There's a town called Bali in Cameroon?

Booking a tour to a place other than your intended destination is rare, but has happened before

Booking your flight for a trip? Stay alert, for a moment's distraction could mean ending up on the other side of the world from your intended destination.

Recent news of an 18-year-old Dutch student mistakenly going to Sydney, Canada, instead of Sydney, Australia, sent the Internet into a tizzy, making him the laughing stock of the day.

Others have made similar bungles, which experts say are not covered by travel insurance.

An Italian couple reportedly made the same mistake and arrived in the wrong Sydney in 2010 due to a booking mix-up by their travel agent. So did a young British couple in 2002, reported the BBC. Both couples, it seems, made the best of the situation and tried the local lobster.

In 2014, an American dentist expected to arrive in Granada in Spain, famous for its Moorish palaces, but was dismayed to find himself in Grenada in the Caribbean instead - an island country known for its nutmeg plantations.

 

Other destinations with counterparts are Singapore, a ghost town in the United States, and Florence, a community in Nova Scotia, Canada.

But incidents of mistaken destinations are rare.

A Singapore Airlines spokesman tells The Sunday Times: "We are not aware of similar destination-related errors having been made by our customers in recent memory."

The blunders are unlikely to be covered by travel insurance.

Mr Derek Teo, chief executive of the General Insurance Association of Singapore, says: "Purchasing the wrong airline ticket has nothing to do with travel insurance. How would an insurer know that the insured had purchased a wrong ticket?"

AIG Singapore's vice-president and head of group personal insurance Ignatius Chng also says travel insurance generally does not cover losses incurred by a policyholder due to booking a flight by error.

Ngee Ann Polytechnic's senior tourism lecturer Michael Chiam, 56, says that when travellers realise they have booked the wrong destination, they should contact the airline. However, whether anything can be done depends on the goodwill of the airline and the type of tickets booked.

He also advises travellers buying flight tickets to check the city and country carefully before confirming their bookings as "such incidents happen largely due to travellers' ignorance or carelessness".

And if, after all that, you still find yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere, make the best of it.

Order the local cuisine, look at the native birds and tour a nutmeg plantation. After all, travel is about new experiences and this certainly qualifies.

Washington: Washington, D.C. vs Washington state


US Capitol. PHOTO: AFP

If you aim to visit the capital of the United States and national landmarks such as the White House, Lincoln Memorial and Smithsonian museums, make sure there is a D.C. - which stands for District of Columbia - at the end of your destination's name.

Otherwise, you might find yourself on the other side of the country, in the state of Washington.


Seattle Space Needle. PHOTO: REUTERS

Here, the largest city is Seattle, which is a tourist destination in its own right, famous for its Space Needle - an observation tower that is also the city's landmark - coffee and for being the birthplace of grunge music.
 

The state is also home to nature areas such as the Mt. Baker- Snoqualmie National Forest, one of the most-visited forests in the country with glacier-covered peaks, spectacular mountain meadows and primeval forests.

Sydney: Australia vs Canada


Sydney Opera House. PHOTO: REUTERS

If you plan on travelling to sunny Sydney, Australia, to see its impressive opera house and famous harbour bridge, you may be disappointed if you end up in Sydney in Nova Scotia, Canada.

The northern version is a former mining town with reportedly one of the highest unemployment rates in Canada.

The main industries there now are said to be in customer support call centres and tourism.


World’s largest fiddle in Canada. PHOTO: CAPE BRETON ISLAND/FACEBOOK

The Canadian location claims to be the home of the world's largest fiddle, which stands at about 18m tall at the area's port.

The town, where temperatures dip to minus 4 deg C in winter, is also near attractions such as the Fortress of Louisbourg, which is a reconstructed 18th-century French fortified town; and the Cape Breton Miners' Museum, which pays tribute to the contribution of the region's coal miners and coal-mining industry.

Still, it is a far cry from basking in the sand and taking selfies with koalas and kangaroos Down Under.


London: Britain vs Canada


Thames River. PHOTO: THAMES RIVER RALLY/FACEBOOK


Trying to take advantage of the weak pound? Buckingham Palace and the London Eye look tempting now, but you will not find them if you end up in London, a city in Canada, in the province of Ontario.
 

Be especially careful because the maple-leaf version has several parallels to the well-known British capital.

It has a St Peter's Cathedral Basilica, a parish church for the community, which should not be confused with St Paul's Cathedral in Britain, where the wedding of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana was held.


Tower Bridge. PHOTO: AFP

Its rustic-looking Thames River, good for catching fish such as bass and pike, should also not be mistaken for the River Thames in England, which has the iconic Tower Bridge and is a big tourist draw.

And while Canada's London features the London Fringe Theatre Festival, do not expect this to be the same as Britain's London International Festival of Theatre, noted for spectacular performances and for pioneering new forms of theatre. Canada's festival focuses on the promotion and prosperity of independent artists.


Newcastle: Britain vs Australia


St James’ Park. PHOTO: NEWCASTLE UNITED/FACEBOOK

Football fans might be drawn to Newcastle hoping to see the famous Newcastle United football club play on home turf at St James' Park, among the largest football stadiums in Britain.

The club has a strong, loyal group of supporters in Singapore.

But be sure to arrive at Newcastle upon Tyne in Britain and not at Newcastle in the Australian state of New South Wales.

There are football clubs Down Under, of course, but they play at a different level compared with the famous British football club.

However, the Australian city is famous for something else - coal. It is home to the world's biggest coal export port.


Newcastle, Australia. PHOTO: NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA/FACEBOOK

There are many beautiful beaches in Newcastle, Australia. It is also about a two-hour's drive to Barrington Tops National Park, which features easy walks, overnight hikes as well as fishing and camping spots.


Manchester: Britain vs United States


Museum of Science and Industry. PHOTO: YONG SHU HOONG

 

One of the most-visited cities in Britain, Manchester is famous for many things, from being where former band Oasis were formed and its museums - such as the Museum of Science and Industry - to architecture and nightlife.

English novelist and poet Charlotte Bronte reportedly began writing her famous novel, Jane Eyre, in Manchester in 1846. English writer Anthony Burgess, author of A Clockwork Orange, was also born and educated there.

The city's counterpart in the United States is not as well-known. Located in the state of New Hampshire, the city was once home to the largest textile mill in the country, which manufactured fabric for many purposes, such as the first Levi's jeans.


Currier Museum of Art. PHOTO: CURRIER MUSEUM OF ART/FACEBOOK

Today, it has a handful of museums, such as the Currier Museum of Art, and several minor-league sports teams.


Bali: Indonesia vs Cameroon


A temple in Bali. PHOTO: ST FILE

Be careful when booking your flight to Bali if you want to avoid landing in the middle of Africa.

While the famous Bali island in Indonesia has all the elements for a perfect holiday - pristine beaches, majestic temples and massages that will turn your tense muscles to putty - the Bali town in Cameroon, Central Africa, appears to have nothing.

The town is reportedly 2km away from an airport named "Bali Airport" and is said to be the former centre of a kingdom, known for its palace.

Apart from that, little else is known about the place, which should give you the hint that there is nothing else a tourist would want to know about it.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 09, 2017, with the headline 'Which Sydney?'. Print Edition | Subscribe