This year the world truly is your oyster. American travelers hoping to cash in on the strong U.S. dollar will find excellent value abroad. With the greenback at a 14-year high, your dollar will take you places you only dreamed of in 2016. We compared currency exchange trends, global travel price projections, and other travel indexes to arrive at these 10 destinations where your dollar goes further in 2017.
Destinations Where You Can Stretch the Strong U.S. Dollar
After Brexit last year, the British pound hit a 31-year low against the U.S. dollar when it plummeted to $1.21, and the currency is still in a slump. Analysts are projecting a rebound later this year, so travel soon if you plan to go. Last fall, European budget airline Norwegian Air announced expanded service with hopes of launching $69 one-way flights from the U.S. to Europe in 2017. A boost in airline routes and a drop in airfares helped the U.K. secure a spot on Travelzoo’s list of 2017 Wow Deal Destinations. According to the list, a luxury five-star London hotel now costs 24 percent less than it did two years ago.
Why visit in 2017: The new luxury Great Scotland Yard Hotel, built on the original London police station site, opens this year. Jane Austen’s home county of Hampshire has a year of anniversary events planned to commemorate 200 years since her death. In May, Guy Ritchie releases the highly anticipated King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.
If you’ve ever dreamed of soaking in the thermal wonders of Budapest, the City of Baths, this is an affordable year to do it. Global Business Travel Association’s 2017 Global Travel Price Outlook projects a room rate drop of 1.6 percent in Hungary and 2.4 percent in Eastern Europe. Food is a bargain in Hungary right now, too—Eurocheapo.com ballparks a meal for two at an average restaurant at around HUF5500, about $19 at the current exchange rates. Hungary’s currency, compared with the U.S. dollar, is undervalued by 39.6 percent, according to The Economist magazine’s annual Big Mac Index released in January. So whether you’re buying a burger, a new piece of jewellery, or a tour, you can do the mental math and calculate everything at about 40 percent off.
Why visit in 2017: Hungary is in the running to host the 2024 Olympic Games and will try to prove itself a worthy candidate when it hosts the 17th FINA World Aquatics Championships in Budapest this July. The two-week event includes swimming, water polo, and high diving.
Now is a great time to take advantage of travel fueled by the strong U.S. dollar while prices are still low in Greece. The country’s financial recovery continues to lag, according to the Prospects for the Global Economy in 2017 report, and that’s keeping prices lower than in other Western European countries where the euro is the weakest it has been since 2003. This year the Global Business Travel Association’s 2017 Global Travel Price Outlook expects room rates to drop 1.1 percent in Greece.
For budget travelers, there are plenty of free ancient sites throughout the country as well as food stalls and small cafeterias offering cheap eats. Backpackers surveyed in the Price of Travel’s 3-Star Traveler Index spent, on average, only $80.67 per day in Athens and $66.98 per day in Santorini.
Why visit in 2017: On Invisible Tours you can take an Athens walking tour with a guide who is homeless, seeing another side of the city and helping support those hit hardest by the economic crisis.
That Red Square trip or Trans-Siberian railroad journey is calling in 2017. With the Russian ruble undervalued by 57.5 percent compared to the currently strong U.S. dollar, your greenback stretches far enough for you to afford an epic Russian experience. When you apply The Economist magazine’s 2017 currency comparison index savings percentage to all of your travel expenses, you’ll see great value across the board.
A strong exchange rate is only one reason this destination is so attractive in 2017—another is the expected drop in hotel rates; the 2017 Global Travel Price Outlook is projecting a 2.6 percent reduction in room rates throughout Russia.
Why visit in 2017: The Russian Revolution celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2017 with special exhibitions in museums and galleries, and even a march.
Americans haven’t seen exchange rates against the Chinese yuan this strong since 2008. The Economist’s 2017 Big Mac Index shows the currency is undervalued by 44.1 percent. That’s a significant exchange-rate savings for Americans who’ve waited patiently for a more affordable time to see the Great Wall. What’s holding down the yuan? According to the Prospects for the Global Economy in 2017, last year China cut interest rates, loosened credit, and took other measures to stabilize growth, but deep concerns remain about the long-term health of the Chinese economy. For travelers, it means it’s time to take advantage of the comparatively strong U.S. dollar.
Why visit in 2017: Be one of the first to ride China’s longest east-west high-speed railway, which debuted in December 2016. At a maximum speed of 205 mph, the Shanghai-Kunming line cuts travel time between China’s east coast and less-developed southwest, a 1,400-mile trip, from 34 to 11 hours. It’s one of the world’s longest high-speed railways.
As the Japanese yen heads into 2017, it’s sliding fast against the resurgent U.S. dollar, at last putting the Asian country within reach for many American travelers. Strategists at Dailyfx.com suggest the currency may continue to tumble. As of January the yen was undervalued by 35.6 percent versus the comparatively strong U.S. dollar in The Economist’s 2017 Big Mac Index.
There are savings to be had in getting to Japan, too. Worldwide, airline ticket prices dropped throughout 2016 and are now dipping to their lowest since 2013, according to the 2017 New Heights for Air Travel report by Expedia and the Airlines Reporting Corporation.
Why visit in 2017: Seeing Nagano’s celebrated cherry blossom this spring comes with an extra bonus for samurai fans. In 2017 the museum near the historic Ueda Castle, built in 1583 by a Japanese samurai legend, has a special Sanada Clan samurai exhibit with virtual reality experiences.
For travelers eyeing a carefree all-inclusive trip on the beach, this is the year to find the deal thanks to a strong U.S. dollar. In 2016, the Mexican peso depreciated 17 percent versus the U.S. dollar. It bottomed out at a new all-time low in January, The Economist observed, as the new U.S. president reiterated his campaign threats against Mexico. The Wall Street Journal reported that the plummet also coincided with Ford Motor Company’s announcement to cancel a planned $1.6 billion investment in a new assembly plant in Mexico that Trump had criticized. Mexico, facing a new world in which NAFTA tenets are no longer hallowed, is watching its currency lose ground when it’s already undervalued by 55.9 percent against the U.S. dollar.
Why visit in 2017: Near Cancun on Isla Mujeres where you can swim with whale sharks, RIU Hotels & Resorts is opening a new hotel in 2017. The new all-inclusive Hotel RIU Dunamar will include more than 700 rooms.
The U.S. dollar hasn’t been this strong against the Peruvian sol in 10 years, making 2017 the year for that Machu Picchu dream trip. Travelzoo included Peru on its 2017 Wow Deal Destinations list and highlighted the recent trend of East Coast travelers making a weekend getaway of Machu Picchu due, in part, to the shared time zone and time-saving red-eye flights.
Hotels are expected to become more affordable in Peru this year with the 2017 Global Travel Price Outlook projecting a 3.4 percent drop in room rates. Peru is a long-time favorite among backpackers who spend, on average, only $31.18 per day visiting Cusco and $32.11 per day in Lima, according to the Price of Travel’s 2017 Backpacker Index. The index favorably ranks Cusco (#39) and Lima (#45) on the list of 136 international cities (listed from cheapest to most expensive).
Why visit in 2017: South America’s first luxury train, the Belmond Andean Explorer, debuts in May 2017, departing Cusco and traversing the Andes to Lake Titicaca.
Of the countries listed here, you’ll likely get the most bang for your buck in Malaysia. The currency of this Southeast Asian beach destination is undervalued by a whopping 64.6 percent, according to the 2017 Big Mac Index, which puts a Big Mac in Malaysia at $1.79. Restaurants, hotels and tours are equally cheap. In fact, the capital city of Kuala Lumpur ranks fourth on the 10 least expensive international cities listed on TripAdvisor’s 2017 TripIndex. A three-day trip for two will run about $627, including meals, taxis, tours, and hotel. Backpackers can swing a trip for even less.
Why visit in 2017: Malaysia celebrates the 60th anniversary of its independence on August 31 this year. Parades and other Merdeka Day festivities will run throughout the month in Kuala Lumpur. The 29th Southeast Asian Games will take place in Kuala Lumpur between August 19 and 31, coinciding with independence day festivities.
After losing 25 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar in 2015, South Africa’s currency made gains last year … but is still undervalued, an indication that the economy remains “extremely weak,” say Daily FX analysts. The South African rand weighs in at 62.7 percent less value than the U.S. dollar, according to the 2017 Big Mac Index.
Cape Town ranked third on TripAdvisor’s latest TripIndex, which ranks the 10 least expensive international cities based on the average cost of a three-day summer trip for two. It was the least expensive for lunch ($20) and dinner ($38), making it a great destination for budget-conscious foodies.
Why visit in 2017: The craft gin trend is exploding in South Africa with eight new gin brands in Cape Town, one of the cities leading the charge. Tour distilleries and sip at bars where the spirit is infused with local fine-leafed shrubs and rooibos tea.
More from SmarterTravel:
- 10 Must-Visit U.S. Hotspots for 2017
- 10 Budget-Friendly Destinations to Visit in 2017
- A Year of National Parks: Your Month-by-Month Guide to America’s Best Idea
Jamie Moore is a regular contributor to SmarterTravel. Her articles have appeared on USA Today, Yahoo Travel, Huffington Post, and WestJet.