The exchange-rate for international currency is one way to determine where the U.S. dollar will go furthest. But it doesn’t take into consideration many factors, specifically those related to travel and the cost of goods at street level for everyday necessities.
Thankfully, there are fun and useful resources to consult. Both the Big Mac Index, published by The Economist magazine, and the Backpacker Index from Priceoftravel.com, provide valuable insight on travel value in ways to which we can relate. The Big Mac Index is exactly what it sounds like: the production and consumer cost for a fast-food burger in a country with a given currency. The Backpacker Index, meanwhile, figures the cost for a cheap day of travel, including a bed at a decent hostel, a ticket to a local attraction, three budget meals, two trips on public transportation and three inexpensive beers. Taking these guides — and exchange rate — into account, below are five best bets for thrifty travel in 2019.
The U.S. dollar currently trades for nearly 17 Egyptian pounds. And with the exchange rate predicted to drop an additional 2.5 percent and the Grand Egyptian Museum set to partially open this year, there’s no better time to plan your Egyptian trip. The 1117-acre museum complex is preparing to open about a mile from the Giza pyramids. At a construction cost of more than $1 billion, the sprawling, glass-fronted structure provides expansive views of the surrounding Giza Plateau and its incredible pyramids. Just 10 miles away is Cairo, Egypt’s teeming capital on the Nile River, where visitors throng Tahrir Square and the Egyptian Museum.
A drastically lopsided exchange rate favors the U.S. dollar strongly in Vietnam, and that puts top travel destinations such as Hanoi and Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) at the top of the list on the Backpacker Index. And, according to Priceoftravel.com, you can spend as little as $20 per day for budget digs, food and entertainment in Vietnam. Although the ridiculously low exchange rate is predicted to tick upward this year, the Big Mac Index still undervalues the Vietnamese dollar by nearly 50 percent. That being said, in these places even spendthrift travelers may splurge a bit, and those with more travel allowance can opt for a taste of luxury without breaking the bank.
One U.S. dollar currently equals about 19 Mexican pesos, so your cash can go a long way when visiting our southern neighbor. According to the Big Mac Index, the peso is presently undervalued by 54.5 percent. With the exchange rate expected to drop 1.3 percent in 2019, according to Global Travel Forecast, now is a great time to plan a Mexico vacation. With a steady stream of affordable flights and deals for travel to Mexico, choosing from among the options is the hard part. Once there, relax on beaches in Cancun or Playa del Carmen, immerse yourself in the metropolis of Mexico City for indigenous food and culture, or unplug and de-stress by visiting the car-free sanctuary of Holbox Island.
With one dollar stacking up against nearly $3.50 in Peruvian sol, travel to this South American jewel is a value, especially when you consider its stunning mountain scenery and world-famous archeological sites. Even with the exchange rate expected to increase slightly in 2019, the currency is still far undervalued, by some 44 percent, according to the Big Mac Index. The prominent cities of Cusco and Lima both land on the Backpackers Index list of the world’s least expensive cities for travel this year, as well. Peru encompasses part of the Andes Mountains, vast swaths of Amazon Rainforest, the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu, so there’s plenty to check off of your bucket list, all while getting a great deal.
In a precipitous drop from last year’s 25 percent, the Argentine peso this year is undervalued by a whopping 64 percent, according to the Big Mac Index. Whether you choose metropolitan culture in Buenos Aires or the wilds of Patagonia, your wallet won’t get too light. Each U.S. dollar currently converts to roughly 44 pesos. One often overlooked aspect of Argentine tourism is its excellent wineries and wine estates, especially in the city of Mendoza. The best bold and assertive red wines in Argentina are made from Malbec, a Bordeaux grape imported from France in the 1800s. Argentina’s best-known white wine is the floral, tropical and tasty Torrontes. Hint: Get even more out of your travel dollar by shipping home excellent Argentine wines. Also, note that during our summer, the southern region of Patagonia is very cold, so our spring, fall and winter are better travel seasons there.