Back when Obama first took over from George W. Bush, we were all crying the blues about a weak dollar and a crappy economy. It wasn’t a very good time to travel abroad with American currency. Steadily things got better though and then by 2016 and 2017, it was a terrific time to be traveling with U.S. dollars. We could take advantage of great exchange rates almost everywhere.
All good things must come to an end, however, and the U.S. Treasury secretary gave a weaker dollar a push over the edge of a cliff recently. With just a few comments where the rich were gathered in Davos, he sunk our currency by a sizable percentage. Here’s how the trade in the greenback against the euro has gone since the anti-trade, “America First” candidate took office in January of last year:
Currencies stabilize, improve, and go out of whack on a regular basis though. Dollar weakness and dollar strength are just byproducts of the global economy. One year your currency is in the toilet, then the next thing you know it’s worth 25% more in Botswana, or Brazil, or Belgium.
These things are cyclical and there’s no one person or institution you can really blame. The key is—when you have choices—that you consider the worth of what you’ll take out the ATM where you’re going.
If you’re an American, or someone earning U.S. dollars, here’s what to know about the state of currencies now.
Dollar Strength Green Light – Go!
Canada is still a deal for those of us south of their border, so don’t keep putting off that trip to their great cities or wild landscapes. At the height of the recession the two currencies were at par. Right now the loonie is still worth 20% less.
The dong of Vietnam has barely budged in the past year and is still near the record high of 22,800 to the dollar.
The same is true in Indonesia, where a buck gets 13,400 rupiah.
Prices in Kyrgyzstan are right where I pegged them in that article last year.
It’s a mixed bag in Central and South America. The rates never change in Ecuador and Panama since they use the U.S. dollar and some other countries, like Belize and Honduras, might as well considering how they move in tandem. We’ve lost only a little of advantage in Colombia and things are gliding along pretty consistently in Brazil, Costa Rica, and Peru. The dollar is actually up against the Argentine peso.
You’ll get the same amount of local currency in Egypt as you would have a year ago, close to a historic high.
There’s been a very slight decline in India and the dollar is still high there compared to historic norms. Nepal has a very similar chart, still at more than 100 Nepalese rupees for a buck.
Kenya is in the same boat, after the dollar being above 100 for years. Tanzania’s currency is about where it was in 2015, when it started flatlining.
Mexico is still a terrific bargain. Although the dollar has gotten 20 pesos at times, at 17 or 18 the place is still one of the world’s best values.
Yellow Light- Maybe
Western Europe is nowhere nearly as reasonable as it was in 2015 and 2016, so if you missed that window, you might be waiting a while for such a great opportunity. It has been worse at times too though and it’s still a good value if you avoid the big capital cities everyone is crowding into. The UK still hasn’t recovered fully from the Brexit drop in the pound sterling.
Eastern Europe gets a cold when Western Europe sneezes. Sometimes there’s a lag in the non-euro currencies, but not this time. By historic standards, it’s still a decent time to go to Hungary, Bulgaria, or the Balkan countries like Montenegro or Bosnia, but you might pay 10% more than the prices outlined in those linked articles.
The rate for the Moroccan dirham hasn’t declined as much as the Euro, less than 10% in the past year.
Japan was crazy expensive when the yen was 92 to the dollar back in 2010. Now you get 110 yen for your buck and it’s easier to stomach.
Korea is edging closer to its historic levels, but is still a good bit less expensive than Japan.
New Zealand and Australia. are probably never going to be bargains, but at least things aren’t getting worse yet. They’re still above the level they were at when 2015 started.
Red Light – Stop!
China may or may not be a currency manipulator, but it’s definitely getting more expensive there in a hurry. The value of the dollar has dropped from 6.9 yuan to 6.3 since Trump took office and lately the decline has sped up rapidly.
The party may be drying up as fast as the water in South Africa, where the currency has dropped from a brief 16 to the dollar to below 12.
Chile battles with Brazil as the most expensive spot for travelers in South America. The dollar is down about 10% in both since the peak in December of 2016.
Norway, Iceland, and Denmark will never show up on lists of travel bargains, but they’re getting more painful. Those $10 small beers might cost you $12 now. (Or a relative bargain of $8 in Sweden.)
Dollar strength can go up or down on a monthly basis, so always do a quick check before you make plans that could cost you thousands of dollars.