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The best destination dupes less than two hours from Singapore

This travel trend is luring travellers to lesser-known destinations, offering similar vibes to popular tourist spots but without the hefty price tag and crowds

Written by
Michelle Yee

With travel back in full swing, popular tourist spots around the world are getting inundated with crowds, resulting in higher prices for hotels and longer waits at places of interest. But that is likely to change as one of 2024’s biggest travel trends, destination dupes, is inspiring travellers to venture off the beaten path to explore lesser known cities – which tend to quieter and cheaper. Think Koh Samui instead of the Maldives, Krabi instead of Seychelles, Kuantan instead of Istanbul, and the list goes on.

If you’re hoping to take a short vacation but wish to avoid tourist traps, consider one of these destination dupes on our list. They promise to be just as trip-worthy as their popular doppelgangers, but are more wallet-friendly and offer a slew of varied experiences.

RECOMMENDED: The best mountain hikes less than four hours from Singapore and Best kid-friendly weekend getaways for families on a budget

Best destination dupes near Singapore

1. Koh Samui, Thailand instead of Mauritius

If your idea of the perfect beach getaway consists of Mauritius' crystal clear waters and powdery white sand beaches, but at a more approachable price tag and shorter flight time, Koh Samui is the place to be. Thailand’s second largest island is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. There's Chaweng and Lamai located on the east side, which are popular among those who love beach parties and water sports. For those who prefer a peaceful beach experience, there's Bang Po, a stunning beach situated on the west, known for its long stretches of white sand and shallow waters.

Beyond its beaches, Koh Samui also offers an array of activities that will appeal to adventure seekers and culture vultures alike. Notable places to visit include Angthong National Marine Park – this archipelago of 42 islands is a great place to kayak, snorkel and hike; and Big Buddha Temple (Wat Phra Yai), home to a 12-metre tall golden Buddha statue.

Time to get there 2 hour direct flight to Samui International Airport.

2. Krabi, Thailand instead of Seychelles

Situated on Thailand’s south west coast, Krabi, best known for its dramatic limestone cliffs, remote islands, white sandy beaches and exotic wildlife, is a must-visit for travellers seeking a beautiful escape into nature. Unwind at Railay Beach, a secluded peninsula that is famed for its beautiful limestone karsts that rise out of the emerald-green water. Other notable things to do include visiting the Tiger Cave temple (Wat Tham Sua) and a elephant sanctuary, where visitors will get to feed and pat them.

Adventure seekers will also be spoilt for choice, with plenty of exhilarating activities on offer including white water rafting, diving, ATV riding, snorkelling and rock climbing on one of the many stunning cliff faces and caves.

Time to get there 2 hour direct flight to Krabi International Airport.


3. Miri, Malaysia instead of Kentucky, US

Nature lovers and adventure seekers can escape to this lesser-known destination in east Malaysia, where plenty of hidden gems abound. Among them is Gunung Mulu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its dramatic peaks and caves. A must-visit here is the Deer Cave, home to several species of bats. We recommend visiting between 5p, to 7pm, where visitors will be treated to a spectacular sight of a black cloud of free-tailed bats emerging from the entrance of the cave in search of food. Next, check out Lang’s Cave, located just a short distance away. While this cave is the smallest in size in the national park, the stunning rock formations are worth the visit. The well-lit cave is also a great spot to see some of its inhabitants including bats, swiftlets and even cave-dwelling snakes.

For those who wish to see more of Mulu’s vast cave system, book an adventure caving experience – most caving expeditions are full day trips and some involve  an overnight stay at a jungle camp. For families with young kids, we recommend venturing into Lagang Cave to explore an ancient river passage, chock-full of stalactites and stalagmites.

Time to get there 2 hour direct flight to Miri International Airport.

4. Sibu, Malaysia instead of Abruzzo, Italy

Foodies and culture buffs will have plenty to see and experience in this charming waterfront town situated in Sarawak, east Malaysia. One of the highlights of the trip is seeing locals hand-pull mee sua, also known as long life noodles. Most mee sua we buy these days are made in factories but in Sibu, where a large population of Fuzhou people reside, they are keeping the tradition alive by making them from scratch in their backyards. See how the dough is kneaded, rolled into ropes by hand and wound around dowels. Then watch the noodles get stretched and hung on racks and left out to dry in the sun. You'll be surprised by the amount of labour, skill and love that goes into making these noodles –and you'll find that they taste mighty different from those made in the factory. Make sure to try one of Sibu’s signature dishes before you leave – red wine mee sua, made with red glutinous rice wine, sesame oil, chicken and ginger.

Time to get there 1 hour 40 minute direct flight to Sibu International Airport.


5. Hat Yai, Thailand instead of Plitvice, Croatia

Touted as one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Thailand, the seven-tier Ton Nga Chang waterfall in Hat Yai is a magnificent sight to behold. The first tier is a great spot to lounge and relax under the banyan trees, while the second tier, which is situated a short 15-minute walk up the trail, offers a better view of water cascading over a vasty rocky slope. Many claim that the most beautiful and popular spot is the third tier, named Ton Nga Chang. The stream here falls from a 20-metre cliff and separates into two, looking much like a pair of elephant tusks. For those who wish to see more, trek up to the upper tiers – the seventh tier is the highest at 1,550 metres, but is well worth the effort and time. 

Time to get there 1 hour 35 minute direct flight to Hat Yai International Airport.

6. Kuantan, Malaysia instead of Istanbul, Turkey

Culture and history enthusiasts looking for an immersive and awe-inspiring getaway should consider visiting Kuantan, located in Pahang, Malaysia. The iconic Sultan Ahmad Shah State Mosque is a must-visit, featuring stunning blue domes, intricate carvings and beautiful arches that reflect the traditional Islamic style of design. Visitors can explore the grounds and witness locals going about their daily prayers and rituals, but do take note to dress appropriately.

Beyond the blue domes and towering spires of the mosque, there is plenty to see and experience in Kuantan, including the sandy beaches of Teluk Cempedak and the cascading waters of Sungai Pandan Waterfall.

Time to get there 1 hour 5 minute direct flight to Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Airport. 

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