Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway
In this month’s Hot Topic Value Travel series, we’re putting the emphasis on destinations, vacation packages and accommodations where travelers can count on getting their money’s worth — and more. In part 1 of our 4-part series, award-winning travel writer, Tim Leffel, gives us the scoop on four destinations where the US dollar can be counted on consistently.
Even someone who watches CNBC every day would have trouble telling you how the dollar is doing around the world at various times. At the moment it’s rising against the euro, but is falling in Colombia. We’re in rough shape in Australia and Canada, in great shape in Mexico.
In some places though, none of this matter. Here are four destinations where your vacation costs should be stable no matter when you arrive.
Panama has been using the U.S. dollar as its own for more than 100 years. Take your wallet out from home and start spending greenbacks. Prices here are already a bit lower than in neighboring Costa Rica, but with much of the same wildlife and better beaches. Plus unlike in most of Central America, there’s a cosmopolitan capital city that doesn’t inspire you to leave as soon as you’ve landed.
Like Panama, Ecuador uses the dollar as its own currency. No need to change money at the airport. The “bucket list” Galapagos Islands are the main draw, a trip you usually pay for in one chunk, but on the mainland there’s plenty to experience at bargain prices. The Andes Mountains and thick rainforest jungle are adventure playgrounds and the cities of Cuenca and Quito are both great spots for wandering and sightseeing.
Belize doesn’t use the dollar, but it might as well. The exchange rate never budges much beyond a range of 1.97 to 2.05. Assume the easy math of two Belize dollars for every one American dollar, give or take a couple pennies.
This is also the one English-speaking nation in Latin America, so there are no language barriers when setting up your diving trip, snorkeling sessions, cave tubing, or visits to Mayan ruins.
Caribbean and Atlantic Islands
There are several Caribbean islands and clusters of islands that peg their currency to the greenback. Barbados’ currency trades at a stable 2 to 1 with the dollar, while in the Bahamas or Bermuda you can use their dollars or your own—the value is the same. Turks & Caicos and the British Virgin Islands use the dollar, not pounds, and of course the U.S. dollar is the principal currency in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. This doesn’t mean you’ll find bargains galore in all these locations, but you can feel secure that prices won’t suddenly rise because of a debt crisis on the other side of the world.
Tim Leffel is the author of four travel books including The World’s Cheapest Destinations and Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune: the contrarian traveler’s guide to getting more for less. He is editor of the narrative travel webzine Perceptive Travel and has spouted off on the Cheapest Destinations Blog since 2003.
In next week’s part 2, we’re going to hit a hole-in-one with Kris Fay of Northwest Golf Adventures as we learn great tricks for scoring a high end golf vacation on an average guy or gal’s budget.