If you live in a country with McDonald’s, you probably can’t imagine it any other way. It’s crazy to think that some countries have McDonald’s to spare, while others don’t have a single one. Whether or not you eat at McDonald’s is beside the point. When you’re used to seeing the restaurant on every corner, it’s got to be mind-blowing to consider. Yet, there are many countries where that’s the reality. Here are the top ten countries with NO McDonald’s.
The Caribbean isn’t exactly a McDonald’s hub. The restaurant can be found in some of the countries, but Barbados isn’t one of them. Once upon a time, there actually was a McDonald’s in Barbados. Just the one, and it shut down so quickly it almost doesn’t count. The country’s first and last McDonald’s opened its doors in the mid-nineties and closed permanently less than a year later. It just never came close to attaining the level of popularity it has in other countries around the world. In fact, it didn’t attain any level of popularity whatsoever. People just weren’t interested in the type of food items available at McDonald’s. Apparently, in Barbados, both pork and fish are more popular than beef. While the restaurant has dabbled with them, these meats aren’t exactly McDonald’s area of expertise. All in all, Barbados just didn’t have the right market for this fast food giant. Today, the building that once held the island’s only McDonald’s is a financial services office. Probably not the outcome McDonald’s was hoping for, but what can you do? Will McDonald’s ever try opening in Barbados again? Maybe the timing’s better now than it was twenty-five years ago. But then again, maybe it’s not. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Located in Western Europe is Montenegro, a country that was once part of Yugoslavia. It’s a popular tourist destination, especially among people looking for adventure in the form of hiking, horse riding, or white-water rafting. It’s also home to some stunning architecture, beautiful landscapes, and sandy beaches. In addition to that, it’s no slouch when it comes to food. Not only does it serve up traditional European and Mediterranean fare, but Montenegro has several of its own delicious cultural dishes that, as a tourist, you don’t want to miss out on. But one thing this country doesn’t have, however, is a McDonald’s. Not a one. The story goes that the country actually banned McDonald’s from setting up shop in its capital, and largest, city, Podgorica. The reasoning given was that it was an attempt to resist globalization. The country’s government quashed this rumor with a statement that no company, McDonald’s included, has ever been banned from opening in Montenegro. Despite this claim, the country remains free of the franchise. Technically, this press release means that a McDonald’s could open in Montenegro someday. However, at this point, it doesn’t seem like that’ll be happening any time soon. But who knows what the future holds.
Barbados isn’t the only Caribbean island where the golden arches are nowhere to be seen. Jamaica joined the anti-McDonald’s club in the fall of 2005, when every single McDonald’s in the country closed its doors once and for all. The restaurant managed to hang on for about ten years, but it just didn’t perform well enough to earn another ten. There are a variety of reasons why McDonald’s couldn’t make it in Jamaica. While Burger King, with its chunky, satisfying burgers, was able to take root in Jamaica, McDonald’s burgers were felt to be too small and not nearly filling enough. Additionally, investors weren’t willing to take on the commitment necessary to run a franchise. On top of that, McDonald’s licensing and exclusivity requirements are apparently quite the hassle, and potential franchisees weren’t willing to jump through all the hoops. There was also considerable controversy around the fact that McDonald’s was importing beef, instead of buying from local suppliers. Furthermore, unlike many other restaurants on the island, McD’s didn’t sell alcoholic beverages or serve traditional Jamaican dishes, which could have boosted their popularity significantly. Finally, Jamaica’s slow economy didn’t do anything to help the restaurant grow. All in all, it really was the perfect storm.
Of Africa’s 54 countries, McDonald’s can only be found in four: Egypt, Morocco, Mauritania, and South Africa. What’s impressive is that, in these four countries alone, there are 387 McDonald’s restaurants. One notable African country that has a grand total of zero McDonald’s is Ghana. This is kind of surprising, since Ghana’s capital is home to several other fast food restaurants, including KFC. They even have a local fast food joint called Papaye Fast Food that serves burgers – you hear that McDonald’s? The main thing holding them back is the question of whether or not the country’s economy is strong enough to support a McDonald’s. However, the economy has been growing lately, and KFC has been doing quite well, so the idea of opening a Mickey D’s in Ghana doesn’t seem as unlikely as it once did. Chicken and fish being among the most popular meat options in the country, it makes sense that KFC is doing well. McDonald’s could easily open up shop offering burgers, and more importantly their chicken and fish sandwiches. In fact, the possibility of introducing McDonald’s to Ghana has actually be in the talks lately, but no official action to do so has been made. Will Ghana be the fifth African country to open a McDonald’s? We can’t say, but it could be something to look for in the near future.
Iran is one of the countries on this list that actually did have a McDonald’s at one point. It’s been a hot minute, though. The last time Iran had a McDonald’s was way back in the late seventies. Since then, Western franchises haven’t really been welcome. Recently, diplomatic relations with Iran have been up and down, which means that chains like McDonald’s may or may not someday be welcomed back. In the meantime, Iran has been scratching its fast food itch with its own take on McDonald’s. In Tehran, the country’s capital, you can find Mash Donald’s, a restaurant that bears a not-so-coincidental resemblance to McDonald’s. A lot of the menu items have been changed, but the general idea remains the same. And this actually isn’t the only fast food chain Iran has come up with a copycat version of. If the names Pizza Hat and Burger House sound familiar to you, there’s a good reason (they’re Pizza Hut and Burger King, in case you hadn’t figured it out). So while yes, there’s technically no McDonald’s in Iran, you can still order up some very similar fast food grub. The moral of the story here is that, even if McDonald’s is non-existent in a particular country, the people will still do what they gotta do to get their fast food fix.
You won’t find a McDonald’s in Bermuda these days. The Prohibited Restaurants Act of 1977 saw to that. This piece of legislation means that no foreign restaurants are allowed to open in this British Overseas Territory. Interestingly enough however, there was one McDonald’s on the island of Bermuda since the Prohibited Restaurants Act came into play. Bermuda’s one and only McDonald’s opened in the mid-eighties, at the US Naval Air Station in St. George’s Parish. How did they get away with this? Technically, since it was on a US base, the McDonald’s was located on American soil! Talk about a loophole. Even though the restaurant was supposed to be for the US forces and their families, locals were welcomed into the restaurant a few times a week. And believe us when we say that a lot of people took them up on that offer. This McDonald’s did very well for itself. It didn’t last forever, though. The base shut down a decade after the McDonald’s opened. When it closed, it took the all the Big Macs and nuggets with it. And that was the last of McDonald’s in Bermuda. The Prohibited Restaurants Act doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, so it doesn’t look like the golden arches will ever return to the island.
4. Republic of North Macedonia
For quite some time, the Republic of North Macedonia was home to seven McDonald’s. This is nothing by American standards, but all things considered, it’s a pretty decent number. Most of these restaurants could be found in the capital city, Skopje. All this came to an end in the early 2010s. The reason for this was that the company running the North Macedonian franchises had their license revoked and lost the right to work with McDonald’s as a franchisee. It seems like there was a major falling out between this company and McDonald’s European offices. The existing McDonald’s locations had to close down, and no new restaurants were allowed to be opened up. And that was the end of that. On another note, tourism plays an important role in North Macedonia’s economy, so if you ever find yourself a visitor in this beautiful country, why not pass on the American food in favor of the local cuisine? The Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influences lead to the development of such a diverse cuisine, that you’re sure to find something you love. You’re guaranteed to leave every meal satisfied. So, save the American fast food for America in this case.
3. North Korea
And now for the least surprising entry on this list. If you had to guess which countries have never had a McDonald’s to call their own, North Korea would probably be the first to come to mind. Between the dictatorship and the strong opposition towards anything related to the capitalist West, the odds of the golden arches ever making an appearance in North Korea are very low. That being said, a couple of years ago, rumors were swirling that North Korea was going to open its very first McDonald’s as a show of goodwill towards the United States. This hasn’t been mentioned again in quite some time and it’s becoming less and less likely that it’ll ever happen. The possibility of getting their very own McDonald’s probably had many of the North Korean elite very excited, since rumor has it that they have McDonald’s food items smuggled in from South Korea from time to time. Turns out that no one can resist a good cheeseburger. And, yes, while North Korea is McDonald’s-free, its neighbor to the south has McDonald’s aplenty. If you’re ever in South Korea, it’s actually worth dropping by one of the local McDonald’s, as their menu is completely different from the American one. They have so many Korean-inspired meals and unique products, all while maintaining that traditional McDonald’s vibe we’re so used to.
McDonald’s got the boot from Bolivia in the early 2000s. We’d say it wasn’t personal, but it kind of was. It’s not that the food served at McDonald’s was unpopular among Bolivians, it was more the restaurant itself that was the issue. A former president was actually quoted as having said that the fast food chain is “not interested in the health of human beings, only in earnings and corporate profits.” Ouch. The negative attitude towards McDonald’s wasn’t just political; the population at large seemed to feel the same way. McDonald’s actually had to leave Bolivia because sales were so poor. No one wanted to support the massive global corporation. We’ve got to respect the people for sticking to their guns. At this point, McDonald’s hasn’t been officially banned from the country or anything so, if the right deal is struck, it could technically return someday. However, it doesn’t look like anyone really wants it back. It seems like the locals generally prefer sticking to their traditional cuisine, and don’t really care for American fast food. So, regarding the rumors that the golden arches may be trying to make a comeback in Bolivia, it might be better for McDonald’s to take a hint and put their effort somewhere else.
McDonald’s first set up camp in Iceland in the early nineties. And the situation was the polar opposite of that in Bolivia. That’s to say, the people loved it. Newspapers all over the country ran pictures of the then-prime minister enjoying a McDonald’s burger and locals flocked to the restaurants. Iceland experienced an economic boom in the early 2000s, which further boosted McDonald’s popularity. The fast food chain was truly thriving. Then came the Icelandic financial crisis, and everything changed. The economic crash had a lot of awful consequences for the Icelandic people. One of the companies that couldn’t pull through was, in fact, McDonald’s. During the crash, McDonald’s expenses doubled, and it wasn’t worth it to stay open. It’s been reported that 15,000 people went to McDonald’s each day during the last week before it closed, which is a pretty impressive number. If you needed further evidence of how much Iceland loved McDonald’s, the last burger and fries ever made in the country were preserved and currently sit on display at Reykjavik’s Bus Hostel in honor of the restaurant. It’s been more than ten years, and the meal still looks as good as ever. It’s sad that there’s no longer a McDonald’s in Iceland, as the locals clearly enjoyed the food. As of now, there are no plans to bring McDonald’s back to Iceland, even with the country experiencing a major tourism boom. But never say never.