Where to get the biggest bang for your travel bucks now
Good news: Hiking Argentina's Glacier Perito Moreno will cost less than it did last year, thanks to a falling peso. Photo: Getty
Predictions of looming interest rate cuts and geopolitical concerns surrounding China (among others) might be wreaking havoc on the value of the Australian dollar, but travellers need not despair.
There are still places where you can get a good deal despite our currency being a little worse for wear. Here are five of the best.
If you’ve a penchant for street-side tango, steak sizzling over glowing grills, grand architecture and some of the world’s most beautiful national parks, now is the time to head to South America’s second largest nation.
As the economic crisis in Argentina deepens, the Argentine peso continues to fall due to fears the country will be unable to make its debt payments. That means that for every $100, you’ll get an extra 1183 pesos on this time last year – enough to cover a Buenos Aires dinner and tango show for one.
For nature lovers, Argentina offers a host of spectacular sights, including Glacier Perito Moreno, the centrepiece of the southern sector of Los Glaciares National Park.
If you’re after something a little warmer, head to Talampaya National Park to check out dust-red canyons eroded into intricate shapes by water. To get there, sale flights can be as low as $1000-$1200 return; otherwise expect to pay between $1200-$2000.
Second on the list for most affordable countries for Aussies is Turkey, where you can get 76 more lira for every $100 exchanged compared to last year.
That’s enough to get you a ticket to the spectacular Hagia Sophia, the cathedral-turned mosque-then museum dating back to the fourth century AD.
Other highlights include the other-worldly “fairy chimney” landscapes of Cappadocia; the jade waters of Antalya and the Turquoise Coast; and the urbane and magical Istanbul, with its unique architecture and fabulous food and culture.
According to Finder.com.au, Turkey is one of the cheapest countries in Europe to fly to, with airlines such as Qatar often featuring sale fares just under $1000 return to Istanbul.
Angus Kidman, travel expert at Finder, advises travellers to shop around to avoid paying full price for a holiday.
“There’s always a hack to help you score a cheaper holiday, whether that’s taking advantage of price match guarantees or avoiding sneaky extra fees,” he says. “The more research you do, the more you’ll save.”
However, a word of caution: Turkey shares a border with war-ravaged Syria, so Smart Traveller advises a high degree of caution when visiting due to the threat of terrorist attacks.
The other-worldly landscape of Cappadocia is one of the highlights of Turkey. Photo: Getty
This small nation, in south-central Africa, is not only value for money ($A100 will get you an extra 60 kwachas) but is home to some of the most beautiful sites on Earth.
Whether it’s visiting the South Luangwa National Park to see herds of elephant and rare Thornicroft’s giraffe, or the world’s largest waterfall, Victoria Falls, Zambia is a nature lovers’ paradise – and good value to boot.
Just remember to exchange your money in Australia if you’re travelling outside the fringe of popular holiday spots.
“Unless you’re going to a destination that attracts a lot of Australian tourists, such as Bali and Phuket, it’s cheaper to exchange in Australia,” says Justin Rampono, director of foreign exchange comparison site The Currency Shop.
A word of caution: Not all Australian banks will carry low-demand currencies like the kwacha. In countries that use these currencies a low-rate travel card might be a good option.
As for safety, Zambia is largely considered safe to visit, but the Australian Government advises tourists to “reconsider” if travelling to areas bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola and Mozambique.
Two Thornicroft’s giraffe on an evening stroll in Luangwa National Park. Photo: Getty
For many years, this vast nation was shrouded in secrecy, its culture and history filtered through the lens of wars, despots, tragic literature and sub-zero temperatures.
But in the past few years, Russia has emerged as a key destination for travellers, its major cities rivalling New York for nightlife (Moscow, in particular, is home to cool bars and clubs such as Bar Gipsy, cocktail bar Mendeleev and the delightful I Like Wine 2.0). The arts are a drawcard, too, with the Bolshoi Theatre, Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow, and the Mariinsky Theatre and The Hermitage in St Petersburg. Russia has come a long way in the past few decades.
As it stands, you’ll get an extra 349 roubles for $A100 – enough to buy a walking tour of the city of Petrozavodsk. As for flights, you’d be looking at about $650 return if you’re happy to fly into Vladivostok. Flights to a major city such as Moscow are priced from about $850.
If the exchange rate isn’t as good as you had hoped, don’t despair: Mr Rampono says you should look beyond just a good currency exchange to get a bargain.
“Most people needlessly spend a lot more money on their holiday because they don’t know what the good decisions are,” he says.
“It’s not that they’re lazy; it’s because they’re not aware of all the ways they can save”.
Avoiding money changes at airports and using the right travel debit and credit cards can save as much as $300 – and sometimes more.
Take in a show at the Mariinsky Theatre – it’ll cost you a few roubles less than last year. Photo: Getty
Ancient ruins, UNESCO world heritage sites, golden beaches, wonderful food and cheap transport: what’s not to love about this teardrop-shaped island?
Mr Kidman says it’s also “less touristy, so you won’t have to fight other tourists for a poolside umbrella”.
“Aussies should be looking at destinations where their money will go the furthest. Sri Lanka is a great option for those after a beach holiday on a budget,” he says.
You’ll save less on the exchange rate than you might elsewhere (hello, Argentina), but you get 905 more rupee for your $100 this year. That’s about the cost of a monthly travel pass or three extra cappuccinos.
Flights are also well-priced. If you’re willing to endure a non-direct route, you can get to Sri Lanka and back home from about $700.
Bali who? Sunset at Sri Lanka’s Hikkaduwa Beach. Photo: Getty
Final word: Remember, travel is about more than how far your dollar will take you. The federal government advises all Australians to check its Smart Traveller website for safety information and travel advisories before heading overseas.