Travel Bargain Hunting? Go Where the Dollar Is Strong

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—and its surge of recent years appears to have subsided for now—there are still a number of places across the globe where American travelers can get plenty of bang for their bucks. Throw in a steep drop in the price of transatlantic airfares and that makes this a great time to visit dream destinations you might have once thought were out of reach as well as overlooked spots where your dollars will stretch the furthest. Here are 10 ideas for a cost-conscious international getaway.

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Real de Catorce, Mexico Pixabay
1 USD = 18.31 Mexican pesos (2018)
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. Mexico could use a little tourism love, too, following recent earthquakes and high-profile travel advisories warning of violent crime in some areas (stay out of the country’s five most troubled states and odds are you’ll be fine). A good strategy for finding savings—as well as a rich and rewarding experience—is to skip the been-there-done-that beach resorts along the Caribbean, heading instead for magical villages with colorful architecture, tequila tastings, natural landmarks, and centuries-old 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
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Dubrovnik, Croatia jenniferboyer
1 USD = 5.98 kuna (2018)
Thanks to the TV version of Game of Thrones, which has used Dubrovnik (pictured) as a stand-in for the fictional city of King’s Landing, the secret is out when it comes to Croatia. Now anybody with an HBO Go password can see for themselves the considerable charms of the country’s sparkling Adriatic coastline and distinctive architecture blending Roman ruins, hilltop medieval castles, and walled cities topped with red tiles. This has contributed to a tourism surge in places like Dubrovnik, Split, the capital of Zagreb, and Plitvice Lakes National Park, where waterfalls connect terraced lakes amid lush forest. In fact, many locals and elected officials—particularly in Dubrovnik—are searching for ways to control the tourist hordes. But in spite of the influx, prices remain low for meals, drinks, entertainment, and lodgings; you can easily find accommodations in all of the places mentioned above for less than $100 per night.
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Hippo in Africa Pixabay

1 USD = 11.63 rand (2018)
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. Americans are well positioned to take in a good number of those sights, thanks to the exchange rate and hotel rooms that often go for well under $100 per night. Once in a lifetime? At these prices, you might be tempted to come back again and again.

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Tokyo's Kabukicho district Moyan Brenn/Flickr

1 USD = 105.41 yen (2018)
Japan has a reputation for being one of Asia’s most expensive destinations. And while prices there are never what you’d call cheap—especially when compared to some places in the southeast corner of the continent—the budgetary situation for American travelers is better than it has been in the past. The strength of the yen versus the dollar as well as airfares and hotel rates are all on a downward trajectory, according to the 2018 Global Travel Forecast. Buying the right rail pass and spending a night or two in a pod hotel about the size of an Advil Liqui-Gel capsule might also help you save a few pennies. And there’s no charge for browsing street markets, visiting peaceful temples, or taking in the nonstop hustle-bustle on the streets of Tokyo.

Pictured: Kabukicho, Tokyo's red-light district


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Coffee farm in Colombia Pixabay
1 USD = 2,834.85 Colombian pesos (2018)
Once associated with horrific violence stemming from the international drug trade, Colombia has reinvented itself to become one of the hottest travel destinations in South America. And for the time being, the exchange rate makes it one of the most affordable as well. That’s a big reason why the thriving city of Medellín—hometown of drug lord Pablo Escobar, who turned the place into a murder capital in the 1980s—has grown increasingly popular with retirees from the United States, not just as a vacation spot but as a place to live year-round; in 2017, the Social Security Administration sent more retirement checks to Colombia than any other country in Latin America except Mexico. In addition to cosmopolitan cities like Medellín and the capital of Bogotá, the country offers 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. Get here before all the prices go up.
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In the mountains of Norway Pixabay

1 USD = 7.69 krone (2018)
Okay, it's affordable relatively speaking. Though Norway remains one of the priciest destinations in Europe, its currency has declined against the dollar in recent years, putting the Scandinavian country back in play for more than just the wealthiest Americans. A big drop in airfare to Northern Europe has made getting there easier on the wallet, too, with discount airlines like Norwegian Air and Iceland’s WOW Air leading the way. The capital city of Oslo is a model metropolis when it comes to balancing abundant green spaces with excellent historical and cultural institutions (don’t miss the museums dedicated to folk art and Viking ships), all while maintaining an admirable commitment to tolerance and personal freedom. You’re likely to find more savings, though, in rural areas, where you can explore Norway’s fjords, forests, fishing villages, puffin-inhabited islands, and reindeer-filled national parks.

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Riding camels over dunes in Morocco Pixabay
1 USD = 9.13 dirham (2018)
Unlike other economies in North Africa, Morocco’s has remained relatively stable and free of crisis in the last few years. But a strong dollar here still puts American travelers in line for some good bargains on jewelry, rugs, antiques, ceramics, woodwork, and every other conceivable item for purchase in the famed souks of Marrakech, Fes, and elsewhere. Not to suggest that the country doesn’t have more than its share of less tangible marvels, from sunrises over Saharan dunes to winter snowfall in the High Atlas range. And the quintessential Moroccan travel experience—getting lost amid the swirling ambience along winding medieval streets in the walled old cities known as medinas—won’t cost you a dime. 
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Iguazu Falls in Argentina Pixabay
1 USD = 20.17 Argentine pesos (2018)
The Argentine peso’s slide to historic lows makes a Buenos Aires getaway an appealing proposition for many travelers holding foreign currencies. 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. 
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Surfer on Lombok, Indonesia Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash
1 USD = 13,728.50 rupiah (2018)
Indonesia’s extremely favorable exchange rate for American travelers, 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 meals, tours, and spa days are similarly wallet-friendly. Bali has long been the country’s tourism capital, 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 here—and easy to pay for. 
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A roadside view in Iceland Iceland Tourism Board
1 USD = 97.96 krona (2018)
One of the leading factors currently making Iceland affordable—and fueling its unprecedented tourism surge—is the slate of discount fares offered by Reykjavik-based WOW Air. Travelers can find one-way flights to Iceland for as low as $99 from several U.S. cities, offering yet another incentive for going there, just in case you weren’t convinced by the vacation photos in your Instagram feed. At these rates, you might as well snap your own shots of the country’s sci-fi landscape, which includes lunar lava fields, steaming lagoons, otherworldly glaciers, and night skies aglow with the northern lights.    
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