updated 10/30/2007 8:07:54 PM ET 2007-10-31T00:07:54

Still looking to get a lot for your travel dollar? With the U.S. greenback now on life support compared to the euro and the Canadian dollar, it's getting harder to get that bang for your buck. So what's an international traveler to do?

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You may want to learn to habla español.

For historical and economic reasons, nearly all of the Latin American currencies are tied to the dollar, either officially or in practice. So while Europeans are now living like royalty in these countries, Americans can at least take comfort in the knowledge that their money goes just as far there as it did five or six years ago.

In nearly any region between Tijuana and Tierra del Fuego, a Ben Franklin will buy you pretty much the same package of goods it did before the dollar started sliding in Europe and Canada. Whether it's a plate of tacos or a tango show, there's no real sticker shock that could bust your vacation budget.

Of course, not everyone is ready to backpack across Nicaragua. For those who are looking for good facilities and infrastructure in their travels, here are four good options for your next adventure — ranged north to south, all in a similar time zone, with no jet lag.

Colonial Mexico
I recently completed research on a new book, co-written with Rob Sangster, called "Traveler's Tool Kit: Mexico and Central America." In the course of that research, it became even more clear to me that there are now two distinct sides of Mexico when it comes to prices: "Planned Beach Resort Mexico" and "The Other Mexico." If you go to Cancun or Los Cabos, you will pay American prices. If you go to a beach not filled with package-tour resorts, you will find some good bargains. But it's in the interior that your dollar will really find its strength. In beautiful Spanish colonial cities like Mérida, Guanajuato, Taxco and Puebla you can still find exquisite rooms in 18th-century buildings for $75 a night and enjoy candlelit meals with attentive service for half of what you would pay at home.

Panama and the dollar
Panama has been called "Costa Rica 20 Years Ago" for as long as I can remember, so perhaps it will always be 20 years behind the curve. For those looking for value, this can be a good thing. Panama uses the U.S. dollar as its own currency, so no matter how bad things get on international exchanges, you'll always land in Panama City knowing your bucks will buy a lot. You can head to impressive beaches, explore rainforests full of exotic creatures, or enjoy adventure activities — all at attractive prices. When you're done, take advantage of what may be the most cosmopolitan city in Latin America and watch the ships passing through the Panama Canal.

The Andes of Peru
"You can really eat like a king there for $10," one traveler just back from Peru told me. And that's in a fancy place. You can get a meal of the day in Cuzco for half that — a glass of wine or Pisco Sour included. Peru gets plenty of tourists, many drawn by the allure of Machu Picchu, but the appeal goes way beyond that one iconic site. Whether you are a hard-core outdoor adventure traveler or someone who loves to stroll along historic cobbled streets, Peru delivers. Hotels are reasonable (outside the very top tier), domestic flights are a bargain, and you can hire a car and driver for the day nearly anywhere for less than the price of a rental car.

Wine, song and dance in Argentina
If you want to get the European experience at about one-quarter the price of Europe, this is your destination. Buenos Aires is truly one of the world's great cities and Mendoza is emerging as one of the top wine regions, and yet Argentina is a bargain. Good values are easy to find everywhere from the canyons outside of Cafayate in the north to the otherworldly landscapes of southern Patagonia. When it comes time for dinner, order up the best steak on the menu and get a good bottle of Malbec. Chances are your bill for two won't top $50 unless you are at one of the best restaurants in town.

Sure, the plunging dollar is bad news if you are heading east across the Atlantic. Migrate south instead and it's 2002 all over again. In these four destinations, you still get quite a lot for your money.


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