Travel Bargain Hunting? Where the Dollar Is Strong Now
Frommer’s got its start more than 60 years ago with a series of guidebooks about seeing the world on five dollars a day. As you might have noticed, prices have gone up a little since then. But although the dollar isn’t as mighty as it once was, there are still a number of places across the globe where American travelers can get plenty of bang for their bucks. This annual list gathers 10 of the best options for a cost-conscious international getaway.
Except where noted, prices have been converted to U.S. dollars.
1 USD = 19.31 Mexican pesos (2019)
The dollar goes a long way south of the border right now, meaning that hotel bargains are easy to find and you can budget for gluttonous meals in the land of mole and tortas. Getting there is pretty affordable, too, with numerous airfare deals to and from major U.S. cities. To find the biggest savings in Mexico—as well as a rich and rewarding experience—skip the been-there, done-that beach resorts along the Caribbean, heading instead for magical villages with colorful architecture, tequila tastings, natural landmarks, and mysterious ruins. Visiting cutting-edge art museums and sampling world-renowned street food in Mexico City are other worthwhile ways to put pesos to use.
Pictured: The village of Real de Catorce
1 USD = 3.82 złoty (2019)
A smart strategy for saving money in Europe is to travel east. While prices for hotels and airfare are expected to tick up in Western Europe, according to the 2019 Global Travel Forecast, the costs of flights and rooms drop as you move toward the other side of the continent. In Poland, Warsaw (pictured) ranks third among Europe's most affordable places on the latest City Costs Barometer compiled by the U.K.'s Post Office. The historic capital has all the rich cultural offerings and wide-ranging architectural styles—from Gothic to Soviet—you'll find in cities further west, but nightly hotel rates average just above $100 and a three-course meal for two will only run you about $50, and that includes a bottle of wine. Also enticing is Krakow, with its castle, cathedral, and lively market square.
1 USD = 14.65 rand (2019)Bucket lists are easily vanquished in South Africa, where elephants lumber through national parks, waves crash into craggy cliffs at the Cape of Good Hope, and cable cars ascend the iconic Table Mountain for dazzling views of the Atlantic Ocean and the vibrant city of Cape Town. The country also has beaches, vineyards, and, most important, penguins. Though airfare to South Africa is usually steep, Americans benefit once they get here from a favorable exchange rate and hotel rooms that often go for well under $100 a night. Once in a lifetime? At these prices, you might be tempted to come back again and again.
1 USD = 23,199.50 dong (2019)Prices in Vietnam are so low that Americans might find them difficult to believe. In fact, personal finance site GoBankingRates calls the capital, Ho Chi Minh City, "ridiculously affordable" in a 2019 ranking of destinations you can see for less than $100 a day. With hotel rooms going for around $15 per night, restaurant meals in the range of $2–$10, and public transportation for pennies, you might not even crack $30 a day. Beyond the capital's French Colonial architecture and Vietnam War landmarks, Vietnam offers similarly budget-friendly adventures on its rivers, beaches, and historic sites such as the centuries-old shops and temples of Hoi An.
1 USD = 3,191.40 Colombian pesos (2019)
Colombia is one of the hottest travel destinations in Latin America, yet all the attention hasn't raised prices much, at least not yet. An increase in competition among airlines traveling to the country has reduced the cost of plane tickets, and the exchange rate means that what you'll pay for meals and drinks, even in cosmopolitan cities that are known for raucous nightlife—such as Medellín and Bogotá—won't leave you with a budgetary hangover. The country also has beaches, colonial villages with well-preserved cultural traditions, cloud forests in the Andes, and the serene region (pictured above) where coffee is cultivated on lush farms that sometimes welcome tourists.
1 USD = 0.89 euro (2019)Portugal consistently ranks among the most affordable places in Western Europe. The Iberian charmer may not be as cheap as points east, but it's a penny pincher's dream compared to, say, London or anywhere in Scandinavia. Both of Portugal's major cities—capital Lisbon and riverside Porto—appear in the top 15 (at #14 and #6, respectively) on the 2019 City Cost Barometer's list of low-cost European destinations. With glasses of wine for less than $4 apiece and three-course meals under $30 per person, you'll have only your willpower to keep you from ordering extra servings of fresh seafood and locally made port. Also easy on the wallet: rides on Lisbon's low-cost, old-timey trams (pictured) through steep, winding streets that empty into picture-perfect plazas. And you've still got Portugal's surfing beaches, medieval villages, and monasteries to explore.
1 USD = 17.32 Egyptian pounds (2019)
Tourism is once again on the upswing in Egypt, thanks to improved political stability and exciting new attractions such as the gleaming, glass-fronted Grand Egyptian Museum, a huge trove of artifacts that will soon begin opening in stages near the Pyramids of Giza. Western travelers who visit the country this year benefit from the exchange rate and Egypt's undervalued currency—down 60% against the dollar, according to The Economist's Big Mac index, which uses fast food as a measure of economic strength. That puts pharaonic luxury within reach at ritzy hotels near storied Nile-side monuments and at beach resorts in Sharm el-Sheikh next to the Red Sea.
1 USD = 43.34 Argentine pesos (2019)
As Argentina recovers from its recent currency crisis, the Argentine peso’s slide to historic lows makes a Buenos Aires getaway even more appealing than usual. After strolling the sophisticated city’s wide boulevards and stopping in at cafes and art museums, you’ll have plenty to spend on the country’s favorite reds—wine and meat—or you could put those savings toward airfare, which tends to be expensive to Argentina from North America. You might even have room left in the budget for a trip to the Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia or, up along the Brazilian border, mighty Iguazu Falls (pictured), which makes Niagara look like a trickle.
1 USD = 14,240 rupiah (2019)
Indonesia’s extremely favorable exchange rate, along with the locals’ knack for simple, low-cost living, add up to to one of the most affordable destinations on the globe. Four-star hotels in the Southeast Asian archipelago can be booked for less than $50 per night, and you don't have to skimp on meals, tours, and spa days, either. Bali—long the country’s tourism capital—was named the world's cheapest tourism spot by GoBankingRates. But for a less crowded experience, head for equally fascinating isles like Sulawesi, Lombok (pictured), and Komodo. Adventures involving hidden temples, surfing beaches, monkey-filled forests, and giant lizards are easy to find and easy to pay for.
1 USD = 0.89 euro (2019)
The Lithuanian capital of Vilnius tops the 2019 City Costs Barometer ranking affordable European destinations. Two nights in a standard hotel here will set you back a mere $91, according to the study, and you can have a coffee ($1.59) and a beer ($2.86) without breaking a five. Quintessential European experiences like strolling cobblestoned streets and gawking at medieval buildings are easy to come by in Vilnius, especially in the oldest part of town, with its historic churches and castles. Or you can make like Russian nobility and vacation in the classic resort towns along the Baltic Sea. Lithuania's portion of the narrow Curonian Spit (the southern part belongs to Russia) is a pristine stretch of shifting sand dunes and untamed nature reserves.
Pictured: Trakai Island Castle near Vilnius