The Countries Where McDonald's Restaurants Are Basically Illegal

In many parts of the world, you can barely drive down the block without passing McDonald's iconic golden arches. Believe it or not, there are more than 40,000 McDonald's worldwide, with about 14,000 of these locations being in the United States. However, even with so many locations around the globe, several countries do not have a McDonald's. In fact, there are over 100 countries where citizens and tourists can't get their Big Mac or McNugget fix.


The reasons why these countries don't have a McDonald's vary. For the six countries listed below, however, there is one clear reason that you won't find a McDonald's: The restaurants are banned from operating. That's right, some countries have outlawed McDonald's from being able to open up any restaurants. Read on to find out more about the countries where McDonald's restaurants are illegal, along with some history about why these bans exist. You may have to revise your restaurant travel bucket list if you're visiting one of these locations.


Bermuda is a popular tourist destination. As such, you may expect to find at least a few McDonald's on one of the islands. However, there are no McDonald's on any of the many islands that make up Bermuda. In 1997, the country passed the Prohibited Restaurants Act. This act made it illegal for fast food chains to operate on Bermuda. The act clearly states that no individuals are allowed to open any restaurants that have a relationship with other groups of restaurants operating off the islands.


If you visited Bermuda several years ago, you might remember going to a McDonald's, because, at one point, there was a McDonald's on the island. The McDonald's was on a United States Naval Air Station, so it didn't need to follow Bermuda laws. However, the Naval Air Station closed in 1995, and the restaurant was forced to cease operations.

If you plan to visit Bermuda, you'll have to look for a local source for perfectly grilled hamburgers. You might be surprised to see that there is actually a KFC. This fried chicken fast-food restaurant was around before the Prohibited Restaurants Act was passed and was grandfathered in which allowed it to continue operations on the island.


You won't find any McDonald's in Yemen for several reasons. First, if you follow world events, then you probably know that Yemen is in the middle of a long and pernicious civil war that has been going on for almost a decade — it started in 2015. Yemen is home to the Houthis, a group that has been classified as global terrorists. With the threat these extremists pose, it is highly unlikely that McDonald's would even consider opening a restaurant in the country, out of fear for safety for the employees and customers.


The Houthi extremist group and devastating civil war would be reason enough for McDonald's to not open any restaurants in Yemen. However, there is yet another reason the chain is likely to stay out of the country. Yemen has a very poor economy coupled with a high unemployment rate. From a purely financial standpoint, extending its operations to Yemen would not be a smart move for the successful restaurant chain.

North Korea

Learning that there are no McDonald's in North Korea may not be a huge shock. To put it nicely, North Korea and the United States have a rocky relationship. North Korean leaders see the U.S. as the enemy. Their government is pretty much the opposite of American ideals, such as freedom of expression and access to information.


For all these reasons, North Korea prohibits McDonald's — a true symbol of the West — from opening restaurants in the country. In 2018, Kim Jong Un, North Korea's leader, was considering allowing a McDonald's to open as a sign of goodwill. However, to date, it doesn't look like that gesture materialized in any McDonald's north of the 38th parallel. Perhaps in the future, the two countries can come to a mutual agreement that will decrease tensions and allow fast food chains, such as McDonald's, to start serving the citizens of North Korea.


If you're planning a trip to Latin America, you will likely spot a few McDonald's during your travels — unless you're heading to Bolivia. In fact, Bolivia is the only Latin American country where you won't find any McDonald's. Moreover, the chain is prohibited from operating here. In 1997, McDonald's started opening restaurant locations in Bolivia, but from the start, the chain wasn't the right fit. The cost to purchase a combo meal was between $4 and $5, which was significantly more than what local restaurants were charging — closer to $2 to $3. And, given the fact that over half of the country was living in poverty, McDonald's higher prices were out of reach for many citizens. Evo Morales, the former President of Bolivia, once said "The fast-food of the west is doing a great deal of harm to humankind."


McDonald's just couldn't cut it in Bolivia, and after 5 years, they closed all their restaurants there in 2002. Today, you still won't find any McDonald's in the country. The citizens of Bolivia don't seem eager to have McDonald's return to their country.


If you follow the news, then Iran is another country you're probably not surprised to see on this list. Iran is very anti-U.S. and Western ideals. Its rulers have banned McDonald's and other fast food chains to keep Western influence out of the country. So, not only are people unable to snack on some Mickey D's french fries, they won't be able to enjoy a handcrafted Starbucks drink in Iran.


However, while Iranian leaders may be anti-McDonald's, some citizens crave the nuggets, burgers, fries, and other popular McDonald's menu items. Some Iranian entrepreneurs have tried to capitalize on these cravings by opening bootleg versions of McDonald's. For example, there is a restaurant in Tehran, the country's capital, called Mash Donalds. It mimics the look of the real deal, down to the golden arches and pictures of Ronald McDonald. Mash Donald's menu is different from what you'll find in the U.S. One of their popular offerings is a falafel sandwich.


Traveling to Macedonia? If so, you probably aren't expecting to find any regional U.S. fast food chains. However, you might be thinking about grabbing a quick bite at a national chain, like McDonald's. If so, you'll want to revise your plans because you aren't going to find a McDonald's anywhere in the country. Until about a decade ago, it would have been a different story. There used to be seven restaurants in the country. They were operated by SJ Company.


However, something changed in 2013. The agreement between SJ Company and McDonald's franchises was abruptly terminated. Macedonians didn't even receive notice of the termination. One day the restaurants were open, but the next day, when customers tried to walk in for a coffee and Egg McMuffin, they found a note on the door about the closure. While the note said that the restaurants were only closed temporarily, the agreement has not been reinstated over the past decade, so Macedonians still cannot get their McDonald's fix.