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The Growing Strength of the U.S. Dollar Has Lowered the Cost of Trips to a Number of Popular Foreign Destinations--Here's a Rundown

 
  
     Although political conditions may have reduced travel by us American tourists to a number of foreign countries (like in the Middle East and North Africa), the picture is entirely reversed when it comes to the strength of the U.S. dollar.  To major countries popular among U.S. tourists, the dollar has never been stronger--making travel there cheaper than ever.
 
      I think, first of all, of Japan.  When the Japanese currency sold a few years back at 90 to the U.S. dollar, Japan was a pricey place.  Today, when a U.S. dollar buys 107 Japanese Yen (with rumors predicting even higher numbers in the months ahead), the colorful nation of Japan has become moderately-priced to the American tourist, its costs around the same nowadays as in Western Europe.  The greatly-increased attractiveness of Japan has caused us at Frommer guidebooks to speed publication of an "Easy Guide to Tokyo and Kyoto", covering not only those renowned cities but others on the island of Honshu, Japan's most heavily-populated area.  Among the additional chapters in that "Easy Guide" (now scheduled to hit the bookstores about six months from now) is, amazingly enough, Hiroshima, which is now being visited by a surprisingly large number of Americans.
 
     Close runners-up to Japan (as far as currency improvements) are Australia and Canada.  In both countries, the U.S. dollar used to buy as few as 95 Australian or Canadian cents.  In both, a U.S. dollar now buys $1.10 Australian dollars and $1.10 Canadian dollars, and costs are refreshingly moderate.  (While a trip to Australia requires a flight of around 15 hours from the U.S. west coast, the time flies by if you bring and read (in flight) Robert Hughes' 800-page "The Fatal Shore", surveying the entire history of Australia and its present condition.  A compelling page-turner if there ever was one, Hughes' classic work will make those 15 hours seem a fleeting moment).
 
     Finally, it should be noted that Europe's "Euro" now costs only $1.29, considerably less than last year, meaning that prices in Western Europe (for possessors of the dollar) are at least slightly better than they were last year.  The reason?  Economic recovery seems far more advanced in the U.S. than in Europe, and many observers expect that interest rates in the U.S. will finally begin to rise from their current 0%, further strengthening the dollar against the Euro.
 
     The fluctuation of currencies may sometimes have a greater bearing on the cost of your international trip than all the tactics you adopt to keep costs low.  The smart tourist examines the currency tables--they're best found at xe.com--in choosing destinations for a forthcoming vacation. 
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