By Arda Johnson
According to Heritage, Egypt (Misr) regionally ranked 11/14 on its economic freedom score for 2022; a country recognized for its erratic terrorism, inflation, and distance between PSC pirates, yet firsthand travel below questions this statistic and explores tips and tricks for living within the global village.
According to several Egyptians, current president El-Sisi has been beneficial to Egypt economically by welcoming tourists more than past politics. Meanwhile, one Egyptologist [pursuing his Ph.D.] mentioned a lack of respect and security from both the government and tourists regarding flash photography, touching, funding excavations, and relocation of structures to uncover more treasures lost underneath the concrete of Giza and Luxor Temple; lastly, tourism from an Egyptian shopkeeper means a lot: “[Tell your friends to] come visit my shop,” one said.
When traveling overseas, visitors must consider the strength of the United States Dollar (USD) in relation to foreign currency. With so many traveling after COVID, the USD is very strong, which is why there is no surprise when comparing one USD being worth 19.20 Egyptian Pounds, sourcing Google Finance, making Egypt one of the most affordable places for tourists on a budget, especially when a pro at bargaining.
For tourists looking into other affordable options along the Mediterranean Sea, artist Sue Havens—whose work is on display at the Ana Lamar Switzer Center until 23 Sep. ’22—mentioned traveling to Turkiye (Türkiye) to visit her husband’s family.
According to Havens’s last visit, “Turkiye was the most incredible and bizarre place, and I want to visit again. Everything is very cheap there and it is a beautiful place to go, and it was very inspiring. Thus, she encourages everyone to “travel when you can before you can’t; it’s harder to travel with a full-time job and certain things, but I’m glad that I traveled when I did.” Even today, one USD is worth around 18.15 Turkish Liras.
Traveling abroad to better understand other cultures, shop, and dine may have never even crossed a PSC pirate’s mind, but the lower cost of travel and better exchange rates—especially during a time when USD are equaling EUR—open new opportunities to students when considering the destination.
Luckily, there are plenty of affordable ways to travel while on a budget or gap year for those truly saying they “like traveling.” One PSC instructor mentioned hostels, a shared room with other travelers where only one bed is booked per traveler, often costing a fraction of the price offered at a hotel.
Meanwhile, PSC student Desirie Luayon mentioned looking into online resources like travelzoo. For travelers interested in free accommodations, research sites like gooverseas or worldpackers in return for volunteer work.
Luayon made the most out of her past summer by visiting Baltimore, Maryland; Gulf Shores, Alabama for a music festival; Atlanta, Georgia for red pandas; and Cancún, Mexico for a week with her boyfriend. On top of traveling, she took two online courses, which allowed her to take advantage of affordable traveling: “I wanted to go to all these places and enjoy my summer off by traveling and going out everywhere.”
To highlight PSC’s generosity, she said, “I appreciate PSC’s scholarships paying for my online classes, which allowed me freedom to find and do things I would have never thought of doing before, and I see that as personal growth.”
Will Barret, a transfer student from UCF to PSC this fall, took some time off from school to reevaluate his focus and visit family in Chicago. By staying with family, Barret was able to save money, stay longer, and enjoy the sites of the city.
Luayon Agreed, “If you have connections with people you know, then they can help you. Having my boyfriend and his family helped me a lot with accommodation and food in Cancún, and I got to try authentic Mexican food, but I wouldn’t really travel to Cancún by myself because it’s less affordable. When rooming with someone, you can split half the price.”
She mentioned she was lucky to find a round-trip flight out of Pensacola for around $410 with insurance included during the summer season for Cancún. “It’s hit or miss,” she said. However, round-trip flights out of Pensacola seem ridiculous for traveling within the U.S. She recommends checking nearby cities for better flight times and fares. For example, a flight from New Orleans to NYC is nearly $100 less than flying from Pensacola. Therefore, Luayon also suggests checking airports in Mobile and Destin/Fort Walton because driving a little distance could save hundreds of dollars.
As much as Americans value the USD, many countries abroad value it more. PSC instructor Dr. Handan Williams mentioned prices in Turkiye changing daily: “I could have dinner with my mom one day for 100 Turkish Liras [₺] and just tea and desert the next day at the same price.”
When researching Turkiye’s CPI, it is not hard to realize that many more overseas countries like Egypt are also experiencing tireless inflation. While certain currencies are more valuable over others, research the destination to preplan how much U.S. dollars will be needed for the trip.
There are plenty of things to do in Istanbul for tourists to have a good time due to “the dollar [being] valuable compared to the Turkish Lira,” according to Dr. Williams.
While on her trip, she noticed that homelessness and inflation have been global issues since COVID, but she thinks that Istanbul’s metro is safe; Istanbul has an immense history compared to Fort Walton Beach and even Washington, D.C.
Dr. Williams said, “Whenever I go to Istanbul, I always visit the museums and the historical places. Last time I visited Pera Palace, a historical hotel that is 126 years old; this is where Agatha Christie wrote Murder [on] the Orient Express. Atatürk’s room is also located in the Pera Palace. [Thus,] Istanbul is full of historical buildings and has been under rule from [multiple] empires spanning centuries.”
Dr. Williams said she “found the technology to be much better in Turkiye. There are wireless connections everywhere in the city and on the buses. The U.S. credit card has a pretty good rate, and you can use your credit card to purchase tickets for the airport shuttle bus called Havaş.”
According to Arzu Kervancı, a bilingual Turkish citizen, “Turkish people like foreign people, and they sometimes try to get a little bit more money [by bargaining]. They behave differently, warmly, and welcoming. In America, I think service is equal. They are all very kind people. When going to restaurants, they always try making conversation, but it does not make any difference whether you are a foreigner or a normal person.”
In places like Turkiye or Egypt, it can matter where one is from, especially when holding the USD or EUR, and it is important to understand the current trends. For Egypt, tourism just recently started bouncing back after turmoil. For nearly three decades, Egypt’s president had been Hosni Mubarak until amidst the Arab Spring, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was elected during the 2011 [Egyptian Revolution], gaining protestors voicing for police brutality, political freedom, and more.
Some argue the Muslim Brotherhood—an organization, e.g., NATO—supposedly seeked secularization. Instead, many protested Morsi’s resignation and struck accord with the Egyptian Armed Forces and committed a coup d’état—actions seemingly similar to storming the White House on 6 Jan. ’21 to extend Trump’s presidency and especially similar to the Turkish Military’s failed attempt to overthrow president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2016—leading to Adly Mansour in 2013 and elected el-Sisi from 2014 to today.
Wherever the destination may be, Desire Luayon said it best: “You don’t want to overthink too much over the trip because it won’t be as much fun compared to diving in. Just save enough money and try getting scholarships.”