When most of us travel McDonalds tends to be a rather common site. From Communist China to Saudi Arabia – Ronald McDonald has spread his tentacles far and wide when it comes to global domination.
Yet whilst McDonalds seems to be everywhere, there are a number of countries that for whatever reason do not have a McDonalds franchise. Some Yankee foes like North Korea won’t exactly surprise you, but others truly will.
In this article we will show some surprising countries that don’t have a McDonalds, surprising ones that do, countries that no longer exist and even former adherents to the cult of McD’s.
Ironically I am not even that huge fan of McDonalds, although at 4 months and counting it is probably the longest time for many years that I have gone without this symbol of American capitalism. To be honest though I would currently murder a small child for a Sausage McMuffin.
Lets the McDonalds based facts marathon begin!
How many countries have McDonalds?
OK! So, McDonalds currently operate in 117 countries and territories, BUT this is where it gets complicated! Not all the countries are sovereign states, such as Guam.
Well how many countries are there in the World?
This is where it gets super complicated. There are 193 UN member nations, plus Vatican City and Taiwan would make 195. This would mean though that you would then count somewhere like Guadalupe as part of France. We therefore suggest the list is closer to 260. Check the YPT list of what counts as country to get their take on things. By this metic McDonalds is in less than 50% of the worlds nations, although not landmass (Russia, USA, China all having McDonalds franchises).
How many countries do not have a McDonalds?
Going by our slightly liberal interpretation of countries, there are 140+ countries in the world that do not have a McDonalds.
Here’s 5 countries that do not have a McDonalds that might surprise you;
Cambodia – McDonalds isn’t all that big a deal in South-East Asia. Vietnam has around 20 branches, and in the Philippines it is all about Jollibee. There a talk of Cambodia getting one, but thankfully Cambodia does have Burger King.
Vatican City – OK, so this one might be a bit of a cheat keeping in mind how small the “country” is. Fun fact the Vatican has the highest per capita crime rate in the world. The only Western European country without a McDonalds, but fear not you merely need to step into Rome to get your fix.
Ghana – Despite being one the most advanced, economically strong and anglophone of West Africa there has never been a Big Mac served on these shores. Another one of those places where it is constantly talked about.
Cayman Islands – OK, so not a country in the traditional sense of the word, but a capitalist and offshore haven. McDonalds, KFC and even Wendy’s are here, but here is also a Caymanian restaurant called McDonalds. He refuses to sell and thus McDonalds cannot come to paradise unless they pull a Hungry Jacks type move.
Yemen – OK, so not all that surprising, but they are pretty much the only country in the Middle-East not to have jumped head first into the love of Ronald McDonald. I guess decades of civil war and internal strife will do that to a country. With Socotra on the way to becoming a colony of the UAE perhaps there ashore of McDonalds breaching their borders.
So, whilst these countries have simply never had a McDonalds, there are also a number of countries that have had the franchise, only for it to fail.
Here’s 5 times McDonalds flunked in a country
Iceland – Iceland had McDonalds for 16 years between 1993 and 2009. Alas along came the financial crisis and stock got too expensive to import. Iceland has great street food and is famous for its hot-dogs. The country well and truly moved on.
Barbados – 1989 to 1990. It is easy to think that simply everyones loves a Big Mac, but it turns out that is not strictly true. Barbados McDonalds holds the record for shortest lived franchise at a mere 4 months! Closed due to abysmal sales.
Bolivia – McDonalds in Bolivia lasted 5 years until declining sales led it to leave the country. Then enter maverick socialist Eva Morales who was not going to allow the Roy Kroc capitalist clique into his country on his watch! Sadly he’s gone now, so McDonalds are trying to reenter the market.
North Macedonia – To be fair it took these cats 20 years to finally pick a name people would accept, so its no real shock that they Macedonians are a bit fickle. McDonalds in Skopje lasted 16 years before contractual disputes had it closed. They will probably be back at some point.
San Marino – To be fair they are a micro state as well as the words smallest republic. Lasted for 20 years, but ironically went out of business because there were many good San Manrinese/Italian restaurants nearby. You really cannot argue with that to be fair. San Marino are thus the only western country without a McDonalds.
Next stop is 5 countries that not only have a McDonalds, but you will probably be surprised to see that they do.
We present 5 strange places where you can buy get fries with that.
Venezuela – They might have a pseudo-communist leader in President Maduro and massive inflation, but they do got McDonalds in Venezuela. Arrived in 1985 there are 133 branches of Mcdonalds in Venezuela.
Cuba – OK, so this one is a bit of a cheat as the McDonalds in question is at the military base in Guantanamo Bay, which is dejure US territory. This means that you cannot visit McDonalds in Cuba. The main Cuban fast food chain is called El Rapido, which is much better as you can buy rum there!
India – So, India like cows a lot therefore a Big Mac wouldn’t be the first ting you’d expect to find. McDonalds do like to innovate, so they use lamb. I have yet to try it, but I did once had a lamb whopper in India, which was amazing. McDonalds India shows how adaptable the company can be to local tastes and customs.
Saudi Arabia/Kuwait/UAE etc – Basically McDonalds is throughout the middle-east and is really popular. Quite funny when you consider the duality of also hating everything American
Iraq – Another cheat along the Cuba lines. McDonalds in Iraq exists in the Green Zone (the American bit). Amusingly there s a knock off Iraqi McDonalds brand called MaDonal.
Fiji – The strangest thing about Fiji having McDonalds is that it is, alongside American Samoa and French Polynesia the only countries in the Pacific Islands to have McDonalds. Quite how it helps the notorious obesity levels in the country is anyones guess. Although i’ll admit to savaging it when I have traveled through Fiji. Won’t get its own entry, but Nauru despite being the most obsess nation in the world has no McDonalds.
Bonus round – Oldest franchise outside of the Americas
Japan – American fast food in Japan arrived in 1971 with the first McDonalds franchise in Asia. One of the most popular franchises in the country although we might argue that homegrown Lotteria do a better job of American fast food in Japan than the Americans.
Countries that banned McDonalds
Not having McDonalds is one thing, but to some countries literally everything that Roy Kroc’s empire stands for is wrong. Here are 3 countries that blanket banned McDonalds.
Bermuda – There was a McDonalds here on a US base, but when the base went, so did the Big Mac. They even have an act of Parliament called “the banned restaurants act”/ The act covers McDonalds.
Iran- There was previously McDonalds in Iran, but come the revolution exit the clown. McDonalds is strictly banned, although you will see many old fast food restaurants have been repurposed as clones in the Islamic Republic.
North Korea – Duh, so this is an easy one to guess I guess. Not banned as such, but very much not welcome. Whilst there is no McDonalds in North Korea a few years ago there was talk of perhaps KFC in North Korea, although in the end it came to nothing. You can though enjoy burgers at multiple North Korean restaurants, and of course there is even the legendary Air Koryo Burger, that is definitely not a Big Mac.
Laos – Despite the opening up of its neighbors, Laos remains conservatively communist in a lot of ways. No McDonalds , nor even Kentucky Fried Chicken have managed to breach the borders, although there is a chain of Pizza Hut restaurants if you really need western food in the Laos PDR.
Kiribati – Not banned as such, but Kiribati isn’t likely to get a McDonalds any time soon. Kiribati the country that will first be lost if global warming continues as it is. McDonalds are hardly the benchmark when it comes to sustainable environmentally stable restaurants and opening one here would be considered bad taste at best. They do though have some of the best sashimi in the world, which probably helps make up for the lack of a McRib.
Zimbabwe – Formerly the breadbasket of Africa , sadly they became the basket case under Robert Mugabe. Fun fact Zimbabwe is the largest country in the world not to have a McDonalds. McDonald’s showed interest in entering Zimbabwe as early as 1997, but as things currently stand the closest you will get to Zimbabwe artist fries is at African chain Chicken Inn.
Extra Bonus Round – Former countries that had a McDonalds.
The Soviet Union – In 1991 the unthinkable happened when McDonalds opened its first store in the capital of the USSR, Moscow. Was it a CIA Job? Probably, and it probably was one of the nails in the coffin when it came to the August coup in the country, which tried to replace Gorbachev. Gorbachev famously took part in a Pizza Hut add later in life. Was Gorbachev a sellout? Yes he most certainly was.
“No countries with a McDonalds have ever gone to war”
A famous capitalist quote, sadly it isn’t in any way true. India vs Pakistan – Russia vs Georgia and the ongoing war in Donetsk merely to name a few.
And that is the global story and phenomenon that is Roy Kroc’s McDonalds empire. Amazingly not quite as global as one might think, but still the loudest proudest symbol of American culture and capitalism in the world.
Next stop Kentucky Fried Chicken?