Foreign Countries that Use the U.S. Dollar
Did you know that there are numerous locations around the world that accept the U.S. dollar as the legal tender? The dollar has become the foundation of economies 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. If you are headed to one of these destinations, you can skip the conversion rates and exchange fees.
Over Twenty Countries and Territories Have Adopted the USD into their Economies
The U.S. dollar serves as the official currency for more than ten countries and is integrated with the economies of over twenty territories and nations on a daily basis. 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.
Nations that Use the U.S. Dollar as an Official Currency:
British Virgin Islands. This island chain a short sail away from the U.S. Virgin Islands, has taken on its neighbor’s currency since 1959.
Ecuador. This South American nation ditched the Sucre in 2000 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.
Turks and Caicos. Another British Overseas Territory to adopt the US$ as it's official currency, Turks and Caicos have followed along with the BVI’s to circulate dollars instead of GBP.
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.
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.
Zimbabwe. US dollars are widely accepted across Africa, but 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 US$. Either way, if you find yourself on safari, you’ll have no problem finding someone to accept your bucks.
Other nations that officially use US$ as currency: East Timor, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau.
Territories of the United States where the USD is the Official Currency of: Puerto Rico, Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Northern Mariana Islands
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.
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 US$ trade at a 1:1 ratio.
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 US$, but smaller and newer notes are preferred. If paying with US cash, only bills will be accepted, and you'll always receive change in Bds$. Leaving you with a wallet full of mixed currencies that can be helpful when it comes to tipping or purchasing smaller items.
Belize. There’s nothing fishy about spending US$ 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 US$, most places will oblige.
Costa Rica. While most Costa Rican’s will graciously accept US$ 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 US$. As with most countries that accept U.S. dollars alongside their own currencies, leave the large bills at home and take along crisp tens and fivers to make purchases easier.
Other nations that widely accept USD alongside local currency: Cambodia, Liberia, Nicaragua, Myanmar, and Somalia.