Where is the American Dollar Worth the Most?

person posing on a boat in palawan, philippines

If you’re accustomed to packing light and taking to the friendly skies on the regular, you may find yourself asking the following questions quite frequently: Where is the American dollar worth the most? Where does the American dollar go the farthest? Where can I get the best exchange rate for dollars? The answer isn’t always straight forward, but it can help the wanderlust-y among us to squeeze the most miles out of our budget. Plus, sometimes it leads us down unexpected paths.

person posing in bali
There are lots of places in the world where carrying US dollars is an incredible privilege (see: ALL).

Is the dollar strong or weak right now?

The short answer to this question is — it depends on where you’re headed. The U.S. economy has been in pretty good shape these days, so in 2019 there are plenty of places where the dollar goes far. This doesn’t just mean the countries where American money is worth the most in terms of conversion rate; for example, it doesn’t matter if one USD is worth 1 million rubles if your morning coffee will cost you 10 million rubles! But there are countries where the dollar is strong. Do your research and you’ll be living in the lap of luxury at a much more affordable rate than you’re apt to enjoy back home.

11 countries where the dollar is strong

1. Argentina

view of bariloche, argentina
Places where the dollar goes far are also the most beautiful!

Cost of living in Argentina is low, with rent, food, and utilities all coming in a lot lower than you’ll be used to at home in the States. Imported products like cars, clothes, and shoes don’t see much of a savings compared with what you’d pay at home, but if you’re just passing through, you can skip these purchases to keep your budget low!

*Cost of a head of lettuce (for all you healthy eaters out there): $0.70

2. Egypt

Rent and food costs in Egypt are so low you may not believe it at first. As a tourist, you’ll be able to enjoy the country’s culinary delights without making big dents in your pocketbook.This is the kind of space you could spend a lot of time in!

*Cost of a head of lettuce: $0.29

3. Mexico

We hear this one all the time. U.S. money goes a long way in Mexico. Rents, services, even clothing and other goods you might want to shop for all come at very accessible prices in México lindo, but the real benefit is the food. Mexican fare is delicious and there’s so much more to it than burritos — and it’s all at very reasonable price points. Pair that with the vast and diverse territory you can cover here and you may find yourself staying a long time.

*Cost of a head of lechuga: $0.75

4. Vietnam

There’s a reason why budget backpackers love Southeast Asia! Vietnam is very affordable (and so is Thailand!) — cheap beer, cheap transportation. If you’re planning on staying longer, food and clothing can also be purchased at reasonable prices, which is good because it’s a pretty long way from home. Rent will be far less than you’re used to spending in the States, especially if you share a bigger place with roommates.

*Cost of a head of lettuce: $0.65

5. Peru

It seems hard to believe you can take in the incredible cultural history of the Incas and eat one of the world’s most famous and sought-after cuisines on a budget, but believe it! Peru’s major cities and tourist areas aren’t the cheapest around, but they aren’t outrageously expensive either. Meanwhile, in smaller towns and rural areas, you can snag amazing deals on lodging, homemade handicrafts and souvenirs, and delicious, nutritious food to keep you powered up at altitude.

*Cost of a head of lettuce: $.071

6. Costa Rica

person sitting on car looking at arenal volcano in costa rica
Incredible journeys (and views) come along with the best exchange rate for U.S. dollars.

If it seems like there’s a lot of Latin America on this list, it’s because there are a lot of affordable amazing places south of our border, where the U.S. dollar has some serious buying power. Costa Rica is not different. You can really splurge at the luxury resorts along Costa Rica’s beautiful coastlines, but if that’s not in your bottom line, You’ll find plenty more reasonable options. Costa Rican food is simple but tasty, and a hearty meal will only set you back a few bucks. Don’t sleep on the roadside fruit stands, either. They often let you taste for free.

*Cost of a head of lettuce: $.98

7. Canada

Our neighbors to the north may surprise you, but the Canadian dollar usually tracks a little bit below the U.S. dollar. Meanwhile, the sticker prices on meals at restaurants, and on clothing and accommodations look remarkably similar. This leaves you saving a little bit on each purchase without even knowing it. And if you think Canada is just U.S.A. North, think again. There are all sorts of cultural, social, and political differences that make it just as much of an intercultural experience as voyages to farther off lands.

*Cost of a head of lettuce: $1.84

8. Puerto Rico

This might surprise you as one of the countries where the U.S. dollar is strong because, well, they use the U.S. dollar. But Puerto Rico’s restaurant scene stays affordable by celebrating all the great food the island has to offer, and if you stay away from resorts and major tourist zones, rent and shopping come at a reasonable price, too. Plus, not needing to deal in another currency? How convenient!

*Cost of a head of lettuce: $2.38

9. Hungary

Finally some Europe in this list. Take in some serious European Old World charm for a seriously reasonable price tag. Food and drink, especially if you stick to locally-derived options, will keep you full for less. For those staying longer, rents are low and public transportation options are very affordable and accessible. 

*Cost of a head of lettuce: $0.81

10. Philippines

aerial view of palawan, philippines
Incredible, fun, and one-of-a-kind; the Philippines is one of the best places where the dollar goes far.

If you’re planning a long-term jaunt to the Philippines, you will be very comfortable. Rent is just a fraction of what it costs in the U.S. of A. and food and beverages are cheap if you stick with options produced on the archipelago. Transportation is also reasonably priced. Salaries aren’t high in this part of the world, but the demand for Americans to teach English and similar opportunities is fairly strong, and the money you’ll make doing that will be enough to enjoy your time there.

*Cost of a head of lettuce: $1.22

11. U.S.A.

Surprise! I bet you weren’t expecting this one. What it lacks in creativity, perhaps, it gains in being close to home. Of course we all know New York and Miami come at a big cost, but have you seen that great, wide world out there? There has to be an upside to manifest destiny, and that’s the open road. Skipping plane travel and getting to know the small towns and rural areas that make America Americuh can be very informative at a very reasonable price.

*Cost of a head of lettuce: $1.54

Everywhere is the best place for American dollars with FMT

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Go find the best exchange rate for dollars!

life is short, enjoy your coffee sign
Bonus: Favorable exchange rates mean affordable (and delicious) coffee!

Where there’s travel involved, your research skills and patience cannot be outdone. When you reap the rewards, you’ll know the time you invest now will be worth it. So get to it! Map out your plans for what you’ll be doing while you’re in-country. Are you on a program where some meals are provided or are you totally on your own? Will you have access to a kitchen to cook? And will you, realistically, cook yourself meals sometimes instead of eating out? How’s your self control at handicraft markets or high-rent fashion districts? 

All of this will help you estimate just how much bang you can get for your buck in countries where the U.S. dollar is strong. Remember: Cost of living can vary greatly from city to city, and sometimes smaller towns aren’t more affordable. Do your best to investigate regionally-specific data for the particular places where the dollar goes far. If you really do it right, there will be dollars left over for the next cheapest spot on your list. May the conversion rate be ever in your favor.

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amelia dietrichThis article was written by Amelia Dietrich. Amelia’s day job keeps her busy helping study abroad professionals grow and improve their professional practice in order to help college students have safe, high-quality educational experiences abroad. When work travel isn’t enough, Latin America is her destination of choice thanks to a past life as a Spanish teacher and bilingualism researcher.

Comments (9)

Hi Amelia. Thank you for your research. I wish to ask specific questions about retiring abroad. It seems I can not find on line apartment rentals outside of “hotel/AirBnb and other realtor” sponsored link results dominating the first dozen or more page results. It used to be easy with small town newspapers in the back – just find in the classified section listings for apartments wanted. Not on line though – all search results are herded into Realator an/or Hotel listings.

Would you be willing to share your first hand knowledge of these countries you listed here? I am 63 and retired (forced into retirement due to hip disability). My retirement is very small – $675 a month. I lived in China but now that’s unsafe. I do not consider anywhere in Latin America safe these days. I was a US Marine in the 1970’s and have been to the Phillippine Islands, … I would find living there OK however, many American Filipinas say “no-way-Jose” – that it’s not safe at night being an outsider they see as having money … I can’t do much but read these days … just need a place that is hopefully on the water, where an American on a fixed low income can be comfortable. I would love to return to Ningbo, China … but aparently the cost of living has also gotten double of when I left and it’s too risky to work under the table these days – though it was quite OK and lax before.

Any feedback is appreciated. Thank you again.

Hi Amalia,
I love this content and wish to contact you to know more about this places.
Thank for the content❤

Hi Amalia,
I love this content and wish to contact you to know more about this places.
Thanks for the content❤

You should add Ukraine to the list. I went out with my girlfriend and another couple to a place that served American style food. They had BBQ chicken, BBQ ribs, steak, hamburgers, fries, etc. Anyway we had a slab of ribs, chicken kababs, entree, and dessert for $8.25. We went to another place, just the two of us, and we pigged out out pork, dumplings, salad, and more. The total bill was $3.72. The most expensive meal I had was McDonald’s. It was the only one in town and it was packed. I had an Asian chili sauce wrap, fries, and a large coke, and they gave me a 6 piece nuggets too because they didn’t fully understand what I wanted. The total was $1.73. I would eat at a small cafe and get a chicken crepe, drink, and dessert for 92 cents.

And the women are hot!

Hi, i am a retired nurse. I would love to live out of my U.S. origins where there is much less stress. Lack of internet hectics would be perfect. Need tranquil change before my literal heaet muscle gets any sicker. Hope you can help me.
Thank you for reading my note,

Dumaguete Philippines is fairly safe at night and cheap. At $675 a month for expenses you will have to live with a girlfriend’s family or build a hut. 15 years ago I could barely survive on $1000 but that was traveling around and having dinner dates and renting a motorcycle a few days a week. You’ll have to wait until Duterte allows American’s and travellers back in the country.
Try Chanthaburi Thailand. Cheap and clean hotel was about $250 a month, all bills paid with AC, refrigerator and a couch. Street food ran about $6-7 a day with sodas. Have to wait until they reverse new Visa requirements of having $15k in your bank account for 6 months. When your free 60 day visa expires just take a bus to Poipet Cambodia border and stay a month at City Hotel for $12 a day. $1 a ride on motorcycle taxi.

Places to stay outside of the U.S. that can really be fun and very enxpensive

And the women are hot!

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