What a Dollar ($1) Gets You Around the World

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The more frugal travelers among us might be pleased to know that there are pockets of the world where a few weeks of luxury can come at a fairly moderate price. According to a 2017 cost of living survey if you want to live large and spend very little you might head over to India. On the other hand, the budget-minded traveler should probably give Switzerland or Norway a wide berth. Fast food lovers might also check out the Big Mac Index, an informal way to compare the Purchasing-Power Parity of a country. Switzerland has the most expensive Big Mac in the world at $6.59, while Ukrainians can enjoy the cheapest at $1.57.  Today we’ll be looking at the cost of things, in this episode of the Infographics Show: What a Dollar Gets You Around the World.

While McDonald’s fans might be disappointed that nowhere on Earth sells a Big Mac for a buck, aficionados of ice cream are in for a treat if they visit Croatia. In 2016, the country’s Ledo Hešteg ice cream won the gold medal at the International Ice Cream Consortium held in Barcelona. One large scoop of this champion bonne bouche will set you back exactly one dollar. Croatians earn on average just over 800 dollars a month, which is very low for a developed nation.

According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, the Swiss are the highest earners in the world with an average monthly full-time gross salary of $7,396. We know eating at McDonalds in this country is relatively expensive, but what can a Swiss resident get for a dollar? Not much, according to Swiss online grocery stores. After searching high and low we found that Swiss dogs can eat well for buck, with a small can of Beef & Lamb Flavored Terrine adult canine cuisine costing a fraction under one U.S. dollar.

In 2016, Australia was ranked as the most expensive place to live in the world if you want to have what was called “low-level mid-week fun”. Well, at least wine is cheap over there. The BBC once reported that wine was cheaper than water in Australia, while in 2017 Cheapa Wines at Melbourne’s Preston Market was reported to be selling a bottle of white wine for under one U.S. dollar. Australia is also the land of cheap sausage rolls, where an Ozzie can enjoy a Woolworth’s Snowy River Sausage Roll for just a buck. The average monthly wage in Australia is one of the highest in the world at around 5,000 U.S. dollars per month.

Australians earn on average a little more than Americans. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2016 the average wage for an American worker was $3,679 per month for a 40-hour work week. What can Americans get for one of their own dollars? According to one website, U.S. bargain-hunting citizens can buy plenty of nice things for a dollar. In 2017, if Americans look hard enough, for a buck they can buy a pair of earrings, a city-to-city trip with Megabus, perfumes on Ebay and a pregnancy test kit, among many more items that were listed.

Heading over to the Far East in Hong Kong, one slice of plastic-wrapped crustless bread costs a dollar. Hong Kong is notoriously expensive, and its average salary of around $3,500 a month isn’t spectacular. A lack of space is one reason for the high cost of living in Hong Kong. In June of this year, a car parking spot was sold for a staggering $664,000. The good news is you can take the trip across and back from the main island and see that famous view of the city’s skyscraper. A return journey with Star Ferry will cost you a little less than one U.S. dollar.  

Sticking to the magical East, let’s have a look at Thailand, a country renowned for beautiful beaches suited to budgeting backpackers. According to a poll, the average salary in Thailand is around $1,205 US dollars per month, and while wages can be high in the capital of Bangkok, the cost of living in Thailand for the most part is low because much of the population earns a meager income. For this reason, Thailand’s famed cuisine can come at little cost, with a bowl of noodles or a rice dish available from a street stall at around one dollar. Drinking water is usually free. This is vital as low wage earners such as construction workers from neighboring Burma are often paid less than 10 U.S. dollars for an entire day’s work in the hot sun.

Cheap staples are a necessity in many developing nations. If you want a loaf of bread for one dollar, head to Iraq, Yemen and Zimbabwe. Gambia has the cheapest bread at just 17 cents a loaf on average. You can also buy a little over 2 lbs (1 kilo) of potatoes in Gambia for just under one dollar. It’s a cheap country, and needs to be when the average wage is only about $768 a month…that’s $.60 an hour!

Eggs are also something in the diet of most global citizens. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics one dozen eggs in 2016 were sold at a global average of $1.46. If you want a dozen eggs for a dollar head to Pakistan. Pakistanis earn a little above $125 a month on average, so things need to be cheap. In Pakistan you can also buy 2.2 lbs of rice for just over a buck, or for the same amount take 5 trips on local buses.

As for beer to go with your eggs and bread, according to a database of World Beer Prices, there are many countries where the amber nectar is less than one dollar per bottle. But a lot depends on where you buy it, i.e. bar or store. In terms of the overall price of beer, the cheapest place is the capital city of Slovakia, Bratislava, at just over one dollar. The average wage in Slovakia is around 1,000 American dollars a month. For just under a buck you can also buy a 2.2 lbs of potatoes or a liter of milk.

Keeping with the theme of bad habits, the cheapest place in the world to buy a pack of Marlboro Red cigarettes in 2016 was Nigeria at around 76 cents. Nigerians can also enjoy three cans of coke for just over a dollar, a loaf of bread, and provided they live 1 km from the shop, they can get a taxi for just one dollar. The average wage in Nigeria is around $300 per month, with its minimum wage being one of the lowest in the world at $.36 an hour.

Compare that to the modern Scandinavian nation of Finland, where for one dollar you can make use of a pristine porcelain bowl in a public bathroom. The same amount of money in this country, that has an average monthly wage of around 3,700 U.S. dollars, will buy you 2.2 lbs of potatoes.

Over the border in notoriously expensive Norway, a dollar won’t get you very far. As we did with Switzerland, we had to dig deep to find one dollar deals in Norway, but found that you can buy a packet of Ramen noodles for that amount. Norwegians are high earners in terms of the global average, bringing in around $4,166 U.S. dollars a month.

We found in Japan, a country certainly not synonymous with the word cheap, at the Japanese version of the dollar store you can pick up a pair of fetching slippers, a pair of swimming goggles, as well as an array of Hello Kitty merchandise. Japan’s average wage is around 3,000 dollars per month.

Once you are fed, clothed, and ready for some rest, why not go watch a movie? According to a survey, residents of Turkmenistan could have watched the highest grossing movie in 2015, Guardians of the Galaxy, for just one dollar. Bear in mind though, the average monthly salary for a Turkman when that movie came out was around 200 U.S. dollars a month.

And so, we come to the end of the show, knowing that in some countries a fistful of American dollars is enough to have a grand old time, and in other places, a buck alone is a paltry thing. We hope you’ve had fun, and please let us know in the comments what you can buy for one dollar in your own country.

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