It’s a rough time to be carrying Australia’s polymer bank notes around the USA right now. Every hard earned dollar you take to America is worth just under 80 cents over there – a big drop in value from the dizzying high of July 2011, though not as bad as the post-GFC horror show. The Euro is worse than the Greenback at the moment, offering less than 70 cents in the dollar, and the Pound is a total bloody disaster. Travel to the UK in the near future and the value of your money is halved.
It’s rough to see your travel funds chewed up by an unfavourable exchange rate, which is why we’re recommending a change of scene. If you’re looking for a place where your dollars will stretch, consider one of the great value countries below. In addition to injecting much-needed tourism dollars into flagging foreign economies, your cheap travel plan will lead you off the beaten path and into an unexpected adventure. Get to it.[listicle]
Brazil’s falling GDP is fuelled by a drop in iron ore exports and a general recession hitting much of Latin America. While the situation is grim for locals, it’s a boon for globetrotting sports fans. The 31st Olympic Games are coming to Rio De Janeiro in August and with the Aussie dollar buying around 2.7 Brazilian real, it’s a great time to jump on a plane and join the party. In addition to a world-class display of sporting prowess, Brazil offers spectacular white sand beaches, dense rainforests and a hot-blooded culture that can samba all night long.
Low oil prices have contributed to an economic slow down in Malaysia, where the Australian dollar is worth about 3 Malaysian ringgut currently. It’s not a particularly cheap place to travel, but with a little extra spending power, the bustling metropolis of Kuala Lumpur, the stunning dive sites of the South China Sea and the ape-riddling jungles of Malaysian Borneo are in much closer reach.
The Norwegian economy is yet another hit by the 70 percent drop in crude oil prices since mid-2014, which makes it marginally more accessible for an Australian traveller. Norway is notoriously expensive, like all Scandinavian countries, but right now the Aussie dollar buys more than 6.30 krone, which means that $5AUD will buy you half a litre of beer. Your slightly stronger Aussie dollar will also stretch the car hire budget – a must for travellers who want to cruise around Norway’s spectacular fjords, explore the peaks of Jotunheimen National Park or brave the fierce winds of the Atlantic Ocean Road.
Facing international sanctions due to its annexation of Crimea, and another victim of falling oil prices, Russia’s economy is predicted to contract in 2016. Our dollar is buying over 50 Russian rubles at the moment, which makes that Trans-Siberian rail journey a much cheaper indulgence. Use the extra buying power to take in the glory of St Petersburg, with its bejewelled imperial towers, or bask the in the historical gravitas of Moscow’s Red Square. You can also eat your weight in borscht at Café Pushkin, an acclaimed restaurant set in a 19th century building, still glowing with all the faded glory of the lost empire.
Another major oil exporter, Colombia’s economy has also suffered from a drop in commodity prices, wiping nearly 40 percent off the value of the peso. Always relatively cheap, now is an even better time to visit this vibrant South American country, loved for its rich bio-diversity, Caribbean beaches and absolutely beautiful people. Enjoy the street art lining the cobblestone streets of Cartagena, play an explosive game of tejo in the sprawling city of Bogota, or escape to the snow-capped edges of the Andes – all within easy reach of your wallet.
The Kazakhstani tenge is all over the place, made worse by the crude oil situation worldwide. Currently, the Australian dollar is buying roughly 250 tenge, which means beer in Kazakhstan costs just over a dollar per half litre. The generous exchange rate will buy you a cheap ticket to the gleaming Baiterek Tower in Astana or a visit to the ghost ships on the now-barren plains that were once the Aral Sea. You can ski in the Almaty province or hike the Charyn Canyon, or visit the deserts of Central Asia, without breaking the bank.
The easy-going people of Greece need all the help they can get right now. With an economy still in free fall, every tourist dollar counts. And though the Euro is the local currency, the cost of travel has taken a noticeable dive, so your dollar goes a little further in the current climate. From the ancient glories of the Acropolis and the Parthenon to the party isle of Mykonos and the endless white domes of Santorini, not to mention the crazy delicious food, there is no better moment to soak up the unique tempo of this beautiful, sun-baked country.[/listicle]
Simone Ubaldi is a ghostwriter, music journalist, film critic and frequent flyer. She has written for The Age, The Monthly, triple j Mag, Paper Sea, Faster Louder and various other publications, and appeared on ABC Radio National, triple j and Melbourne's 3RRR FM. She has co-authored four books, including memoirs of Bon Scott and Mark 'Chopper' Read, and she stashes a lot of her writing here.