With its currency currently selling at a breathtaking 125 to the U.S. dollar, Japan has become a moderately-priced nation for American travelers. Instead of paying $450 for a double room at a top-quality, first-class Japanese hotel, as was once the case two years ago, we now pay as little as $300 for a luxurious accommodation, and far less (even below $100 a night) at so-called business hotels in Japan.
Enjoying costs so low for quality so high, numerous travelers currently are descending on the main Japanese island of Honshu to enjoy a look at Tokyo and Kyoto, the two most popular Japanese cities. The third-place favorite? Astonishingly, it’s Hiroshima, the city on which we dropped an atomic bomb in World War II. For whatever reason, our fellow citizens are choosing that unfortunate place for a quick look after a holiday stay devoted to Tokyo and Kyoto.
At all three cities, as mentioned before, the so-called business hotels (you'll find them described in every guidebook to Japan will now provide entirely sufficient and comfortable rooms that sometimes dip below $100 a night, to the surprise of past visitors to Japan.
While Japan soars, Puerto Rico dips. The American commonwealth in the Caribbean currently is suffering from a plateau in its incoming tourism, possibly caused by its well-publicized financial problems (enormous national debt) somewhat similar to those of Greece, and general economic recession. With its fairly high cost of living, and thus high hotel costs, Puerto Rico has fallen far behind the tourist industries of Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, and today has only 15,000 hotel rooms, as compared to the Dominican Republic’s 60,000 hotel rooms (it also lags behind Jamaica). And thus, in its current situation of recession, its tourist industry is not doing well, and it therefore offers, strangely enough, favorable vacation stays to the visitor willing to bargain with hotels and other tourist facilities.
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With its superb climate, interesting cuisine and culture, and excellent beaches, Puerto Rico offers attractive vacation opportunities to tourists, and especially to those willing to stay in apartment accommodations rather than standard hotels. A large population is found in residential neighborhoods all up and down the beaches that begin in San Juan and extend eastward along the north coast, and these residents, in my experience, are increasingly willing to rent out apartments or rooms in their homes to transient visitors; recession circumstances have forced them to augment their incomes in this manner.
By going to such sources of vacation apartments as VRBO.com (Vacation Rental by Owner) or AirBnB.com, the vacation-seeker in Puerto Rico will find comfortable rooms and immediate access to a beach, for much less than a resort hotel would charge them. My wife and I recently enjoyed one of our best tropical vacations ever by phoning a Puerto Rican participant in VRBO and renting from the owner a spacious apartment directly on an excellent beach, for a very low price. And we were merely a couple of short blocks away from restaurant and other commercial locations for our non-beach-lolling needs. We enjoyed an authentic slice of life in Puerto Rico, which was as good as they come.
Note to the reader: Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip. The information in this column was accurate when it was released, but prices are competitive, sometimes limited and can always change without notice.
Arthur Frommer is the founder of the Frommer’s Travel Guide book series. Find more destinations and read his blog at frommers.com.