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More mileage from the weak dollar

We introduce a personal finance guide to globetrotting, starting with tips on how to make the most of the strong rupee.

By Sushmita Choudhury | Print Edition: May 31, 2007

MONEY TODAY introduces a personal finance guide to globetrotting, starting with tips on how to make the most of the strong rupee. 

It’s that time of the year again. Parched earth, sweltering heat, oppressive humidity…even the trees are sweating. To compound your misery, school’s out and you have irritated, bored children on your hands. Any way you look at it, it’s time for a vacation and, for once, a holiday on distant shores may not be so out of reach for middle India.

As the dollar loses its swagger and the humble rupee catches up, a host of countries that you had hitherto checked out only in glossy travel magazines are within budgetary reach. To begin with there is, of course, the United States. For the first time in nine years, a vacation in Uncle Sam’s land will be about 10% cheaper on your wallet.

HOT DEALS

Kenilworth Resort
Cost: Rs 21,000
Contact: 022-26418669
Goa may be hot this season but this is the time to pick up cool bargains. Like this three-night package, which comes inclusive of all meals and a host of freebies like a free cocktail per adult and 30 free chips to try your luck at the casino during your stay. Offer valid till 31 May.
Hotel Nikko
Cost: Rs 12,999
Contact: 011-42500200
The Metropolitan Hotel Nikko in New Delhi is offering a two-day Touch of Soul package, inclusive of buffet breakfast and lunch. Stay a night at the luxurious deluxe room and avail of a special Adam and Eve serenity spa treatment. The offer, excluding taxes, is on till 31 August.

Do the math yourself: where earlier you had to part with Rs 45 upwards for one dollar, now the exchange rate stands at Rs 40.5. Imagine the savings at every step of the trip — from saving Rs 15 for a tall mocha from Starbucks costing $3.45 after a day staring at the Statue of Liberty, to saving Rs 1,683 per night on lodging, judging by a www.hotels.com survey which claimed that the average cost of stay per night in a New York hotel was $374 in 2006.

However, this does not translate into a deluge out of the country, at least not yet. Says Sunil Gupta, COO, SOTC and Kuoni Holidays, “To secure good rates most tour operators contract and make payments in advance. Therefore, in the immediate term, there may be no impact. If the trend continues beyond Summer 2007, customers will see real savings. The good news for Indians booked to travel to the US is that the stronger rupee will be worth more there.” In lay terms that means it will be a good idea to carry an extra bag or two along to accommodate all your shopping out there.

At the same time, not everybody is optimistic that more mileage can be squeezed out of the weak dollar. Arup Sen, executive director, Cox and Kings for one believes the softening of the dollar vs-a-vis the rupee is not particularly significant. “Besides, there is Europe, which draws a large chunk of the summer holiday traffic, and that’s the domain of the Euro or the pound sterling so no advantage there,” he adds. Be that as it may, you don’t have to forego European style culture and elegance.

How about hopping over to Argentina, which has dollops of both, plus some great food? Given that the Argentine peso is one of the few currencies the dollar has actually gained against in recent times, there are big savings to be made on this trip. Perhaps you can now indulge in some tango classes while there.

To make the most of the current forex situation, you might consider visiting countries whose currency is pegged to the dollar and where the latter is holding strong, if not appreciating. That way you stand to make a double killing — your rupee will fetch more cents, which in turn will get you more of the destination nation’s currency. For a real time update on forex rates visit www.oanda.com.

Another way to zero in on your holiday spot is to see where the rupee is directly strengthening. Yes, there are places like that (see table Rupee Power). Like South Africa where the rupee has gained against the rand by 20% in the last two years. Now who would have believed that it’s not whims that guide a seasoned traveller, but the forex charts?

The extra mile

There are hill stations, and there are havens in the hills. If you must hit Himachal then instead of rubbing shoulders with your irritating colleague or your nosy neighbour in Shimla or Manali yet again, try looking at nearby alternatives. Like Naldehra. Located just 22 km from Shimla and a galaxy away in terms of tourist trappings and teeming crowds, this is a great place to beat the heat and, perhaps, play a round of golf.

What also makes Naldehra hot is its value-for-money appeal: easy to access, easy on the wallet and big on comfort.The best way to get there is to take a train from Delhi, preferably the Shatabdi Express, to Kalka. From there you can either take a taxi or get your hotel to arrange transportation.

Our recommendation for stay is The Chalets. Why? Imagine pine log cottages that recreate the magic of Finnish chalets, imagine delicacies whipped up by the chefs willing to go an extra mile for you, imagine a destination resort that lets you pack in as many—or as few—activities as you like.The USP of the cottages will have to be the cosy attic bedroom, which defy description. No two rooms are identical and that goes a long way in making you feel special.All this for Rs 8,000 a night per cottage. There are some packages on offer on the website www.chaletsnaldehra.com.

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