The Deal Mommy

Arthur Frommer is Wrong: What it REALLY Feels Like to Travel During a Currency Crisis

traveling during currency crisisA day I never thought would happen has come: I fundamentally disagree with my idol, Arthur Frommer. I have to give you some background for you to understand what a mind-bend this is for me as you know me as the girl who took on the Washington Post Travel Editor without blinking an eye.

Mr. Frommer is different. I’ve been dropping in on his visits to DC for over 20 years, back to the days when there was an actual “Travel Bookstore” on Connecticut Avenue. However, I have to call them as I see em, and This post titled “In Turkey, India, Indonesia (Bali), Argentina and Japan, A Shift in Currency Rates Has Made Travel Conditions far More Favorable for Tourists” is just WRONG in at least one case.

How can I be so sure? Because I’ve been to Bali in the midst of a currency free fall and it was one of the most memorable travel weeks of my life, for all of the wrong reasons.

Before you assume I just wasn’t ready for 3rd world conditions please remember I’d already lived in Mexico and China and spent time in Thailand by this point in my travels in the fall of 1997…so I wasn’t exactly a prima donna when we arrived in Bali for a week of R&R from Beijing.

And the thing about an actual currency crisis, versus say a correction, is that you don’t KNOW that you’re in one until you’re there and your hotel bill goes down 30% in a week because it’s billed in Rupiah and you have dollars.  That sounds great, right?  Keep reading.

How about when your driver, who you’ve hired for the week for $100, realizes gasoline prices are going up so fast in Rupiah that he only gets 1 gallon at a time?  Mildly inconvenient.

And being a seasoned traveler, you’re used to vendors, right? I know I was…thought I had a pretty good shell built up for petty tourist vendors. Ever had vendors so desperate for a dollar they chased you on mopeds like paparazzi? Going the wrong direction on a narrow highway?

But what I remember most are the children. In no country and no time before or since (and I’m close to 40 on my map now) have I seen so many young children put to work begging or selling postcards/coconut juice, presented heartrendingly to tourists.  Not that I blamed the parents then, or now.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.  But do they call for a great vacation?  No way.

And I haven’t even mentioned the R.O.U.S..


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