Today, the greenback, tomorrow the world

How's your Egyptian? Your Cantonese? Hungarian? The strong Aussie dollar makes many destinations more affordable, beyond the usual haunts in America and Europe.

UNLESS you've been living under a rock, you'll know that the Australian dollar is flying high.

And you've probably figured out that traditionally expensive places such as the US and Europe are a lot cheaper as a result.

But the benefits of a strong Aussie dollar might extend further than you expect, thanks to the complicated buying practices of the travel industry.

Many countries use the US dollar - or a currency other than their own - in hotels and for trading other travel products, meaning currency-related bargains can be found in all sorts of places.

For example, Egypt and Morocco tend to negotiate travel pricing in US dollars, meaning the benefits of the favourable Australian dollar- US dollar exchange rate extend far beyond the US.

A spokeswoman for Intrepid Travel, Eliza Anderson, says while exchange rates are not the only factor affecting pricing, countries that peg their currency against the US dollar are good bets.

"Close to home, Cambodia is a good example, while further afield our staff in the Middle East are telling us that Aussies are feeling rich," Anderson says.

The windfalls of a strong dollar are not just for the immediate future, either, as a lot of travel products are pre-purchased by wholesalers.


The executive general manager of Flight Centre, Colin Bowman, says people travelling in a few months' time can benefit from today's strong dollar, regardless of what happens to exchange rates in the meantime.

Hotels and other products that are being contracted now are being bought at today's rates and the benefits will flow to consumers.

"Anyone looking to travel in the early part of next year [after the summer holiday peak] ... they're the ones who are going to be getting the benefit," Bowman says.

He says while it is impossible to predict what will happen with exchange rates, pre-purchasing of hotels and other travel products provides some certainty on pricing.

For those travelling now, or who are about to depart on a trip, the benefits of a strong Australian dollar are both considerable and immediate.

Aside from the US and European countries, Bowman says Hong Kong, Canada, Fiji, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia stand out for value.

"The Aussie dollar, against those currencies, has done very well," he says.

"On the ground there, people are going to be getting around a 10 per cent improvement in the bang for their dollar."

Bowman says the Australian dollar has gained about 12 per cent against the Hong Kong dollar since the start of the year, while the Canadian dollar is now virtually one-to-one.

Intrepid Travel compared some prices in overseas countries and found significant currency-related savings, even over a matter of months: a hot-air balloon flight in Egypt that would have cost $130 in June would now cost $109, while a four-wheel-drive trip in Morocco that would have cost $196 in June would cost $182 today.

The senior marketing manager in Australia for Expedia, Louise Crompton, says while most Australians are aware of the general buying power of the Australian dollar, many people are not aware of some less obvious destinations for value.

A top-10 list of currencies against which the Australian dollar gained in value from November last year to November this year - compiled by Expedia in conjunction with foreign-exchange specialist HiFX - points to eastern Europe for value.

The dollar gained nearly 34 per cent against the Serbian dinar, 18 per cent against the Croatian kuna and Hungarian forint, and 17 per cent against the Bulgarian lev and Romanian leu.

Crompton says while eastern Europe is not as popular as Western countries, people might consider spending some time there as part of their European trip.

With cheap flights across Europe and up to 50 per cent off hotel prices, the savings can be big.

Another destination to make Expedia's top 10 is Vietnam, where the Australian dollar has gained 19 per cent against the Vietnamese dong, according to Commonwealth Bank figures.

Crompton says while traditionally cheap spots such as Phuket and Bali remain popular holiday destinations, Vietnam is emerging as a good alternative.

And for those who have considered Scandinavia too expensive to tackle, the HiFX figures show it is a lot cheaper than it has been. The Aussie dollar has gained 17 per cent against the Danish krone in the past year and has also made healthy gains against the Norwegian krone and the Swedish krona.

Where the growth is, interstate

THE latest arrivals and departures data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that Australians are taking up cheap overseas deals with fervour. Outbound travel for the month of September was up 15 per cent on last year, representing an additional 96,900 people heading offshore in just one month. But Expedia says not everyone is being seduced by overseas holidays, with Perth, Melbourne and the Gold Coast in hot demand, recording double-digit growth.