[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.
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.
*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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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!
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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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.
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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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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!