The US economy has had a pretty lousy run in the past decade. The 2008 financial crash basically melted it down and, before long, several other countries followed suit.
A by-product of this was the US dollar hitting its lowest point in decades, making it extremely affordable for foreigners, particularly from the Euro-zone. Suddenly, traditionally expensive cities such as New York or L.A were, shall we say, cheap — all thanks to the favorable currency exchange rate.
I was one such traveler. Back then I was still living in Europe, halfway between Madrid and Brussels, and I focused my attention to a little brand that had always eluded me: Apple.
2008 is when I bought my beloved iPod Classic, which I still have to this day. Three years later, when the financial crisis was just about to hit Spain hard, I moved to New York for grad school and purchased my first MacBook and iPhone. My devices came out 20-50% cheaper than they would have been in Europe.
Apple products were star souvenirs to bring home from the US during those years. Whenever family or friends visited me, they would come with a shopping list of iPods, iPhones and iPads for acquaintances back home.
Those days, sadly, are over. The dollar is gaining strength day after day, and the US is getting back to being the mid-to-high range destination it once was.
However, this does not mean that working exchange rates to our benefit is forever gone for travelers. Here are the best countries to head to, depending on which Apple toy is currently on your radar.
Best for iPad: Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia
If there’s one rule to follow in the quest for less-expensive Apple devices, this is it: head to Asia. Countries like Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong constantly top the lists of most affordable products.
For instance, despite Japan being a traditionally costly destination, the yen is currently going through a tough patch, exchanging as low as 118 yen per US$1 (back in the day it used to be 100 yen per dollar).
Japan should be your destination if you are in the market for an iPad Air 2: the 16GB, Wi-Fi only model will be cheapest here, at 53,800 yen (US$453). The iPad mini 4 is also a good option to buy in the Land of Rising Sun, setting you back 42,800 yen, or US$360.
However, if the iPad Pro is what you are after, you should head to Hong Kong, found cheapest for the 32GB Wi-Fi-only version at HKD$6,088 (US$781).
If you happen to be in Malaysia and would be happy with an earlier model, you came to the right place: the iPad mini 2 and iPad Air are cheapest here, costing 1,049 ringgit (US$246) and 1,279 ringgit (US$299) respectively, both for the 16GB Wi-Fi-only version.
Best for MacBook: Singapore
In the world of digital nomads, having your MacBook die on you on the road ranks pretty high on the list of ultimate catastrophes. Whether your precious laptop died of natural causes or because you spilled a margarita on it (happens to the best of us), losing a MacBook is enough to send you on a freak-out trip.
Unless it happens in Singapore. The city-state takes the cake for most affordable MacBooks, both Pro or Air.
A MacBook Pro 13’’ with Retina and 128GB of storage will set you back SGD$1,688 (US$1,181). A MacBook Air 11’’ with the same storage will go for SGD$1,188 (US$831).
For the sake of comparison, these devices would go for US$1,299 and US$899 before tax in their home country.
Best for iPhone: Russia, United Arab Emirates
If you are looking to upgrade your phone, you should stay in Asia, but get a little closer to the European continent.
Russia ranks best for the iPhone 6. The smaller model, with 16GB storage, costs 44,990 rubles (US$575). The Plus version with the same capacity will set you back up to 52,990 rubles (US$677).
The newest version, however, is most affordable in the United Arab Emirates. A 16GB iPhone 6s in Dubai has a price tag of 2,599 dirhams (US$708), with an iPhone 6s Plus up to 2,999 dirhams (US$817).
There is a catch though. Checking out prices on the Apple website, the US looks lower … but that’s without tax. The 16GB iPhone 6s Plus, for instance, is advertised at $749, but the final price could go up to US$822 in the state with the highest tax (Arkansas.) If you’re buying in the States, try to do so in a state with no sales tax!
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Best for Everything: Canada
There’s one country, however, which comes consistently at the bottom of the price rankings: Canada. The relatively weaker dollar and lower tax makes Apple devices more affordable than in the US.
For example, a 16GB iPad Air 2 (Wi-Fi-only) goes for CAD$549 (US$389), 110% cheaper than the US. An iPhone 6 16GB will set you back CAD$769 (US$544), and a MacBook Pro 13’’ with Retina and 128GB of storage will go for CAD$1,549 (US$1,097).
However, keep in mind that tax varies depending on the province, and a device will not have the exact same price tag in Ontario and Quebec. Tax is somewhere between 5 and 15%, with Yukon sporting the lowest tax and Nova Scotia the highest.
For example, an iPad Air 2 would cost CAD$620.37 in Toronto, but CAD$631.21 in Montreal or CAD$614.88 in Vancouver.
Where Not to Go: Latin America
Anywhere south of the US border is a no-go in terms of affordable Apple products. Between plummeting currencies and sky-high inflation, Latin American countries have the unfortunate distinction of sporting the most expensive devices in the planet.
Argentina’s ever-increasing prices have put it on the top of the list of most expensive iPads in the world for a couple of years, whereas Venezuela’s volatile currency means devices could have different costs from one day to the next.
Even the region’s two largest and most stable economies are a bad choice. Brazil was named the country with the most expensive iPhone 6 at the time of launch, at the equivalent of US$1,250. In Mexico, on the other hand, it would be far cheaper to fly to the US and pick up a MacBook than to buy one locally.
While we strive to give you the most up-to-date information, currency exchanges may be different at the time of reading. Head to Apple’s local stores for current prices, and check the exchange rates beforehand.