FOR THE BUDGET TRAVELER
American travelers, who bemoaned high prices in Europe a few years ago, are getting a break. The stronger dollar means a cheaper Europe this summer.
For instance: one lady from the British Tourist Authority commented, ''Britain is a fabulous deal this year since the dollar became so strong. Last year Americans were paying $2.40 per pound; now they're paying $1.80. We figured it out that people are paying 1978 prices. And there are loads of charter flights. I'm going myself, for $399 roundtrip''(from New York, Pan Am, Value Vacations).
Germany, too, claims 1978 prices for the American traveler, when the stronger dollar is accounted for. Compared to a year ago, when the dollar bought about 1 .80 marks, the dollar now gets 2.40 DM - close to 40 percent more buying power.
France, which two years ago had an exchange rate of about four francs to the dollar, now offers about six to the dollar; while the Italian lire, last year roughly 1,000 to the dollar, is now quoted at 1,320 - ''and already last year the lire vs. dollar was advantageous,'' commented an Italian lady.
''What the dollar is doing to European currencies is crushing the peseta to all-time lows,'' commented Charles Ocheltree of the Spanish National Tourist Office. ''If you go back to 1980, you're talking about 65 pesetas to the dollar. You're now looking at an exchange rate of 104 - a 60 percent increase in value of the dollar.''
(A hint for the Spain-bound traveler: this year the World Soccer championships will be held in Spain from June 13 to July 11, so June 1 to Aug 1 will be the high season this year. The championship will be held in 14 different cities. Cities where the championship is being held may be heavily booked at that time.)
Portugal has always been a bargain destination. ''They've had price increases , as all other countries have, but when you convert back into dollars they sort of wash out,'' commented Evelyn Heyward. The escudo, which last year was not even 65 to the dollar, is now 72. An average first-class dinner would cost about $9 to $12; a more modest meal could be $7. First-class hotels cost about
One tour operator offering inexpensive flights from New York and Boston ($439 on Capitol) to Lisbon and the Azores is Relvas Tours (26 Church St., Naugatuck, Conn. 06770; 1-203-729-0058.
Switzerland's mark dropped in relation to the dollar last year, and the country has experienced a 24 percent increase in American visitors ('81 over '79 ) as a result. The Swiss franc is roughly 1.95 to the dollar.
To switch for a moment to our own hemisphere: Mexico has also become more of a bargain for American travelers since the peso was permitted to float in February. Before that, the exchange rate was 24 pesos to the dollar; now it's between 44 and 46, a 40 percent difference. In order to get the maximum benefit from this exchange rate, the sooner the traveler heads to Mexico, the better, as inflation will wear away some of this benefit.