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For American Travelers With Dollars, the World is On Sale

For American travelers, those earning US dollars, or those tapping a greenbacks retirement account, there’s something wrong if you’re not planning your next international vacation right now.

If you’re reading a travel blog I’m assuming you don’t hate traveling. So why else would you not take advantage of this golden opportunity?

U.S. dollar for travelers

You could go to Canada for less eh?

The cheapest countries have gotten cheaper. The mid-priced countries have gotten cheaper. Even the places people are worried will wreck their budget have gotten cheaper, all thanks to what’s happening behind the scenes with foreign exchange rates. 

So in other words, almost any international destination you choose is on sale right now compared to the norm, on nearly every continent. We’ve gone from a time when most countries weren’t even open to a time when all of them are a great value, from Bulgaria to Colombia to Egypt to Japan. 

Back in July I highlighted a slew of countries that were on sale for American travelers with dollars and now the list has gotten even longer. You don’t have to be American of course, but this is a better time to be earning greenbacks than pounds or euros. 

The countries that haven’t gotten cheaper in the past year is actually a rather short list and I live in one of them: Mexico. (But its currency had plenty of devaluation in the years leading up to this point.) Most of the others  that haven’t gotten cheaper have a currency that’s tied to the US dollar, either officially or in practice.  

Your Travel Dollar is at a Premium Right Now

This Cheapest Destinations Blog is one of the oldest budget travel blogs out there. It launched in 2003, before a few thousand others followed, before there was a market for multiple travel blogger conferences on three continents. The cool thing about that is that I have seen a lot of cycles come and go. 

Back in 2004 I wrote a post, now deleted because it was so out of date, called “Flush Goes the Dollar.”

As you may have guessed, it was all about how weak our native currency was then and what we could do to compensate. This excerpt kind of says it all:

We’re looking at a record low against the euro and a five-year low against the yen. Europe and Japan, already expensive destinations for Americans, are now priced like luxury goods. In popular London, it now takes almost two US dollars to buy one British pound. The Euro is nudging $1.50 at exchange booths in Paris and Rome. What’s not so simple to see is that the problem is spreading to unrelated areas of the globe. For US travelers, hotels and meals are much higher than they were just a few months ago in diverse places such as Australia, Canada, and Fiji. Some of my World’s Cheapest Destinations have gotten noticeably less cheap: Morocco, Hungary, and the Czech Republic are the worst extremes.

Wow, how times have changed! As I write this, one euro is worth less than one U.S. dollar. After the pound sterling plunged a few days ago to be within striking distance of parity with the greenback, visiting the UK is cheaper than it has been in decades.

On the cheap country side, that Hungarian forint I was talking about that was at 190 to the greenback at the end of 2004 is now at 423. That’s a lot more sausage and goulash! Or pastries with nice coffee. 

Europe cheaper for Americans

Back then you got less than 100 yen in Japan for a buck. Today it’s more like 140. When I first went to Colombia, it didn’t seem like much of a deal. When I was there this month, I felt rich. 

These are not isolated examples I’m pulling out to make my point. Whether you’ve had your sights set on the Americas, Europe, Asia, or Africa, you’re probably going to find better prices than you’ve seen since the destination first got on your radar. 

Cheaper Flight + Dropping Local Prices = Travel Bliss

Those examples above aren’t even the most dramatic ones. Check this chart out on how the exchange rate has changed over the past five years in Turkey, which you can get to cheaply from almost anywhere in Europe and many other locations too. 

traveling to Turkey with dollars


That chart is just as ugly for Argentina, where I went earlier this year and found what might currently be the best travel value on the planet right now. 

Flight costs went up dramatically earlier this year when we got the huge post-pandemic surge and Russia invaded Ukraine, driving up fuel prices. Now they’re dropping back down to Earth for a lot of destinations. I just flew Mexico City–Bogota–Medellin–Cancun for less than $400 total. I’m seeing some sub-$500 flight deals to Europe again from U.S. airports. Within Europe itself, getting around is super cheap.  

Fuel prices still aren’t a bargain, which makes a road trip less advantageous than it was before, so give that option a rest for a while and think bigger. 

With so many deals on the table, the best move right now would be to watch for a flight bargain (or cashed-in points bargain) and then see if the exchange rate is good compared to where it has been. One of the best sources for flight deals from your own airport is Scott’s Cheap Flights

How Much Can American Travelers Save?

While currency exchange rates don’t make the news very often, they can have a huge impact on your travel budget. If I had gone to Spain in 2019, it would have cost me 20% more across the board than it did when I went this summer instead. (Check out my post on travel prices in Spain for details.) The same was true when I headed to Bulgaria next, which was already a great bargain a few years ago and is even more of one now. 

I had one of my best lunches in months at a “meal of the day” place in Bogota when I was there recently: 12,000 Colombian pesos for a salad with strawberries, rice with bacon, a pork dish, plantains, fresh juice, and dessert. Five years ago that would have equated to about $6. These days it is less than $3 including a tip. Four of us shared a 25-minute taxi across Bogota when coming home from a nightclub. It cost us $2 each. The metro in Medellin is around 60 cents–including if you take a cable car up the side of a mountain. 

When I was in Argentina, hotels were priced in dollars at an artificially high rate, but apartment rentals were reflecting the actual market situation as the country opened back up. We got this place for about $68 per night, with a Jacuzzi on the big terrace, a great kitchen, work spaces inside and out, in one of the nicest parts of Buenos Aires.

americans traveling with dollars

Where we really saw the benefit was eating out though. Back in April of 2022, the official rate was around 110 to the dollar and the street rate for cash was around 200. So it was clearly smart to bring cash to Argentina. Now the official rate is heading to 150 already and the “blue rate” is 290–still almost double. We could walk into virtually any restaurant and know we could afford it. Now it’s even cheaper if you touch down with Ben Franklins in your wallet. 

Where I just was in Medellin, I got a nice apartment with a washing machine and great covered balcony in an elevator building with security for $52 per night all-in with fees. Again, in a top neighborhood. Hotel prices were good too though, whether paying or cashing in points for a free night

Here are a few other places where the exchange rate is flirting with a record low against the greenback: Peru, Chile, India, Nepal, South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Kenya, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, South Korea, Australia, and pretty much everywhere in Europe. 

I’ll be headed to Thailand in November, so I’ll report back on what I’m seeing there compared to the many other times I have visited over the years. 

No matter which destination you have been dreaming about, don’t waste this incredible opportunity—take off!

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Wednesday 28th of September 2022

Heartened to hear Australia is "cheaper" now. Heading there for 5 weeks over Christmas (yay to house swap points so free lodging plus airline points for 2 of my kids to go free:) Will be in Thailand and Malaysia too so looking forward to your always spot-on updates. Mexico still feels pretty cheap although bit higher than other places here in SMA. Thanks.

Tim Leffel

Wednesday 28th of September 2022

Mexico is still a bargain. It just did all its currency dropping over the past five years instead of the past five months!


Wednesday 28th of September 2022

Hi - Love the blog. Do you have any suggestions for Thanksgiving-ish travel? I live in LA and I was looking to travel from November 19 - 28.

Tim Leffel

Wednesday 28th of September 2022

Pull up Google Flights, put in dates, and leave the destination blank. You'll get a map you can zoom in and out of that shows you the flight deals to anywhere in the world. Especially good if you get outside of the USA since that holiday is only celebrated at that time in one country.