What A Dollar Gets You Around the World

These days it seems like a dollar doesn’t buy me much at all. But it turns out a dollar can buy some pretty interesting things around the world. From a bottle of wine to a 45-minute foot massage in the Philippines. Prepare to be amazed by this list revealing how far your dollars potentially stretch in different countries around the world.

First, let’s take a look at an interesting economic term called Purchasing Power Parity. It helps us universally compare how much of one currency is needed to buy a number of goods in another country. One informal way of measuring this is using the Big Mac Index as published by The Economist newspaper since 1986. The index basically tells us how much, in dollars, a Big Mac hamburger from McDonald’s costs around the world.

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For example, a Big Mac currently costs three pounds, 20 pence or 4 dollars and 25 cents in England, but about 5 U.S. dollars and 28 cents in America. This data indicates it’s about 20% cheaper to buy a Big Mac in England than in America. Though it doesn’t fully indicate the difference in living costs, since eating at McDonald’s in less developed countries is more expensive than local restaurants, this data gives a rough indication. So without further ado, let’s get see what a dollar gets you around the world.

Hungary

Hungary has a long tradition of producing good quality wines.

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In fact, it was one of the most respected wine regions up through the 19th century. Then, unfortunately, communism came to Hungary and killed the wine industry. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, the country has been getting back on its feet and using them to stomp grapes into wine. Okay, I don’t think anyone makes wine like that anymore. But Hungary is slowing recovering from communism and prices for things like wine are still very low.

Bottles of wine often go for less than $5 bucks. Some travelers have reported buying a bottle for the equivalent of a single U.S. dollar. The main reason is that the wine is grown and sold in Hungary at a cheaper cost than elsewhere. Its price would increase if it had to be imported to countries like America as it would be subject to tariffs, taxes, and other producer-distributor cuts. And if you want some cheese to go with your wine you can buy some for a little under 3 dollars.

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Still hungry in Hungary? $1 will also buy you a kürtőskalács pastry.

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It looks a lot like those cinnamon sugar pretzels they sell at the mall, put on a stick. It will cost around three dollars, 25 cents for a Big Mac in Hungary, which is around 40% cheaper than one in the US.

India

In India, $1 will buy 33 cups of chai tea.

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Although India is predicted to become a superpower one day, the annual median income there’s only a little more than 600 U.S. dollars. So production inputs are much cheaper than elsewhere. The ingredients and production costs are so cheap, their educated estimates pen the cost of a typical cup at around two Indian rupees that’s 3 cents, assuming you made it yourself. To have one served at a restaurant, you’d still good around six cups for a single dollar. Not only that, a Big Mac there is only $1 and 62 cents, but granted, it’s a non-beef version, and far more expensive than local restaurants. Still, I know where I’m going on holiday next.

Brazil

In many parts of the world, fruit is cheaper than it is here in the US. That’s because they produce it domestically and prices aren’t inflated by the cost and taxes associated with importing. In Brazil, for instance, you could buy a pound of apples for $1.

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You can also get around two cups of coffee there for $1. It is almost six times cheaper than the US, but that’s understandable since Brazil is the world’s largest coffee producer. The domestic supply of coffee is huge, subduing its price.

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Ghana

If you want even more cheap fruit then head over to Ghana, where you could pick up two pounds of oranges for a dollar.

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That’s a little less than half what I’d pay for a pound of oranges in the US. Fruit, in general, is a big export for the African country of Ghana, making up 17% of its non-traditional exports in 2011.

Vietnam

Vietnam is another good country to visit on a budget. There, you can buy a hat, a DVD, or even three pairs of inexpensive sandals for $1 there. For just 2 dollars and 81 cents, you can pick up a Big Mac there. But if you eat at a local restaurant, a full meal will typically cost around one and a half dollars, that’s because it’ll likely be a rice-based dish.

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Vietnam’s one of the biggest rice producers in the world. You could buy 3 and a half pounds of rice there for $1, whereas you’d barely get half a pound of it in America for that price. In Vietnam, $1 will also buy a whole day of bicycle rentals, 40 quail eggs, or two chilled Halida beers.

France

Aside from snails, one food France is known for is its delicious fresh baked bread. There, you can buy a whole baguette for around $1.

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That’s over half the price of the same loaf in America. French bread is so cheap because it’s supplied in high quantities, the price is tightly controlled by Consumer organizations, and many bakers use less expensive ingredients. However, if it tastes good, it’s probably fresh. That’s because the baguette is crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, and go stale very quickly.

Austria

While I’m on the subject of bread, kornspitz is the most popular kind of bread roll in Europe. In Vienna, Austria, you can get one for only $1.

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And no, despite its name it doesn’t have anything to do with corn. The original kornspitz is a bread product that contains high quality, locally produced ingredients, so it tastes good while being inexpensively produced.

Russia

Feel like drinking some vodka? You can make your own inexpensively in Russia were half a pint of this stuff, presumably their standard serving cost approximately $1.

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The same amount would cost you about $4 in America. $1 also buys you two kilograms of potatoes. When I think of potatoes, I mostly think a french fries, but in Russia, the mighty potato goes in everything, from soups, to salads, to deserts.

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Why? Because it’s extremely hardy and resilient. It can even survive growing in the tough Russian winters. That’s why they grow loads of them, and along with onions, they’re one-seventh the price of potatoes in America. Root vegetables, like the potato, are integral to the economy of Russia.

If you really like root vegetables then forget Russia; head over to Ukraine, there you could buy almost three kilograms of assorted potatoes and onions for $1.

Switzerland

All right, enough about the cheaper countries where you can live for a few dollars a day. Now on to Switzerland, the most expensive place you can buy a Big Mac. Here it will cost you 6 dollars and 76 cents, 20% more than in the United States. A single dollar won’t get you far in this country at all, maybe a single piece of chocolate, if you’re lucky.

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In fact, you could barely buy a single french fry for $1. A single meal at an inexpensive restaurant here will cost about $25, almost twice the price is an equivalent meal in the US. It’s so expensive because their wages are much higher than the rest of the world. After all, you’re not rich unless you have a Swiss bank account.

Philippines

All this globe-trotting is making my feet hurt, I need a nice foot massage. In the Philippines province of Cebu, I can get a foot massage for only $1.

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One massage parlor there with good reviews offers a 20-minute massage for a buck, while another traveler claims to have received a 30 to 45-minute foot massage for the same amount. Part of the reason is that workers earn far less in the Philippines than in the United States, around 20 times less.

Egypt

This country has a lot more than just the pyramids, being one of the largest tomato producers in the world. For a single dollar, you could buy three and a half kilograms or roughly eight pounds of tomatoes.

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You couldn’t even get a single pound, or half a kilogram of tomatoes in the United States for that price.

Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, one dozen eggs will only cost you $1 as well.

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The syndication of big poultry companies has led to increased egg production, so the larger companies are selling eggs cheaply. This is bad for small and medium-sized egg producers, but good for consumers, even though consumer prices are much higher than egg market prices. For $1, that makes a dozen eggs an egg-cellent deal.

Colombia

If you want a different taste for breakfast, you can get a cup of coffee and two freshly baked cookies for $1 in Bogota Colombia.

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It’s also more likely to be a good quality Arabica coffee, rather than Robusta, since Columbia is the premier producer of high-quality Arabica beans. In this South American country, coffee is so important that it’s believed the economy would collapse without it. 560,000 Coffee farms throughout the country contribute to coffee being Colombia’s biggest export.

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Inside Columbia, the obsession with growing and producing coffee has led to low prices, in fact, the drink is so popular, people spend money on it all day, not just in the morning. You can get an even cheaper cup of joe called tinto, or inky water for only 10 cents, but I think I’ll stick with the premium one-dollar cup, Thanks.

Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, you could get papaya, a watermelon, and pineapple for just $1.

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The warm climate makes the country a great place to grow fruit, and fruit prices overall are very low in this country.

Rome

When in Rome, do as the Romans do, that means taking a gladiator picture right? Okay, Rome doesn’t have gladiators anymore, but you can still get your picture taken at the Coliseum for a dollar.

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Actually the picture is free, but it’s customary to tip the local actors dressed up in that Gladiator uniform at least $1. I know it is quite expensive, but it is the capital city of a developed nation. At least their bottled water is quite cheap, you can pick up two large bottles for about $1, four times cheaper than in America, where big companies charge more, simply because they can.

Norway

Here’s another highly developed, expensive nation where a Big Mac will cost you over $6. Whereas in the United States, you’d be able to buy a carton of milk for $1, in Norway, that’s going to be at least double the price.

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The same thing goes for bottled water, meat, and alcohol. On the other hand, at least fruit and vegetables may be cheaper. You can pick up three apples for a dollar and bananas are about half the price there then they are in the States.

Beijing, China

In Beijing, China, fried foods on sticks are popular, and many costs the equivalent of one US dollar. Fried eggplant on a stick is one such treat.

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That may sound weird to you, but wait till you hear what else you can get for a buck, fried Scorpion, silkworm cocoons, or centipedes on a stick.

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No thanks. I think I’ll go with the eggplant, or the 50 cent can of Coke, which is literally a sweet deal.

Venezuela

Being able to fill up the gas tank for $1 seems like something that only happens in really old black and white movies, but in Venezuela, it’s currently a reality, as gas there costs about 25 times less than it costs in the US.

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In this South American country, gas prices are strictly controlled by the government. Although the country is oil-rich, keeping prices so low is still believed to cost the government 12 billion dollars a year. In 1989 there was an attempt to raise prices, but that set off a series of riots and the government-backed down, only raising it once in 1994. Then in 2016, changes to the government gas subsidy caused the price to skyrocket to 15 cents a gallon, causing great concern for Venezuelans. As for me, if I visited Venezuela, I’d be trying to figure out how to sneak a tank of gas or 10 into my carry on for the return flight home.

Germany

Moving to Germany, gas is a whopping $8 a gallon, but the good news is you can buy four rolls of toilet paper for $1, mostly because the efficient Germans have toilet paper production figured out pretty well.

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Or if you’re in the mood to splurge, you can make two visits to a public restroom. Yeah, pay toilets are a thing in Germany, making the four-pack of party paper a real steal. If you have another dollar, you can rehydrate with a $1 Köstritzer dark ale.

So have you made any incredible purchases abroad? Let me know in the comments section down below and thanks for reading.

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