The past year or so has brought great news for American travelers, as the U.S. dollar has surged in value against other currencies. That means it's cheaper for Americans to travel overseas. We took a look at some countries where the exchange rate is notably improved from 2014, when the U.S. dollar was considerably weaker. These five destinations are particularly attractive now.
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If you've had your eye on China for a while, now is a good time to book a trip. The dollar is currently strong in comparison with the yuan, which was devalued by 6.6 percent in 2016. The U.S. dollar is now 14 percent stronger against the yuan than it was in 2014, meaning travel there for Americans should be about that much cheaper.
There is plenty for the adventurous traveler to see in this vast country, with some of the most famous tourist sites, including portions of the Great Wall of China, situated in or near Beijing. A tour of the wall and the imperial palace known as the Forbidden City costs around 240 yuan. At $35, that's about $5 cheaper than it would have been in 2014, thanks to the exchange rate. Everything from hotels to internal flights should be cheaper, too.
According to the World Economic Forum's biennial Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report, Switzerland ranked last in "price competitiveness" in 2015, making it the most expensive country to travel to. But the strengthening dollar is making it a little more affordable. The local currency is the Swiss franc, which, at the time of writing, was worth about one U.S. dollar. That's 13 percent less than the franc's high point in 2014.
According to Lonely Planet, it costs the average midrange traveler around 200-300 Swiss francs a day to travel in Switzerland. With the current 13 percent savings on the exchange rate, you could save $26-$39 a day when compared to the same trip in 2014.
Switzerland is a stunning country, where imposing castles from the Middle Ages dot the mountainous landscape. No trip to Switzerland would be complete without a trip to the Swiss Alps, which have long attracted visitors for hiking and skiing.
Switzerland's cities, such as its capital, Geneva, are clean and home to some of the most important international organizations, such as the World Health Organization. Smaller villages such as the town of Gruyeres have a fairy-tale charm. The town is famous for the Gruyere cheese that is produced there, and offers authentic fondue and tours of the cheese factory where you can learn how the cheese is made.
Although Sweden has a reputation for being an expensive country for travel, the Swedish krona has dropped 42 percent against the U.S. dollar since 2014, making now the perfect time for a visit. The exchange rate at the time of writing was about $1 to 9 krona.
According to Lonely Planet, the average midrange traveler spends about 1,000-2,000 Swedish krona a day. That translates to $111-$222, a whopping $92 cheaper per day than it would've been in 2014.
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With its many coastal islands and inland lakes, Sweden's geography has long made it a destination for those looking to spend time on the water, engaging in activities such as kayaking. If you enjoy winter sports, Sweden is also an amazing cross-country skiing and dog-sledding destination. You may even be able to catch a glimpse of the ethereal northern lights in the northern region of Lapland -- in particular, the Aurora Sky Station in Abisko National Park.
Even for city dwellers, water is an integral part of life. The Swedish capital, Stockholm, is built across 14 islands connected by 57 bridges. Stockholm is an elegant city, with lively music, art, and fashion scenes. Other cities, such as Visby, contain medieval ruins amid charming cobblestone streets.
With the euro falling in value against the U.S. dollar (down 24 percent since 2014), travel has become more favorable to the 19 countries that make up the eurozone. You could consider a traditionally more expensive destination such as France or Italy, and watch your dollars go further than they have in years. Or you could head to more affordable Spain, where a beer in some parts of the country will cost you just a little over a dollar.
Spain is a diverse country, made up of 50 provinces and five languages, including the official Castilian Spanish, as well as Basque and Catalan.
The Pyrenees mountains offer wonderful recreation opportunities, including winter skiing and hiking along the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage routes. The coast features good diving in the Mediterranean Sea. If a buzzing night life is more your scene, head for the tourist-heavy but beautiful islands of Ibiza and Mallorca.
The dollar-to-Mexican-peso exchange rate is extremely advantageous at the moment, with one dollar worth about 20 pesos. This rate is 54 percent better than it was in 2014. Since this destination is in North America, you won't have to worry about expensive airfare either.
Mexico is a fascinating country to explore, with beautiful colonial architecture in towns such as Campeche, Guanajuato, and Zacatecas, which have put significant effort into conserving historic buildings.
The Pacific coast is a great destination for surfing and lazing on pristine, white beaches, and it's often overlooked by tourists heading to the Caribbean meccas of Cancun and Playa del Carmen (which offer their own charm, to be sure).
Living in Mexico City, I will admit to a bit of a bias for this cosmopolitan capital, which offers a vast art scene, delicious cuisine, and no shortage of music and entertainment options to visitors from all over the world.
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Regardless of where you choose to go, one thing for sure is that 2017 is shaping up to be the year of the American traveler. Take advantage of a strong dollar and see how far you can go.
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