When planning a budget vacation to a foreign country, finding cheap transportation and lodging is an important first step — but only the first step. There are also the costs of food, in-country travel, shopping, and other expenses, and to properly calculate those costs, first you must determine how much of that country's currency your U.S. dollars (USD) will buy.
Currency conversion rates can change literally overnight, so today's great deal might be next week's bad bargain (and vice versa). If a country you hope to visit currently has a good exchange rate relative to the dollar, it might be wise to switch some dollars into that currency now, in case the dollar weakens before your trip. Most of these 17 countries' currencies are cheap (or cheaper than usual) this summer. (All currency conversion rates in this article apply to early July 2018.)
1 USD = 68.45 INR
India has always had lower costs than America even when the dollar-to-rupee exchange rate is relatively low. But the dollar has strengthened against the rupee since the beginning of the year; in January an American dollar bought 63.46 rupees, whereas in early July that same dollar buys 68.45 rupees.
How far does the rupee go in India? Consider the Himalayan city of McLeod Ganj, renowned for its sizable population of Tibetan expatriates (the city is also the home of the Dalai Lama, and the Tibetan government-in-exile). "Budget" hotels in McLeod Ganj start from as little as 576 rupees (about $8.50) for a night's stay in a hostel to 1,632 rupees (about $24) for a three-star hotel offering free breakfast.
Bargains are harder to find in the more "touristy" regions, however. Consider the Taj Mahal, arguably India's most famous attraction. The entrance price varies based on where the visitor hails from: entrance is 40 rupees (well less than a dollar) for Indian citizens, but 1,000 rupees (about $14.70) to "foreign tourists." Fans of India's exotic wildlife should visit Kanha National Park, where three-day, two-night tour packages start from as low as 11,050 rupees (about $162.50) per person.
1 USD = 0.76 GBP
The United Kingdom has never been a cheap travel destination for holders of American dollars, but the current dollar-to-pound conversion rate is better for American tourists than it used to be: As of early July, a British pound cost $1.33, compared to April 2018 when that same pound cost $1.43 in American money.
Lovers of literature will find the English countryside chock full of worthy destinations, such as Shakespeare's house in Stratford-on-Avon, and the cathedral in Canterbury, which inspired Chaucer's pilgrims to make their journey. (That said, the prices for such attractions are not "cheap" — only cheaper than they were when the pound was stronger relative to the dollar.) Admission to Shakespeare's birthplace, for example, is £15.75 ($20.79) if tickets are bought online, £17.50 ($23.10) at the gate.
Fans of ancient history can see the Roman baths for which the city of Bath is named. In summertime, nighttime "torchlit visits" including a three-course dinner are available for 44 pounds ($58.08) per person.
1 USD = 4,064 KHR
The American dollar has strengthened relative to the Cambodian riel in the past few months; a few months ago, the dollar bought less than 4,000 KHR.
Cambodia's most famous monument is likely Angkor Wat, a long-abandoned temple complex built sometime in the 1100s. Angkor Wat is the crown jewel of the larger Angkor Archaeological Park, which includes the remains of various cities and temples of the Khmer Empire, which ruled what is now Cambodia from the 9th through 15th centuries. (A four-day, three-night visit to Angkor Wat is currently available for only $165.)
In the capital city of Phnom Penh, the National Museum of Cambodia has an extensive collection of artwork from the Khmer Empire. Phnom Penh also notes the dark history of the Khmer Rouge, Communist revolutionaries who took over the country and killed over one-fifth of its population in the late 1970s. The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, housed in a converted Khmer Rouge prison, chronicles the history of the Khmer Rouge genocide.
1 USD = 5,685 PYG
The Paraguayan guarani is one of the cheapest South American currencies for U.S. buyers. One dollar buys 5,685 Paraguayan guarani, compared to 5,530 last February.
This small landlocked South American country nonetheless features sandy beaches, most notably San Jose Beach in the city of Encarnacion, which straddles the Paraná River. Encarnacion, nicknamed "Perla del Sur" (Pearl of the South), is best known for its Carnaval celebration, but for the rest of the year remains an attractive city off the beaten path. The city's Costanera Project includes over 4 miles of walkways and roadways along the riverfront beach, making the area more accessible to visitors. Hotels in Encarnacion can be had for as little as $14 per night.
Elsewhere in Paraguay, the capital city of Asunción features the Museo del Barro, renowned for its collection of pre-Columbian artifacts. Admission to the museum is free.
1 USD = 29 ARS
Sharing a border with Paraguay is Argentina, where one U.S. dollar buys almost 29 Argentine pesos. The country is in the Southern Hemisphere, giving American stargazers the opportunity to see entirely new constellations in the night sky.
In the country's colder southern regions, especially in parts of the Andes Mountains, are many stunning glaciers. Los Glaciares National Park, straddling the border with Chile, has been an official World Heritage Site since 1981. The entrance fee for foreign visitors is 500 pesos (about $17.25). A better bargain is found further south in Patagonia's Tierra del Fuego National Park, the oldest national park in Argentina: As of May 2018, park entrance fees are free through Sept. 30 (the end of Argentine winter), 420 pesos (about $14.50) for foreign visitors afterward.
For visitors seeking man-made rather than natural wonders, Argentina's capital city of Buenos Aires hosts many excellent art museums, including the National Museum of Decorative Art, National Museum of Fine Arts (Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes), Fortabat Art Collection, and several more. Admission to the Museum of Fine arts is free, while the Fortabat charges only 100 pesos (less than $4) and the National Museum of Decorative Art charges only a single peso. (By the way, the symbol for the Argentine peso is identical to the U.S. dollar sign, so don't let prices such as the Fortabat's advertised admission fee of "$100" scare you off!)
1 USD = 33 THB
Thailand is another affordable destination by U.S. standards. One dollar buys about 33 Thai baht. To get a feel for how far that money goes, consider that a basic meal in a standard, non-tourist Thai restaurant runs about 90 to 150 baht.
The Grand Palace in Bangkok is a prominent landmark and is open to tourists — for a 500 baht (about $15) admission fee. At the southern tip of the country, the island of Phuket, nicknamed the "Pearl of the Andaman," is noted for its sunny beaches. Phuket was devastated by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, but the island has rebuilt and is now a bustling tourist attraction.
Phuket is very affordable for visitors seeking a taste of authentic Thai life, though Western-style foods are about as expensive as they are in America. For example: A three-course meal for two people at a mid-range restaurant costs about 700 baht (roughly $21.20) — though a McDonald's "McMeal" costs around 210 baht, or $6.36 — as much if not more than a similar meal in America.
1 USD = 282 HUF
Hungary's currency is the forint, which has weakened relative to the U.S. dollar over the past several months: one U.S. dollar buys 282 Hungarian forints, compared to 247 at the beginning of February.
While forints are a good buy for American tourists, a few Euros might also be necessary to have. For example, the famous Buda Castle in Budapest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site built by Habsburg monarchs in the 17th century, offers daily walking tours of the buildings and grounds — but the tour company hosting those walks asks for payment in Euros rather than forints. On the other hand, you can get better deals from vendors accepting local currency: A trip on the "funicular" railway crossing the Danube to Buda Castle costs only 1,200 forints for a one-way trip of 1,800 forints round trip — about $4.25 and $6.38, respectively.
Budapest, the capital city, is currently known as the "Paris of the East" (though it's bisected by the Danube River rather than the Seine). But Budapest is also called the "city of baths." As far back as Roman times, it was famous for its natural hot-spring baths. When the city was part of the Turkish Empire, many Turkish-style spas were built. Budapest still has many public spas and baths open to tourists and locals alike.
1 USD= 6.32 HRK
The dollar has strengthened relative to Croatian kuna; $1 buys 6.32 kuna in July, compared to only 5.94 in February.
Croatia has undergone a tourism boom ever since HBO's "Game of Thrones" aired; the fictional city of King's Landing is actually the Croatian city of Dubrovnik, and several other locales from the show are in Croatia.
While Croatia's "Game of Thrones" spots might be expensive to visit, other spots in the country are more affordable. The medieval city of Korcula — the birthplace of Marco Polo — is a beautiful Adriatic island about 30 miles off the Croatian shore. Even during the expensive summer season, adventurous travelers in Korcula can stay in a friendly hostel for as little as $33 per night. The city of Pula's skyline is dominated by the ruins of ancient Roman amphitheater, where admission can be as little as $8.08. Another notable Roman relic is the palace of the emperor Diocletian in the city of Split; visiting the palace is free.
1 USD= 14,380 IDR
Since 2014, the Indonesian rupiah has seen a steady decline in value relative to the U.S. dollar, falling about 30 percent.
The U.S. State Department has a Level 2 travel advisory (meaning "Exercise increased caution," compared to "exercise normal precautions" for a Level 1 advisory) for the central Sulawesi and Papua regions of Indonesia due to terrorism and "civil unrest." But the advisory does not extend to the popular tourist island of Bali. While many tourists visit Bali for its beaches, the island is also well-known for its many spectacular temples including Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave), a 9th-century Hindu temple carved directly into a cave; and the Pura Luhur Temple built on a cliff top overlooking the beach at Uluwatu, which is ranked among the top five surfing destinations on the world.
Though many of these attractions have admission or parking fees, the costs are very low compared to the dollar: The parking fee for most Balinese beaches is 5,000 rupiah (about 30 cents), while attraction-admission fees range from 15,000 rupiah (a bit over a dollar) for Goa Gajah to 100,000 rupiah (about $7) to see the elaborate Buddhist sculptures at Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park. Elsewhere on Bali, the Neka Art Museum in Ubud boasts an impressive collection of traditional Balinese art.
1 USD = 3.28 PEN
The American dollar has strengthened slightly against the Peruvian sol, trading at one dollar for 3.28 sol in July, compared to 3.23 in April.
Peru's best-known landmark is probably the Incan city of Machu Picchu, set high in the Andes Mountains. In the Nazca Desert further to the west are the cryptic Nazca lines, giant geoglyphs gouged into the desert floor sometime around 600 or 700 A.D. But visiting Machu Picchu or flying over the Nazca lines is not cheap. For a more affordable look at pre-Columbian history, go to Peru's capital city of Lima and check out the Larco Museum's collection of art from that era; admission to the museum is 30 sol (about $9.15).
Another more-affordable destination is the city of Cusco. Once the capital of the Inca empire, it is famous today both for its Incan ruins and later examples of Spanish colonial architecture. Some inexpensive hostels offer sleeping accommodations for as little as $4 per night, and the city has plenty of cheap restaurants catering to locals and tourists alike.
1 USD= 26.22 UAH
Though the American dollar has weakened relative to the Ukrainian hyrvnia since the beginning of this year — in January a dollar bought almost 29 hyrvnia, compared to 26.22 at the beginning of July — the exchange rate is still strong enough for budget-conscious American vacationers to take advantage of Ukraine's generally low cost of living.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine and occupation of Crimea, the U.S. State Department advised Americans to avoid Crimea for reasons including "foreign occupation and abuses by occupation authorities." But other parts of the country are considered safe to visit, including the capital city of Kiev. The onion-domed St. Sophia's cathedral is the city's oldest church and one of its more prominent landmarks; admission to the cathedral can cost as little as 3 hyrvnia, though an English-language guided tour can cost 80 to 100 hyrvnia (around $3 or $4).
Also worth seeing is the Caves Monastery at Pechersk Lavra. The upper part of the monastery now hosts numerous churches and museums, but this structure was built above a series of caves that give the monastery its name. The entrance fee to the Lavra compex is 50 UAH (less than $2).
1 USD= 105.45 ISK
Iceland has never been a cheap travel destination, and is unlikely to ever be. But the krona weakened compared to last year; in 2017 the currency was so strong, many Icelandic economists worried its strength might harm Icelandic companies. In May 2017, a single U.S. dollar bought less than 100 krona, but by July 2018 the krona had weakened to 105 per U.S. dollar, making an Icelandic vacation more affordable than this time last year.
Iceland straddles the boundary of the European and North American tectonic plates, and the resulting vulcanism provides the island's stunning volcanic landscape, dotted with glaciers, volcanoes, hot springs, and lava fields.
Summertime visitors can bask in the island's endless daylight, while visitors during the long winter nights can comfortably bathe in an outdoor hot spring surrounded by frozen snowfields on all sides. In Reykjavik, Iceland's capital and largest city, you can tour multiple museums showcasing the island's Viking and maritime history, or on weekends go bargain-hunting at the Kolaportið, Reykjavik's weekend flea market.
1 USD = 20.04 MXN
America's southern neighbor has long offered affordable vacation options (though some of the more popular and upscale resorts have prices rivaling anything north of the Rio Grande). The current dollar-to-peso conversion rate is $1 for just over 20 pesos, up from a recent low of $1 for 18.11 pesos in early April.
Mexico City is an affordable destination for American wallets, and the city's National Museum of Archaeology is the largest museum in Mexico, featuring an impressive collection of Mayan artifacts (and an entrance fee of around $5). The city's famous Chapultepec Park, including the Chapultepec Zoo, is free to all comers, and many of the city's museums offer free admission at least one day per week. Not far from Mexico City are the Aztec ruins of Teotihuacan, (and last year, in downtown Mexico City, archaeologists discovered the ruins of yet another Aztec temple built sometime in the 1400s).
Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula is better known for its Mayan ruins, including the pyramid at Chichen Itza, probably one of the best-known Mayan structures in the world. The total admission fee (including tax) for foreigners is 242 pesos, or around $12.
1 USD=107.93 ALL
For more adventurous travelers interested in sites off the beaten path, Europe's most obscure Mediterranean coastal country just might do. During the Cold War, Albania was isolated even by Communist-country standards, never developing even the limited tourist trade that most countries behind the Iron Curtain engaged in. Currently $1 buys almost 108 Albanian leks, compared to 104 in April.
Since the fall of communism, Albania has been working on developing a tourism industry, though it still lacks the robust "tourist infrastructure" of other European countries. Yet the country contains many sights worth seeing, including the abandoned ancient Greek city of Apollonia, where Rome's emperor Augustus once went to study philosophy. Visiting the ruins is free — though visitors have warned that the road leading to the ruins is rather bad. That said, a cab driver in the nearby village of Fier might be willing to drive you to the ruins and back for only a few hundred leks.
For more recent history, the capital city of Tirana and its outskirts have memorials and museums chronicling the country's dark Communist past. Dictator Enver Hoxha built tens of thousands of concrete bunkers across Albania, preparing for an attack that never came. One such bunker in the outskirts of Tirana was meant to be Hoxha's personal hideout in the event of a nuclear war. Today that bunker is the Bunk'Art complex, part museum of Hoxha's reign and part concert hall, since the bunker's underground auditorium is now used to host jazz concerts. The entrance fee is 1,000 leks (less than $10).
1 USD=3.77 PLN
The American dollar has strengthened against the Polish zloty since earlier in the year; in July a dollar bought 3.77 zlotys, compared to 3.33 zlotys in February.
One of the cheaper European countries, Poland's 14 UNESCO World Heritage sites include the Bialowieza Forest, one of the largest existing remnants of the primeval forest that once covered most of the continent; Warsaw's Old Town (carefully reconstructed after its complete devastation during World War II); and the medieval town of Torun, still surrounded by stone walls built in the early Middle Ages.
Another worthwhile attraction is the Wieliczka Salt Mine, originally a working mine later carved into elaborate underground city featuring breathtaking chapels. Admission to such attractions is slightly cheaper than what comparable tourist sites would cost in America; admission to the Wieliczka mine is 79 zlotys for a non-Polish adult (just under $21).
1 USD=13.84 ZAR
Compared to last winter, the U.S. dollar has gained significant strength against the South African rand; in February a U.S. dollar would buy only 11.58 South African rand, but by July the dollar had strengthened enough to buy 13.84 rand instead.
South Africa's Kruger National Park is a must-see for anyone going on safari; there are also six private game reserves nearby. Visitors to Kruger have a good chance of seeing all Africa's "Big Five" animal species: lions, rhinos, elephants, leopards, and buffalo. Though the rand has weakened relative to the dollar, admission to the park remains moderately pricey for Americans (and other non-South Africans): Adult visitors to the park are charged a daily "conservation fee" of 331 rand (almost $24).
Johannesburg, South Africa's largest city, is home to the Apartheid Museum, a stark concrete edifice chronicling the history of South Africa's now-defunct system of legally mandated racial segregation. About 30 miles outside Johannesburg is the Cradle of Humankind, a paleo-anthropological site where roughly 40 percent of all known pre-human ancestor fossils were found. In addition to educational exhibits, the Cradle of Humankind also offers plenty of "just for fun" activities including ziplining, hot-air balloon safaris, and the chance to explore the underground caves made famous on "The Amazing Race" reality show. Adult admission to Cradle of Humankind's Maropeng Visitor Centre is 120 rand (about $8.70), while tours of the Sterkfontein caves are 165 rand per adult (about $12). A much better deal is the combination ticket, which is 190 rand (about $13.75) for both attractions.
1 USD=22,962 VND
Over the past couple of years, the U.S. dollar has strengthened slightly against the Vietnamese dong, making Vietnam a better deal than usual for budget-conscious American travelers. Vietnam's Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has a helpful English-language website for inbound tourists, including information on how visitors from outside the country can be refunded the VAT (value-added tax, or sales tax) on any purchases they make in-country.
The Temple of Literature outside the capital city of Hanoi was built in the 11th century, originally to honor Confucius. In 1076, King Ly Nhan Nong expanded the temple to become Vietnam's first university. Admission to the temple costs only 20,000 dong (less than $1) for adults and is free to children under 15.
Further south in the country, Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon), is probably best-known in America for the role it played in the Vietnam War, and many war memorials and museums dot the city. Ho Chi Minh City is also renowned for its French colonial architecture, including the Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral, built entirely out of materials imported from France. The cathedral is next to the city's famous April 30 Park and Diamond Plaza shopping mall; a cup of coffee in one of the local shops will set you back about 8,000 to 10,000 dong (about 30 or 40 cents, American).