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Don’t bust your travel budget: Go where the dollar is still strong

SmarterTravel

After a slow period, the U.S. travel industry has begun to grow again. Unfortunately, Americans who want to explore international destinations have to deal with one significant problem: Their money is buying less than ever overseas.

That doesn’t mean would-be globetrotters must give up their dreams of adventures abroad, though. We examined exchange rates over the past three years and found several countries in which the dollar remains strong. From the beaches of Barbados to the Great Wall of China, you don’t have to be down just because your currency is. And, if you’re worried about which countries to watch out for because of an especially poor exchange rate, we’ve found those, too.

Priced just right

Though the euro has been leaving the dollar far behind lately, you don’t have to leave European-style culture and elegance behind. In fact, Argentina has lots of both, and though it has emerged somewhat from its recent currency crisis, its peso is still quite weak against the greenback. Three years ago, one dollar bought slightly more than two pesos. At press time, this rate was holding steady at almost three.

If Latin America attracts you, head south of the border for even more savings. Mexico’s own peso has experienced a similar trend to Argentina’s, falling from 9.09 per dollar on February 21, 2002, to a rate of 11.08 on the same date three years later.

Not surprisingly, many of the countries closest to the United States are those that have kept their currencies pegged to the dollar. Having a fixed exchange rate means that U.S. travelers aren’t subject to the market fluctuations they’re likely to experience with other currencies. Many of the nations that have seen very little movement in relation to the dollar are in the Caribbean.

Aruba is one such island. Though the dollar dropped against the florin in our three-year window, it fell by just two cents, from 1.79 to 1.77. Moving eastward across the Caribbean, Barbados saw its own dollar fare much the same during this period. One U.S. dollar was worth 1.99 Barbados dollars in 2002, and was equivalent to virtually the same amount three years later, despite having dropped to 1.87 at one point.

The Bahamas are close to U.S. shores geographically, and the Bahamian currency is equally close to the U.S. dollar. Starting at exactly one American dollar per Bahamas dollar three years back, the exchange rate shifted very little from that point, and at the time of publication, stood just one cent lower for Americans. The story of the Cayman Islands dollar is not so different, and the American dollar spent the past three years in the neighborhood of 80 Cayman cents.

Half a world away, China continues to tie the yuan to the American dollar, so you’ll know what to expect should you visit the world’s most populous nation. The dollar only moved between 8.23 and 8.28 yuan over the three years in our survey. If you do decide to visit, you may want to go soon, as there is increasing pressure on the Chinese government to “revalue” its currency, a move that would result in a more unpredictable exchange rate.

The buck stops here

When traveling abroad on a tight budget, knowing what to expect for exchange rates can help you manage your money on the road. We’ve highlighted just a few of the regions and countries where your dollars will be stretched thinner than ever, so you can decide for yourself if they’re worth visiting now.

These days, Europe is expensive for Americans. The nations of the European Union now using the euro (Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, and Portugal) have seen a meteoric rise in their common currency’s value against the dollar. Where the dollar was buying 1.15 euro three years back, it’s now trading at just .76, a decline of more than 33 percent. However, if you are set on visiting the Continent, there are ways to save in Europe, despite a weak dollar.

Unfortunately, another particularly pricey country is our neighbor to the north. Canada was once an affordable destination for winter skiing and cooler temperatures when the heat was on down here. However, since 2002, the U.S. dollar has fallen from 1.59 to 1.23, even hitting a low of 1.17 before recovering slightly.

Likewise, the American dollar has taken a dip against the Japanese yen. Trading at a mark of 134 yen per dollar three years ago, the dollar came in at just 105 yen in February of 2005.

No matter where you go in the world, you’ll need to know the exchange rate to help you set a travel budget, get good deals when changing money, and calculate what you’re spending on everyday items. You can research the latest exchange rates and rate histories for global currencies at Oanda.com.

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