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Affordable, accessible vacations for 2010

Travel expert Peter Greenberg in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Travel expert Peter Greenberg in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
  • Argentina and Iceland are great bargains, says travel expert Peter Greenberg
  • Economic turmoil in Greece is driving the euro down
  • June, July and August are a great value in the Caribbean
  • Check out carnival next year away from the frenzy of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

(CNN) -- Go where the dollar is king.

That's travel expert Peter Greenberg's advice. His latest book "Tough Times, Great Travel: The Travel Detective's Guide to Hidden Deals, Unadvertised Bargains, and Great Experiences," gives travelers the skinny on getting the most out of the down economy.

Greenberg, author of a series of Travel Detective guides, host of a syndicated radio show and travel editor for CBS News, recently traveled to the Dominican Republic during carnival.

CNN spoke with Greenberg while he was in the capital, Santo Domingo, about bargain destinations for 2010 and how the Dominican Republic's tourism industry is responding to the January earthquake in neighboring Haiti. This is an edited version of that conversation.

CNN: What kinds of deals are you seeing and are they as good as they were last year?

Greenberg: Actually, the deals have been good for both years. People need to realize that travel is in our DNA. ... We will always find a way, and it's not just about affordability, it's about accessibility. So what my book talks about and why I'm sitting here in Santo Domingo is to let people know there are options out there throughout the world where the dollar is still king, where you can still have a great vacation, but you don't have to stand in line behind 7,000 people just trying to get an empanada.

CNN: What are some other great value destinations this year?

Greenberg: We're coming into March right now. The best deals you're going to find are going to be June, July and August in [the Caribbean]. It's the off season. ... I go to the Caribbean in June, July and August. The temperature is about 5 degrees hotter and it's empty. That's when you want to come.

CNN: Regardless of hurricanes?

Greenberg: You know what? Right now there are so many places that give you hurricane deals and hurricane guarantees -- you can buy travel insurance. I'm a big proponent of that. Keep in mind you can always buy weather insurance as long as they haven't named the hurricane yet. And then you're protected. The biggest hurricane to hit here happened 12 years ago, so I think you're OK.

CNN: What other destinations should travelers consider in 2010?

Greenberg: Keep in mind that with the economy going so crazy right now in Greece, it's affected the euro. The euro has dropped tremendously, which means the dollar is getting a lot bigger, which is great for us. Argentina is a great bargain. Iceland, believe it or not, is a great bargain because their economy collapsed. Go where the dollar is still king. And in the Caribbean, it's still doing great. Why? You go in the off-season, you'll be OK.

CNN: What kind of effect is the Dominican Republic's proximity to the disaster in Haiti having on tourism there?

Greenberg: Well, initially, of course, it had a huge effect because people knowing that Haiti and the Dominican Republic are on the same island figured that if Haiti got nailed, so did the Dominican Republic. Didn't happen that way -- in fact, no damage here at all.

When I flew in here the other day we had half the flight filled with relief workers and ministers and doctors. It's still a huge staging ground for the relief efforts going on in Haiti, but what the good thing about that is, you can actually get involved in it. I'm a big fan of volunteer vacations -- "voluntourism," if you will. And so the Dominican Republic becomes a wonderful opportunity, by accident, for people to combine their vacation and also to help give back.

CNN: Is the travel industry in the Dominican Republic marketing more aggressively to tourists to say, "We are open for business, even if you want to sit on the beach"?

Greenberg: Oh absolutely. Remember, travel is the largest industry in the world. It's responsible for the most number of jobs and in 93 countries -- the Dominican Republic being one of them -- it's singularly responsible for the GDP. So as a result, when you start impacting that, you've got a problem. So yes, law of supply and demand. The economy rules and in situations like this, by accident, it's helping them to promote the area. ... It's important to understand the concept of responsible tourism and people can do both.

CNN: What brought you to Santo Domingo, which this year has been designated the American Capital of Culture?

Greenberg: When you think about this history here -- this is where Christopher Columbus showed up. In fact, he's very much still here. Anywhere you walk you're going to see Christopher Columbus. This is where the Spanish showed up. So it's a city and it's a country of firsts: the first cathedral, the first street ... the first square.

CNN: What's not to be missed in the Dominican Republic?

Greenberg: Well, it's carnival time right now. And let me tell you a little bit about carnival, because when you mention the world carnival in terms of culture, everybody thinks go to Rio [Rio de Janeiro, Brazil]. Well, I've been to Rio and Brazil for carnival, and it's like going to Times Square for New Year's Eve. You want to go once? Be my guest. You want to go twice? You get no sympathy from me.

Bottom line is, you do that once and then you go to the countries that do carnival in a much more elegant and intimate way. Trinidad, for example, does a great job for carnival and so does the Dominican Republic. And it's a way to see it, up close and personal without feeling you're jammed there with 7 million people, because you're not.