I’ve started work on updating The World’s Cheapest Destinations, with the 4th edition coming out in December. Meanwhile, here are a few updates in terms of which countries are cheaper, about the same, or more expensive since the 3rd edition came out in 2009. This is for those traveling with U.S. dollars. If your currency is up or down in a big way against the dollar, keep that in mind. For Canadians or Australians, for example, everywhere is cheaper than it was three or four years ago.
(Slightly) Cheaper Destinations
Unfortunately, this is a rather short list. There may be a recession in the developed world, but most of the cheap (as in developing) countries are going gangbusters in terms of growth. Vietnam’s leaders are freaking out, for example, because their GDP growth may be only 6% this year. If we had half that number in the U.S. then Obama would get re-elected in a landslide. Add more traveling Chinese, Russians, Indians, Brazilians, Turks, Middle Easterners, and others to the mix and the demand for international travel is growing around the world.
Eastern Europe – a mixed bag, but a slight fall in the euro often translates to a big fall in currencies that haven’t converted, as in the Czech Republic and Hungary. Now’s a good time to go.
India – with the dollar at around 50 rupees, budget travelers are getting a lot for their money here. At the middle and high end though, forget it.
Indonesia – Outside of Bali, where a crush of tourists has led to increased prices across the board, a more favorable exchange rate is keeping prices in check.
Mexico – For the moment, this “honorable mention” country is actually a tad cheaper than it was in 2009 because of exchange rate changes. You need to leave the resort areas though and go inland.
About the same
Someone getting off a plane now won’t notice a big difference from someone who did so three years ago in these places.
Ecuador, Panama, Belize – the first is one of the world’s cheapest, the latter two not. But all use the U.S. dollar, so no real changes.
Bolivia, Nicaragua and Honduras – the predicted surge in tourists never seems to happen, so things keep chugging along as before, with incremental changes.
Guatemala – Crime issues, a weak tourism board, and strong ties to the U.S. economy have meant no upticks here. Prices are stable.
Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam – You’ll find increased prices in pockets here and there where tourists congregate, but overall it’s not dramatic and they’re still a terrific value.
Jordan – Things keep getting better for Jordan, but it’s the best house in a bad neighborhood. So apart from the ridiculously high price to enter Petra, it remains a good deal.
These destinations will hit your wallet much harder than before. This is usually due to a stronger local currency, an improving local economy, an increase in tourists, or all of the above.
Turkey – I’m taking this country out of the next edition. It’s now one of the world’s most popular tourist spots and is priced accordingly. Now a huge cruise ship destination too, which never helps.
Thailand – This is the one I get the most angry e-mails about. Sorry kids, but the baht was in the high 30′s when I researched the last edition. Now it’s at 30. The country has weathered multiple crises that would have sunk almost anyone else and is more popular than ever. Growth has been frenetic and the locals have more money to spend.
Argentina – It’s not that their currency is doing well or that their economy would be cranking it it weren’t held together by central government duct tape and magic tricks, but inflation is very bad, so the prices keep rising, especially for anything imported. Beef and local wine are still a great deal…
Peru – Take a resource-based economy witnessing record-high commodity prices and combine that with a bucket list bucket of moneyed tourists and you get…rising prices all around. It’s still a deal off the main corridor, but “doing Machu Picchu” is going to bust the budget no matter how you work it out.
Morocco – Though still probably the best value in Africa for those on a $100 or $200 a day vacation budget, prices have gone up as they have aligned with the euro. With Spain in the crapper though economically and the rest of Europe ailing, the situation here could improve as time goes on.
Also on the “who knows” front is Egypt, which is still a big question mark. Africa’s other great value could implode or it could return to tourism as normal. We shall see.