Where the Dollar Hasn't Gone South

Sick of crummy exchange rates in Europe? To get the most value out of your next vacation, head to South America.

By Carolyn Bigda, Money Magazine staff reporter

(Money Magazine) -- See gallery of destinations

When a taxi from the airport in London costs $90, a trip across the pond, even in the off-season, will inflict pain on your wallet.

So will a beach escape in the high season in the Caribbean.

But there is a way to vacation overseas at a reasonable price. Just turn your sights to South America, where even a weak U.S. dollar takes you far. That's especially true in Argentina: In 2002 the country's peso was de-pegged from the dollar, and the currency quickly lost two-thirds of its value. A steak that once cost $30 now goes for $10.

Good deals are not the only selling point. While your flight may take 10 hours or more, the continent is no more than three hours off from eastern standard time, which means little jet lag. (Fly from New York City to Paris and you'll have to bounce back from a six-hour gap.)

And you'll find warm temperatures, vibrant cities, beautiful wilderness and world-class wine. It's enough to make the most devout Europhile forget that other continent.

City Life

WHERE Buenos Aires

WHY GO The feel of a European city without the steep prices

THE DEAL Sip coffee for less than a buck at the popular Café Tortoni, zip around in the city's signature black-and-yellow taxis for what you'd pay to take the subway in New York City, or tour the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (www.malba.org.ar) for $3 or so. Visit in late February and early March to catch street performances and concerts at the Festival Buenos Aires Tango (festivaldetango.com.ar), often for free.

WHERE TO STAY Hotels are one of the few things that can be costly, so skip the international chains and stay at boutique shops, such as the Art Hotel (arthotel.com.ar), for $125 or less a night (based on double occupancy). If you plan to stay for a week or more, rent an apartment for as little as $200 a week through agencies like Bytargentina.com.

GETTING THERE A direct flight from New York City to Buenos Aires on American Airlines (aa.com) in early April recently cost $800 round trip.

TIP Cabaña las Lilas in the Puerto Madero section of Buenos Aires is often cited as the best spot for grilled beef. But Robin Goldstein, a writer for Fodor's travel guides, says you'll find a more authentic dining experience at half the cost just next door at La Caballeriza (address: Alicia Moreau de Justo 580).

Wine Country

WHERE The Mendoza province, Argentina

WHY GO With an unpretentious attitude and budget-friendly prices, these vineyards are like the Napa Valley of 30 years ago.

THE DEAL Set at the foothills of the Andes, Mendoza produces the bulk of Argentina's wines, including the signature Malbec. Wineries such as Bodega Catena Zapata (catenawines.com) the Robert Mondavi of Argentina offer free tours, though you must make an appointment in advance. Most hotels will help you hire a driver (about $70 a day).

WHERE TO STAY At the Finca Adalgisa, a hotel and winery (fincaadalgisa.com.ar), rooms start at $100 a night, including breakfast and the use of bicycles.

GETTING THERE Flying from Chicago to Mendoza costs about $900.

TIP Grapevine Wine Tours offers deluxe tours, from a day in Mendoza ($147) to nearly two weeks in Chile and Argentina ($5,778). Visit thegrapevine-winetours.com for good information in English, even if tours are not your thing.

AS LONG AS YOU'RE THERE... Even though the exchange rate is not as favorable in Chile, think about flying across the Andes to visit the Colchagua Valley, named wine region of the year in 2005 by Wine Enthusiast magazine. Sign up for tours of the valley's wineries, including award-winning Montes (monteswines.com), for as little as $35 a day through rutadelvino.cl. A round-trip ticket from Mendoza to Santiago on LAN Airlines (lan.com) is $240. Rooms start at $195 a night at the Hotel Santa Cruz (hotelsantacruzplaza.cl).

The Natural World

WHERE Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, Argentina

WHY GO One of the most breathtaking sites in all of South America is the Perito Moreno Glacier in Southern Patagonia.

THE DEAL Because El Calafate, the nearest town, caters mainly to tourists who arrive in droves thanks to a new airport and the cheap peso you could pay $300 a night or more at luxury hotels and converted estancias (ranches). But you can still snag "Argentine prices" if you travel in April, when demand cools and rates come down as much as 35%.

WHERE TO STAY Hotel Kosten Aike (kostenaike.com.ar) charges $150 a night during the off-season vs. $231 at other times. Rooms at the Hotel Posada los Alamos (posadalosalamos.com) drop from $253 a night to only $169.

GETTING THERE A round-trip ticket from Buenos Aires to El Calafate on Aerolineas Argentinas (aerolineasargentinas.com) is $328. Another option is a package tour. Patagonia-Argentina.com offers trips to El Calafate and the glacier park that start as low as $570 a person for three nights, including the hotel and air fare from Buenos Aires.

TIP Hielo y Aventura (hieloyaventura.com) arranges guided hikes across the Perito Moreno Glacier for about $80.

Beach Bumming

WHERE Morro de São Paulo, Brazil

WHY GO Sand and sea, with few crowds and no cruise ships

THE DEAL Compared with other global beach destinations, Brazil's 4,600 miles of coastline are relatively cheap. Stick to Brazil's warmer northern coast, and go during the March and April shoulder season (sporadic rain showers peak in May). You'll pay just a little more in air fare than you would flying to the Caribbean, but you'll pay far less for meals and rooms. "These are up-and-coming destinations, so hotels are not charging the high-end prices you find everywhere else," says Arabella Bowen of ShermansTravel.com. Though less glamorous than some of Rio's beaches, Morro de São Paulo offers a laid-back escape with four swimming coves and horseback riding, all a two-hour catamaran ride from the city of Salvador.

WHERE TO STAY Bungalow-style hotels such as Pousada O Casarão (ocasarao.net) and Anima Hotel (animahotel.com) charge $100 a night or less.

GETTING THERE A round-trip ticket from Miami to Salvador on TAM Airlines (888-235-9826) costs about $750. From there, catch one of five catamarans that sail to Morro de São Paulo daily from the Terminal Marítimo ($50 round trip).

TIP Want to roam the country? Buy TAM Airlines' Brazil Airpass, which starts at $572 for four flights.  Top of page

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Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.