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7 Underrated Destination Dupes for Youths—Save Money and Avoid Crowds

destination-dupes-youths-save-money
destination-dupes-youths-save-money

Travel addicts and wanderlusting young ‘uns, listen up. If you’ve ever dreamed of visiting a world-renowned travel spot but baulked at the price tag, you’re not alone. We’ve all been there, fresh out of university with a tuition loan on our banks, an embarrassingly skinny bank account to our names, and a Pinterest board of bucket list travel destinations to ogle at.

The good news is, you don’t need your parents’ sponsorship for you to experience breathtaking landscapes, rich cultures, and unforgettable adventures. According to Skyscanner’s First Trip with Skyscanner report, 66% of Gen Zs said they funded their first trip with their personal savings, and 54% said they used income from job(s).

No, these youths weren’t all rolling in dough. There’s a secret travel hack that’s been trending. We’ve heard of makeup dupes, Lululemon dupes, and luxury watch dupes, but now there are…destination dupes

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Destination dupes offer budget-friendly alternatives to popular travel destinations, giving you similar experiences for a fraction of the cost. Whether it’s a charming European village, a tropical paradise, or a bustling urban centre, there are hidden gems around the world that mirror the allure of their pricier counterparts.

I spoke to 2 ladies who know a thing or two about holiday trends and budget travel—Cyndi Hui, Travel Trends and Destination Expert at Skyscanner, and Joey Lim, Co-Founder of Sav Finance. They revealed their best 7 destination dupe picks and other top travel tips that everyone should know.

 

7 Best Destination Dupes for Youths to Save Money

  1. What are destination dupes?

  2. How much can you save with destination dupes?

  3. Destination dupe for Hawaii’s cool beach vibes

  4. Destination dupe for Bali’s tropical beach vibes

  5. Destination dupe for London’s artsy city vibes

  6. Destination dupe for the “floating city” of Venice

  7. Destination dupe for Seoul’s food and shopping

  8. Best destination dupes for work and study

  9. Should I go for a destination dupe or the “real” thing?

  10. If I’ve already been to the original, should I visit the dupe?

 

1. What are destination dupes?

If I tell you that I’m travelling to see cherry blossoms, I bet you’ll immediately think I’m going to Japan. But what if I told you I was viewing these pretty pink blossoms in Busan, South Korea or Chiayi, Taiwan? And for a fraction of the price with a fraction of the crowds?

That’s an example of a destination dupe that Cyndi gave to me. As she explains, destination dupes give off the same “vibe” as a popular destination, but could be less crowded and more pocket-friendly. 

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2. How much can you save with destination dupes?

Joey tells me that you can save up to 50% of your travel costs by choosing a dupe over its more popular counterpart.

“For example, I travelled to Jeju for a week which cost around $1,750. A similar trip to Hawaii wouldʼve cost at least double the price, or more,” she explains.

I didn’t ask for a breakdown of her travel costs on that trip, but looking at the disparity in flight prices is already quite telling. For a week-long trip from 1 – 7 Jun 2024, the cheapest return flight from Singapore to Jeju would cost me $465 at the time of writing.

singapore-to-jeju-flights-skyscanner
Search results for a return flight from Singapore to Jeju on Skyscanner

A trip of the same length to Hawaii would cost me a $1,234 return flight ticket—over 2.5 times as much as the Jeju flight.

singapore-to-hawaii-flights-skyscanner
Search results for a return flight from Singapore to Hawaii on Skyscanner

If you weren’t convinced destination dupes are worth checking out for the lower footfall, I’m sure I have your attention now with the huge price difference you could enjoy. Let’s check out 7 lesser known destination dupes Cyndi and Joey recommend.

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ALSO READBest Hotel Rewards and Loyalty Programmes That Work Around the World in 2024


3. Destination dupe for Hawaii’s cool beach vibes

First and foremost, let’s talk about the dupe Joey mentioned earlier: Swap Hawaii for Jeju Island. Jeju is simultaneously South Korea’s largest island and smallest province, although it’s still about 2.5 as big as Singapore.

Like Hawaii, Jeju also has volcanic origins—the island was formed about 2 million years ago from volcanic eruptions. Jeju’s main volcano last erupted some 5,000 years ago, which puts it into the classification of an active volcano. Attractions on Jeju include the Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Mount Halla, South Korea’s tallest peak.

Jeju and Hawaii are both great options to enjoy “air-con weather” by the beach. Temperatures on Jeju vary more, but generally don’t drop below freezing nor rise above 30 °C. In Hawaii, temperatures typically hover between 16 °C and 32 °C.

Hawaii

Jeju Island

Flight (lowest rate)

$1,234 via ANA

$465 via Juneyao Airlines and Scoot

Accommodation (4-star hotel)

$3,138 ($523/night) at Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa

$1,728 ($288/night) at Grand Hyatt Jeju

Dining: Cost of a Big Mac

US$5.69 (S$7.68)

5,500 won (S$5.44)

Flight and hotel prices reflect search results from Skyscanner for a solo trip from 1 – 7 Jun 2024 and are accurate at time of writing. The costs of a Big Mac is drawn from The Economists’ Big Mac Index.

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4. Destination dupe for Bali’s tropical beach vibes

For many Singaporeans, a holiday in Indonesia is almost synonymous with vacationing in Bali. It’s a short journey there, affordable, and relaxing. The only con is that Bali has become a tourist hotspot, and dense crowds don’t make for an optimal experience by a beachside resort.

Instead of joining the masses at Bali, Cyndi and Joey suggest you head east for Lombok, part of Indonesia’s Lesser Sunda Island chain, or Koh Lanta in Thailand’s Krabi Province. Both are known for being uncrowded and offer a real sense of escapism from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Lombok in particular is the closest dupe for Bali because they are neighbouring islands. Cyndi recommends it for travellers who want a quieter and more relaxed vacation with picturesque views: “It boasts beautiful beaches with crystal clear waters like Kuta Beach or Tanjung Aan Beach. You can also visit the majestic Mount Rinjani, the second-highest volcano in Indonesia (forget Mount Batur!).”

Here’s a drone photo of Tanjung Aan Beach—it’s breathtakingly beautiful.

 

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A post shared by Christian Als (@christianals)

Between Lombok and Koh Lanta, the latter is the more affordable option. Prices for Bali and Lombok come up to similar figures, but Lombok is more value for money if you want a more relaxing, peaceful atmosphere that isn’t overcrowded with tourists.

Bali

Lombok

Koh Lanta

Flight (lowest rate)

$278 via AirAsia

$454 via Citilink

$180 to Krabi via Scoot and Jetstar

Accommodation (4-star hotel)

$834 ($139/night) at Holiday Inn Bali Sanur

$492 ($82/night) at Holiday Resort Lombok

$558 ($93/night) at Holiday Inn Resort Krabi Ao Nang Beach

Dining: Cost of a Big Mac

38,000 rupiah (S$3.20)

38,000 rupiah (S$3.20)

135 baht (S$4.99)

Flight and hotel prices reflect search results from Skyscanner for a solo trip from 1 – 7 Jun 2024 and are accurate at time of writing. The costs of a Big Mac is drawn from The Economists’ Big Mac Index.

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5. Destination dupe for London’s artsy city vibes

If you love contemporary art, Cyndi suggests you swap London, England, for Belfast, Ireland.

“Both cities offer vibrant art scenes—Belfast’s Metropolitan Arts Centre can rival London’s Tate Modern for contemporary art enthusiasts, with exhibitions and performances,” Cyndi tells me. “Both also have historic, bustling markets that offer fresh produce and local crafts.”

The area Belfast edges out London in? Cost. According to Cyndi, it’s generally cheaper than London for accommodation, dining and attractions.

London, England

Belfast, Ireland

Flight (lowest rate)

$1,092 via China Eastern

$1,459 via British Airways

Accommodation (4-star hotel)

$3,162 ($527/night) at Hilton London Metropole

$2,436 ($406/night) at Hilton Belfast

Dining: Cost of a Big Mac

£4.49 (S$7.71)

€5.39 (S$7.89)

Flight and hotel prices reflect search results from Skyscanner for a solo trip from 1 – 7 Jun 2024 and are accurate at time of writing. The costs of a Big Mac is drawn from The Economists’ Big Mac Index.

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6. Destination dupe for the “floating city” of Venice

Whenever people think about a city whose streets criss-cross with quaint water canals, they think of Venice. But Joey suggests a more affordable alternative as a destination dupe: Hội An.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hội An is a charming ancient town in Vietnam. It offers rich history, vibrant culture, and stunning architecture in the form of its well-preserved Ancient Town with narrow, lantern-lit streets, traditional wooden houses, and beautiful canals.

Visitors can enjoy boat rides on the Thu Bon River, explore colourful markets, and savour delicious Vietnamese cuisine. Unlike Venice with its Byzantine, Islamic and Gothic architecture, Hội An presents a unique blend of Chinese, Japanese, and French influences for a visually and culturally enriching experience without the high costs of Venice.

Venice, Italy

Hội An, Vietnam

Flight (lowest rate)

$1,108 via Air India, Ryanair, Volotea and Scoot

$266 via AirAsia

Accommodation (4-star hotel)

$3,222 ($537/night) at Hotel Indigo Venice – Sant’Elena, an IHG Hotel

$408 ($68/night) at Wyndham Garden Hoi An Cua Dai

Dining: Cost of a Big Mac

€5.39 (S$7.89)

74,000 dong (S$3.93)

Flight and hotel prices reflect search results from Skyscanner for a solo trip from 1 – 7 Jun 2024 and are accurate at time of writing. The costs of a Big Mac is drawn from The Economists’ Big Mac Index

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7. Destination dupe for Seoul’s food and shopping

Seoul is a foodie and shopping haven, and everyone knows it. Escape the crowds and lower your costs by swapping out South Korea’s largest city for its second-largest—Busan.

“Known as the “second city” of South Korea, Busan offers a vibrant food scene with fresh seafood and street food stalls,” Cyndi says. “It also has plenty of shopping options including traditional markets and modern malls.”

Attractions in Busan include the colourful Gamcheon Culture Village, the bustling Jagalchi Fish Market, and the serene Beomeosa Temple. Busan also boasts stunning coastal scenery as a backdrop to its vibrant culture. Known for its beautiful beaches like Haeundae and Gwangalli, Busan is perfect for those seeking a seaside escape.

“As a city by the beach, it offers a more relaxing experience compared to the bustling city of Seoul, but still offers a similar vibe with its night markets and affordable shopping options!” Cyndi tells me.

Seoul

Busan

Flight (lowest rate)

$331 via AirAsia and AirAsiaX

$446 via Vietnam Airlines and China Eastern

Accommodation (4-star hotel)

$804 ($134/night) at Ramada by Wyndham Seoul Dongdaemun

$630 ($105/night) at Ramada Encore by Wyndham Busan Station

Dining: Cost of a Big Mac

5,500 won (S$5.44)

5,500 won (S$5.44)

Flight and hotel prices reflect search results from Skyscanner for a solo trip from 1 – 7 Jun 2024 and are accurate at time of writing. The costs of a Big Mac is drawn from The Economists’ Big Mac Index

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8. Best destination dupes for work and study

I was surprised to learn that a lot of people aren’t just travelling to have a fun vacay away from Singapore. Youths these days are thinking ahead—65% of the respondents of Skyscanner’s First Trip with Skyscanner survey named assessing cities for their suitability to live or work in in the future as a key motivation for travel.

The good news is, Cyndi also has destination dupes to recommend for work and study.

Destination dupes for the bustling start-up scene

Silicon Valley in California is a hotspot for those in tech who crave the energy and innovation of a major tech hub. However, living and working there doesn’t come cheap. Instead of Silicon Valley,  consider alternatives like Austin, Texas.

“Austin boasts a thriving tech industry with a lower cost of living than the Valley. Plus, there’s a strong music scene and a ton of outdoor activities to enjoy.” Cyndi explains.

Home to major tech companies like Dell, IBM, and Apple, Texas sees high tech making up almost 5% of state GDP and more than 9% of employment. Austin in particular has drawn both big tech companies and top tech talent, earning the title of possibly being “the new Silicon Valley”.

Silicon Valley, California

Austin, Texas

Flight (lowest rate)

$2,264 via Scoot, Zipair, Alaska Airlines, and Air Canada

$1,972 via AirAsia, Saudia, Spirit Airlines, Norse Atlantic Airways, and Scoot

Accommodation (4-star hotel)

$2,412 ($402/night) at Hyatt Centric Santa Clara Silicon Valley

$1,938 ($323/night) at Hyatt Centric Congress Avenue Austin

Dining: Cost of a Big Mac

US$5.69 (S$7.68)

US$5.69 (S$7.68)

Flight and hotel prices reflect search results from Skyscanner for a solo trip from 1 – 7 Jun 2024 and are accurate at time of writing. The costs of a Big Mac is drawn from The Economists’ Big Mac Index

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Destination dupes for the global city experience

When it comes to working or studying abroad, not all of us are looking for bustling scenes in specific areas. Some of us might just be looking for a work-friendly environment that exposes us to new people, cultures and career opportunities. European capitals like London, Berlin and Amsterdam might come to mind, but Cyndi recommends a destination dupe: Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon is “a cosmopolitan atmosphere with a mix of cultures and career opportunities”, as described by Cyndi. “[It] offers a beautiful setting, a growing tech scene, and a relatively affordable cost of living compared to other European capitals,.”

There’s no doubt that Lisbon, with its charming old neighbourhoods and red-roofed houses, is a a beautiful sight. What surprised me was the vitality of its startup ecosystem—it was worth €21 billion in 2022, up 26 times since 2016. The bulk of the increase (90%) is due to companies relocating to the capital, testament to its business-friendly environment.

Our writer Adeline, a veteran digital nomad, also picked Lisbon as one of top picks for remote work. Read her article: The Best Cities for Remote Work, According to a Digital Nomad.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Lisbon, Portugal

Flight (lowest rate)

$1,231 via AirAsia and China Southern

$1,110 via AirAsia, China Eastern, easyJet, Volotea, Wizz Air, Malta, Scoot

Accommodation (4-star hotel)

$1,866 ($311/night) at Novotel Amsterdam City

$1,054 ($176/night) at Novotel Lisboa

Dining: Cost of a Big Mac

€5.39 (S$7.89)

€5.39 (S$7.89)

Flight and hotel prices reflect search results from Skyscanner for a solo trip from 1 – 7 Jun 2024 and are accurate at time of writing. The costs of a Big Mac is drawn from The Economists’ Big Mac Index

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9. Should I go for a destination dupe or the “real” thing?

If you’ve ever bought a makeup dupe only to feel disappointed by it, you might be wondering if the same applies for destination dupes—should you just go for the original?

To answer this question, you must ask yourself another question: What is the important feature that draws you to the “real deal”?

“If the cultural or historical significance of a place is a big draw for you, then a “dupe” might not quite capture the essence of what you are travelling for,” Cyndi explains. “On the other hand, if it’s a certain vibe you’re going for (a lively night market or shopping) or an activity (such as skiing), then it could be easier for you to pick a destination dupe instead of your original destination.”

For example, if you want to visit Myeongdong, Seoul for its mouth-watering street food scene, Busan also has plenty of street food but is less crowded. Or perhaps you want to ski in the Swiss Alps, which might cost you an arm and a leg in peak season. Consider visiting France or Japan instead for a more affordable alternative.

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10. If I’ve already been to the original, should I visit the dupe?

Destination dupes are known for being more affordable or less crowded alternatives to their more popular counterparts, which might position them as the budget or second-choice option, especially for young travellers with tight budgets.

But Joey thinks destination dupes deserve more credit.

“As an experienced traveller myself, I am still attracted to the idea of destination dupes and would recommend it to seasoned travellers,” she says. “The thing is that we often travel to a place for its hype and the reality often falls short due to overpricing, overcrowding etc. Thatʼs something that Iʼve experienced more than once after saving up for months for a supposed “iconicˮ trip.”

Sounds familiar? If youʼve been in the same position before, Joey recommends you try visiting a destination dupe. They may be more worth your money—stretch your dollar by spending longer and diving deeper into a city to get a more authentic experience.

 

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A post shared by Layla Loutfi (@laylaloutfi)

Most importantly, it’s unwise to think about dupes as cheaper versions of the originals.

“The dupe will not be an exact replica (and you wouldn’t want it to be, either!) but that does not mean it is less attractive,” Cyndi points out. “These destinations can also introduce you to new and exciting places that you might not have otherwise considered.”

Instead of setting unrealistic and unproductive expectations, go in with an open mind. “You may get the best of both worlds or even more. For example, whenever I travel to Vietnam, I try a mix of Vietnamese food and French food. Iʼve had some pretty amazing French food there,” Joey recounts.

Do your homework, research online, and give every place you visit a fair chance to wow you. At the end of the day, destination dupes aren’t simply copycat travel sites. Each has its unique charm, and you’ll get the most out of your trip by being open-minded enough to discover it.

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About the author

Vanessa Nah is a personal finance content writer who pens articles on the ins and outs of personal loans, the T&Cs of credit cards, and the ups and downs of alternative investments. She’s a researcher at heart and leaves no stone unturned when it comes to breaking down complex finance concepts and making them easy to understand for the everyday Singaporean. When Vanessa’s not debunking finance myths, you’ll find her attending dance classes, fingerpicking a guitar, or (most impawtently) fulfilling her life mission to make her one-eyed cat the most spoiled and loved kitty in the world.


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