May212018

Stronger US Dollar in Europe for summer 2018 travelers?

U.S. travelers to Europe have good news that the U.S. Dollar is at its strongest currency exchange rate today for 2018 after the Euro drops to 1.176 USD. The rate was over $1.24 for 1 euro during my most recent Feb 2018 trip to Amsterdam. A stronger dollar today means a 5% savings for every euro spent on a trip this week compared to three months ago.

The euro is official currency in 19 countries: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.

This article seeks to answer my question as to how currency exchange rates in Europe have changed from June-July 2017 to June-July 2018.

This summer I plan to be in Italy, Lithuania and Austria spending euros.

I will be in even more countries that do not use euro currency.

Vilnius, Lithuania Souvenir shop.

How has the value of the USD changed in the past year in other European countries like Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary? 

The reason I looked into the currency exchange issue are my potential plans to return to Oslo, Norway this summer. My first trip to Norway was a single overnight in Oslo in March 2013. When I went out to find dinner in Oslo, I saw a Big Mac at McDonald’s priced at $19 USD and an Oslo pub burrito priced at $30. Add another $13 for a glass of beer.

I knew Norway was expensive, but that was quite a bit more than I anticipated.

Loyalty Traveler – Hunger in Oslo. Prices? What prices!

Kelley fears I will complain about the price of food in Norway. The secret to Oslo is book a Clarion Collection hotel (there are 4 of them in central Oslo) and complimentary breakfast, dinner and fruit availability all day is the norm.

The main point with regard to currency exchange is the exchange rate in March 2013 was 1 USD = 5.79 NOK Norwegian Krone. In September 2014 I went to Norway for two weeks when the exchange rate had shifted in favor of the USD to 1.00 USD = 6.40 NOK. My dollars were worth 10% more. When I returned to Norway the next time in Sep 2015 the exchange rate was 1 USD = 8.12 NOK. Dollars were worth 40% more 30 months after my first visit in 2013.

In the past two years Norway has been a relative bargain for US travelers with the value of the dollar fluctuating between 8 and 9 NOK. Today’s exchange rate is 8.08 NOK = 1 USD.

Norwegian Krone will likely strengthen as the price of oil continues to rise. 2018 seems like a good opportunity to travel to Norway while the USD is relatively strong.

Freydenlund Norwegian beer 29.70 NOK was $5.13 per 0.5L can in March 2013.
29.70 NOK is only $3.68 USD today.

I have never managed a beer buzz in Norway. Time in Norway is where I practice temperance.

Oslo train station supermarket fresh produce in winter.

Czech Republic 8% more expensive, Sweden 5% less expensive

Turned out the results of my research surprised me to some extent in that Czech Republic, a place where I plan to stay more days than any other country this summer is also the country that currently has one of the largest US Dollar devaluations in Europe compared to May 2017. This is a simplistic comparison ignoring any price inflation that may have occurred over the course of the year. Food and beer may have gone up in price too in the Czech Republic due to ordinary inflation.

The other takeaway from examining 2017 exchange rates is the USD had a significant devaluation in the two months from mid-May 2017 to mid-July 2017. This indicates that currency exchange rates can quickly move and change the value of the USD over the next two months to make Europe more or less expensive for those of us ultimately paying in US Dollars through our credit card charges and ATM cash withdrawals.

Big Mac price factor is commonly used as an indicator for international price comparisons.

3.30 EUR was $3.75 USD in April 2016 when I snapped this photo of the price for a Big Mac meal in Vilnius. A bargain compared to the $19 Big Mac meal in Oslo, Norway in March 2013. Disclosure: I have only eaten McDonald’s one time in Europe in past 5 years. One December cold winter night at Quality Inn Arlanda Airport offered the dining option of a McDonald’s located five minutes walk across the shopping mall parking lot or a gas station counter oven hot dog. I purposely booked the hotel for its location in a mall with a large supermarket. The market store had relocated from the mall the month before our stay. I recall our McDonald’s meal in Sweden was only about $2 or $3 more than what I figured it  would likely have cost in California.

I spent nearly three months in Europe over the course of the year from January 2017 to December 2017. Throughout the year I experienced currency fluctuations, primarily in the downward trend. The US Dollar weakened in currency exchange against eight different currencies, over the course of seven trips to Denmark, Sweden, Latvia, Lithuania, Iceland, Bulgaria, Greece, France, United Kingdom, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Netherlands.

France, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Netherlands use euros. The other 7 countries I visited have their own currency: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Iceland, Poland, Sweden, United Kingdom.

This meant my travel purchases for trips to Europe in 2017 were made in eight different currencies and with the exception of Iceland and Sweden, where all my transactions were electronic payments using credit cards, I also needed ATM cash withdrawals in all these countries.

 

The strengthening of the US Dollar in the past three months has brought currency exchange rates around Europe back to near their summer 2017 rates for many countries from their winter 2018 lows.

Still, there are countries that are more expensive to visit in 2018 compared to 2017 when the US Dollar is your banking currency.

Poland is one of the countries that saw its Polish zloty strengthen greatly against the US Dollar over the past two years. In December 2016 the US Dollar exchanged at 1 USD = 4.25 PLN. In Feb 2018 the exchange rate was down to 1USD = 3.33 PLN.

Purchases I made in Krakow in Poland at Christmas 2016 would have been 26% more expensive in February 2018, assuming prices in Polish zloty remained the same. $1,000 in spend in Poland in Dec 2016 cost $1,260 in February 2018.

Poland is one of the best examples to see how quickly the US Dollar has risen since winter against some European currencies.

Today 1 USD = 3.65 PLN. This is a 17% drop from Dec 2016 exchange rates. But actually slightly better than July 18, 2017 exchange rates when 3.63 PLN = 1 USD. Also, almost 10% higher than 3.33 PLN rate in February 2018.

Some European currency exchange rate comparisons based on xe.com current and historical data

Euro EUR

  • 1 EUR 1.098 USD May 15, 2017
  • 1 EUR 1.157 USD July 18, 2017
  • 1 EUR 1.184 Dec 22, 2017
  • 1 EUR 1.241 Feb 19, 2018
  • 1 EUR 1.176 May 21, 2018

Euros cost 2% more in USD today than July 2017 for your travel purchases, but Euro costs are nearly 8% more compared to one year ago May 15, 2017. The big currency exchange shift between May 2017 and July 2017 shows how quickly currency values can adjust.

Fortunately, quick movements in US Dollar value over the past three months indicate general strengthening of USD against most European currencies from 2018 lows in winter 2018.

United Kingdom Pounds GBP

  • 1 GBP = 1.29 USD May 15, 2017
  • 1 GBP = 1.30 USD July 18, 2017
  • 1 GBP = 1.34 USD Dec 22, 2017
  • 1 GBP = 1.34 USD May 21, 2018

UK pounds cost about 3 to 4% more compared to a year ago due to exchange rate.

Czech Koruna CZK

  • 1 USD = 23.63 CZK May 21, 2017
  • 1 USD = 22.34 CZK July 18, 2017
  • 1 USD = 21.77 CZK Dec 22, 2017
  • 1 USD = 20.39 CZK Feb 19, 2018
  • 1 USD = 21.88 CZK May 21, 2018

US Dollars have devalued 8% since May 2017, however the current exchange rate is only 2% lower than July 2017.

Czech Republic is a place I find $50 per day for two people to drink and dine out is adequate. A pint of beer at 45 CZK that was $2.01 USD last summer might price around $2.06 USD this summer. Not exactly a budget buster change in trip expenses.

I double our travel budget to $100 as a couple for stays in Netherlands and UK. In Scandinavia, if you eat and drink out, the price rises quickly over $100 per day. We tend to primarily use grocery stores in Scandinavia for meals.

Carrefour Supermarket in Krakow, Poland shopping center above train station. $30 USD buys several days of groceries.

Poland Zloty PLN

  • 1 USD = 3.71 PLN May 21, 2017
  • 1 USD = 3.63 PLN July 18, 2017
  • 1 USD = 3.54 PLN Dec 22, 2017
  • 1 USD = 3.33 PLN Feb 19, 2018
  • 1 USD = 3.65 PLN May 21, 2018

Poland is another country where the USD experienced something near the level of Norway’s currency exchange devaluation. The US Dollar lost a great deal of value against Polish zloty over the past 18 months.

The USD was worth 4.21 PLN when we were in Krakow for Christmas 2016. The exchange rate in 14 months dropped to 3.33 PLN in Feb 2018. The dollar lost over 26% of its value.

The past three months have seen USD strengthen nearly 10% against the zloty with the dollar approaching its highest value in Poland for the past 12 months.

Hungary Forint HUF

  • 1 USD = 281 HUF May 15, 2017
  • 1 USD = 264 HUF July 18, 2017
  • 1 USD = 263 HUF Dec 22, 2017
  • 1 USD = 251 HUF Feb 19, 2018
  • 1 USD = 271 HUF May 21, 2018

USD is slightly stronger in Hungary than it was last July 2017. There was a large 12% currency fluctuation over the past year with a weaker US dollar from May 2017 to Feb 2018. The USD gained 8% on the HUF over the past three months.

Scandinavia and Iceland

Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Iceland all use their own country specific currency called Krone or some similar word.

Iceland is the most expensive of these four countries for a US tourist. I will be in Iceland for 24 hours in October. That will likely be a $100 layover to take the bus into Reykjavik ($50rt) and buy some food in the market and maybe a beer or two. Fortunately, I was able to book a hotel with points and avoid the $150+ room rates. I checked Airbnb, as I did last year when in Reykjavik and a hotel looks better to me than the $100 local room nights.

Icelandic Krona ISK

  • 1 USD = 103 ISK 5-15-17
  • 1 USD = 104 ISK 7-18-17
  • 1 USD = 106 ISK 12-22-17
  • 1 USD = 100 ISK 2-19-18
  • 1 USD = 105 ISK today

US Dollar is 5% stronger today than it was three months ago and near its high value for the past year.

Denmark Danish Krone DKK

I seem to land in Copenhagen a couple of times a year due to cheap flights to and from California. Our first trip to Copenhagen in July 2015 blew me away with high food and drink prices, however, familiarity with the city over multiple trips have shown me Copenhagen is affordable if you know where to shop for food and beer. I paid an average $2.00 per bottle of beer in the store on our first and second trips and $40 per day for grocery store food. On subsequent trips I found neighborhood markets where beer is 60 cents a bottle and daily food is about $25 USD for two. Fortunately, breakfast is provided for free at many hotels.

  • 1 USD = 6.77 DKK 5-15-17
  • 1 USD = 6.42 DKK 7-18-17
  • 1 USD = 6.29 DKK 12-22-17
  • 1 USD = 6.00 DKK 2-19-18
  • 1 USD = 6.33 DKK 5-21-18

USD has gained over 5% on DKK from Feb to May 2018. Good sign for my summer 2018 trip. Those 45 DKK pub beers at $7 will be on par with California pub prices and no need to tip.

Sweden Swedish Krona SEK

  • 1 USD = 8.82 SEK 5-15-17
  • 1 USD = 8.28 SEK 7-18-17
  • 1 USD = 8.36 SEK 12-22-17
  • 1 USD = 7.99 SEK 2-19-18
  • 1 USD = 8.70 SEK 5-21-18

The USD has gained nearly 9% in Sweden compared to Feb 2018 exchange rates.  US dollars buy nearly 5% more SEK now than in July 2017.

Stockholm, Sweden shopping street.

 

 

 

 

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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