7 Countries where it’s easiest to feel like a millionaire
As I’m now back in Indonesia for the first time since 1998, I remember the feeling back then of getting the maximum one-million rupiah out of the ATM upon arrival. It was, as it is now, a bit over US$100, but back then bills in large denominations were rare, so the machine spit out a stack nearly an inch thick.
There was something even more fun about not only holding a million of some currency, but also having to carry it in a huge wad so I’d be peeling off a small stack every time I ordered a beer or bought a fake watch.
In these days when fewer of us might dream of being meaningful millionaires, let’s look at the seven countries where almost any visitor can pull it off in the novelty sense, and in many cases you’ll go through many millions during your visit whether you want to or not. None of these is as dramatic as when the Turkish Lira was 1,500,000 to US$1 a few years ago (they’ve since dropped 6 decimal places), but still it can be fun.
(exchange rates are as of December 16, 2010)
1,000,000 Vietnamese dong only equals:
Vietnam is actually a place where not only are you carrying millions around with you, but almost any tourist does indeed feel rich anyway. In Hanoi you can get an excellent bowl of pho noodle soup for around US$1, or the cheapest beer in the world for around US$0.16 a glass. In Hoi An you can get a very nice hotel room in the heart of the charming Old Town for under US$20, and in Ho Chi Minh City you can visit the country’s most important museums for under US$1 each.
1,000,000 Colombian pesos only equals:
Colombia is suddenly one of the world’s hottest travel destinations, thanks in part to its increased security, but also due to its enormous natural charms. It’s not as cheap as some others on this list, but still in Cartagena, which is the most popular tourist city, you can get a budget dinner for under US$3, and a bottle of beer for around US$1.
1,000,000 Cambodian real only equals:
While Cambodia has its own currency, you aren’t likely to get that real ‘millionaire’ feeling since most of the ATMs in tourist cities only dispense US dollars, and nearly everything you’ll come in contact with is priced in dollars as well. Still, this is one of the world’s cheapest countries, and a great travel bargain. Though Angkor Wat near Siem Reap costs a very justifiable US$20 for a one-day pass, you’ll also find the world’s cheapest hostel there, only charging US$1 for a semi-outdoor bunk. A beer at one of the many riverside cafes in Phnom Penh can be had for around US$0.60 during the extended happy hours.
1,000,000 Lebanese pounds only equals:
The security situation isn’t always ideal, but still more and more people are visiting Lebanon for its exotic culture, good nightlife, and great beaches. Beirut is a word that often has negative associations for many, but at least it’s also generally cheap, with meals for under $4 being common, and beer for around US$2 a bottle.
1,000,000 Indonesian rupiah only equals:
Bank machines here in Bali now dispense 100,000 notes, so the new problem is finding places to break them and get small change back. Still, this country, of which Bali is only one tiny island, is filled with great bargains. A meal in a nice outdoor restaurant can be found for around US$2 if you look around, and a giant bottle of Bintang beer to wash it down with is only a bit more.
1,000,000 Lao kip only equals:
Laos tends to get forgotten, even by many budget travelers already touring the region, and that’s a shame. It’s actually getting noticeably more expensive recently, yet still things cost a fraction of the price of most tourist destinations elsewhere. In the charming Luang Prabang, none of the main attractions costs more than US$3, and a huge bottle of beer costs just over US$1 at almost any restaurant. In Vientiane, you can actually find the world’s cheapest liquor, with full-size bottles available in shops for under US$1, as well as meals of all kinds for under US$3.
1,000,000 Korean won only equals:
While South Korea is probably the most expensive country on this list, it can still be kind to budget travelers. Seoul is, of course, the main attraction, and there you can get an all-day bus tour for under US$9, and meals for well under US$4 if you follow the locals.
And the most difficult countries to feel like a millionaire?
Latvia and Kuwait are the only countries in the world whose base currencies are actually worth more than one British pound, so in order to be a Latvian millionaire you’d need:
And in order to be a Kuwaiti millionaire you’d need:
Thanks to Agrim Khetan in the comments for the Kuwaiti reminder.