Before I begin, I should probably specifiy that when I say McDonalds can be your best friend “abroad,” I really mean Europe. Having not travelled to other continents thus far, I cannot be held accountable for bad McDonalds experiences elsewhere.
When you’re travelling long term, there are certain comforts you begin to miss to the point of insanity: clean washrooms, air conditioning, cheap and safe water. And while walking into a McDonalds may make local passersby deem you a lousy American tourist, overcoming the stigma can get you access to just these three things – and more!
1. Clean washrooms
Though most of Europe has graduated from hole-in-the-floor toilets, finding a reliably clean toilet in any big city can be a challenge. But usually, unless they’ve had a particularly ill or discourteous customer, McDonalds will have clean flush toilets and often automatic flush and hand dryers and other such advanced technology.
During our month in Italy we had no problem sneaking into busy McDonalds and using their washrooms, but last year in Paris we noticed many washrooms were locked and required staff to open them or to get a key. This can usually be solved with the purchase of a water or a diet Coke.
Okay, so they aren’t actually called McBeers, but they should be. That’s right – in Europe, McDonalds offers beer on tap. Okay, so it’s not as ambient as enjoying a pint in a sidewalk cafe, but if you’re looking for a refreshing beverage and refuge from the heat, McDonalds isn’t a bad choice for a quick ten minute break from sight-seeing that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
3. Air Conditioning
To follow on the McBeers as a refreshing break from the Meditteranean heat, McDonalds is always, invariably, air conditioned. Buy a water, a Coke or a beer and enjoy the artificial breeze.
4. Safe and Cheap(ish) Water
You know those vendors that stand by tourist attractions and sell you exorbitantly priced bottles of water that you pay for anyway because not getting heat stroke is more important than saving a few euro? Next time, before heading to the Tower of Pisa or the Eiffel Tower, visit the McDonalds that is inevitably on your way there. You can probably find cheaper water in a supermarket, but compared to tourist venues, it’s a good price.
And you can get some curly fries if you like too.
There are, however, some drawbacks to McDonalds:
1. It’s McDonalds
Yeah, there’s that. Desperately searching for an open place at midnight in Naples that wasn’t completely sketchy and failing, I ordered a chicken sandwich at Mickey Dee’s that ended up not having any chicken in it. Just lettuce, tomato, and a whole lot of mayo. Yum.
2. It’s still slow
Europeans take their slow food so seriously that even their fast food is slow. Just because it’s an American company doesn’t mean the ideals of American service (fast and with a phony smile) makes its way across the pond too. I think we waited about fifteen minutes for two McBeers. But just take a deep breath, enjoy the air conditioning, and accept that it’s all part of the cultural experience.
3. It’s busy, noisy, and still smells like McDonalds
Some things stay the same. Lots of noise, lots of children, lots of that horrible old oily McDonalds smell. Mmmm.
Do you ever go into McDonalds while travelling? Or is that a seasoned traveller no-no?