Year Of The American Traveler: Top 10 Destinations For A Strong Dollar

Johnny
[nextpage title = “Part 1 » #10 – #5”]2015 is the year of the American traveler. It’s a good time to be earning American dollars at the moment as the dollar has strengthened significantly against almost all the currencies in the world. With the Fed looking to raise rates, and the rest of the world all their share of problems, the outlook for the dollar is strong. What’s this mean? Well, if you’re lucky enough to be earning USD, then this is the year to unleash your inner Marco Polo.

It’s a good time to visit just about any country in the world, and as much as I’d like to go everywhere, it’s not so feasible. It’s a good problem to have however, as never has it been cheaper to cross off bucket list items that involve traveling to other countries. Sadly, flight prices don’t seem to be impacted by the weakening currencies, nor the crumbling oil prices, and I don’t see them falling anytime soon.

 

10. Australia


With commodity prices being pummeled, the Australian dollar has seen a steep sell off from being worth MORE than the dollar two years ago, to AUD1.3 to $1. That’s a 30% drop off in a year. However, those that want to go down under need to remember Australia is not a cheap destination, even with a weakening currency. There’s a reason most Australians would rather travel abroad (and also why I can ALWAYS count on seeing Aussies in my travels), than their own country.

Nevertheless, Australia is home to some truly amazing sights like the Great Barrier Reef, Whitsunday, Kakadu National park, and endless indigenous flora and fauna. Australia is consistently on people’s list and now is as good of a time to visit as ever.

Whitsunday national park, australia

Whitsunday National Park in Australia. How amazing is this?

*New Zealand has also seen a large sell off in its currency, so all those seeking a Lord of the Rings set visit, now is your time!

Read Also On Johnny Africa:  Cape Town to Namibia Overland: Intro and South Africa's West Coast

 

9. Russia


With everything going on in the Crimea region in Ukraine, many people might think Russia is a dangerous place right now. Seriously, those people need to read the news more. Yes, perhaps you may not be in safe hands if you’re visiting the Crimea region, but Red Square in Moscow and the museums in St. Petersburg have never seen a better time to visit for people visiting with Benjamins.

St Basil's cathedral

Red Square and the iconic St. Basil’s cathedral in Moscow

With collapsing oil prices, and an international community that’s terrified of Vladimir Putin, the Ruble has hit multi-decade lows. Not more than a year ago, the Ruble was trading around 35 to $1. Nowadays, it’s trading around 60, meaning the dollar is almost two times as valuable as it was a year ago! That’s a lot of vodka and beef stroganov to be had.

For the more adventurous, try the 11 day Trans-Siberian Railway that traverses the entire country of Russia.

For the more adventurous, try the 11 day Trans-Siberian Railway that traverses the entire country of Russia.

 

8. Scandinavia


Scandinavia has always been a place I’ve wanted to visit. The pictures of the Fjords, mountains, northern lights, and other incredible sights would be enough to attract anyone for a visit. Sadly, Scandinavia is also one of the most expensive destinations in the world. I’ve met lots of Norwegians, and Swedes on my travels and I don’t think I’ve ever met a person that’s told me their country is cheap. Everything, from alcohol to pet food is expensive.

Reine, Norway

Reine, Norway. This place looks straight out of a fantasy movie. So unreal.

With the collapse in oil prices, the Swedish Krona and Norwegian Krone have all depreciated 30% in the last year making it as “cheap” as ever to visit the land of the Vikings. Even though their currencies are at all time lows, don’t expect to be buying everyone rounds of beers at the bar. Their currencies would need to fall another 50% for cost of items to be as affordable as other destinations on this list. However, if these countries are on your list, now is as good a time as ever to check it off.

Hard to beat this view from Trolltunga, Norway.

Hard to beat this view from Trolltunga, Norway.

 

Read Also On Johnny Africa:  Best Outdoor Adventures in Africa to Experience in Your Lifetime

7. India


India boasts some of the oldest and richest history in the world, and is one of the most different countries to Western society that there is. With its amazing landscapes, and even more stunning monuments, India is a great choice to visit, especially for the more hardcore travelers.

India has gotten some seriously bad press in the news the past few years so this is something to consider but these are a few incidents in a HUGE country.

Don't think I need to mention what this building is at all...

Don’t think I need to mention what this building is at all…

Oh and let’s not forget about the food. Indian food’s one of my favorites and I’d be happy just to visit India to eat (although I have heard plenty of horror stories of food poisoning. Sacrifices!)

 

6. Brazil


The land of the Samba, football, religion, rainforest, magnificent sprawling cities, unspoiled beaches, and the ever famous Carnival festival. The Brazilian Real (“Ree-Alls”) has seen a drop of almost 50% in the last year! With the real trading above 3 Reals to $1, never has it been cheaper to visit the multitude of beautiful sights Brazil has to offer. From the beaches of Rio, to the Amazon forests, to the intense waterfalls of Iguazu, the largest country in Latin America should now be on everyone’s list. Brazil is also a great gateway to travel elsewhere in South America.

Christ the redeemer

The famous Christ the redeemer statue in Rio De Janeiro.

Keep in mind, Americans will have to purchase their visas before entering the country for $100, as this is how much the US charges Brazilians to enter. Also keep in mind that Sao Paolo is one of the most expenses places I’ve ever seen. Even with the real trading above 3, this place is still very expensive.

Routinely ranked as one of nature's top wonders, Iguazu falls lies on the border between Brazil and Argentina and can be visited on both sides. Both countries are incredible deals at the moment for the dollar!

Routinely ranked as one of nature’s top wonders, Iguazu falls lies on the border between Brazil and Argentina and can be visited on both sides. Both countries are incredible deals at the moment for the dollar!

 

5. Anywhere in the Eurozone


The Euro has been making the headlines consistently in the last year. The Eurozone has been a giant mess with countries like Greece, Italy, Spain, consistently nearing default. Great news for the American traveler however. Europe is America’s top travel destination with Paris, London, and Rome always topping travelers lists. I remember the first time I went to Europe, the Euro was trading around $1.4 to 1 euro. I thought things were a bit expensive but nothing too unreasonable. Now the Euro is heading towards parity (1 to 1) making it as easy as every for dollar earners to visit.

The beautiful countryside in Salzburg, Austria.

The beautiful countryside in Salzburg, Austria.

Spain, Netherlands, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, and many others are Euro countries so that’s a lot of traveling to be had. Even Poland and Hungary, countries that do not use the Euro, has seen their currencies (the zloty and forint), depreciate heavily!

Of course, you can't forget about the countless cathedrals, museums, and castles like the Segrada Familiar in Barcelona.

Of course, you can’t forget about the countless cathedrals, museums, and castles like the Segrada Familiar in Barcelona.

I’m certainly taking advantage of the good news and planning my visits to Germany and Austria later this year. Even at parity, Europe is hardly the “budget” destination for those of us that are cash strapped but that 80 euro dinner for two in Paris is no longer $110, but rather $85.

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4. Japan


Tokyo, Japan’s capital has always ranked as one of the most, if not the most expensive city to live in the world. The Japanese standard of living is in the top end of the world. Although the land of the rising sun has always been a place I’ve wanted to go, I’ve never pulled the trigger because of how expensive things were. Thankfully the yen has weakened to lows not seen since the financial crisis and has been trading over 120 yen to $1.

Tōdai-ji, japan largest temple

Now that’s a damn big temple. The Tōdai-ji, is one of the largest temples in the world, located in Japan.

Also, after scouring the internet, it turns out Japan isn’t as expensive as I once though, which makes my trip in September that much better!

manta ray japan ishigaki

Ishigaki, one of the islands in the south of Japan, is famous for its year round, almost guaranteed, sightings of manta rays. Yep, definitely gonna be going here.

 

3. Turkey


Turkey’s come up fast as one of the tourist hotspots amongst Americans. With its beautiful attractions, great food, and relaxed rules when it comes to Islamic traditions, Turkey (as well as Morocco) have fallen on everyone’s bucket lists. I visited Turkey in 2014, spending a few nights in Istanbul, taking the hot air balloons in Cappadocia, seeing the Roman ruins, and doing the world’s highest paragliding. The Lira was 2.1 at that time, and I felt like the country was already cheap. The Lira is now trading at 2.6, 25% cheaper than it was a year ago.

No better way to see the chimney rock formations in Cappadocia than by hot air balloon in the morning.

No better way to see the chimney rock formations in Cappadocia than by hot air balloon in the morning.

 

2. Argentina


Argentina has been suffering for quite some time. They just can’t seem to get their sh*t together with their economy as they defaulted on their debt last year causing their currency to tumble. When I visited Argentina in Apr 2012, the exchange rate was 4.3 pesos to the dollar. It felt cheap at that time. It is now almost 9 pesos to the dollar.

The Perito Moreno glacier in El Calafate is a sight to behold. This picture might look cool, but it does the place no justice at all.

The Perito Moreno glacier in El Calafate is a sight to behold. This picture might look cool, but it does the place no justice at all.

The Argentinians are so fed up with their currency, and understand its little worth, that it is infact Argentina that holds the most US cash outside of America. Make sure to bring plenty of greenbacks to this country, and reap the rewards as black market dealers will gladly give you pesos at an even more favorable right. I’ve heard of people getting 13 pesos to the dollar! That’s A LOT of steak and malbec. Enough to have it for breakfast lunch and dinner I’d rekcon.

The little town of Ushuaia, located at the very southern tip of Argentina is the most southern city in the world. It's also the gateway to anyone wanting to visit Antarctica as all cruises leave from this town. Sorry, a strong dollar won't help you to get there as all tours are in dollars (and a lot of it).

The little town of Ushuaia, located at the very southern tip of Argentina is the most southern city in the world. It’s also the gateway to anyone wanting to visit Antarctica as all cruises leave from this town. Sorry, a strong dollar won’t help you to get there as all tours are in dollars (and a lot of it).

Oh and also Argentina has some AMAZING sights, from the glaciers in El Calafate, to the wine country in Mendoza, to the endless hikes available throughout all of Patagonia.

 

1. South Africa & Namibia


Well, could I be accused of favoritism with this one? Definitely. But with good reason. I did live there for two years and loved every moment of it. When I first moved to South Africa in early 2013, the rand was trading at R8.5 to the dollar. Now it is well over 12!!! That’s a 40% swing in 2 years! Yes, inflation is high in South Africa but not that high and for dollar earners, South Africa’s economic pain (and they have a lot of it), is your gain. When I had friends visit, the rand was trading between 10-11 and I even thought that was ridiculous at the time. Now, at R12 to the dollar, a 500g (18oz) steak with a side can be had for $10-15 at a top steakhouse and wine tastings at even the nicest wine farms will cost $3-5.

Cape Town is the most naturally beautiful city in the world in my opinion. You won't find much historical sights, or renaissance architecture, but the mountains, ocean, and beach converging in one spot just makes this place breathtaking.

Cape Town is the most naturally beautiful city in the world in my opinion. You won’t find much historical sights, or renaissance architecture, but the mountains, ocean, and beach converging in one spot just makes this place breathtaking.

Safaris will be “cheaper” but still not cheap. They’re not a cheap activity, and targeted to a more affluent crowd. Nevertheless, South African companies still quote their safaris in rands, which is at a multi-decade low. Eastern African countries like Kenya and Tanzania strictly use dollars for their safaris so a strong dollar won’t be helping you out there.

Sunset from a wine farm in Franschhoek. Wine lovers rejoice, this is the holy grail of wine regions. Well, I'm not going to compare wines, but I implore you to find a most beautiful wine region than the Cape.

Sunset from a wine farm in Franschhoek. Wine lovers rejoice, this is the holy grail of wine regions. Well, I’m not going to compare wines, but I implore you to find a most beautiful wine region than the Cape.

Of course, getting there is not cheap as it’s not a close place to the states, but once you arrive, prepare to feast and indulge like a king.

Kruger safari

And of course, what trip to Africa would be complete without a safari of some sort?

 

Travel tips when going abroad


The dollar is doing incredibly well at the moment, and wherever you go abroad, things will be cheaper. However, there are some tips to be had for saving even more money and not getting ripped off.

Get a No Fee Credit Card
This should be one of the top things for any traveler looking to go abroad this year. All developed destinations (Europe, Australia, Japan, South Africa etc.) use credit cards for everything. Not only do you get credit card points, you don’t have to worry about carrying large sums of cash on you and credit cards will always give you close to the spot exchange rate. Some of my favorite cards are the Capital One Venture, Chase Sapphire, and Barclaycard Arrival.

Get a No Fee bank card
Most banks will charge you exorbitant fees on withdrawing money abroad, upwards of $10! If you’re going on a short trip and taking money once or twice, this isn’t a big deal but if you’re planning on making multiple visits to the ATM, this will add up quickly. Instead, get a brokerage account like Schwab or Fidelity that will reimburse you any ATM fees incurred.

Stay away from Money Exchange
Do yourself a favor and stay far away from money exchange bureaus. Almost always, they use outdated rates, charge you exchange fees, and you’re almost always going to come away with less money. Instead, go straight to the ATM, where you never have to worry about being ripped off and always get the market rates. 

The only time I would recommend going to one of these is if they charge no fees, and you have researched what the spot rate is so they can't rip you off.

The only time I would recommend going to one of these is if they charge no fees, and you have researched what the spot rate is so they can’t rip you off.

The only exception to this rule is Argentina, where their terrible economic state has made dollars more precious than their second born. Instead of going to official money exchanges, find the local black market dealer that will give you Argentine pesos at a much more favorable rate than the market is. I’m not lying here btw.

Always pay in local currency
Almost always, I opt for paying in the local currency. Most vendors, especially in developing countries, know exactly what the current fx rates are but prey on people that don’t bother checking beforehand, telling them some outrageously outdated rate.

Not only is it better to pay in local currency, but I love seeing what other bills look like.

Not only is it better to pay in local currency, but I love seeing what other bills look like.

For example, I was recently in Mexico where the peso was trading at 15 pesos per dollar. All prices were quoted in pesos but because of the ample amounts of American tourists, they also accepted dollars. Instead of the market rate, they’d be telling tourists it was 13 pesos to the dollar, or even 12, and even 10 at some places! Of course, most of the American tourists were completely clueless and paid these ridiculous rates! I’m sure those Mexicans were laughing all the way to the bank as they converted those dollars back to Pesos at 15 to 1.

Think twice about Tour packages
Tour packages, especially ones geared towards Americans, aka that quote in dollars. Most tour companies fix their prices months in advance, at a less favorable exchange rate and almost always result in paying more money.

Just book it!
So the dollar is at all time highs and oil prices are nearing all time lows. Flight prices haven’t seemed to budge and don’t seem like it will be anytime soon. Book your flights now and get to jetsetting![/nextpage]

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    Danielle
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    Great write up! I’m a proud Canadian but I kinda wish I was American after reading this. I’m still planning on visiting Europe this year but you guys have it good this year!

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