The book that became Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune was supposed to be called The Contrarian Traveler until I got outvoted. The central advice of it to watch what the crowd is doing and then do the opposite. The secondary idea of it is pouncing to take advantage of opportunities presented by a travel market that’s out of whack.
Currencies go out of whack on a regular basis. That’s just a byproduct of the global economy. As they say on a particular reality show I get stuck watching sometimes for family harmony, “One day you’re in, the next day you’re out.” One day the dollar is in the toilet, then the next thing you know it’s the king of currencies again.
Right now the U.S. dollar is riding high, but don’t get used to it. These things are cyclical. But here’s a current snapshot on where to go…and not…based on how far your currency will stretch if you’re American or Canadian.
Green Light – Go!
Western Europe hasn’t been this reasonable for five+ years and who knows when it will be again. Go now if you can afford it, especially if troubled Greece or Portugal was on your list.
Eastern Europe gets a cold when Western Europe sneezes and right now they’re both popping pills.
Parts of Africa are seeing currencies dive with the euro. So it’s more than 10% cheaper on the ground now in Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal, Mali, and others.
Southeast Asia minus Thailand: the whole region is suffering from the bad press, which means deals are good in Thailand’s neighbors of Laos, Vietnam, and Malaysia.
Honduras and Mexico are still suffering from bad press of their own, mostly unjustified in the latter case, totally unjustified in the former. They want your travel budget bad and are working hard to get it.
Yellow Light- Maybe
If you were going to Central or South America, this year is not much different than last year. Half those currencies are already tied to the dollar and those that aren’t haven’t changed so much that it makes a big difference. Note that Argentina added a nasty reciprocal visa fee though, which means $130 per person more to factor into your budget before you even get out of the airport if you’re from the U.S. You’ll pay that in Chile, Bolivia, or Brazil as well.
There’s been a lot of press lately about bargain flights to New Zealand and some drops to Australia. The problem is, those discounts are offset by a strong currency and prices that were already high to begin with. The greenback is up 7-8% in those two countries, but that’s not enough to make much of a difference.
China is a wild card. If the country devalues its currency, which it keeps talking about, it’ll suddenly be a bit cheaper there. But who knows when/if that will happen.
USA is a deal for Canadians right now and isn’t a bad fallback for Americans who can’t pony up for a trip abroad. Hotel occupancy is still low, crime is way down again, and some cities (like Vegas) are practically begging you to come stay. And hey, imported French and Italian wine is cheaper this year, so drink up!
Red Light – Stop!
Japan is as ungodly expensive as ever. The dollar is actually down against the yen, stubbornly sitting at 92 yen to the buck. Go to Korea instead.
Russia and the Ukraine haven’t seen any currency devaluation. Moscow is still ridiculous.
Canada is more expensive now for Americans than it has been in any previous summer. You’re better off staying on this side of the border unless you really want to go ride the Rocky Mountaineer.
Venezuela’s ironically named bolivar fuerte wins the prize for the biggest currency drop against the dollar-100%. And guess what—it’s still overvalued! When the black market rate is several times better than an official rate that just declined by half, you’re talking about a country where you’re about to become a character in a movie that does not end well. There’s opportunity and then there’s something akin to stepping into the home of a nutjob. Venezuela is the latter.