Can I Use the US Dollar Abroad?

Updated June 22, 2020.

It’s Travel Tip Tuesday! I’ve been thinking about this post for a while, but first I’ll caution you not to assume you can use the US Dollar just anywhere. What would you do if someone came to you and tried to pay for something with Russian Rubles? Or Euros? Or Australian Dollars? You’d look at them like they were crazy people! So never, ever assume you can use your local currency when you travel. You will come across as arrogant, and that is not a good impression for a visitor to make.

That said, the US Dollar is the most widely accepted currency in the world. There are some countries outside the United States that not only take the US Dollar, but there are some who use it for their country’s currency! So let’s take a little look at those places.

Can you see why our coins confuse people from other countries?

Countries that Accept the US Dollar

These countries have their own currency, but they will accept the US dollar (an an exchange rate to their advantage) in many tourist-heavy areas and major cities.

Received as change in Siem Reap, Cambodia:

That’s a $2 bill! Real, but not commonly used in the US! Interestingly, I got this one as change in Siem Reap, Cambodia!
Don’t make these mistakes! Budget Blunders You May be Making

Countries that have Adopted the US Dollar*

These countries use the US dollar exclusively and do not have a separate currency unique to them.

  • British Virgin Islands
  • East Timor-Leste
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • Federated States of Micronesia
  • Marshall Islands
  • Palau
  • Turks and Caicos
  • Zimbabwe
*And don’t forget the US Territories!
A trip to paradise is even better when you don’t have to exchange currency!
Want to start traveling with points?
Check out the Beginner’s Guide to Using Credit Card Points!

Why the US Dollar?

When a country’s economy experiences a major collapse or hyperinflation, currency substitution (or “dollarization”) can help that country’s economy pull through. Because the US Dollar is the world’s “reserve currency” since World War II, tying to the US Dollar with its credibility and stabilization allows other countries to continue international trade more easily.**

But just because the country uses US paper money doesn’t mean they have to use US coins. In Ecuador, we were surprised that they have their own coins, and no one would accept our American coins!

Ecuadorian coins. They use paper dollars, but make their own coins!
More here: 6 Ways I Afford to Travel

What Effect does this have on the US Economy?

Thankfully, very little! In theory, increased currency production could facilitate inflation in the US, but since the countries that have adopted the dollar are so much smaller than the US, there is not enough currency involved that it has much of an impact.

Check it out: The Ultimate Guide to Travel and Your Money

*This information was gleaned from
**This information comes from
Special thanks for my brother, Economist Jared Hassell!

Want more money-saving tips and hacks? You’ll find everything you need on my Saving for Travel Page!

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4 responses to “Can I Use the US Dollar Abroad?”

  1. […] card, just in case one or the other doesn’t work in the country I’m visiting. You can use the U.S. dollar in many countries, but you will always get the best exchange rate in a country’s local currency. I always take […]

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