Travelers Need to Keep Currency Fluctuations in Perspective

Guatemala - a bargain whenever

Every once in a while someone will post a new review of The World’s Cheapest Destinations and comment that you can’t really trust the info in it because “prices are changing all the time” due to currency fluctuations. In a sense this is valid in that nothing is ever fixed, and in every edition I have noted in the introduction that prices are a guideline, they’re not set in stone.

Still, it’s important to remember that in the cheapest countries to travel in the world, prices seldom shift more than 10% in a given year just because of currency exchange differences. Sure, the Thai baht is now at a 13-year high against the dollar (30 baht to $1), but does that really mean Thailand is not a bargain? Of course not. I’ve been to Thailand multiple times and sometimes when I was there it was 40 baht to the dollar, other times it was 31 or 32. That matters, sure, but it was still a great value every time. So your 300 baht guesthouse now costs $10 a night instead of $9. Are you going to change your trip because of that?

Right now I’m getting between 12 and 13 Mexican pesos to the dollar living in Mexico, from month to month. A few years ago I got around 10, for a brief window in time I got nearly 15. But it was always a great deal compared to the Caribbean or the U.S., just sometimes it was even better.

Hungary will always be a better value than Germany. Guatemala will always be a better deal than Costa Rica. Ecuador will always be a better deal than Chile. Indonesia will always be a better deal than Australia. India will always be cheaper than the Maldives. The fluctuations matter, sure, but if you’re aiming to get the most out of your long-term travel budget, pay more attention to the value than to what’s happening on the worldwide economic stage. Those currency bounces matter more if you’re heading to an expensive place—like Japan, Australia, Canada, or Western Europe—than they do in the cheapest places to travel around the world.

Comments
  1. Belinda

    I just returned from Thailand and a lot of backpackers were complaining that, “Oh, it was so much cheaper here ____ years ago.” But it seemed like a great bargain to me for everything.

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