Those trade-offs include risks. But natural disasters, protest movements or bad publicity (think of the Costa Concordia’s effects on European cruises) can create cheap travel opportunities.
We talked to luxury and budget travel experts to get the scoop on how to make the dollar go far this year. You might be surprised which international cities you can visit on the cheap in 2012.
Where the dollar goes far: The global recession hit some countries hard, and places that were once expensive are now prime destinations. Reykjavik, Iceland, appeals because of dramatic currency fluctuations. “Before the financial crises, you would get 67 kroner to dollar. Now you get 123 to the dollar. . . . Your dollar goes much farther than it did before,” Peyser said. Jetsetter Editor in Chief Kate Maxwell says that “Poland and Romania are . . . cheaper since they’re off the euro.”
Euro zone countries to visit: So the euro exchange rate still hovers around $1.32 to 1 euro (much better than in 2008). But did the European debt crisis make all destinations cheaper. “The dollar goes further in some places, but not all,” Peyser said. “Ireland has a temporary reduction in value-added tax, encouraging people to come now. Spain, though, has raised its VAT tax since 2010, so it’s more expensive for tourists.” Greece is also a great option if you can get to a less-populated island. “There are shorter lines at tourist destinations, and lesser-known islands are running deals,” Maxwell said. “Avoid Santorini and Mykonos.” Also, consider countries loved for their bed-and-breakfast cultures. A room at an Irish inn is considerably cheaper (and negotiable!) in a time of financial hardship. So use the bartering tools in our previous column.
Bad PR and risk
When the crowds stop going: There’s no polite way to say this: Nothing hurts a travel industry like accidents or high-profile tragedies. After the Costa Concordia sinking, Jetsetter says its phones have been ringing off the hook with cruise companies wanting to do flash sales. “Demand for cruises has dropped 20 percent. . . . It’s a good time to get a deal on a cruise,” Maxwell said. Japan’s tourism is still recovering from the 2011 tsunami. “It’s not cheap to visit Tokyo, but for Americans, it’s much cheaper now than it was before,” Peyser said.
Risky business: There are dangerous countries, and there are their neighbors. American travelers often disregard places that have a history of crime, poverty or war. Avoid the countries on the State Department’s travel warning list, but traveling to neighboring countries will help you find a deal, Peyser and Maxwell advise. For example, although much of Northern Africa is still unsafe to visit after uprisings, Morocco has always been a tourist destination. And surprisingly, Tunisia and Egypt are off the advisory list. Now might be the best time to visit Carthaginian ruins or take that Bedouin tour.