In case you haven’t heard all about it, the US government has been in partial shutdown since 22 December 2018, after President Trump failed to secure funding for his wall along the US/Mexico border. Long story short, the Democrats did not support the $5 billion US required to build this wall and, in protest, Trump ordered the shutdown in the hope it would sway their opinion.
At an impasse
With neither the Republicans or Democrats willing to back down, there appears to be no end in sight for the partial government shutdown. Now officially the longest in history, US citizens and tourists alike are feeling the effects.
The government shutdown means hundreds of thousands of federal employees across America are not getting paid. Whilst some continue to work for free in the hope they will get back paid, many have called tools down and will not return until it is resolved. The result is widespread for locals and tourists alike.
With this in mind, we have compiled a list of how you, the Kiwi traveller, could be affected if you are travelling to the States soon (or in the long term… we have no idea how long this will last ¯\_(ツ)_/¯).
Air travel and airport security
With airport security staff, air-traffic controllers as well as certain flight attendants and pilots all being affected, there has been a significant strain on air travel in the US.
Whilst air traffic controllers continue to work, pilots and flight attendants have urged President Trump to end the shutdown before it has a major effect on the safety and efficiency of US air travel.
We highly recommend you plan for extra time to get through airport security, with airlines now advising a minimum of 3 hours. Think of the bright side - you can catch up on the latest TV show while you wait (a.k.a make the most of American Netflix!).
A number of national parks are closed; with most being partially open with limited services as rangers, cleaners, admin and other general staff are not getting paid. Without staff at gates, parks are losing up to $400,000 US a day in entry fees.
If the park you’re visiting is open, keep in mind that bathrooms will be closed (or not cleaned - ick), roads will not have been maintained, and rubbish removal has ceased. Rangers and staff may not be available to assist in the case of accident or injury, either. In other words, US national parks are definitely not showing their best side to tourist cameras right now.
To protect the parks, officials are asking people to avoid them unless absolutely necessary until the shutdown is over. Should you still wish to visit one of the United States’ many beautiful national parks, we recommend checking out the relevant website for more information prior to going.
Tourist attractions and monuments
Similar to the national parks, a number of museums and attractions have been shut, or are running on limited hours.
Some attractions, such as the Statue of Liberty remain open as the State of New York covers costs. Other attractions or sites may be open, however, the restrooms, gift shops and museums may be closed.
Once again, check the appropriate website or contact your tour provider prior to attending to see what the go is for your plans.
The shutdown has had some effect on the value of the NZD against the USD. There has been an increased level of uncertainty in foreign exchange markets as they wait to see when the shutdown will end, and to what extent it will have on America and its economy.
The Kiwi dollar was buying 0.6614USD when the shutdown began on December 22nd and is now buying 0.6709. Despite this overall increase, the value of the dollar fluctuated during this period, seeing a low of 0.6547. You can check the current exchange rate on our US currency page.
With this in mind, the NZD/USD exchange rate has also been influenced by other factors like the positive progress in the US/China trade war, so it’s hard to isolate increases/decreases and attribute them purely to the shutdown.
We recommend signing up for rate alerts
and keeping an eye on the news if you plan on purchasing USD soon. It’s also worth adding Rate Guard
to any purchases in store; that way if the rate improves within 14 days of purchase we can refund you the difference*.
Despite the shutdown, the US is a tourist hotspot for Kiwi's seeking supersized meals, live sport, eclectic cultures and everything in between. If you are travelling soon, it’s best to pack a little bit extra patience and remember that you are on holiday (and nothing can ruin that holiday bliss, right?!)
This blog is provided for information only and does not take into consideration your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider whether the information and suggestions contained in any blog entry are appropriate for you, having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs. While we take reasonable care in providing the blog, we give no warranties or representations that it is complete or accurate, or is appropriate for you. We are not liable for any loss caused, whether due to negligence or otherwise, arising from use of, or reliance on, the information and/or suggestions contained in this blog.
All rates are quoted from the Travel Money NZ website, and are valid as of 15 January 2019.