Value, Value, Value (from May 2009 Newletter)

>Southeast Asia is one of the globe’s best travel values. In real estate the accepted dictum is: “Location, Location, Location.” For Southeast Asian travel the mantra is: “Value, Value, Value.” The three big-ticket items in any travel budget - transportation, accommodations, and food - are very inexpensive. A 45-minute taxi ride is $10-12. Clean, well located, comfortable, air-conditioned accommodations are readily available for under $40 (half that if you forego the air-conditioning). An excellent restaurant dinner with drinks can easily be had for $10 and street vendors can provide a delicious meal for $1. Even international airfares, previously a deterrent, are now comparable to European airfares*. Moreover, budget airlines are proliferating in Southeast Asia making internal flights very affordable.
Travelers today face an environment of rising fuel and food costs, plummeting dollar values, and an ailing economy. We need to be very careful about where and how we allocate our resources. Up until now, American international travel has been dominated by Europe. Forty years ago European travel was exotic, inexpensive, and the province of either the wealthy or backpackers. In the interim, rising American affluence has made European travel a middle class endeavor viewed almost as an entitlement. However, in the last five years European inflation combined with falling dollar values has made Europe a very expensive destination. Southeast Asia offers a wonderfully affordable alternative.
In the last year and a half, most major travel publications have featured several articles about how to travel more frugally in the current economic environment. All have suggested selecting better value destinations and Southeast Asia is at or near the top of those lists. On Dec. 9, 2007 The Seattle Times’ Carol Pucci featured Southeast Asia in her “Travelwise” column. The title was, “S.E. Asia Makes lots of Cents for U.S. Travelers.” Of Bangkok, she wrote, “The dollar, although worth less than a year ago, still packs more buying power here than in Europe.” On July 21, 2008 Eliza Bates of the Associated Press wrote an article titled, “Budget Bangkok: 15-cent trains, $1 Meals.” The article began with, “Thailand’s tropical capital is teeming with budget options for the penny-pinching traveler.” Both articles go on to list multiple examples of Thai bargains.
The relative value of the Thai and Indonesian currencies is another reason why Southeast Asia is such a good value for American travelers. The exchange on those currencies has remained more favorable than the Euro. From April 2007 to April 2008 the dollar plummeted by more than 17% against the Euro. During that same period, the dollar lost less than 5% of its value against the Baht and Rupiah. Any way one approaches the issue Southeast Asia is a great value.
Beyond the necessities of travel, the low prices in Thailand and Bali make them shopping paradises. Tremendous bargains are available for every budget. Travelers find the usual selection of tourist merchandise: T-shirts, hats, prints, jewelry, clothes, and a staggering array of handicrafts. Handicrafts range from embroidered clothing and bags to paper umbrellas and fans, lacquerware, silver, local textiles, batik, masks, and carved soap. Some of the most popular items are the “knock-off” fashions available in the larger cities. Serious shoppers might consider antiques, tailor-made clothes, furniture, or stone and wood carvings. Additionally, Thailand is one of the world’s leading exporters of gems and ornaments and Thai silk is considered the best in the world.
We at Imprint Tours believe Americans are ready for a new travel frontier and we believe it is Southeast Asia, a part of the world about which we are passionate. Thailand and Bali are beautiful, fascinating, and accessible destinations. They boast fantastic architecture, World Heritage sites, incredible and varied natural beauty, rich artistic heritages, friendly cultures, and well-established tourism infrastructures. It just so happens that Thailand and Bali are also two of the globe’s great travel bargains.

*from the west coast