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Asia travel

Five affordable last-minute ‘golden week’ escapes from Hong Kong – where to go to avoid the crowds

Still haven’t planned your October break? Here’s where to go, what to see and how to bag the best bargains

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 September, 2017, 5:02pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 September, 2017, 8:37pm

As an estimated six million Chinese get ready to go abroad for the National Day “golden week” holiday, we have found the best spots to get away from the crowds without breaking the bank.

If you’re among those who have left holiday arrangements to the last minute, fear not, because experts say late planners are still likely to score a good deal, provided they are flexible about their travel destination.

“[Manila in the Philippines and Busan in South Korea] are some of the most affordable destinations that are not overbooked yet during golden week,” says a Skyscanner spokeswoman.

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She says that travellers must remember to check the visa and entry applications for each country and to look out for any additional charges that may be slapped on, such as for check-in baggage and seat reservations on budget airlines.

With that in mind, here are a handful of great “golden week” getaway destinations:

1. Manila, Philippines

With peak season in the Philippines starting in November, the tourist hordes have not yet landed, meaning visitors at the start of October can still make the most of low-season prices and enjoy the capital’s peak-season tourist hotspots in relative peace, such as Fort Santiago and its oasis of manicured gardens.

2. Busan, South Korea

South Korea’s second largest city, Busan, is another destination offering attractive deals during this period. And, with Beijing’s suspension on package tours to South Korea in March still in place, rock bottom prices are predicted in a bid to lure individual Chinese travellers, who can still visit South Korea’s shores.

Boasting beaches, mountain landscapes, hot springs and nature reserves, Busan is more laid back than the teeming capital, Seoul. Haeundae Beach tends to get busy thanks to the popular Sea Life Aquarium, but an alternative is Gwangalli Beach with its smattering of bars.

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3. Da Nang, Vietnam

Vietnam’s coastal resort of Da Nang is rising in popularity thanks to a growing number of hotels and activities. According to TripAdvisor, hotels in the central Vietnam city are 15 per cent less expensive in October than September, with the average nightly stay sitting at HK$1,400 (US$180). (All averaged hotel figures used are based off accommodation that has received a four-star rating or above on the travel website.)

While the city is garnering increased interest – with 25 per cent more travellers from Hong Kong showing interest in Da Nang this year compared with last year on TripAdvisor – it remains the perfect destination for those seeking a quiet beach getaway. Home to a wide range of eateries, Da Nang is also within easy reach of the Marble Mountains, a cluster of five marble and limestone hills that contain a network of caves and Buddhist grottoes.

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4. Dubrovnik, Croatia

For those seeking an adventure further afield, then Dubrovnik in Croatia comes highly recommended. With the mass of European crowds that flock to the southern city during the summer dwindling, October not only presents a calmer city, but also cooling temperatures. TripAdvisor notes there is a drop of 42 per cent in hotel prices in October – with an average night costing HK$1,740.

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The travel website has observed a 26 per cent year on year increase in search interest for Dubrovnik, which it attributes to the popularity of smash hit HBO TV series Game of Thrones, which was partially filmed there. Fans of the series can step into the shoes of the characters and discover some of the sites where scenes were shot with Viator’s Game of Thrones Walking Tour of Dubrovnik. This takes in the real-life attractions used for the show’s fictional locations, including Lovrijenac Fortress, Blackwater Bay and a trip to Trsteno Arboretum.

5. Athens, Greece

Hotel prices in the Greek capital are down 24 per cent this October compared to September, with the average night costing HK$1,460. The masses that flock to the city during the summer months will have waned and temperatures cooled, making it the prime time to visit the many pillars of Western history, from the Acropolis to the Temple of Olympian Zeus, as well as treasures in the National Archaeological Museum.

With so many great spots to choose from, the only issue now is settling on a destination.