Does Anyone Still Want Dollars?

The anecdotal evidence is in – and Europe has officially been labeled a “rip-off”. Cruises, Swim Spas Plus and escorted tours to Europe are booming while independent travelers are returning from France and Italy with tales of $300+ lunches and plans to re-mortgage the house.

The European-bound traveler needs to consider paying in dollars up front. The romantic notion of negotiating hotel rates in the lobby of some quaint left bank family-run three-star on the fly is but a dream.

Strategizing your vacation in Europe almost demands a US dollar-based cruise or escorted tour program. At 1.31 to the Dollar, the value of the Euro added to an ever-growing list of 18% VAT eligible items, such as lodging and meals, means that current prices in Italy are running about one-third higher then they were thirty-six months ago. And no one in Europe wants our dollars.

But for those of you who are open to new travel truths” it might be worthwhile to consider some parts of the world where the dollar is actually getting stronger.

Start with Mexico. Top resorts in the Cabo San Lucas area now include the top-ranked resort on the continent – The One and Only Palmilla. Do the off season, take advantage of package pricing, and pay in dollars up front to receive a $1000 a night experience at a $400 a night price. Also look into the new 5-star resorts that are nestled at the end of dirt roads in the Puerto Morales section, just 25 minutes from Cancun airport.

The non-French Caribbean has generally held its own and the currency of Jamaica has lost 20% of its value against the dollar so now, “Man – it really is better in Jamaica.”

Inflation in South America and the price of fuel have combined to form an exciting mélange of contradictions – but the continent is still a good deal. But the real values are in Central America where Guatemala, Panama, and El Salvador offer high rewards to gringos with dollars.

There have been some contradictory press reports regarding the value of a safari vacation in Africa. The bad news comes out of South Africa where, among his other achievements, Nelson Mandela has been able to watch his currency surge ahead of the dollar increasing custom vacation costs by 20-25%. But East Africa, particularly Kenya and Tanzania, have generally maintained price stability.

In Asia, American travelers won’t find any currency surprises unless they are visiting Jalap, where the yen is up almost 10% against the dollar. But China and Malaysia are more or less pegged to the dollar. Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia are all high on the value chart with 5-star hotels pricing out at a 3-star rate in New York or London.

One of the under-reported stories is the gentle rise of the Australian dollar and the New Zealand kiwi. Each is up about 25% in the past 24 months meaning that your dollar will now buy 75 cents worth of Foster’s – and that won’t really satisfy your thirst.