Pack your bags immediately! 3 expensive countries your dollar now goes farther

Go now! Three historically expensive countries that are now WAY more affordable to visit.

People always ask me how I decide where to travel to next and the answer is less complicated than one might think.  I’m a simple, simple girl (ha!) who operates by an even simpler travel credo:  whenever possible I chase the deal, not the destination.

This means that a lot of my city/country selections are purely predicated on dollars (and glitch fares!) instead of desire.  But let’s be real: I’ll go almost anywhere if it’s cheap to get there, or if on-the-ground expenses like food, accommodation, and attractions are low! 

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My solo trip to Chile where I used air miles– only paid $100 for the flight!

This practice has allowed me to see a lot of the world for not a lot of money. Moreover, focusing on travel to destinations that will make less of a dent on my wallet has opened me up to going places previously not on my radar.

For example, I spent a month in Guatemala a few years back– and not because I had a burning desire to go. Rather, I chose Guatemala because when I ran the numbers my average daily expenses were going to be way cheaper than were I to go to my top pick, Colombia. And guess what? I ended up having a stellar time para poco dinero. Exactly what every traveller wants, verdad?

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In Chichicastenango, Guatemala

Of course, lists upon lists of cheap travel destinations abound on the internet, so I’ll spare you an exhaustive list of my own (you’re welcome). However, I wanted to do something a little different in this post; my aim is to highlight three historically expensive destinations that are now cheaper to vacation in than ever before (especially if you’re packing dollars or euros).

This is primarily due to their unstable economies and fluctuating currencies– terrible for them, but great for travellers hoping to soothe their pangs of wanderlust. So let’s get right down to business, shall we?

Russia

Russia isn’t on most tourists’ radar, not least because costs for accommodation, food, tourist visas, and entrance fees to its most salient attractions were sky high in the past. However, recent political and economic strife has triggered a massive devaluation in the ruble, its national currency. This has meant that, while prices in rubles have remained the same, the number of rubles you can get in exchange for your American dollars has drastically increased.

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St. Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow

According to this article, in the beginning of 2014, a dollar bought 32.86 rubles. In mid-April 2015, it bought 49.80. And at the very moment I’m writing this blog post, 1 USD is equivalent to 65.35 rubles. Wow! For tourists, this means paying between 15 to 50 percent less for everything; when Liebling and I were there a few months ago we stayed in 4-star hotels for well under $100 USD a night and routinely ate at top-rated restaurants for under $20 USD per person.

Brazil

Same story, different country. For years I stayed away from travelling to Brazil, deterred not only by costly airfares but expensive activities once in the country.  For a long time, Brazil was known as a “poor value for the money” destination, with low to mid-range accommodation in major urban centers like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo routinely clocking in at over $100 USD a night.

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Chillin’ with Christ (the Redeemer Statue) in Rio

In fact, in a 2013 study by TripAdvisor, Rio was named one of the most expensive cities in the world to visit.  This study was based on what two travellers could expect to pay for a night out on the town– and included the cost of a taxi, dinner, drinks, and an overnight stay at a 4-star hotel.
Thus, in 2013, a night out in Brazil’s second largest city totalled an eye-watering $423.03 USD(!!!) and was only narrowly edged out by crowd favourites London ($451.35), Paris ($511.40), New York ($515.97),  and Zurich ($523.41). Eek!

However, the steady devaluation of the real has made Brazil a way more affordable option for travellers dreaming of sipping caipirinhas on Copacabana Beach. In 2013 $1 USD only bought 2.3 reais, but when I travelled there last September, it bought 4.06.  While the currency has gotten a bit stronger in recent months, Brazil is still a bargain: at the time of writing this post, $1 can buy you 3.57 reais!

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On Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro

Need another reason to head to Brazil now? From June 1 to September 18, 2016 Brazilian officials are waiving tourist visa requirements for travellers holding passports from the US, Canada, Japan, and Australia!

Canada

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Liebling in from the CN Tower in Toronto

Oh, Canada, my home and native land! While I love my country of birth, boy, is it expensive. The high costs of public transportation, accommodation, gas, and eating out are just a few reasons why visiting one of the friendliest countries on earth is not too friendly on the pocketbook.  

However, never fear! The home of Drake and hockey is also experiencing some tough times in the economic sphere. Result: travel to Canada is cheaper than it has been in a while. The Canadian dollar — also known as the Loonie — dropped 16% against the US dollar in 2015, and currently $1 USD will buy you $1.30 Canadian dollars.  Awesome, right? So apart from listening to Views from the 6, you can actually head to Toronto and see them for yourself.  And of course, you should travel to other places in Canada, too (even though Toronto is the center of the universe *wink*). Just make sure to eat some beaver tails coated in maple syrup while you’re there, eh?

Honourary mention: South Africa

South Africa has never been a particularly costly place to visit, but there’s no better time than the present to go. The South African rand has taken a beating, with even the BBC reporting that it had hit an all-time low against the US dollar last summer. This means that indulging in the country’s most popular activities (think safari, steak-eating, and Stellenbosch vineyard-hopping) can be done on the cheap. If you do make it over there, be sure to check out my two week itinerary!

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At the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa

The Bottom Line: Go where the currency is weak

Want to travel more frequently without obliterating your budget? Chase the deal, not the destination. Along with actively seeking travel deals and glitch fares, think about travelling to places where your dollar/euro/dirham will go farther and you’ll get better value for your money. Also think about exploiting currency dips in destinations that are traditionally expensive, like Canada, Russia, and Brazil. Happy travels!

Do you make it a point to travel to places that are less expensive? 

12 Comments

  • Danny says:

    Russia would be amazing to visit! I frequently check flights out of Frankfurt (where I currently live) just for fun, and I’ve definitely noticed that flight prices to Moscow and St. Petersburg have drastically declined over the past year and a half. I suppose now really is a very cost-efficient time to go!

  • Arika says:

    This is not a bad idea, I just feel as if I want to visit my “must-go” places first before I start paying attention to where the dollar is weak and going anywhere it takes me. That may be a weird stance! It probably means I’m going to waiting around forever just to go somewhere.

  • Faith says:

    This is definitely true! I am heading to Brazil in two weeks and my ticket were $212 dollars RT! The hotel was less than $200 for an entire week as well! 🙂

  • A very nice post Oneika!

    I don’t really think about the currency issues when I travel, although I do think in terms of “I would spend more here” and “I would spend less there.” Having said that, I generally travel to places because I want to, and I feel like going there at that time, merely just because lol!

    I’m desperate to go to Russia and I had been planning for the summer but my plans have changed and so I’m going somewhere else instead! I’m taking my husband to Vienna in late Novemeber. It’s an expensive time to go, but it’s his significant birthday, and I’m paying for all of it. Eeek!

    • Oneika says:

      I think it’s important to fulfill your desires first and foremost so it’s good that you can balance that with your spending. At any rate, you must go to Russia!! Luckily it’s close to Berlin!

  • Daniel J says:

    enjoy your tips/posts. thanks! and, the yellow 2-piece….smokin!!

  • jo says:

    Oneika, girl, I’m planning on a S america extravaganza starting in Brazil- so yes I will be all over your site. Lol. As for Russia, as I wasn’t blown away by Moscow, I’ll have to consider going again. But yes, South Africa is definitely on the bucket list. So many places, so little time. 🙁

    Thanks for his excellent piece! 🙂

    Jo x
    http://www.theglobalgriot.com

    • Oneika says:

      Thank you Jo! I am VERY behind on posting my Brazil updates but they are a-coming! When did you go to Moscow? I think the good weather, good food, and low expectations I had of it had an impact on my perception!

  • Leah says:

    Going to countries when their currency is low is always a good way to go to places you might not have been able to afford before. I’ve certainly done it (Iceland after their crash, for example)! I would, however, note that this also means things are a lot harder on the locals at the moment; some people really suffer due to currency devaluations. I would encourage travelers to not only visit, but to try to give back to the local economy: buy from street vendors, donate to a organization doing good work, support local businesses as much as possible, donate to food banks… it all depends on where you are, but I think if travelers take advantage of such a situation, giving back in some way is a decent thing to do.

  • Jodi says:

    Came across your blog as I’m doing some research on tips/tricks for our fam’s upcoming (and first time) travels to Toronto. Was hoping you could share your top five see and do from a native’s perspective. Looking for the not so touristy sites, cultural neighborhoods and eateries, parks etc. Family of five with two teens and one preteen. Thanks!!!

  • Tamara says:

    I’ve just discovered your blog and have been thoroughly enjoying your posts! I’ve always wanted to visit Brazil and been watching some documentaries on the country recently. Looking forward to reading the update!

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