When you travel, do you only eat at local establishments? Or do you eat at chain restaurants?


Recently, I was having dinner with a good friend of mine and we were talking about our travels and all of the different kinds of food we’ve eaten along the way. We got into the topic of fast food restaurants and chain restaurants such as McDonald’s and Starbucks and whether or not we eat at them while we travel.


Buddy The Traveling Monkey Local vs Chain Restaurants

Eating curry chicken in Siem Reap, Cambodia.


I know there are a lot of people out there that will not eat at a chain restaurant while they travel. They want their experience to be more authentic and will only eat where the locals eat. They search for hole-in-the-wall eateries and little known hidden gems.


Buddy The Traveling Monkey Local vs Chain Restaurants

Eating escargot in Paris, France.


I think that is what travelers should do to really get to know the people and culture of an area. I know that when I travel I try to experience new things. I’ll try anything once. However, I do also go to places like McDonald’s, Hard Rock Cafe, and Starbucks.


Why? There are two reasons…


 1. Curiosity

I think it’s pretty cool that when you eat at McDonald’s in different countries, their menu is tailored more towards local favorites. For example, the McDonald’s in Thailand serve pineapple pies instead of apple pies. In Germany, they serve the McNürnburger, which has three Bratwurst served on a bun with mustard and onions. So a lot of times it just comes down to curiosity and wanting to know of any differences in the menu.


Buddy The Traveling Monkey Local vs Chain Restaurants

I stopped in to this McDonald’s on Kuta Beach in Bali, Indonesia.


 2. It’s Familiar

Being open to trying new things is adventurous and awesome. So let’s say you tried those crickets in Cambodia (good for you!) but now you just want to eat something that you know will not make your stomach turn. Then maybe it’s ok to go and get something that you’re familiar with? I know there have been times when I ate only local cuisine for a week. It was great and really tasty. But then there came a point where I just wanted a Papa Johns pizza. Does that make me a bad traveler?


Buddy The Traveling Monkey Local vs Chain Restaurants

Eating cuy in Cusco, Peru.


I think it all boils down to the constant debate of traveler vs tourist. If you don’t eat at local establishments, you’re an icky tourist. But I don’t think it has to be so black and white. Go ahead and get breakfast at a fast food restaurant, but make sure to try a local dish for lunch and dinner. While exploring Thailand, I ate breakfast at a Burger King but I also took a cooking class where I learned all about local dishes and ingredients.


Buddy The Traveling Monkey Local vs Chain Restaurants

Learning how to cook Thai food in Chiang Mai.


It’s important that when we visit new countries and cities we are open to trying new things and having new experiences. But that doesn’t mean I can’t stop in to a Starbucks if I’m craving a white chocolate mocha. It’s all about finding a balance…


What are your thoughts? Do you think it’s ok to eat at chain restaurants while traveling? We’d love to read your comments below. 🙂


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Buddy The Traveling Monkey Local vs Chain Restaurants