Hong Kong, Tapas in Spain, Koesisters in South Africa. But also going to McDonalds in every country on every continent (except Antarctica) in the world is on the list too. #BaDaBaBaBa

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