Can you think of something that 120 countries across the world have in common? That would be the one and only Big Mac hamburger offered by McDonald’s franchises internationally. I’m sure when the first McDonald’s franchise owner Jim Delligan from Pennsylvania perfected the Big Mac sauce (which took him two years), he never thought that in 1968 his creation would later become a way to measure a country’s economy.
The Economist magazine created the Big Mac Index in 1986 in order to illustrate consumer purchasing power and to provide a better understanding of the currency value in any given country. By comparing the price of the infamous burger between countries, you reach a better understanding of what people are paying for the same item across the globe. Plus, using something as delicious and recognized as the Big Mac might shed some light on the complex world of economics.
McDonald’s top-selling burger is made in a standardized size and method, with the same quality in nearly every country. So, to calculate the cost of the Big Mac in a way that’s comparable despite varying currencies, the average national Big Mac price has been taken and converted to the most recent exchange rate in U.S dollars.
Here’s how much you’ll need no matter the country in the world you find yourself in, to enjoy, as McDonald’s says it, mouthwatering perfection with two 100% pure beef patties, Big Mac sauce sandwiched between a sesame seed bun, cheese, crisp lettuce, onions, and pickles to top it off...
20 1. Switzerland, $6.80
You might be asking yourself how Switzerland, famous for their chocolates, cheeses and watches, has the most expensive Big Mac burger in the entire world. Well, Switzerland is also one of the most expensive countries to live in, with quite a high standard of living. The locals, who get paid higher wages, also pay higher taxes and have their commodities and services priced at a relatively inflated rate. Don’t feel too bad for them though, they’re known to be the happiest and healthiest stock of people in the world.
If you find yourself in the serene country of Switzerland, you can pair your expensive Big Mac at $6.80 with some famous Lindt chocolate for dessert! Sounds like a gourmet meal to me.
19 2. Sweden, $6.10
Scandinavia is well-known for an emphasis on healthy eating. While the temptation for a Big Mac burger can be appreciated almost anywhere across the globe, in Sweden, McDonald’s had to work around this dilemma.
So, they created the first ever vegan McDonald's burger - the McVegan, a mix of cannellini and kidney beans, onions, carrots, green peppers, and tomatoes, all served on a lettuce bun. The McVegan was such a hit that it became a permanent item on the menu.
Sweden is also home to the first McSki, a drive-through inspired restaurant right in the middle of a ski slope! At the well-known ski resort in Lindvallen, near Stockholm, you can literally ski and munch at the same time.
18 3. Finland, $5.60
Although you can pick up an exclusive McVegan burger in Sweden, the vegan alternative burger was initially launched as a test and sold only in the Finnish city of Tampere. Following the overwhelmingly positive reaction, it was released nationwide in both Sweden and Finland. Likewise to the people of Sweden, the locals in Finland are opting more and more for specialist vegan foods and products. So it would only make sense that in the development stages, over 100 different recipes were prepared before the McVegan was perfected.
Whether you choose to do as most of the Finnish people do and have a vegan burger, or stick to the classic Big Mac, you can still do so for about $5.60. Regardless of the burger you picked, make sure to picnic at the picturesque Suomenlinna (Castle of Finland), in Helsinki where you will be surrounded by locals and tourists enjoying the outstanding architecture.
17 4. France, $5.37
France, the center of gastronomy and gourmet cuisine, might even trick you into thinking your Big Mac burger was cooked at a renowned Michelin star restaurant with their price of the burger favorite coming in at $5.37. The locals are known to pride themselves on their top-notch culinary skills and quality, so I suspect their take on the Big Mac would be no different. Why not investigate yourself, dig into a Parisienne Big Mac or even try their McBaguette.
The McBaguette is served on a baguette with a choice of chicken, ham, cheese, and even some artisanal options like apricot and orange marmalade. Expect the McDonald’s in France to be like a sophisticated café, because you’ll even find macarons and crêpes on the menu!
16 5. United States, $5.30
The United States of America, home to the birthplace of the beloved Big Mac, loves their burgers so much they even dedicated a whole museum to it! You can visit the McDonald’s Big Mac Museum in Pennsylvania and chow down on the staple-mark of US culture; a Big Mac for just $5.30.
With about 15,000 McDonald’s franchise restaurants in the country, you can enjoy the legacy and national treasure - the Holy Big Mac - just about anywhere you find yourself.
Fun fact: the cherished burger was not always known as the Big Mac: when it first came out it bore the title the ‘Big Attraction’.
15 6. Canada, $5.30
While its sister country, the big ol’ USA, boasts around 15,000 McDonald’s restaurants, Canada only has approximately 2000. Don’t let that fool you though, there's still a soft spot for the favorite Big Mac burger up north, and locals can enjoy it for just about the same price as their US neighbors, for $5.30.
To be fair, Canada loves its cherished Tim Horton’s just as much as the USA's treasure, McDonald’s. In 2016, there were 3820 Tim Horton’s franchises in Canada, and I’m sure today that number may even be tripled!
The amazing thing about this is you won’t have to search long and hard to find your favorite fast food chains; you can enjoy a Tim Horton’s donut after your Big Mac because odds are that they won’t be too far from each other.
14 7. Brazil, $5.10
There was a time when a Big Mac in Brazil was only $1.48, but that was a time way back in 2003. Today you’ll have to dish out $5.10 USD, which is $19.10 ‘Real’ (local currency) to dig into a Big Mac. For a country in South America, Brazil can be alarmingly expensive, contrary to most tourist beliefs, who perceive it as a beautiful destination that won’t be too harsh on their wallets.
Part of the reason it’s so costly is the allure and fascination that US culture has in such a faraway southern country like Brazil. This is why you’ll find most locals eating rice, beans and meat at a home-style resto for the same price.
13 8. Israel $4.80
In Israel, for those who follow the Jewish traditions, they must abstain from eating bread for a week during Passover. Therefore, McDonald’s had to improvise with some items on their menu. If you’re in Israel and celebrating Passover, rest assured McDonald’s serves burgers on a bed of lettuce or on matzo, which is unleavened bread.
If you don’t want the Big Mac option on a lettuce bun for $4.80, you can taste the McKebab or McShawarma, both served on pita flat-bread. What’s more, McDonald’s in Israel abides by Kosher laws of not mixing cheese (milk) and meat. In other words, your McDonald’s feast will have even fewer calories, sounds like a win-win to me!
12 9. The Netherlands, $4.50
For $4.50 your Big Mac from the Netherlands will actually go a long way. In the Netherland’s, McDonald’s places a huge importance on the community and environment, so their heftier prices are justifiable as all their waste is recycled or recovered and processed into napkins and placemats.
The McDonald’s franchise in this country has had a lot of time to perfect their methods of operation. The iconic golden arches first appeared in September 1971 in the city of Zaandam near Amsterdam and their first McDrive-thru opened in 1987 following popular demand. If I’m ever in the Netherlands, I might just go for their McKroket, a deep-fried, ragout-filled snack covered in bread crumbs and offered all year long!
11 10. Great Britain, $4.40
In Britain, you can purchase a Big Mac for $4.40, the same cost as in Singapore! What’s cool in the United Kingdom is that they celebrated 50 years of the Big Mac with the launch of two new sized burgers, offered for a limited time only of course. For a mini “on the go” size, you could have opted for a MacJnr, which like the title says, is a junior Big Mac with just one beef patty. The bigger and bolder choice, however, is the Grand Big Mac, which super-sized the Big Mac to be deserving of the title ‘Grand’.
You may want to save your Big Mac craving for a city in the outskirts, like Leicester, rather than the bustling city of London where prices are significantly higher.
10 11. Singapore, $4.40
One of the cleanest countries in the world, Singapore, launched a campaign titled, “Just for You, Singapore” by McDonalds. This campaign saw the release of several exclusive items, one of them being the “Nasi Lemak” burger, initially launched in Malaysia. It turns out the local dish isn’t just a favorite in Mayalsia, but in Singapore as well! Nasi Lemak must be a pretty tasty coconut flavored burger because it even sparked a debate between the two countries.
For a classic meal though, it’ll cost you $4.40 for a Big Mac, and then a few dollars for the Chendol McFlurry: a “delectably creamy mix of Gula Melaka and vanilla soft-serve, whisked to perfection with Chendol jelly bits”. Yum!
9 12. Chile, $4.30
There’s something that sounds exotic about a Big Mac in Chile. You can try one for $4.30, but if you’re in the capital city of Santiago, you can have a full meal cooked by a local Chilean for about $10-$16 USD. Why not try their take on a Big Mac though, and even pair it with their side of Empanadas con Queso - a localized cheese empanada which is thick and crispy.
If McDonald’s is really your thing don’t miss out on sampling their ‘Medias Lunas’, a mini croissant which literally means ‘half-moon’. Or even their unique McColoso, a waffle cone with strawberries for your delightful dessert treat you won’t find anywhere else.
8 13. Argentina, $4.00
Why don't you find a Big Mac on the menu in Argentina? Well, that’s a thought-provoking question considering it's the most famous burger known to mankind. The answer lies in what TheEconomist magazine published a few years back, calling out Argentina’s commerce secretary for enticing companies to fix certain prices to keep down the official inflation of the country. And that’s exactly what the Big Mac Index does - indicate the value of any given currency.
While the Big Mac may not be on the menu, you can still order one regardless, and at such a low cost it’s even cheaper than a Quarter Pounder! Or try the McFiesta burger, basically a quarter pounder with mayonnaise, not ketchup.
7 14. Thailand, $3.70
What’s peculiar in Thailand is that fast-food joints are considered more to be on the ‘higher-end’ of restaurants. It’s almost even prestigious to be seen inside a McDonald’s in Thailand! At a local McThai, you can find all your favorite sandwich options, most of them being offered in a double size, and for a Big Mac that would mean four patties. Can you ever go wrong with a double Big Mac?
For of a taste of local food go for the Samurai Pork Burger- a pork patty marinated with teriyaki sauce, lettuce, tomato, onions and topped with a pickle. Then for desert tickle your palate with a corn and pineapple pie!
6 15. Japan, $3.40
It may be safe to say that Japan has a taste for McDonald’s. By 2020 it's estimated that 10,000 branches will be established nationwide. The McDees menu in Japan is a lot different compared to anywhere else. Other than their Big Mac for $3.40, they also offer the Mega Mac at twice the size of a regular Mac! If that’s too much food for you there’s always the localized McDonald’s dish Ebi Filet-O, a shrimp cutlet with lettuce and a local spicy sauce.
You can also upgrade your side of fries to ‘Mentai Mayo’ fries which are flavored with seasoned cod roe and mayo and accompany it with a Yuzu-flavored McFizz, which is similar to a citrus flavored Sprite (Yuzu is a Japanese lemon)
5 16. Pakistan, $3.40
In Pakistan, you can buy your Big Mac for $3.40, still less expensive than in America. We know the Big Mac is a favorite in everyone’s hearts, but the real prized menu item in Pakistan is the McArabia. Their most popular item is similar to a chicken pita sandwich, and is “one of its kind” according to the McDonald’s Pakistan website.
Now how could the McArabia triumph over the Big Mac? Simply because in Pakistan their culture eats and breathes chicken pitas, and the McDo version offers it with two grilled chicken patties, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and most importantly, garlic sauce! Pair that with a mango-flavored McShake and your taste buds will thank you.
4 17. India, $2.80
In India, especially in the capital of New Delhi, McDonald's has drawn inspiration for their menu from the very unique flavors of Indian cuisine. Their first order of business was to cater to locals who worship cows as sacred and therefore had to alternate the beef patty from the Big Mac with chicken.
They created the Maharaja Mac, which goes for $2.80, and comes with the classic fries which you can swap for a vegetable pizza McPuff if that’s what your heart desires. Spices are at the heart of India's gastronomy, so it’s no surprise that mint and various spices were added to even the chicken McGrill to appeal to locals.
You are guaranteed to find something on this menu for your cravings!
3 18. Turkey, $2.80
As much as I love the Big Mac, what really caught my eye is the Breakfast Menu which offers freshly sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, feta, olives, cheese, and an omelet all served on an English muffin. Not only does that sound mouth-watering, but sounds like a fresh meal that can only be healthy for you!
A local twist on a McDonald’s classic is the Kofteburger made with Turkish-spiced minced meat on a toasted bun with parsley, ketchup, lettuce, onions and yogurt sauce. Kofte is a traditional local dish of minced meat, mint, and parsley. If the menu couldn’t sound any better, don’t forget that a Big Mac is only $2.80 in Turkey!
2 19. Malaysia, $2.30
For $2.30 you can purchase yourself a Big Mac in Malaysia, that’s $4.50 cheaper than if you were in Switzerland! In Kuala Lumpur and all neighboring cities in Malaysia, you’ll find the quintessential local dish of ‘Nasi Lemak’ sold at every street vendor and restaurant. McDonald’s Malaysia announced in April it would pay tribute to the local favorite by adding it to the McDo menu for a limited time.
What exactly is in the Nasi Lemak? It’s typically eaten at breakfast, with a rich scented rice base cooked in coconut milk with fried egg, cucumber, and the spicy ‘ sambal chili’. Personally, I love spicy dishes so I would definitely give this alternative option to a Big Mac a try!
1 20. Ukraine, $1.60
Where can you find the cheapest Big Mac in the world? Ukraine!
For only $1.60 you can devour a Big Mac, $3.49 cheaper than in the birthplace of the burger, the United States. You’d also be saving $5.20 in comparison with to a Big Mac in Switzerland. What does this astonishingly low price of a Big Mac tell us about Ukraine? That their currency, the “hryvnia” is the most undervalued currency in the world.
McDonald’s in Ukraine is a fairly recent thing, as the first franchise only opened in 1997 in the city of Kyiv.
If the Big Mac isn’t your go-to, try the classic local mix of ham and cheese on a pita, with a side order of ‘country fries’ to switch it up.
References: Business Insider, McDonald’s, Statista, TheEconomist, WorldAtlas, TheDailyMeal