10 Best Destination Dupes for Digital Nomads
Have you heard of the term “destination dupe”? One of the hottest buzzwords in travel currently, the dupe trend has become a huge hit on TikTok. But what exactly is a “destination dupe”?
For the uninitiated, “dupe” stands for “duplicate,” and the idea is to provide an alternative travel option for a specific city. Essentially, this trend assumes that instead of going to city A, you can have a similar experience in city B with fewer crowds and a lower budget. While no two places are the same, two different locations can provide similar attractions like beaches, a growing tech scene, or abundant cultural amenities.
In this article, we’ll present ten different “destination dupes” and explain why the alternative travel option could be a better choice for digital nomads.
10 Best Destination Dupes
1. Instead of Bali, Indonesia, try Da Nang, Vietnam
It’s undeniable that Bali is a more popular destination compared to Da Nang. The lure of the place is even captured in the novel and movie Eat Pray Love, where a woman travels to Bali to find some sort of spiritual peace. Although that image of Bali as a holy, pristine place is still alive and well today, the throngs of tourists may obstruct your view of the most important sites.
If you want a similar experience to Bali that’s a bit more off the beaten path, try Da Nang. Da Nang is a seaside town with a vibrant cultural history, providing all of the beachside relaxation and cultural exploration that Bali is known for. In addition, its growing digital nomad community means you’ll be able to strike a balance between feeling at home and integrating with the local community.
2. Instead of Lisbon, Portugal, try Tbilisi, Georgia
The Portuguese capital has become a digital nomad hub of sorts in recent years. Sometimes compared to San Francisco with its mountainous urban landscape and iconic cable car system, Lisbon’s charms have attracted many remote workers to sojourn in the city.
Lisbon has recently suffered from the consequences of its own success, however: with a housing crisis that led the government to discontinue its Golden Visa program, digital nomads are looking for a similar alternative.
Tbilisi, Georgia might just be the cure. Tbilisi is rich in quaintly beautiful architecture and authentic cultural experiences while being easy on the wallet. With its digital nomad community growing, Tbilisi should be high on any digital nomad’s list.
3. Instead of Berlin, Germany, try Krakow, Poland
Berlin is famous (some might say infamous) for its eclectic cultural scene and nightlife. Formerly the city split in half by the Berlin Wall, it’s now turned into a playground for techno lovers and indie artists.
Krakow, Poland offers a similarly lively cultural scene that rivals that of Berlin. With attractions like the world-class Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow and the Wawel Cathedral, Krakow offers a wide variety of cultural amenities to take advantage of as a digital nomad. If you like Berlin but want something a little more unique, Krakow could be for you.
4. Instead of Chiang Mai, Thailand, try Medellín, Colombia
Thailand is a common choice for both tourists and digital nomads alike, and it’s not hard to see why: Thailand is where exquisite temples meet modern shopping malls and delicious street food. Chiang Mai in particular is a thriving digital nomad hub, with a wide selection of cafés and leisure spots to meet digital workers’ needs.
If you want a similar experience but would rather brush up on your Spanish, Medellín might be the place for you. It boasts a low cost of living and a sizable community of digital nomads who are attracted by the pleasant climate in the “City of Eternal Spring.”
5. Instead of Barcelona, Spain, try Valencia, Spain
Barcelona is an iconic city filled with awe-inspiring sights, including the in-progress Sagrada Família, the whimsical Park Güell and much more. It seems that everywhere you turn in the city, you happen upon another Gaudí masterpiece blended seamlessly into the urban environment around it.
Though the Catalonian capital has a lot going for it, it’s also quite an expensive city. For digital nomads who are drawn to Spain but aren’t set on a specific place, Valencia could be a great choice. Also situated along the Mediterranean coast, Valencia offers a similar beach feel with less hustle and bustle and a lower cost of living. As a plus, Valencia is also considered the birthplace of paella, arguably Spain’s most famous dish.
6. Instead of Austin, Texas, try Guadalajara, Mexico
Austin has been one of the fastest-growing cities in the US for several years now. As many tech workers have moved out of California, many of them landed in Texas and specifically Austin. Nowadays, Austin is a city with a solid tech scene that attracts people due to its abundant recreation opportunities, vibrant music scene, and pure weirdness.
That being said, Austin is now experiencing some growing pains, among them a highly rising cost of living and congested roadways. If you want the tech scene and cultural diversity of Austin without some of its drawbacks, Guadalajara, Mexico is a great option. In Guadalajara, you can enjoy cultural amenities like the Guadalajara International Film Festival and the Guadalajara International Book Fair, one of the largest book exhibitions in the world, at an affordable cost of living.
7. Instead of Tokyo, Japan, try Taipei, Taiwan
Tokyo has long attracted visitors from abroad due to its captivating mixture of traditional and modern. The city impresses visitors with its world-class public transportation system, impeccably clean streets, and delicious street food.
Tokyo is an expensive city, though, and also a crowded one, especially with the rise in tourism in Japan prompted by a weak yen. For those looking for a mix of modern and traditional in an urban setting, Taipei is a great alternative travel option. Its public transportation network rivals that of the larger Tokyo, and its street food options are cheaper and more diverse. All in all, digital nomads can have a similar experience in Taipei for a much lower cost of living.
8. Instead of Dubai, UAE, try Baku, Azerbaijan
Dubai is a city of opulence situated in the middle of the desert. Its Burj Khalifa currently holds the title of tallest building in the world, a representation of Dubai’s ambition and drive. That spirit has certainly been attractive to foreign residents, with a whopping 83% of Dubai’s population born overseas. If you are fascinated by the idea of Dubai but want to try something a bit more authentic, Baku, Azerbaijan may just be the right place for you, especially if you’re an architecture buff.
At the crossroads of East and West, Azerbaijan is a patchwork of the different cultural forces that have passed through the so-called City of Winds. In addition to ancient constructions like the Maiden’s Tower, a mish-mash of modern building styles are waiting to be discovered. Azerbaijan’s second oil boom in 2006 led to a sudden architectural boom that has gifted Baku with a wide variety of architectural wonders, ranging from the Art Nouveau Nizami Museum of Azerbaijani Literature to the Stalinist Government House.
9. Instead of Silicon Valley, USA, try Bangalore, India
Silicon Valley has long been Northern California’s success story. The region is home to a synergy of top-notch educational institutions, motivated professionals and venture capital matched nowhere else in the world. For those who want to join a startup, the Bay Area is one of the best places in the world.
That doesn’t mean that it’s the only place, however. There are plenty of other places that offer great infrastructure for startups while beating the Bay Area on items like cost of living. One of those places is Bangalore, India. Bangalore is India’s tech hub, a place with a high concentration of educated professionals looking to start new businesses. Its cost of living is much lower than that of the Bay Area while still offering a wealth of opportunities, making it a great choice for a digital nomad.
10. Instead of Sydney, Australia, try Wellington, New Zealand
Besides its iconic landmarks such as Bondi Beach and the Harbour Bridge, Sydney is known for its strong coffee culture. Sydney certainly has a lot of positives to attract visitors, but as with many of the locations on this list, many visitors can also mean high prices and large crowds.
For an antipodal city with a similar waterfront vibe and a more relaxed pace of life, why not check out Wellington, the capital of New Zealand? With around half a million residents in the greater Wellington area, the city is large enough to support a wide range of activities and attractions without being overwhelming. Its restaurant and café game also punches way above its weight. For digital nomads searching for a relaxed lifestyle down under, Wellington is a great “dupe” to Sydney.
All in all, no one destination can ever truly compare to another. Each place is unique, shaped by its distinct geography, culture, and history. However, as a digital nomad, it’s always worth the effort to consider new destinations that may be less well known but offer similar advantages. For that reason, “dupes” serve their purpose.
Matthew is a freelance content writer whose work has previously appeared in well-known language-learning blog Fluent in 3 Months and The Happy Self-Publisher. His creative work has also appeared in Otoliths, CafeLit, and the Eunoia Review. He is currently based in Taipei, Taiwan, where he is studying for a master's degree in Chinese Literature.