No Exchange Needed. Foreign Countries that Use the U.S. Dollar

If you try handing over some USD in many places in Europe, you'll be greeted with an eye roll, but there are numerous locations dotted across the globe that are more than happy to accept the U.S. dollar as the legal tender. Due to it’s standing as one of the most stable currencies in the world; the dollar has become the backbone for economies far outside the confines of American soil. Territories and countries throughout the Caribbean, Africa, the Pacific, and South America have adopted the dollar to strengthen and solidify their financial situations.

Skip the rip-off conversion rates and exchange lines at the airport with these destinations that use greenbacks as their currency of choice.

Over Twenty Countries and Territories Have Adopted the USD into their Economies

As the most popular global currency, the U.S. dollar serves as the official currency for over ten countries and is used alongside and integrated with the economies of over twenty territories and nations on a daily basis. For American based travelers that spells out cha-ching. Sorting out exchange rates on the fly or trying to decipher the value of that stack of blue and red bills you've just been handed back as change becomes a non-issue. Following I've grouped the countries that have been wholly dollarized and the ones who continue to use the USD as a counterpart or quasi-currency to complement its official banknotes.

Nations that Use the U.S. Dollar as an Official Currency:

British Virgin Islands

Penny wise, not pound foolish, this archipelago a short sail away from the U.S. Virgin Islands, has taken on its neighbor’s currency since 1959. While British is in the name of the country, you won’t get far trying to buy a Pusser’s Rum Painkiller with your pound sterling.

See all of our fares to Tortola (EIS) and St. Thomas (STT) from all over the U.S. and Canada.

Ecuador

In 2000, this South American nation ditched the sucre in favor of the U.S. dollar following a financial crisis. Now it’s a lot easier for American visitors to price out Galapagos excursions and to buy souvenirs in Quito’s artisanal markets. You’ll feel right at home at the ATM when you see it spit out some of your favorite presidents.

See all of our fares to Quito (UIO) and Guayaquil (GYE) from all over the U.S. and Canada.

Turks and Caicos

Another British Overseas Territory to adopt the USD as it's official currency, Turks and Caicos have followed along with the BVI’s to circulate dollars instead of GBP. The name Turks and Caicos are roughly translated to Pirate Islands, and you might feel that you've been plundered when the bill comes on this expensive archipelago.

See all of our fares to Turks and Caicos (PLS) from all over the U.S. and Canada.

El Salvador 

Shortly after Ecuador, El Salvador instituted the U.S. dollar as its official currency in 2001 to combat financial destabilization. The dollarization of El Salvador has curbed hyperinflation that has affected some of its Latin American neighbors, and low prices keep luring bold travelers to this parlous nation. While there is an ongoing travel warning issued by the State Department, those willing to chance it are rewarded with uncrowded archeological sites and unspoiled beaches.

See all of our fares to San Salvador (SAL) from all over the U.S. and Canada.

Caribbean Netherlands

Following the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles. The islands of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba introduced the dollar as their official currency in 2011, when they collectively became the Caribbean Netherlands. While other neighboring Dutch colonized islands like Aruba and Curacao have their own currencies, these small “special municipalities” chose to be backed by the dollar instead of the euro.

See all of our fares to Bonaire (BON) from all over the U.S. and Canada.

Zimbabwe

While US dollars are widely accepted across Africa, Zimbabwe is the first country on the continent to adopt them as an official currency after a massive hyperinflation crisis in the mid-2000s. To further complicate things, Zimbabwe also made euros, yuan, pound sterling, rand, and a few other local currencies official alongside the dollar. While U.S. dollars are the most widely used, Zimbabwe ran out of greenbacks in 2016 and is now printing its own version tied to the USD. Either way, if you find yourself on safari, you’ll have no problem finding someone to accept your bucks.

See all of our fares to Harare (HRE) from all over the U.S. and Canada.

Other nations that officially use USD as currency:

East Timor

Marshall Islands

Federated States of Micronesia

Palau

Nations that Use U.S. Dollars Alongside their Official Currency:

Bahamas

Pegged to the U.S. Dollar one-to-one, the Bahamian Dollar is basically a mirror image to its offshore neighbor. As a cruise ship haven for Americans, sometimes you’ll be hard pressed to even see some Bahamian notes in circulation amongst all the green.  However, you may end up leaving with a pocketful of colorful and odd shaped coinage featuring starfish, pineapples, and other Bahamian-related objects.

See all of our fares to Nassau (NAS) and Freeport (FPO) from all over the U.S. and Canada.

Panama

Despite accepting dollars since 1904, Panama still hasn't given up the balboa as one of its official currencies. The USD is recognized as legal tender and Panama is the second country in North America to be a dollarized economy. Essentially, the paper US dollar is the day-to-day currency as balboas only consist of coins that mimic the size and shape of American change. Balboas and USD trade at a 1:1 ratio.

See all of our fares to Panama City (PTY) from all over the U.S. and Canada.

Barbados 

Permanently fixed at a 2:1 ratio, you’ll get two Barbadian dollars for every one U.S. dollar. Almost every establishment will take USD, but smaller and newer notes are preferred. If paying with US cash, only bills will be accepted, and you'll always receive change in Bds$. Leaving you with a wallet full of mixed currencies that can be helpful when it comes to tipping or purchasing smaller items.

See all of our fares to Bridgetown (BGI) from all over the U.S. and Canada.

Belize

There’s nothing fishy about spending USD in this scuba and snorkel paradise. Like Barbados, Belize pegs its local Dollar at two-to-one of the American Dollar. With most prices being listed in both denominations on menus and other items for purchase. U.S. dollars will be accepted nearly everywhere, given that they are in quality condition, however coinage from the States generally won't be taken. BZD notes will often be handed back as change, but if you ask for it in USD, most places will oblige.

See all of our fares to Belize City (BZE) from all over the U.S. and Canada.

Costa Rica

This one isn’t as cut and dry as the others listed. While most Costa Rican’s will graciously accept USD and you’ll often find prices listed in dollars alongside the official colón. The two currencies aren’t fixed to each other. Therefore, you can’t always expect an easy exchange or to receive exact change if you choose to pay in USD.  As with most countries that accept U.S. dollars alongside their own currencies, leave the Benjamins at home and take along crisp tens and fivers to make purchases easier.

See all of our fares to San Jose (SJO) and Liberia (LIR) from all over the U.S. and Canada.

Other nations that widely accept USD alongside local currency:

Cambodia
 
Liberia
 
Nicaragua
 
Myanmar
 
Somalia

As Territories of the United States, the USD is the Official Currency of:

Puerto Rico
 
Guam
 
U.S. Virgin Islands
 
American Samoa
 
Northern Mariana Islands

Header image by Wollertz via Shutterstock.com

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