Americans who plan to do some traveling this summer might want to keep an eye on exchange rates, as the dollar has recently dipped in value and could slide further.
Following a couple years of a strong dollar — when compared to other fiat currencies — President Donald Trump entered the White House and called for a weaker greenback. Comments made by Trump and his advisors, coupled with uncertainty over Trump’s presidency and some poor economic data, have factored in the dollar declining over the first half of 2017, particularly in recent weeks. While that can be good news for American exporters, it is not so for travelers who get paid in dollars and then head to Europe.
In Europe, the euro is doing well relative to the dollar this year. The pro-euro Emmanuel Macron defeated anti-euro Marine Le Pen in last month’s French presidential election. And so far this year, there has not been a big scandal involving Greece, Italy or another eurozone member with troubled finances or banks.
Outside the eurozone, most other European currencies have also been up against the dollar in recent weeks. Those include the currencies used in popular travel destinations like Poland, the Czech Republic and Croatia.
Of course, if you get paid in bitcoin or other cryptocurrency, this news is not much of a concern for you. Bitcoin is already up nearly 200 percent against the dollar in 2017, and a single bitcoin is now valued at around $2,900. Other top cryptocurrencies are also soaring against the dollar this year. Ether, the cryptocurrency with the second largest market capitalization, has risen in price from less than $10 at the beginning of 2017 to above $250 currently.
But for those coping with a relatively weak dollar, where in Europe can Americans get bang for their buck this summer? Taking into account exchange rates and a variety of factors relating to summer travel, here are the top 3 European travel destinations for Americans in Summer 2017.
3. London, United Kingdom
The British pound is up significantly against the dollar this year, but taking into account where it was just three years ago — or even one year ago — dollar holders are getting bang for their buck when they use the sterling. Three years ago, the pound was about 1.7 to the dollar. It is currently $1.29.
The dollar made big gains against the pound over a two-year period leading up to last year’s Brexit referendum. Immediately following the vote, the pound plunged from $1.50 to $1.37. The sterling then kept declining for several months, falling as low as slightly below the $1.20 level in early 2017.
Now there is a lot of uncertainty over which direction the pound will head. Some investors and institutions predict it will rise; others predict it will decline.
Much of the pound’s fate in the short-term hinges on the outcome of the British parliamentary elections that will take place Thursday. The election result, in turn, will shape how the UK approaches its Brexit negotiations with the European Union.
Many analysts expect the pound will rise in value if the ruling Conservatives expand their parliamentary majority on Thursday. If the Conservatives lose seats or the election results in a hung parliament or surprise win for the Labour Party, the pound is expected to fall.
A lesser factor to consider when making travel plans for a British holiday this summer is terrorism. There have now been three terror attacks in the UK in a span of less than three months, and two of the attacks occurred in London. Following last weekend’s London Bridge attack, the pound dipped but has since recovered.
While the attacks have grabbed international headlines, they are unlikely to drive down the pound or deter tourists, at least not in the short term. Likewise, it is highly unlikely you will be killed in a terror attack while visiting London.
From a planning perspective, London is a strategic location for Americans to visit. It is simple and often cheaper to fly in and out of London than other European cities when traveling from and to the U.S. London also serves as a launchpad to destinations all over Europe, with a large variety of transportation options.
Though the weather in London is not the greatest — especially for enjoying summer sun — the city is action-packed, historic and obviously in the news.
2. Odessa, Ukraine
For beaches and better weather, look to a city where attractions are a fraction of the cost of those in London and the currency is performing worse than the pound.
Ukraine’s troubled hryvnia has technically risen against the dollar in 2017, but not by much and it is nowhere near the exchange rate it was at prior to the start of the Ukraine crisis in 2013. Four years ago, one dollar was worth about 8.5 hryvnia. A dollar is now worth 26.25 hryvnia.
There is little if any sign the hryvnia will recover. While the hryvnia is up slightly against the dollar in 2017, it is still down against the greenback over the last year. A year ago, the hryvnia was 24.96 to the dollar.
The fighting that broke out in Eastern Ukraine in 2014 is still carrying on in the Donbass region, and Ukraine’s many political and economic problems are far from resolved. But there is no war in Odessa, and compared to many Western European cities, Odessa is a very safe place to be.
Getting in and out of Odessa cannot be done as easily as with other European cities. Flights are somewhat limited and can be pricey, but expect to more than make up for the airfare and flying hassles with the prices you pay when visiting the Black Sea city.
When avoiding the peak season, visitors can find comfortable city center apartments for around $15-$20 a night. While you shouldn’t expect to pay that rate in July or August, you will still be paying Eastern European prices in a devalued currency.
Odessa is not a city jam-packed with excitement, but it is very relaxed with a unique culture that is well-known within the former Soviet Union. There is also a party area of town located by a popular beach. In the summer, Odessa draws lots of families as well as sex tourists from the West, Turkey and Arab states — adding to the city’s already eclectic vibe.
If you choose to check out Odessa, you can easily combine the trip with a visit to the number 1 destination on the list, which is just a 50-minute flight away.
1. Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul, one of the world’s foremost cities, sits on the dividing line between East and West and Europe and Asia, with most of the city’s attractions on the European side.
In addition to being centrally located, Istanbul has also been at the heart of geopolitical turmoil in recent years. Syrian refugees and other migrants have poured into the city, and Istanbul has seen major protests which were suppressed with force, followed by a string of high-profile terror attacks and a bloody coup attempt last summer.
In recent months, though, things have calmed down. There has not been a major terror attack in Istanbul since New Year’s 2017, and a constituttional referendum in April delivered some clarity about Turkey’s political direction — the country is foregoing deeper western integration.
Despite the relative order that is emerging, and though tourism numbers are picking up a bit, Istanbul remains a remarkable bargain in Summer 2017. A big reason for that is the Turkish lira.
As with Ukraine’s hryvnia, the lira is up slightly against the dollar in 2017, but it is nowhere near where it was prior to the onset of the recent geopolitical turmoil in Turkey. The lira currently stands at 3.53 to the dollar. One year ago, it was 2.91 to the dollar. Three years ago, the lira was 2.08 to the dollar. Five years ago, it was just 1.75 to the dollar.
At the moment, you can stay in a hotel room overlooking the Sea of Marmara on Istanbul’s historic peninsula for just $20 a night. That includes breakfast and 24/7 access to a terrace with a sea view on one side and a view of the historic Sultan Ahmed mosque on the other side. In previous years, a room like that would cost several multiples of $20 during summer season.
Travel to and from Istanbul is simple — so long as there are no terror attacks or coup attempts. There are numerous direct flights from the U.S., and when you are in Istanbul, you can easily take side trips to Turkey’s popular resorts and coastal cities, like Antalya, Marmaris, Bodrum and Izmir. Additionally, Istanbul is close to the Greek island and popular Black Sea destinations like Odessa and the comparably affordable Bulgarian coast.
Major internal and geopolitical issues remain in Turkey and it is wise to be aware of them before visiting. But if you can stomach the limited risk, a trip to Istanbul this summer will be well worth it.
Save more money!
Those planning on traveling this summer — regardless of the origin and destination — can reference the FreeManPost Travel section and particularly the articles written by Jaclyn Snow, which can save you thousands of dollars — maybe even some bitcoins — on transportation, accommodation and more.