25-Point Showdown: Bali Vs Thailand in Southeast Asia
Bali vs Thailand, two of Southeast Asia’s most beautiful tropical destinations that provide amazing cultural and natural attractions.
Thailand is a country renowned for its amazing beaches, bustling temples, flavorful cuisine and lively nightlife. Bali is famous for its great surfing, terraced rice paddies, yoga retreats and gorgeous resorts.
In this extensive head-to-head comparison, I have scrutinised 25 items, from costs, visas and weather to adventures and beaches. Whether you seek an action-packed escape or a tranquil temple getaway, learn if Bali or Thailand is the ideal choice for your next trip.
But let’s start with an easy summary table of key points. Keep reading or click on the subject to check a more detailed description.
Bali Vs Thailand – Key Points
|My Opinion/Final Call
|Cost of Living
|Generally more expensive for alcohol. Meals around $2-5.
|Meals for $2-3. Slightly more expensive for accommodations
|30-day visa-on-arrival for $35. Extendable.
|30-day visa-exempt entry for many countries.
|Thailand has fewer restrictions.
|Flight Availability & Cost
|Dry season is between April and October.
|Direct flights from Europe, North America. Around $600-900.
|Thailand is more accessible and cheaper.
|Best Time to Visit
|Dry season between April and October.
|Dry season from December to March.
|Both have their ideal seasons.
|Perfect for romantic getaways.
|Multiple beautiful islands, plus Bangkok for urban experience.
|Both offer romantic settings.
|Wide range, from $20-50 for budget stays.
|Huge range, even backpacker dorms under $10.
|Thailand offers a wider choice
|Safe, friendly, and range of activities for kids.
|Exceptional family-friendly destinations like Phuket and Chiang Mai.
|Thailand has a slight edge for families.
|Intimate luxury resorts and villas.
|Resorts tailored specifically for romance.
|Both are excellent for couples.
|2 Weeks Trip
|Can cover cultural and natural highlights.
|Enough time for 3 or 4 Thai destinations.
|Both offer diverse experiences.
|Adventure & Activities
|Hiking, cycling, whitewater rafting, surfing.
|Mountain biking, rock climbing, beach time
|Both have a lot to offer.
|Scenic but fewer in number. Better for surfing
|Stunning, soft powdery sand, gentle waters.
|Thailand has more and arguably better beaches.
|Lush landscapes, volcanoes, and coral reefs.
|National parks, rivers, waterfalls.
|Both are rich in natural beauty.
|Safety & Security
|Very safe but be cautious with traffic.
|Remarkably low violent crime rates.
|Both are safe for tourists.
|Decent in tourist areas.
|Excellent, especially in major cities.
|Thailand has better healthcare.
|Fresh seafood, aromatic spices.
|Vibrant balance of spicy, sour, sweet, and salty flavours.
|Thailand offers more culinary diversity.
|Culture & Architecture
|Hindu influence, ornate temples, daily rituals.
|Buddhism, agrarian traditions, intricate temples.
|Both are culturally rich.
|Cliffside villas, beach resorts.
|World-class hotels, exclusive excursions.
|Both excel in luxury.
|Many budget options
|Southeast Asia’s premier budget destination.
|Thailand has more budget-friendly options.
|More relaxed, fewer high-energy options.
|Nonstop night owls, beach parties, clubs.
|Thailand for those who want to party hard.
|Basic public transport, congested traffic.
|Extensive public transit, better infrastructure.
|Thailand is easier to navigate.
|Renting a Car
|Possible but be cautious of traffic.
|More convenient for remote areas.
|Both have their pros and cons.
Bali Vs Thailand Cost
Let me say first of all that both Thailand and Bali are cheap by Western standards and the difference may be just a few cents, usually based also on the type of restaurant, bar or accommodation you select.
Bali offers amazing value for money but is generally more expensive than Thailand for alcohol due to the local taxes. Simple hotel rooms start around $20-25 per night on average.
Local food like nasi goreng or mie goreng costs $2-5 per meal. Restaurant prices generally go up to 10-12 USD per dinner. Transportation is cheap as well as internal flights to other destinations in Indonesia.
Thailand remains one of the best value destinations in Southeast Asia. Comfortable hotel rooms in major tourist areas can cost as little as $25-30 per night. Street food and local restaurants have basic meals for just $2-3. Domestic transport and tours are very reasonably priced.
I have organised a quick comparison table based on prices listed on Numbeo, a great cost-of-living database, with the approximate prices converted into USD.
|Thailand Price (USD)
|Bali Price (USD)
|Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant
|Meal for 2, Mid-range Restaurant
|McMeal at McDonald’s
|Domestic Beer (500 ml draught)
|Coke/Pepsi (355 ml small bottle)
|Water (355 ml small bottle)
|Loaf of Fresh White Bread (500 grams)
|Eggs (regular) (12)
|Chicken Fillets (500 grams)
|Beef Round (500 grams)
|Basic Backpacker Dorm
|Double Bedroom in Basic Place
|Double Bedroom in Good Quality Hotel
|Public Transportation Cost (Average on similar number of km)
|Internal Flights Cost
Based on my experience, both destinations have a similar cost of living. There is a difference (like I reported in the above table) but it depends on so many factors, including the season of your trip that I do not see the cost as a decisional factor.
Bali and Thailand are both amazing value for money
Getting a visa in Thailand and Bali
Visitors from most countries can get a 30-day visa-on-arrival in Bali for $35 USD. The process is quick and easy at the airport. Visas can be extended up to 30 more days for an additional fee.
Longer stays require applying in advance for 60-day tourist visas. Overall, getting a Bali visa is straightforward for most travellers.
Thailand offers easy 30-day visa-exempt entry for citizens of many countries including USA, Canada, the UK, the EU, and Australia. Visa-on-arrival is available for others with just a short application.
60-day tourist visas can be arranged in advance. Fees run about $20-65 USD depending on the visa type. Thailand edges Bali slightly for fewer restrictions.
Travel to Bali and Thailand – flights availability and cost
I still remember my first flight to Bali from Germany with a couple of stops along the route. It took approximately 30 hours. Nowadays Bali is very well connected with direct flights to most of the Asian hubs like Singapore, Kuala Lumpur or Jakarta, as well as the Middle East and Australia.
Europe used to have a direct flight from Amsterdam but it was suppressed during the pandemic. Hopefully, they will start again this and more routes from Europe. From the USA you will have to stop over in an Asian hub.
Flight prices are reasonable from the West, averaging around $800-1,200+ from North America. Of course, seasonal demand impacts airfares big time.
Thailand has plentiful direct flight connections from Europe, North America, Australia and major Asian cities. It’s a hub for low-cost Southeast Asian carriers, making flights very affordable year-round.
Flight prices from Europe and the USA are around $600-900 making Thailand one of the easiest and most affordable Asia destinations to reach.
Bangkok International Airport is the biggest airport in Thailand, however, there are other international airports spread across the country.
When to visit Bali and Thailand
The temperature around the year is pretty much the same, with average highs of 31C/88F. The humidity level will determine the seasons.
Contrary to most people’s thinking, the weather in Bali is much better during the European summer, in the dry season, between April and October, with sunny days and occasional storms at night.
November to March brings monsoon rains but still offers nice beach weather between storms. Bali has slightly more defined wet and dry periods but consistent tropical temperatures.
Thailand also stays hot and humid throughout the year with temps averaging 28-32C/82-90F. Cooler and drier conditions last from December to March.
Thailand’s islands experience similar wet and dry seasonal patterns to Bali. Visit Phuket, Koh Samui, Krabi and Koh Chang in January or February and be sure you will have only sunny days, with maybe one or two storms at night.
Go there between July and October you will very likely experience plenty of rain. Koh Samui may be still good during the day, but you may experience storms in the late afternoon.
Just remember to take with you a jumper or a jacket if you visit Northern Thailand in the dry season. It can get quite cool at night, especially if trekking in the mountains.
Which is better, honeymoon in Thailand or Bali
With its gorgeous resorts and romantic atmosphere, Bali is perfect for honeymoons and destination weddings. Newlyweds can enjoy luxury amenities from oceanview villas, rose petal bathtubs and couples’ massages.
Share intimate moments at unique temples, scenic white sand beaches, and luxury beach clubs. Bali caters beautifully to lovebirds.
Thailand also excels as a honeymoon locale, especially in island hotspots like Phuket. Thailand boasts exceptional luxury resorts focused on pampering and privacy.
Thai massages, sunset cruises, and beachfront dining provide memorable couples’ experiences.
For honeymooners seeking tropical paradise, both destinations deliver amazing options. Thailand has however the advantage of having multiple beautiful islands in the country and the possibility to add a couple of nights in Bangkok for some shopping and sunset cocktails on the trendy rooftops over the capital skyline for a unique experience.
Still unsure of the best beaches? Why not compare Thailand to the Philippines, another great destination
Accommodation – hotel options, costs, booking tips
Bali offers extensive accommodation choices from basic guesthouses to extravagant 5-star resorts. Budget hotels and homestays can be found for $20-50 per night. High-end beachfront resorts run $200-500+ per night.
I have written a full guide to the best areas to stay in Bali that should read for more information on the top places to book your holiday. Here below is a summary table.
Thailand also has a huge range of lodging from backpacker dorms under $10 to lavish hotels averaging $150-300+ per night. Thailand’s popularity means booking early for high season is essential, though off-season deals can be found.
Thailand is so much bigger than Bali that you can literally find anything you want, either deep in the jungle or straight in front of one of the many white sandy beaches.
Also in this case I have written a full guide to the best destinations to visit and stay in Thailand that you should check out. Here below I have summarised all the main options in a handy table
|Safety and Cleanliness
|Vibrant culture, shopping, nightlife
|Modern with historical pockets
|Ancient ruins, less crowded
|Water sports, nightlife
|Touristy with some culture
|Stunning beaches, water activities
|Can be expensive
|Natural beauty with cliffs
|Luxury resorts, beaches
|Touristy but scenic
|Phi Phi Islands
|Stunning beaches, nightlife
|Beautiful beaches, relaxed atmosphere
|Less cultural activities
|Koh Pha Ngan
|Full Moon Party
|Full moon parties, beaches
|Crowded during full moon
|Excellent diving spots, less crowded
|Limited other activities
|Jungle treks, less crowded
|Natural and less developed
|Koh Ngai & Koh Mak
|Secluded beaches, relaxation
|Secluded and natural
|Temples, mountains, culture
|Far from beaches
|Cultural and historical
|Less touristy, natural beauty
|Natural and historical
|Authentic Thai culture, less crowded
|Limited tourist facilities
|Authentic and rural
Bali or Thailand for family holiday
Bali works well for families thanks to its safety, friendliness, and range of activities. Major resort areas have kids’ clubs, family rooms, waterfall pools and other children’s amenities.
Bali also has cultural experiences, like learning music and dance, besides fun places like Bounce and live music events for the grown-ups. Plan in advance and you will have an enjoyable family vacation in Bali.
From Phuket to Chiang Mai, Thailand offers exceptional family-friendly destinations. Water parks, adventure activities, wildlife encounters and kids clubs cater to all ages. Thai food features simple dishes kids enjoy.
Thailand’s infrastructure and affordability also ease family travel. Bangkok can be quite chaotic for the little ones but the grown-ups will love it, a great place for both shopping and fun.
Thailand edges Bali slightly for better family travel options.
Is Thailand or Bali better for couples
Romantic escapes are one of Bali’s specialties with intimate luxury resorts and villas made for couples. Pampering spa treatments, adventure excursions, and unique cultural experiences provide quality time together.
Sunset cocktails and seafood dinners on the beach complete the ambience. Bali is also world-famous for its beach clubs, some of the most unique in the world. Bali is a relatively small island and most of the places and easily reachable.
With gorgeous islands like Phuket and Krabi, Thailand competes as a top couples’ getaway locale. Thailand boasts resorts tailored specifically for romance, featuring amenities like rose petal turndown service, couples massages, and private plunge pools.
The country’s beauty, amenities and value make it ideal for romantic holidays. However, being Thailand much bigger than Bali, means that you will have to spend some time moving across the country to enjoy all.
Bali and Thailand trip for 2 weeks
In 2 weeks in Bali, you will be able to have a great taste of Bali’s cultural and natural highlights. Spend 3-4 days enjoying Seminyak’s beaches, dining and nightlife. Explore artistic Ubud for 3-4 days.
Check out the mountains around Munduk and the villages near Jatiluwih. Relax on the sand at Nusa Dua or Sanur for the remaining days. Two weeks provides a solid Bali introduction.
Although travel around the country would take months, two weeks is perfect for exploring some of Thailand’s top destinations. Spend 2-3 days in Bangkok then head to the islands – Phuket, Koh Samui or Krabi. Finish exploring Chiang Mai’s temples, jungle and cuisine.
Two weeks allows time for the must-see places at a comfortable pace to maximize your experience. Honestly, in this case, there is no better choice, a trip to either Thailand or Bali is going to be unforgettable!
Adventure & activities
The island offers diverse active excursions like hiking Mt Batur volcano, off-road cycling, and whitewater rafting. Bali is much smaller than Thailand, but it offers so many more locations for surfing, and for any skill level too. One of my favourite locations is Canggu, nothing complicated, and has very easy-going waves.
Scuba diving around coral reefs and shipwrecks is world-class. Guided treks through rice terraces and jungle allow cultural immersion. Bali has something for every thrill-seeker.
I also had once a VW safari tour which was awesome, something I would suggest for a unique experience.
Thailand also excels for adventure lovers with activities from mountain biking to rock climbing in Krabi. Elephant interactions, ziplining and jungle trekking are hugely popular in Chiang Mai.
Phuket and Krabi provide exceptional sea kayaking, scuba diving, and more. Outdoor adventures throughout Thailand suit all ages and interests.
Once again, Bali may be smaller but it offers so much, all in a relatively small space.
Beaches in Bali and Thailand
While smaller in number than Thailand, Bali beaches excel in scenic beauty. Popular spots like Seminyak, Canggu, Jimbaran, and Nusa Dua boast golden sand with great waves for surfing.
Secluded coves like Bias Tugel show off limestone cliffs with turquoise waters and coral reefs offshore.
From Phuket to Krabi, the beaches in Thailand are just stunning, astonishing and unique. Samui, Phuket and Krabi boast the soft powdery sand, gentle waters, and picturesque scenery that draw beachgoers worldwide.
Thailand has some of the best beaches in the world and although Bali has a few amazing ones, it’s honestly hard to compete, unless you are after surfing of course.
Nature – Differences between Bali and Thailand
Nature in Bali is truly amazing. I highly suggest trekking around lush Bedugul lakes and rice terraces, climbing Mt Batur volcano, and snorkelling coral reefs in Nusa Lembongan.
I was totally surprised by how green can be the inland of the island, with entire areas covered in rice terraces and unique resorts that integrate into the lovely tropical nature of Bali
Don’t think that Bali is just about beaches. There is so much more than that
Thailand has so many national parks and preserves where you can experience over 10,000 plant species and some wild animals too.
On one of my trips I drove from Bangkok to Cambodia and I decided to stop for some trekking in the Khao Yai National Park. On day 2, just as I was venturing into the jungle, a wild elephant came out from nowhere! What an experience!
Areas like Khao Sok and Doi Inthanon provide jaw-dropping hikes past rivers and waterfalls with stunning vistas. Thailand competes well with Bali for nature tourism options.
Safety and Security
Bali is very safe with violent crime rates extremely low, especially in tourism areas. Petty theft around crowded sites may occur but is not common.
The main safety concern is traffic accidents with the scooter; driving precautions are key. Scams against tourists are occasional but you can easily avoid them. My biggest tip is to never exchange your money on the street. Be sure some of the banknotes will be fake.
Thailand enjoys remarkably low violent crime rates, thanks to tourism reliance. Petty theft and scams exist in heavy tourist zones but are avoided with prudence.
Hazards are limited to standard dangers – motorbike accidents and alcohol overuse.
Overall both Bali and Thailand offer a great level of safety and security.
Health care & access to medical services
Bali offers decent health services in the main tourist areas, though rural clinics have limited facilities. Hospitals in Denpasar, the capital of the island, provide decent care and emergency services for the most common injuries and ailments. Pharmacies are reasonably well stocked.
Thailand boasts excellent healthcare, especially in major cities like Bangkok which attracts medical tourists, and Phuket. Even in smaller towns, basic healthcare is inexpensive and pharmacies are well stocked. Hospitals and clinics can treat most conditions.
You either go to Bali or Thailand, be sure to organise your travel insurance in advance. You won’t have problems finding help but most of the tourist hospitals are private and they charge Western prices or even higher fees.
Food in Thailand Vs Bali
Balinese cuisine showcases fresh seafood, aromatic spices, and local ingredients like coconut. Satays, gado gado, and nasi campur are delicious staples. The concept of “eating for balance” with small portions of rice, meat, and vegetables is central.
Nowadays, you can find plenty of Western-style cafes and restaurants, with any kind of cuisine, from Italian to Korean, from Greek to Sushi. Really the choice is wide.
Local food is ridiculously cheap, budget 2-3 USD for a main. For international food budget 15-20 USD for a meal.
From pad thai to tom yum soup, Thai cuisine gains global acclaim for its vibrant balance of spicy, sour, sweet and salty flavours. Noodle and rice dishes prevail, but regional curries and stir-fries like kaeng khiao wan (green curry) satisfy.
Thailand offers incredible eating at all budget levels. Just be aware that there are a few regions like Isan where they use lots of hot spices. If you are not used to it, gently ask for ‘Phed Noi‘ (mildly spicy) or ‘Mai Sai Prik‘ (no chillies at all).
This is very subjective of course, however, Thailand is a better food destination in my opinion. It’s impossible to get tired of the Thai food.
Culture and architecture
Bali is the only Hindu island in Indonesia and the island’s culture is highly influenced by it and visible in ornate temples, daily rituals, music and dance. Distinct architecture appears in “bale” pavilions with stacked platforms and pagoda-style roofs.
Sculptures and shrines decorate villages and homes representing spiritual balance. Colourful festivals happen year-round.
Thailand’s culture integrates Buddhism, agrarian traditions, and ancient kingdoms. Intricate Buddhist temples, spirit houses, and extravagant palaces exemplify Thai design.
Traditional dance, martial arts, and woven textiles still thrive. Numerous festivals feature elaborate costumes, pageantry and ceremonies conveying deep traditions.
From cliffside villas to beach resorts, Bali excels at luxury hospitality. Pampering spas, customized tours, and gourmet cuisine abound.
Top areas like Seminyak, Nusa Dua, and Ubud cater to demanding travellers with designer boutiques, fine dining, and tranquil hideaways. Five-star properties in Bali compete among the world’s best.
Thailand also specializes in upscale experiences from world-class hotels to exclusive excursions. Phuket, Koh Samui, and Chiang Mai boast exceptional luxury resorts.
Haute cuisine restaurants plus market spas thrive nationwide.
For luxury treatment, both Bali and Thailand impress – at times even exceeding services in visitors’ home countries.
While harder to find than Thailand, Bali offers some budget options, especially away from luxury areas like Seminyak. Private rooms in guesthouses and homestays can cost $20-25 per night. Hostel beds usually cost 5-6 USD
Local warungs serve meals for $2-5. Free activities include beachgoing, hiking, and visiting temples. With research, Bali can work for budget travellers.
Thailand remains Southeast Asia’s premier budget destination. Comfortable accommodation under $20-30 per night is readily found. Street food and markets have meals from $1.
Public transport is very affordable. National museums and parks are often free. Thailand provides endless possibilities for an economical trip.
Whether Bali or Thailand, budget travelling is widely available.
Is Nightlife better in Thailand or Bali?
Compared to Thailand, Bali has fewer high-energy nightlife options. Beach clubs in Kuta and Seminyak are lively until early morning. Low-key bars in Canggu and Ubud cater to expats and backpackers.
Partying hotspots exist but nightlife is not a core attraction – Bali’s vibe remains more relaxed overall.
Famous nightlife zones like Bangkok’s Khaosan Road, Phuket and Pattaya host nonstop night owls. Go-go bars, clubs, rooftop lounges, beach parties, and more keep the energy high well past sunrise.
For full-on partying into the night, Thailand easily surpasses Bali.
Get around Thailand Vs Bali
Bali offers basic public transport like public buses, shuttle vans, and taxis that economically connect main tourist spots across the island. Be prepared for frequent stops and crowded vans.
Renting a car or motorbike works better for flexibility in exploring farther afield. Traffic is often, I may add always, congested. If you decide to rent a scooter, pay extreme attention and do not try the riding tricks of the locals, they are pro in overtaking left and right.
Extensive public transit exists throughout Thailand via trains, buses, ferries, subways, and affordable taxis. Large cities like Bangkok have comprehensive transport networks.
Between destinations, options like intercity trains and buses run frequently. I suggest also renting a car in Bangkok when you want to explore further afield like I did on my trip in the east of the country.
Thailand’s infrastructure outperforms Bali for getting around.
Renting a car in Bali Vs Thailand
Renting a car allows complete freedom to explore Bali’s lush interior and coastal villages. Be cautious of congested traffic in urban areas, especially around Denpasar, Kuta and Canggu. Petrol/gas is inexpensive.
I rented a car to explore the north of the island and I had an amazing time. I drove north to Lovina and then to the westernmost point of the island in places where I could hardly see any other traveller. Such a genuine experience.
If you decide to stay in the most common destinations I have mentioned in this post, then you do not need a car. Public transportation is amazing to move around.
However, if you want to explore the most remote areas, then a rented car is the way to go. You will save a ton of time and you will be able to explore hidden gems like I did with the Ta Moan Temple.
I have been renting from the same provider, DiscoverCars, a great website that compares local and international rentals giving the best deal around. It works similarly to Airbnb in a way that they have a rating for each company based on customer feedback. And they offer full insurance for just $8/day which is a great peace of mind.
Thailand’s road safety is generally better than Bali.
Shopping & markets
Bali offers excellent shopping, especially for local handicrafts like batik fabrics, woven baskets, wood carvings and jewellery. Bargaining is expected.
Seminyak and Ubud have high-end boutiques alongside temples selling sarongs and incense. Markets in Denpasar and Gianyar usually have better prices and more of a genuine experience.
From bustling bazaars to modern malls, Thailand excels in shopping options. Bangkok and Chiang Mai brim with markets selling crafts, clothing, art and souvenirs.
Thai staples like silks, carvings, and ceramics can be haggled for good prices.
For diversity and affordability, Thailand edges out Bali.
Internet & connectivity
As a popular tourist locale, Bali has fairly sufficient internet speeds and availability in populated areas. Most hotels and restaurants offer free WiFi to customers, though speeds can be slower than expected.
Local SIM cards are affordable. But connections get spotty in remote regions.
Canggu is the place to go for internet speed and remote working. This small village is the world capital for digital nomads.
Thailand boasts excellent internet infrastructure across major tourism destinations. Even remote islands have surprisingly speedy WiFi in hotels, bars, and tour offices.
Local prepaid SIMs provide cheap access to your own device.
For digital nomads and remote workers, Thailand outperforms Bali overall for connectivity, however, there are spots like Canggu that are on par with the most digitalized cities in the Western world.
Language Barrier – Ease of communication for English speakers
While Indonesian is the official language, English is widely spoken across tourist regions of Bali. Locals in areas like Seminyak and Ubud communicate comfortably in English. Signage and menus often have English translations.
Language barriers can still exist in rural villages but tourism centers present few issues.
English is also very prevalent across tourist zones in Thailand, especially in cities and resort towns. Bangkok and Chiang Mai locals converse easily in English. Menus and transit signs usually have English.
But communication could be tricky in remote areas where only Thai is spoken. Still, Thailand provides easy communication.
What country is bigger in size, Bali or Thailand?
Of course, Thailand is much bigger, in fact, almost 100 times as big as Bali. To give you a better idea, it is comparable in size to Spain. It stretches about 1,620 km from north to south.
The country contains diverse regions, from the green northern highlands to southern Thailand, famous for its beautiful beaches.
Bali is a small island, a bit bigger than Mallorca in the Mediterranean Sea and smaller than the state of Delaware, just to give you an idea. It’s approximately 100 km wide from north to south, and 150 km long east to west.
There are other islands included in the Bali Province, but their size is really negligible.
Ultimately Thailand is a full country that is much much bigger than the island of Bali.