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Timing Travel: Avoid the Hot Currency Market

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

Summertime is officially nearly here. Summer travel is on many of our minds and we're wondering where the bargains are, especially bargains for international travel. Joining us to share their hottest tips are Don George, global travel editor for the Lonely Planet guidebook series. Hi, Don.

Mr. DON GEORGE (Lonely Planet): Hello, Melissa.

BLOCK: And Laura Kidder, who is editorial director for Fodor's travel. Hi, Laura.

Ms. LAURA KIDDER (Fodor's travel): Hi, Melissa.

BLOCK: And Laura, let's start with you. The dollar is not so strong right now. We know that Europe can be really expensive but if somebody is absolutely set on going to Europe, where would you steer them?

Ms. KIDDER: Well I look at Portugal. Lisbon is a beautiful city, very historical, lots of great architecture, lots of great crafts traditions, lots of great shopping. And you're not far from beaches in Lisbon. You can get out of the city very quickly and go to some lovely beaches in Cascais. You can also go into the mountains and see where the royals spent their summers, because in Cintra, not too far from Lisbon, are the royal palaces.

BLOCK: And Portugal would be relatively cheap.

Ms. KIDDER: Relatively cheap. I mean you're still dealing with the Euro, but it's not going to be the kind of thing you're going to get in Paris. The kinds of costs you're looking at.

BLOCK: Well, Don George, what about you? What's your unsung Lonely Planet hit in Europe, would you say?

Mr. GEORGE: Well, I would steer them further east to the Baltic region. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania are very hot countries right now. Beautiful architecture in the capital city. It's a really vibrant nightlife. They have a lot of what people traditionally have gone to Western Europe for, in terms of cuisine, history, architecture, culture. But at much lower prices. They're much more affordable.

BLOCK: What about outside of Europe. Laura Kidder, where might you suggest that somebody might look?

Ms. KIDDER: I think here in the East Coast, Montreal is a really good bet. We've got really good exchange rate in Canada. It's a very cosmopolitan city, lovely architecture. They have a great jazz festival coming up, the end of this month and into early July. There's like 500 acts and like three-quarters of them are free. And if you want to go more exotic, I would head down to Argentina, because it may be winter down there, but what would be cooler than going skiing in July?

BLOCK: Don George, any other ideas outside of Europe?

Mr. GEORGE: Well, I would certain suggest Mexico is a wonderful destination for people. You can get there pretty cheaply. The Pacific Coast is beautiful. There's a little town called Yelapa that is outside Puerto Vallarta that many people I know have recommended very, very highly. A laid back, sleepy kind of place where you can just wile the days away on the beach in serenity.

Brazil I think is another one in addition to Argentina. I think South America is a very hot destination. It's a great alternative to Europe right now.

BLOCK: I noticed neither has mentioned any place in Africa or Asia yet.

Mr. GEORGE: Well, Asia, certainly Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, they're still extremely popular. Thailand, for example, is incredibly traveler friendly and a fantastic place to go.

Ms. KIDDER: One thing I would say about traveling there in this time of year. You kind of have to watch out for the monsoon seasons, which vary quite a bit throughout Southeast Asia. So you might want to just poke around, do your research and make sure you're not going to be caught in really icky weather.

BLOCK: What if I were to say to you, I want to go some place, can't be very expensive and what I really want is unbelievable food, cheap, great food. Where would you send me?

Mr. GEORGE: Croatia is one place I would think of for great food at reasonable prices. I ate in a little charming café on a cobbled street in the old town of Dubrovnik. I had a local fish whose name I'm not going to be able to adequately reproduce with a local tour guide and we lingered over wine and this delicious fish and some fried vegetables for about an hour and a half, talking about the history of Croatia. So the food was fantastic and the conversation made it even all the better.

BLOCK: Don and Laura, where are your travel plans taking you this summer?

Mr. GEORGE: I'm bound for Japan and I'll be visiting Tokyo and Kyoto and then the island of Shikoku.

BLOCK: Have you been there before?

Mr. GEORGE: I have, actually. I lived in Tokyo for two years. And Kyoto, I just love wondering around, getting lost in the back alleys with the temples and the little streets. So I'm really looking forward to that and revisiting the little craftsman shops where they spend all day polishing a sculpture or fashioning a beautiful garden arrangement. That, to me, is the epitome of Japan and I really love reconnecting with that.

BLOCK: And Laura Kidder, where are you headed?

Ms. KIDDER: I'm actually going to Berlin, because it's World Cup and we have World Cup tickets, which I am so excited about. I've not been to Berlin yet. It's my first time. I don't expect there will be a lot of good deals, but I can't wait to be there, the energy. My biggest problem is figuring out who I actually want to root for, because in our business, it can be very hard. You fall in love with so many countries. It's very hard to pick just one to root for.

BLOCK: Well, it sounds great. Laura Kidder and Don George, thanks to you both and happy summer.

Ms. KIDDER: Thank you.

Mr. GEORGE: Thank you, Melissa.

BLOCK: Laura Kidder, editorial director for Fodor's Travel, and Don George, global travel editor for the Lonely Planet series, with some ideas for summer travel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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