The cost of getting away can be daunting these days. Airfares, car rentals, hotel rates and restaurant prices all have increased sharply. But there is a way to get your travel expenses down to size—visit one of the countries where the US dollar is worth the most. As of mid-2023, the dollar remains relatively strong versus many currencies, and it’s likely to strengthen even further when America’s debt ceiling showdown is finally settled.
While selecting a foreign destination with a favorable exchange rate won’t help with every travel expense—it doesn’t lower the price of airline tickets, for example—there still are some exciting and unique countries to visit on a budget.
Where Is the US Dollar Strongest?
Argentina. In 2008, one US dollar was worth around three Argentine pesos. As of April 2023, it was worth more than 200. A nice dinner for two runs the equivalent of around $20 in Argentina. A ride on Buenos Aires’s subway system costs the equivalent of around 80 cents. Argentina’s hotels are more expensive than they should be, given the state of the country’s currency—four- and five-star hotels are in the range of $140 to $350 per night—but great deals can be found on vacation rentals. The vibrant and largely safe city of Buenos Aires is well worth a visit, as is Argentina’s wine region, Mendoza—the grape harvest begins in February and lasts until April. If stunning natural beauty is more what you’re after, consider journeying to Patagonia at the country’s southern tip—but don’t visit during the US summer, when many tourist services and businesses in the Patagonian region are closed for the Southern Hemisphere winter. Traveling to Mendoza and Patagonia will require an internal flight, but if you have time, consider going by bus. Argentina’s “Super Cama” bus system (“cama” means “bed” in Spanish) offers food, drink, rolling vistas and lie-flat seating if you need a nap.
Colombia. In mid-2014, one US dollar was worth around 1,900 Colombian pesos…versus around 4,700 recently. That might not match the dramatic drop of the Argentine peso, but it’s enough to make Colombia a very affordable destination. Its beautiful beaches, lush rainforests and interesting history make it well worth a visit. Admission to the historic San Felipe Barajas Castle costs less than $5.50 at recent exchange rates…and a cross-town taxi ride in Bogota or Medellin typically costs about the same. Hotel prices vary greatly, but nice vacation rentals can be found for well under $100 per night—including ocean-view rentals in the historic walled city of Cartagena, which has interesting restaurants, friendly cafés and beautiful Caribbean beaches. Flying to Colombia doesn’t cost much either—round-trip airfares often are less than $500 from many American cities, and sometimes even under $400. Note: For many Americans, Colombia may conjure up memories of drug violence, but that image is decades out of date—these days, it’s no more dangerous than most tourist destinations.
Albania. One US dollar was recently worth about 100 Albanian lek—that’s more or less what it’s been for most of the past decade. Unlike many countries on this list, Albania isn’t a bargain because its currency recently collapsed—it’s a bargain because it’s one of the last remaining corners of Europe that remains largely undiscovered by tourists. Very nice hotel rooms and vacation rentals can be booked for $50 to $100 a night. Admission to the National History Museum and historic castles tends to be around $5 or less. Albania has delicious Mediterranean food…ancient and historic towns—Gjirokaster and Berat are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites…Roman and Byzantine ruins…plus wonderful beaches with smaller crowds and lower prices that rival better-known beach destinations in neighboring countries. Examples: Albania’s Dhermiu beach is right across the water from Italy…and the Sarande District at the southern tip of Albania is just 20 minutes away by ferry from Corfu, Greece, where lodging costs about twice as much.
Turkey. In 2014, one US dollar was worth just over two Turkish lira…today it’s worth more than 19, making this beautiful country a bargain for travelers. Rooms in highly rated hotels are available for less than $100 per night, and vacation rentals are even better deals. A tram ticket in historic Istanbul costs around 80 cents—be sure to visit the city’s famed Grand Bazaar. Greek and Roman-era ruins abound in Turkey. Example: The city of Ephesus is among the best-preserved ancient cities in the world, and at current exchange rates, the 200-lira entry fee is barely more than $10. If you’re looking for relaxation, the Turkish beaches on the Aegean Sea equal those found on the pricier Greek islands just a few miles away.
Egypt. One US dollar was worth around seven Egyptian pounds a decade ago, and around 16 pounds at the start of 2022…but as of April 2023, one dollar traded for around 31 Egyptian pounds, transforming a country that already was a bargain into one of the best travel deals in the world. You can find a room in a five-star hotel in Luxor or Cairo for less than $100 per night or a perfectly acceptable three-star hotel for less than $50. That would be a bargain anywhere, but Egypt isn’t just anywhere—it is among the world’s most iconic travel destinations, with ancient pyramids and temples, Nile cruises and not-to-be-missed museums. The admission fee to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, one of the world’s great museums, is the equivalent of around $6.50 at recent exchange rates.
Thailand. The Thai baht hasn’t plunged in value versus the dollar in recent years the way some other currencies have, but at a recent exchange rate of 34 baht to the dollar, Thailand remains a tremendous travel bargain. A wonderful dinner for two can cost less than $20. Rooms in four- and five-star chain hotels are regularly priced under $100 per night. If you’re making an extended visit, you’ll discover appealing rental properties for $1,000 per month or less. In addition to the vibrant city of Bangkok, the tropical island paradise of Phuket is well worth a visit. It has a lively downtown with great food and culture as well as incredible beaches. If your schedule and budget allow, consider exploring multiple southeast Asian countries during the same trip to help justify the admittedly high cost of flying halfway around the world—Vietnam and Malaysia are travel bargains as well.
Other Ways to Cut travel Costs
Take one long trip per year, instead of several shorter ones, so that you need only one round-trip flight.
Use credit cards or withdraw the local currency to make purchases when visiting these destinations. Merchants in countries that have weak currencies often are happy to let travelers pay with US dollars—but shoppers who do so are almost inevitably charged higher prices.