Thailand and Bali are two of the most well-known travel destinations on the planet. They’re also in roughly the same part of the world, and both offer world class beaches, nightlife and culture. In fact, because they can appear to be so similar, it can be tricky to know which one suits you better. Luckily for you, we’ve put them both through their paces in this head to head, Thailand vs Bali standoff!
I’ve broken this down into a list of what I believe are the key elements that will persuade you to travel Thailand or Bali. For each of these I first state the case for Thailand, and then the case for Bali, and then an overall winner.
So, let’s get to it!
Kicking things off with one of the big ones – which has the best beaches for you?
It’s important to take note of the ‘for you’ part in my previous sentence. This is because (as with almost all points in this article), the winner for you will depend on the type of traveler you are.
The case for Thailand Beaches
Some of the most beautiful and varied beaches in the world can be found in Thailand. I’ve been to a lot of places with classic white sands and turquoise waters, but Thailand takes the win. I mean, they even filmed ‘the beach’ movie on a Thai beach!
Thailand is made up of both a mainland chunk of SE Asia and hundreds of islands. Because of this, there is an unparalleled number and variety of world class beaches here.
You’ve got everything from classic ‘paradise’ beaches in places like Ko Samui, Ko Phangnan and Phucket, to stretches of water covered in stunning tropical islands in the likes of Krabi and Ko Phi Phi.
The Case for Bali Beaches
In this debate, Bali isn’t going to win when it comes to volume of beaches. However, it does bring something to the table that Thailand doesn’t have – Surf.
Yep, Bali is well-known for its fantastic surf beaches. There are so many beaches here that are slightly different shapes etc., which means there’s surf spots for everyone.
If you’re an experienced surfer you could look at Uluwatu, Keramas or Canggu to get you started. Beginners just trying to catch your first wave could start in the comparative safety of Nusa Dua beach.
Not into surf? Bali does also have a number of really beautiful ‘tropical paradise’ type beaches as well where you can sit back and relax on the sand.
Thailand vs Bali Round 1 Winner – Thailand
Both have some incredible beaches, that is a fact. Also, if you’re looking for wavy beaches for surfing etc., then Bali is going to be better for you than Thailand. But, based on variety and beauty it has to be Thailand.
Nowhere on earth have I seen SO MANY truly stunning beaches. It’s not that the beaches in Bali aren’t nice (they’re really nice!). It’s just that Thai beaches really are THAT good.
For this section, I’m comparing them in terms of which has the most interesting and unique culture to experience as a foreign traveller.
Thailand’s Culture Case
Thailand is a country full of history and culture, and so it’s a great place to travel if you are interested in learning about different outlooks on life and lifestyles. The population is largely Buddhist, which is something you’d have figured out pretty quickly on your own from the number of giant golden Buddha statues dotted around the country.
As such, the people are generally very kind and peaceful. There are also a number of extremely impressive temples such as the Grand Palace of Bangkok and Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep in Chang Mai.
I’d not experienced the style of architecture of these historic monuments anywhere else before, so I found it particularly impressive and interesting.
Bali’s Culture Case
Bali, on the other hand, is a totally different proposition in this respect. In fact, Bali’s culture is made even more unique in the region because it’s the only Hindu island in Indonesia. As such, there is a striking, obvious difference between the culture of Thailand and Bali.
Bali is famous for it’s vibrant colour and arts, and there are many local and national celebrations throughout the year that are great to get involved in.
Round 2 Winner – Tie!
I don’t think I can really justify saying that one has a better culture than the other. They’re both so fantastically different to each other!
If you go to the right places and go with an open mind, you can experience a wonderful culture, likely very different to where you are from, in either Bali or Thailand.
Thailand vs Bali Prices
Whether you’re going for a short or long trip, surely you want to travel cheaply, where possible? I’ve recently written an article featuring the cheapest destinations for backpacking on each continent, and unsurprisingly, both Thailand and Indonesia made the list for Asia.
But which one is cheaper between the two!?
To give you a quick idea, here’s what you can expect to pay for your ‘traveller essentials’ – A room, food, and beer.
- Average price for a beer – £1-2
- Budget hotel room – £10 a night and upwards
- Meal out £2-5
All in all, you can make travel in Thailand as cheap as you want. I’ve travelled there on less than £30 a day before and not at all felt like I was having to cut back my spending. It’s also worth noting that Thailand has very cheap public transport options to get you around the whole country.
They may not be the most comfortable, but the 12-hour coach journeys that take you from the north to south etc., are what allowed me to see the whole country on limited funds.
In terms of accommodation, food and drink, I don’t see much of a difference between Bali and Thailand.
You can travel Bali on £30 a day or less if you want to.
Winner of the cheapest to travel – Thailand
This is again pretty close. In fact, if you are travelling in a group I would put this as a tie. The reason that I give it to Thailand is due to the fact they have superior public transport. This allows you to travel the country very easily, and very cheaply!
Bali is not exactly pricey, but you are slightly more restricted in your public transport options. It often makes sense to rent a motorbike or car, which will cost you more than a bus ticket.
The Case for Thailand
Thailand’s nightlife is world famous, and there’s a very good reason for that… It’ the home of the full moon party, Khaosan Road, Ko Phi Phi, Ko Phangan, Bangkok… I could go on.
It’s the sort of place that feels like it has been developed in many ways for young, adventurous backpackers looking to meet new people, experience new things and (most importantly) have a good time.
The full moon parties in particular are a highlight for me. I just find the colour and vibrancy of the whole thing something really special. Also, the fact that you’ll usually find these parties on a beautifully soft, sandy beach amongst a tropical jungle just adds to the spectacle.
The Case for Bali
Ignoring Thailand for a moment, Bali does also have a buzzing nightlife scene. You can still find beach parties etc., and there’s ample selection of bars and clubs for all ages and budgets.
It’s actually become quite a popular destination for Australian party-goers over the years due to it’s relatively close location and cheap prices. Make of that what you will, but it certainly isn’t a place where you’ll struggle to have a good time.
Thailand vs Bali nightlife winner – Thailand
This is probably the comparison with the biggest difference between the two, and that’s not even because Bali has a bad party scene!
The reason Thailand wins this one is simple. It’s got world-class traveller entertainment. It’s the original and often first destination for young backpackers.
Most Fun to Travel
When you’re in Thailand, you feel like you’re in a country built for travellers. There’s so much to see and do, and it’s all affordable!
From the beautiful scenery and temples around Chang Mai in the North, the madness and excitement of Bangkok, the beauty and luxury of the eastern islands such as Ko Samui, the stunning beauty of Ko Phi Phi and Krabi, all the way to the atmosphere and vibrancy of Phuket.
As with Thailand, you really feel like the place was built for backpacking. The most incredible thing about Bali is that it’s all crammed into a relatively small island (compared to the size of Thailand).
There’s an abundance of places to see and activities to do for all types of travellers. For me, the waterfalls are the most beautiful thing that Bali offers. There’s so many of them, and each one is so different.
For Me, the Most Fun is Bali (Just)
This is an incredibly close one, but I’ve given it to Bali purely for the type of travel that most people experience there. Bali is not that big, or even that busy, and so a common thing for travellers to do is rent out a moped for the time they’re there, and use that to travel around the entire island. This is why I’ve given this one to Bali.
I personally find that type of travel (where you’ve got your own mode of transport) gives the feeling of total independence and freedom. It feels like much more of an adventure on my terms. I don’t need to plan as much, I can just go where I want to and make my own way.
Thailand, for all it’s positives, is just too big and busy for me to consider travelling the country on a bike, and so I’ve always had to rely on public transport.
Now of course, there are a couple of arguments to this such as that more experienced bikers probably wouldn’t think twice about biking in Thailand, or that you could just rent a different bike in each location you stay at within Thailand, but overall I just don’t think it’s quite the same experience.
Summary of Thailand vs Bali
If you couldn’t guess from this article so far, Thailand vs Bali is a very close competition, and to be honest both are worthy of your travels.
That said, if you’ve only got the time and/or money to visit one, this is my summary of what I think you’d be better suited to:
You’d likely enjoy Thailand more if you’re:
- Travelling solo
- Travelling on a budget
- Interested in nightlife and partying
- Prefer peaceful, stunning beaches to more raw, wavy beaches
- Travelling for a longer period of time
Bali could suit you better if you’re:
- More interested in cultural festivals than full moon parties
- Happy to rent a moped or car
- Into surfing
- Short-Medium length trip
Finally, I think its important that you take what I’ve written in this article with a pinch of salt. This article is meant to simply help you get an idea of the comparative advantages of each place, not fully determine where you should be going. Happy travels!
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