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Recession, turmoil create travel bargains

If you're lucky enough to score a cheap ticket to another continent, you might be surprised how far you can stretch a dollar. With global markets in perpetual flux, the euro crisis did a lot to help the U.S. dollar in cities across the world.

"We like to say you can find a deal when cities are overexposed, over the hill or over a barrel," said Mark Peyser, editor of Budget Travel magazine. "In cases like Portugal or Greece, they're over a barrel. But you have to decide if it's worth the trade-offs."

Those trade-offs include risks. But natural disasters, protest movements or bad publicity can create cheap travel opportunities. You might be surprised which international cities you can visit on the cheap in 2012.

*Where the dollar goes far: The global recession hit some countries hard, and places that were once expensive are now prime destinations. Consider Reykjavik, Iceland. "Before the financial crises, you would get 67 kroner to the dollar. Now you get 123 to the dollar," Peyser said. Jetsetter Editor in Chief Kate Maxwell says that "Poland and Romania are ... cheaper since they're off the euro."

Greece is also a great option if you can get to a less-populated island. "There are shorter lines at tourist destinations, and lesser-known islands are running deals," Maxwell said. "Avoid Santorini and Mykonos." Also, consider countries loved for their bed-and-breakfast cultures. A room at an Irish inn is considerably cheaper (and negotiable!) in a time of financial hardship.

*When the crowds stop going: There's no polite way to say this: Nothing hurts a travel industry like accidents or high-profile tragedies. After the Costa Concordia sinking, Jetsetter says its phones have been ringing off the hook with cruise companies wanting to do flash sales. "Demand for cruises has dropped 20 percent. ... It's a good time to get a deal on a cruise," Maxwell said. Japan's tourism is still recovering from the 2011 tsunami. "It's not cheap to visit Tokyo, but for Americans, it's much cheaper now than it was before," Peyser said.

*Risky business: American travelers often disregard places that have a history of crime, poverty or war. Avoid the countries on the State Department's travel warning list, but traveling to neighboring countries will help you find a deal, Peyser and Maxwell advise. For example, although much of Northern Africa is still unsafe to visit after uprisings, Morocco has always been a tourist destination. And surprisingly, Tunisia and Egypt are off the advisory list. Now might be the best time to visit Carthaginian ruins or take that Bedouin tour.

*Savings can be negligible: Remember, a vacation is a vacation. You might save a few hundred bucks heading to Bratislava instead of Vienna, but you've gone so far already -- don't visit a city you have no interest in just to get a deal.

Exchange rates don't mean cheap: Just because the U.S. dollar gets you 1.8 Brazilian real doesn't mean Rio de Janeiro is cheap. (It's not.) Many of the must-see hot spots in developing countries aren't any cheaper than New York City. However, Peyser thinks London will have deals after the Olympics. "The dollar is pretty strong against pound at the moment, and a lot of capacity will go unused."