Money makes the world go around, as they say in the classics. But it depends where in the world you live because some money is worth so little, it’s hardly worth having. Of course if you’re planning a holiday and want your money to stretch a long way, you might consider visiting one of the countries that has one of the world’s lowest currencies. On the other hand, if the currency is down because of conflict or war, then it might not be such a good idea. The values compared to one US dollar indicated here are based on conversions done on April 3, 2015. They may change day-to-day, but usually not dramatically, except in times of crisis.
12 Kenyan Shilling
The Kenyan shilling (KES) replaced the East African shilling in 1966 when the old colonialist East African Monetary Union broke up. The KES can be subdivided into 100 Kenyan cents. Less than one US cent will buy you a KES, and if you spend a dollar, you’ll get about 92 KES. But the political instability in Kenya right now, particularly the continued attacks by Al-Shabaab, is a bit off putting for tourists, even though its currency is performing better than those of its neighbors, particularly Tanzania (see 4).
11 Pakistani Rupee
The Pakistani rupee (PKR) has been in circulation since the country’s independence from the British Raj in 1947. It is also referred to as the rupaya or rupaye. A PKR also costs less than US1c, with US$1 giving you about 102 PKR. In spite of having one of the worst currencies in the world, Pakistan is regarded as one of the “next eleven” developing countries that has the potential to become a leading world economy this century. However war and ongoing social instability over the past few years has done substantial harm to the economy.
10 Japanese Yen
Even though the Japanese yen (which translated literally means “round object”) is one of the world’s reserve currencies, it is worth very little money. You’ll only need US1c or less to buy 1 JPY, while US$1 will get you around 119 JPY. The JPY first declined after the so-called “Japanese asset price bubble” that artificially inflated stock and real estate prices in the 1980s and 1990s. It reached a new low in 2002, and has continued to weaken against the US dollar ever since.
9 Hungarian Forint
The Hungarian forint (HUF) has been the currency of Hungary since 1946, and it remained stable for a good four decades. It only began to deteriorate in the early 1990s. Today it is anyone’s guess how much longer the HUF will be in circulation as the Hungarian government has made no secret of the fact that it would like to replace the florint with the euro. One Hungarian forint won’t even buy a single US cent, and you’ll get about 275 HUF with US$1.
8 Chilean Peso
The Chilean peso (CLP) as it is today, has been in circulation since 1975. Prior to than another version of the peso was used as currency. If it’s CLP you want, you’ll get about 615 CLP for your US dollar. Technically one CLP may be subdivided into 100 centavos, though these coins are no longer in circulation. The 100-peso coin (known as gamba colloquially) and the 500-peso coin (the quina) are still in circulation. There is also a 1,000-peso banknote that is called the luka or luca.
7 South Korean Won
The won was introduced as the currency of Korea in the early 20th century, between 1902 and 1910. When Korea was divided politically, in 1945, the currencies of the two countries were separated according to north and south. The stability of South Korean is constantly threatened by North Korea, and this is why you’ll pick up 1,091 South Korean won (KRW) for US1. In North Korea most stores now ask for payment in euros or the Chinese renminbi or yuan. South Korea is another of the countries identified as the “next eleven”, in spite of the state of its currency.
6 Iraqi Dinar
Officially, the Iraqi dinar (IQD) may be subdivided into 1,000 fils. However uncontrolled inflation has led to the fils being withdrawn from circulation. The 1991 Gulf War, and the combined, multi-national invasion of Iraq in 2003 and subsequent deposition of Saddam Hussein, has also taken its toll on the currency. In late 1995 one US dollar was worth 3,000 IQD. A new dinar was introduced from October 2003, and today you’ll get only 1,182 IQD for one US dollar. Also, there is nowhere outside of Iraq where dinars can be exchanged.
5 Burundian Franc
The landlocked Republic of Burundi is another country that has stopped issuing a portion of its currency, namely the centimes into which the Burundian franc (BIF) used to be subdivided into 100 parts. Recognized as one of the world’s poorest countries, Burundi has faced wars and corruption that have resulted in its currency being one of the world’s worst. Since other East African countries have similar currency problems, there is talk of a new East African shilling being introduced as a common currency sometime this year (2015). In the meantime, one US dollar will buy you 1,559 BIF.
4 Tanzanian Shilling
The Tanzanian shilling (TZS) is worth a pittance, with US1 enabling you to buy more about 1,864 of them. As in Kenya, the TZS replaced the East African shilling in 1966 when the British colonial East African Monetary Union was disbanded. Coins and bank notes are used in Tanzania. There are currently 50, 100, 200 and a new 500 shilling coin in circulation, as well as 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 and 10,000 shilling notes. Even though it is the second largest economy in East Africa, it has been estimated that at least one third of the population lives in abject poverty.
3 Colombian Peso
Even though both Chile and Colombia use a peso as their currency (which oddly uses the official symbol $ in Colombia), the Colombian peso (COP), which has been in circulation since 1837, is worth much less than the Chilean one. You’ll get 2,574 COP for just one US dollar – more than 191 more than you’d have got if you exchanged US$1 at the end of 2014. The peso has been used as currency for more than two centuries (since 1810). In recent years there has been continued discussion by the government of whether it should be substantially revalued, and a new peso worth 1,000 old peso introduced.
2 Indonesian Rupiah
Derived from the Indian rupee (INR), the Indonesian rupiah (IDR) is worth substantially less than the Indian currency. Currently you can exchange 13,008 IDR for US$1, while you will only get 62 INR for your dollar. Indonesians still sometimes refer to the INR as “perak”, which means silver, in spite of the fact that, unlike silver, their currency is practically worthless. In addition to the bank notes in circulation, there are also coins made from lightweight aluminum and bronze that are also used as currency.
1 Vietnamese Dong
The Vietnamese dong (VND) has been the official currency of Vietnam for 37 years, since 1978 when north and south Vietnam were reunited. The name “dong” is derived from the old Chinese bronze coins that were used as currency in Vietnam during the dynastic periods of Vietnam and China. One dong can technically be subdivided into 10 hào, however, the hào is now considered worthless and is no longer in circulation. Inflation has been rampant in Vietnam since the early 1990s. Oddly, like South Korea and Pakistan, Vietnam has been identified as one of the “next eleven” countries to become one of the largest in the world.