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may 06

Where the dollar is strong: Iceland and South Africa

The dollar has gotten stronger against Iceland's krona (by about 22 percent) and South Africa's rand (by about 26 percent) in the past couple of years, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Here's some trip inspiration for these two countries:

Iceland has some of the planet's most spectacular (and unusual) natural scenery, not to mention it's the closest European country to the US. The most economical ways to go to the Land of Fire and Ice is to book an air-hotel package through Icelandair Holidays.

For example, there is this Real Deal: Iceland Tour, 5 Nights, From $1,859 This whirlwind tour begins and ends in hip Reykjavík, with stops at breathtaking attractions like Skaftafell National Park, the icebergs of Jökulsárlón, and scenic volcanic valleys. Round-trip airfare, five nights' accommodations, some meals, and guided tours from $1,859—plus taxes of about $100.

The vacation wing of Icelandair also allows you to "build your own package"....which enables flexibility on number of nights, activities, etc. Should you want to forgo a package, then book your flight with Icelandair, and investigate staying at a guesthouse, which can be much more affordable than hotels, especially in Reykjavik. In summer, many working farms open their doors to visitors for overnight stays too. For listings, check out the Accommodations section of the tourism board's website: Visiticeland.com.

Because it's so easy to get around Iceland, we'd also suggest renting a car and exploring on your own, i.e. not spending the extra money for organized tours to places you can easily visit on your own. And don't miss out on the amazing community mineral pools and hot pots-they're inexpensive but you'll leave feeling like a million bucks.

South Africa is also a better bargain for Americans than ever. The one hiccup is finding an affordable airfare. That's part of the appeal of the vacation package being offered by Foreign Independent Tours: 10 Nights' South Africa Air/Hotel/Car, $2,599—plus taxes and fees of about $231. The deal includes round-trip airfare, 10 nights' accommodations, car rental, some meals, and game drives at the Amakhala Game Reserve. See our recent Real Deal.

If you're thinking about renting a car for a day trip to the vineyards, note that most South African rental agencies put a 200-kilometer cap (about 125 miles) on free daily mileage. Two of the biggest draws near Cape Town—the Cape of Good Hope and the Winelands—are both about an hour from the city. Depending on how many wineries you want to visit, you'll probably have to pay extra. To guarantee unlimited mileage, you should secure reservations before leaving the U.S. Hertz and Avis both operate widely in South Africa, charging about $45 a day for a compact stick-shift car; automatics are typically twice as expensive.

Because the dollar is so strong right now in South Africa, you may want to consider hiring a guide, who would double as their designated driver, starting at about $60 a person—or from about $200 per carload. You'll probably travel in a minibus, but at least you won't have to worry about driving. Some of our readers have reported good experiences with Beautiful Cape Town Exclusive Tours.

As always, feel free to chime in with your own tips for visiting these countries.

Get Inspired with more from BudgetTravel.com


Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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