by Fifi LaMode
I'm depressed. I love Europe. But I hate the prices. It was bad enough when the euro was 1.40 to the dollar. But at 1.50 - Mama mia, what can one buy? Don't get me started on the pound sterling at 2.07 either! In my previous articles I mentioned ways to stretch your euros, but at this point it's time to send a message to the commodity traders and/or EU bankers who think this is a good idea. Guys, it's not. Of course we're delighted to see all the Euros buying up all our techno-goodies and made-in-China clothes and shoes at 1/2 of what they'd pay back home - heck, I'd do the same. Welcome. But anyone who reads The Budget Babe knows the meaning of 'value for money,' so we'll give Europe a rest for now and check out new spots where our dollar is not used as wallpaper, ok?
A hot destination, especially in winter, is South America. You want fjords? Go to Chile. Great shoes and handbags? Buenos Aires is the place for you - and they have those tango shows which nobody else does better. Tropics, jungles, rainforests, samba? Hello, Brazil. Then there's Macchu Picchu and Cuzco in Peru, indescribable in their eerie beauty. If you speak some Spanish, it's good for nearly the entire continent, except for Brazil (Portuguese) and the 3 little Guyanas on top. (English in Guyana, Dutch in Suriname, and French in French Guiana). What's more, word is your dollar goes a long way there.
Another advantage: No jet lag! The flights are at night so you wake up in the morning and you don't have a major time difference to contend with (maybe 1 or 2 hrs depending on your time zone).
Another great destination, even closer, is Central America. Costa Rica has it all - volcanoes, beaches, rainforests, strange little critters running around, coffee plantations, great food, and it's still cheap. I love this place - it has soooo many natural wonders in such a small area. You can do it in a week, or chill out for longer. Then there's Guatemala with the colorful market at Chichicastenango (see? I got the shopping in) and the huge Mayan city of Tikal; Honduras with Mayan Copan, and Belize with the 2nd largest coral reef in the world.
Need I mention our neighbor Mexico? From Acapulco to Cancun to Oaxaca to Zihuatanejo, there's an abundance of culture, history and great scenery.
So readers, how about checking out this hemisphere in 2008? What do you think?