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Countries With Weak Currencies Present Great Travel Values

Getting ready to travel somewhere for a few weeks or months of independent travel? If you want a great value, take a look at places where the exchange rate has tilted to your favor. In countries with weak currencies, you can really feel rich if you are earning in U.S. dollars, euros, or pounds. 

Argentina travel

Why did you leave me all these pesos instead of dollars?”

Where are the best values in the world right now based on currency exchange rates? Well it depends on what your budget is like.

Normally Expensive Destinations That Are Cheaper This Year

If you are traveling on a vacation budget, you should probably head straight to Japan. That country hasn’t been this reasonable in my lifetime. The Japanese yen has typically traded between 90 and 110 to the U.S. dollar. As I write this, it’s trading at 157 to the dollar. 

What that means in practice is that if you took $300 out of the ATM a few years ago, you would have gotten 30,000 yen. If you hit the ATM now and took out 300 bucks, you’d get the equivalent of 47,000. That’s a lot of ramen and saki! It’s why I put it on this list of travel destinations on sale this year.

The other normally expensive destination that’s a little less pricey lately is the UK. It takes 1.25 dollars to buy a pound sterling, which in historical terms is at the low end for them. The euro is currently trading at 1.07 dollars, which is also historically better than normal, so plan that non-summer trip to the European Union now. 

South Africa bounces from expensive to cheap and back again on a regular basis. If you can hit it when their currency is in trouble, you’ll find one of the world’s greatest deals, especially for outdoor adventures and good wine. As recently as three years ago, one greenback would get you 14 rand. Right now it’ll get you 19, which is at the top of its historic range and provides 30% more spending power to visitors from the USA, Canada, or the EU. 

Nobody will ever call Sweden a bargain, but its currency chart is looking nice now for those arriving with dollars. At a low point in 2021, one dollar would get you 8.16 Swedish krona. Now that same dollar will get you between 10.5 and 11. (See this story I wrote years ago on biking the Kattegattleden trail along the coast.)

It’s a similar pattern with expensive Norway, so this might be the year to bust open the piggy bank for that one. 

Cheap Destinations That Are an Even Better Deal

If you’re looking for a quick answer, here are the countries that have seen a significant currency decline in the past year or two:

Egypt

Turkey

Argentina

Thailand

Malaysia

Laos

Why these? Not because of their “friendly locals,” “charming towns” or “pristine beaches,” yada yada yada. And not because they’re a hot destination this year. You should go if you like to get a lot more for you money there than you did in the past. If you like traveling well while spending less than you do just existing at home, a plunging exchange rate is a surefire ticket to savings.

Most travelers approach exchange rates backwards. They don’t even think about them until they get to where they’re going, then fret about how everything is more expensive than they expected.

It makes a lot more sense to see where your timing will be right and go there. 

Egypt in a Bad Neighborhood

Egypt’s currency was already in decline before the recent war in the Middle East. Hamas attacked Israel and took some hostages, then Israel started an invasion that has killed close to 35,000 Palestinians so far, many of them women and children, some of them aid workers. Then Iran launched a missle and drone strike in retaliation and nobody wants to go near the area. 

This is terrible news for the tourism industry in Jordan and it’s even worse for Egypt. If you wanted to take a trip down the Nile and find record low prices in a country that was already a terrific bargain, head to Egypt this year. It sounds like a dare perhaps, but if you’re an opportunistic traveler who is not going anywhere near the Sinai, this might be your golden opportunity. 

How bad is it? Well, the currency had already lost half its value between the beginning of 2022 and the beginning of 2023, going from 15 to the dollar to 30. As soon as the Gaza invasion started, the Egyptian pound plummeted to 47, a 179% drop in value from just two years ago.

countries with weak currencies have cheaper apartment prices

Hotels and apartments are priced in dollars, but check out the price of a two-bedroom apartment in Aswan these days: $20 with fees! You could probably work out a weekly or monthly rental for far less. 

Turkey Has a Dictator Who’s Bad at Finance

The steady decline of Turkey in almost every respect the past decade makes me very sad. I once lived in the country, in its much more secular days, and have very fond memories of the people and the places I went. I’ve only been back once though and probably won’t go again until their wannabe ruler-for-life finally gets kicked out of office or dies. The country gets more regressive every year and it’s a tough place to be a journalist, a woman, a gay person, or even someone who likes to say what they think out loud. 

The ruling party lost bad in the most recent state and city elections, however, so there’s a little hope for the future for the Turkish people. They have suffered terribly under this regime’s bad finance decisions, enduring inflation that has gone on for years. While the currency chart for Malaysia further down in this post looks like a fun hiking trail elevation map, the dollar’s rise against the Turkish lira looks like a rock-climbing expedition: 

Turkey currency decline under Erdogan

A dollar that got you 5.5 lira before the pandemic now gets you 32, though that’s offset by some of the highest inflation in the world, currently around 68.5%. The locals run out and buy dollars or euros the moment they get paid so their money’s value doesn’t go down before next payday.

If you’re the type that can ignore politics and human rights, and ignore the sound of mosques blaring at 100 decibels 5 times a day while women covered head to toe in black stroll by, this is a great time to visit. Go see its many architectural wonders or take a yacht trip along the coast, enjoying delicious Turkish food for far less than it used to cost. 

Argentina Is a More Stable Bargain

The situation in this South American country has been quite fluid the past few years. I’ve had to update my post on travel prices in Argentina and your need to bring cash to Argentina several times. Inflation seems to be coming down though and the currency is no longer sliding, both good news for the locals. 

So you won’t see the exchange rate changing rapidly every week like it was just a year ago and the spread between the official bank rate and the blue dollar rate is no longer double. You’ll still save money by trading dollars or euros on the street and using cash for meals and taxis, but you won’t end up paying twice as much when you use a credit card like you would have when I visited in 2022. 

currency exchange Argentina

What makes Argentina such a great value is what you get for your money when you go out. Craft beer in Buenos Aires is the cheapest I’ve found anywhere in the world (partly because they can grow their own barley and hops). The famous Argentine wine is a couple of dollars here for a decent bottle and the good stuff won’t break the bank. Hotels are overpriced compared to everything else though, so this is a good place to get an apartment instead or cash in some loyalty points. 

 

Terrific Timing for Thailand

Thailand has been in all five editions of my book The World’s Cheapest Destinations and it’s also a popular place for digital nomads and remote workers to hang out for months or years. Toward the tail end of the pandemic, the Thai baht was trading at 30 to the dollar though and now it’s trading around 37. 

That rate is historically great for those of us coming in with a strong currency to access, so you can eat more good street food and enjoy beaches like this for even less than before. Here’s my rundown on travel prices in Thailand, from back when their currency was a little stronger than it is now. 

Head to Malaysia Too

If you’re already in Thailand, you might as well head down to Malaysia too. This country has a lot going for it and one of the best food area is not all that far from the border: the expat haven of Penang. You get a great mix of Malaysian, Indian, and Chinese choices throughout the country and the various groups communicate a lot in English, making things easy for visitors. 

Here’s a chart of how the dollar has fared against the Malaysian ringgit the past few years. It has gone from a low of under 4.1 to the current level of nearly 4.8. That’s a 17% rise in your purchasing power. 

weak currency bargain for travelers

Just do your drinking before you get there: there’s a huge sin tax on alcohol in this majority Muslim nation. 

A Doubling of Purchasing Power in Laos

While you’re in Southeast Asia, go find some historically low prices in Laos as well. This is one of the few countries with weak currencies that hasn’t recovered its tourism numbers from the pandemic times and internal political and financial problems have impacted the value of the Lao kip. Until the beginning of 2023, you got between 9,000 and 10,000 kip for one American dollar. Now you get more than 21 and the value keeps eroding. 

This in a country that was already one of the cheapest places to travel in Asia, and one that’s quite attractive as well. Thanks to a big investment to China, there’s even a high-speed train now that will take you up through the middle of the country, connecting the capital to Luang Prabang. If you had told me we’d see this in Laos someday when I was riding the slow boat or sitting on the top of a bus between the baggage, I wouldn’t have believed it. 

Laos currency has lost half its value

(c) James Clark

That photo above is from Nomadic Notes. Click on the picture to read James’ rundown on the train line.  

Where Else Is the Dollar Strong?

As the author of The World’s Cheapest Destinations, I need to point out that the countries that were a bargain 10 years ago tend to be the ones that are still a bargain now. India and Nepal halted their currency slides about a year and a half ago and the rates have stayed pretty flat since then, but you’re still going to find them to be an incredible bargain in almost every respect. 

The same goes for the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam, where the slide has not been dramatic, but they’re flirting with record lows against the dollar. It’s a good time to head to Southeast Asia if you’re an American backpacker. 

Colombia‘s currency has gained a little strength back, but it’s still one of the world’s best values right now. Peru‘s currency is flirting with the low end of its range against the greenback too, as is the real in Brazil. These countries with weak currencies may not be as dramatic a value as the ones highlighted earlier, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you find in them. 

So….where are you headed with your wad of virtual cash?

Got_Apparel

Friday 17th of May 2024

Absolutely agree! Exploring countries with weaker currencies can indeed offer incredible travel value, allowing us to stretch our budgets further while experiencing new cultures and destinations. Thanks for shedding light on this savvy travel tip—it's a reminder that adventure doesn't have to break the bank!

Krista Roney

Tuesday 7th of May 2024

Hey there, Tim!

I’ve been following you a long time, your book gave me the confidence to sell it all and travel the world using currency arbitrage and your suggestions! After 18 months starting in Fiji, my husband & I arrived in San Miguel de Allende for a month; our last stop before returning to California to check on things and go around one more time(!).

We’d love to buy you a beer or dinner and hear more of your adventures. Please contact us anytime!

Thanks for your enthusiasm & encouragement, Krista Roney & Jerry Hernandez

Tim Leffel

Thursday 9th of May 2024

Hi Krista, thanks for the kind words and for getting in touch. I'm in Guanajuato City and only make it to San Miguel once or twice a year, so another time perhaps. Enjoy the rest of your time in Mexico!