The Big Mac Index

So I have to tell you, from a exchange rate perspective, 2007 has not been a great year to travel outside the United States. Well, at least not if you have American Dollars to change (thank you George W. Bush). The exchange rates of most of the currencies we changed for was usually worse when we left than when we arrived, it sucked.

If you are as determined as we were to get out there and see the world, and the Dollar hasn’t yet recovered, here are a few things to consider:

  • Stay Away from Western Europe – The Dollar to the Euro sucks. The Pound? Even worse. You will spend more money than you expect to here.
  • Go to Countries with Good Exchange Rates – We spent about as much in a week in the United Kingdom as we did in two months in India without trying. You read that right – one week, two months.
  • Get Out of the Big Cities – In our experience we spent about half as much in the country as we did in the cities. It may seem like there’s less to do, but there is a LOT less to spend money on.
  • Buy Less Before You Leave – Ever heard of buying at the top? That’s what you’re doing ever time you buy something in the States. Example – We bought a months worth of anti-malarial medication in the states. Each pill cost about ten dollars a piece. That gave us enough to get “in country” and find some more, or cheap. The very first pharmacy we went to in Delhi sold the exact same malarial meds for about a dollar a pill – we saved nine dollars on every pill by getting the rest in India. That’s Med’s but the same goes for hiking shoes, quick dry clothes, etc.
  • Avoid Whitey – When you do get out on the road, don’t go to Starbucks. It’s easy, it’s comfortable, and very expensive. In fact, when you’re out, ask locals where to eat. If you follow Lonely Planet all the time you’re going to get “Tourist Food” all the time. It’s cheaper, more fun and usually better quality to eat where the locals do.

US Dollar Exchange Rates

Currency Value on Arrival Arrival Date Value at Departure Departure Date Up/Down
New Zealand Dollar 1.42 Jan. 05 1.44 Feb. 15 + 0.02
Australian Dollar 1.27 Feb. 16 1.27 Mar. 13 +/-
Indian Rupie 44.21 Mar. 14 41.29 May 13 - 2.92
Chinese (PRC) Yuan 7.69 May 18 7.57 Jul 23 - 0.12
Mongolian Tugrik 1164.00 Jun 26 1163.78 Jul 14 - 0.22
Hong Kong Dollar 7.82 May 14 7.82 Jul 26 +/-
South African Rand 6.94 Jul 27 7.25 Aug 29 + 0.31
Zimbabwean Dollar 134,000 Jul 28 360,000 Aug 3 + 226,000
Zambian Dollar 4006.40 Jul 30 4000.21 Jul 31 - 6.19
Botswana Pula 6.35 Aug 2 6.32 Aug 3 - 0.03
Namibian Dollar 7.56 Aug 16 7.38 Aug 26 - 0.18
British Pound 0.4983 Aug 30 0.4966 Sep 6 - 0.0017
Jordanian Dinar 0.7138 Sep 6 0.7134 Sep 12 - 0.0004
Turkish New Lira 1.294 Sep 12 1.267 Sep 17 - 0.027