Last updated on January 31, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in Thailand

15-Point Showdown: Thailand Vs Philippines travel Guide

Thailand vs Philippines – two amazing travel destinations with unique culture and nature in Southeast Asia.

Thailand dazzles with renowned beaches, ornate temples, and one of the best local cuisines. The Philippines charms with warm people, stunning island scenery, and rich heritage.

This extensive head-to-head comparison outlines everything from activities to accommodations to help you decide whether Thailand or the Philippines is the better country to visit for your next trip to the region.

Let’s start with the most important key points that I summarized in the handy table below. However, keep reading for a better description of each comparison subject.

Local kids playing in El Nido
Local kids playing in El Nido, Philippines

Thailand vs Philippines – Key Points

SubjectThailandThe PhilippinesMy Opinion/Final Call
Visa Process & CostEasy 30-day visa-exempt entry for many, $20-65 for longer visasVisa-free for 30 days for many, extensions up to 36 monthsThailand’s process is straightforward, but the Philippines offers longer visa-free stays.
Flight Accessibility & CostExtensive direct flights, $800-1200 from the WestLess direct long-haul flights, requires layoversThailand is easier and cheaper to reach from the West.
Cost of LivingBudget-friendly, cheap local meals, and accommodationSlightly pricier than Thailand, budget options availableThailand is generally cheaper and offers better value for money.
Best Time to VisitDry season from Nov-Feb, hot year-roundCooler and drier from Dec-Feb, hot and humid year-roundBoth have similar climates, but Thailand has a clearer distinction between seasons.
Safety & SecurityVery safe, low violent crime, watch for scamsModerate safety concerns, higher crime rates in some areasThailand is safer, especially for tourists.
2-Week ItineraryDiverse options from cities to beachesBeautiful islands, requires more travel planningBoth offer rich experiences, but Thailand has better infrastructure.
Honeymoon DestinationWorld-class resorts, romantic experiencesNice resorts, more adventure-focusedThailand for luxury, the Philippines for nature-focused couples.
Adventure & ActivitiesExtensive options, accessible for all skill levelsAmazing natural scenery, less organized travel companiesThailand is better for organized adventure, the Philippines for off-the-beaten-path experiences.
AccommodationWide range from budget to luxuryFewer options, book in advance for qualityThailand offers more choices and generally better quality.
FoodDiverse and flavorful street food sceneUnique blend of culinary influences, less varietyThailand wins with its world-renowned cuisine.
BeachesAccessible stunning beachesRaw natural beauty, some areas lack local beachesThailand for convenience, the Philippines for untouched beauty.
NightlifeVibrant and diverse, famous hotspotsLively but less developed, some safety concernsThailand is the clear winner for nightlife.
TransportationExcellent public transit, organized networksChaotic public transport, less infrastructureThailand’s infrastructure is far more advanced.
Country SizeLarger mainland area, similar to SpainArchipelago, size comparable to ItalyThailand’s mainland offers easier travel between regions.
Overall ExperienceOffers convenience, safety, and varietyOffers natural beauty and unique experiencesThailand for a smoother travel experience, The Philippines for adventurous spirits.
Bang Bao, Koh Chang
Bang Bao, Koh Chang, Thailand

Getting visas for Thailand vs Philippines – ease of process, cost, etc.

Thailand

Thailand offers easy 30-day visa-exempt entry for citizens of many countries including the USA, Canada, the UK, the EU, and Australia. Visa-on-arrival is available for others with just a short application on arrival.

60-day tourist visas can be arranged in advance. Fees run about $20-65 USD depending on the visa type. Overall getting a Thai visa is straightforward.

Philippines

Citizens from most countries can enter the Philippines without a visa for up to 30 days. Extensions are available on arrival up to 36 months total stay.

If needed, single-entry tourist visas can be obtained in advance and last 30-59 days. No visas are required for many nationalities, giving the Philippines an advantage over Thailand’s more restricted visa rules.

Important: changes to VISA conditions may happen any day without any notice. Check on the official website for the latest news.

Long tailed boat off Ruea Hang Yao in Krabi
Long-tailed boat off Ruea Hang Yao in Krabi

Is it easier and less expensive to fly to Philippines or Thailand?

Thailand

It’s so easy to travel to Thailand. Bangkok has extensive direct flight connections worldwide through the hub airport of Suvarnabhumi. Low-cost carriers provide very affordable regional flights.

Fares from the USA and Europe average around $800-1200 roundtrip with many options. Thailand is easy and relatively cheap to reach by air.

Philippines

The Philippines lacks widespread long-haul flight options beyond major hubs in East/Southeast Asia. Most flights from North America or Europe require layovers in Seoul, Hong Kong, etc.

But once in Asia, you can travel to the Philippines with low-cost carriers such as CebuPacific and AirAsia. Australia has also cheap direct flights to Manila and Cebu.

Overall, Thailand has cheaper better flight accessibility from the West.

Flying to Thailand
Flying to Thailand

Is Thailand more expensive than the Philippines?

Thailand

Thailand remains one of the most budget-friendly destinations in Southeast Asia. Comfortable hotel rooms start under $30 per night. Meals at local restaurants and street stalls cost just a few dollars.

Domestic transportation is very affordable. Thailand provides endless low-cost experiences.

Philippines

The Philippines offers strong budget travel options compared to the West but is pricier than its Southeast Asian neighbours. Hostel dorms start around $10 per night and simple hotel rooms average $30-40.

The cost of food like adobo (the unofficial national dish) and sinigang (the characteristic Filipino soup) is about $3-5 per plate. Most of the other options are however more expensive and not as great value for money as in Thailand

With patience, you can find a few budget options but overall Thailand remains cheaper than the Philippines.

Thai street food at the market in Phuket
Thai street food at the market in Phuket

When should you visit Thailand or the Philippines

Thailand

The weather in the country stays hot year-round with temperatures averaging 28-32C/82-90F. The dry season (sunny and cooler) in Thailand is between November and February/March.

The rainy season is from May to October and that’s when the tourism industry slows down. There is much more humidity with usually a storm in the late afternoon.

A quick tip. Bring with you and jumper or a jacket if you are visiting northern Thailand (Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai) between December and February and you are planning some trekking in the mountains.

If you are getting to Thailand between June and August, destinations like Koh Samui work better than Phuket. The weather in the Gulf of Thailand is slightly better in that time of the year with sunny mornings and some cloudy/rainy late afternoons.

Philippines

The Philippines has hot and humid tropical weather year-round, with average temperatures of 26-32°C/78-90°F. The rainy season lasts from May to October, though precipitation levels vary across the 7,000+ islands.

December to February is cooler and drier nationwide. This is the touristy season when you need to book your accommodation well in advance to avoid disappointments

An important tip. When you are travelling in the Philippines, make sure to have a weather app with you where you can check the typhoon conditions in the country that occasionally strike certain areas from June to November.

On one trip I experienced a huge Typhoon which I was able to avoid by leaving my island sooner than expected. They usually last a few days and you are literally stranded with regular power cuts.

Rainy day in Koh Samui. It does happen, especially late in the day
Rainy day in Koh Samui. It does happen, especially late in the day

Safety and security in Thailand and the Philippines

Thailand

Thailand is very safe with low violent crime rates, especially in tourist areas where police patrol heavily. Scams like taxi overcharging occur but you can easily avoid them by agreeing on the price before starting the trip.

You should take regular precautions with valuables and late-night activities.

Philippines

The Philippines has more safety concerns than Thailand, especially in Manila and remote areas. Violent crime rates are moderately high, including armed robbery and assaults.

Terrorist activity occurs in parts of Mindanao. Petty theft is common. Precautions like avoiding poorly lit areas at night are prudent.

Tourist sites have police protection however, do not take with you any valuables on your holiday.

Overall Thailand provides a much more secure environment. In true honesty, the Philippines are not as bad as it sounds from my words. Once you bypass completely the major cities like Manila (I do not suggest any stop), the rest of the country is okay.

El Nido Beach
El Nido Beach

Should you visit Thailand or Philippines 2 weeks

Thailand

With 2 weeks in Thailand, spend 2-3 days in Bangkok, the modern capital of Thailand, seeing highlights like the Grand Palace (Unesco World Heritage site) and temples.

Take a trip to Ayutthaya, the former capital of the country. Fly north to Chiang Mai for 3-4 days of trekking, hiking and culture. End by relaxing on islands like Phuket and Koh Samui, or Krabi with the fabulous Koh Phi Phi for 5 days of beaches, kayaking, free climbing, nightlife and boating.

Alternatively, you can also add Koh Phangan, famous for its Full Moon Party, and Koh Tao if interested in diving.

Philippines

In two weeks you can plan a trip to see some of the most beautiful islands of the Philippines. Bypass Manila and fly straight to Cebu for 3 days of culture, cuisine and beaches.

Take the ferry to Bohol for 3 days of island hopping and wildlife. Spend 5 days of sunbathing and water sports around Palawan’s El Nido area. Take a boat to Coron to end your trip.

Both Thailand and the Philippines offer so much for a 2-week trip. English is widely spoken in both countries and inter-island travel is quick and easy.

Coron - Yes you are going to have a swim here
Coron – Yes you are going to have a swim here

Should I plan a honeymoon in Thailand or Philippines?

Thailand

With its world-class beach resorts and romantic luxury experiences, Thailand is perfect for honeymoons. Pampering amenities like couples massages, private plunge pools, and sunset cruises provide special memories.

Thailand offers countless options tailored to honeymooners seeking a tropical paradise.

Philippines

The Philippines has some nice resorts catering to couples, especially around Cebu and Palawan. However, higher-end amenities like luxury spas are less common than in Thailand.

Philippines honeymoons tend to be more low-key adventures focused on nature and beaches rather than indulgent pampering.

Loy La Long Hotel Bangkok
View from my romantic hotel room in Bangkok

Adventure & activities

Thailand

Thailand excels for adventure travellers with activities like jungle trekking, rock climbing, scuba diving, zip lining and more. Top spots include mountainous Chiang Mai, coastal Krabi/Phuket, and inland Kanchanaburi.

Thailand’s tourism infrastructure makes activities for all skill levels easily accessible.

Alternatively, rent a car in Bangkok and visit the least popular tourist areas of the country. I once drove to the Isan region and the Cambodian border and I had some of the best times of my life with such a diverse range of options.

I encountered a wild elephant when I was trekking in the Khao Yai National Park. I experienced the Monkey Temple in Lopburi and I was the only tourist to visit the Ta Moun temple on the contested Thai-Cambodian border.

Philippines

The Philippines offers amazing adventure opportunities through its incredible natural scenery. Top activities include climbing Mt. Mayon volcano, whale shark snorkelling at Donsol, wreck diving around Coron (only for Advanced Open Water divers), and surfing Siargao Island.

The Philippines compared to Thailand has fewer organised travel companies, which means you need to pre-plan more, but the reward can be much bigger.

Diving between shipwrecks in the Bahamas
Diving between shipwrecks

Accommodation – hotel options, costs, booking tips

Thailand

Thailand is known for its extensive lodging choices from dorms at 5-10 USD and basic guesthouses under $30/night to luxurious 5-star resorts averaging $150-300+/night.

My biggest tip: Book your accommodation well in advance if you travel around Christmas/NYE or Chinese New Year (around February, based on the lunar calendar).

I have written a full guide to the best areas to visit and stay in Thailand that you should check out. Below is a quick summary table.

AreaIdeal forProsConsBest SeasonAccessibilityFamiliesCouplesNightlifeBeachesSafety and CleanlinessCharacter
BangkokCity ExplorersVibrant culture, shopping, nightlifeCrowded, pollutionNov-FebExcellentModerateModerateExcellentPoorGoodModern with historical pockets
AyutthayaHistory BuffsAncient ruins, less crowdedLimited nightlifeNov-FebGoodGoodGoodPoorPoorGoodHistorical
PattayaNightlifeWater sports, nightlifeTouristyNov-MarGoodModerateModerateExcellentGoodModerateTouristy with some culture
KrabiAdventure SeekersStunning beaches, water activitiesCan be expensiveNov-AprModerateExcellentExcellentModerateExcellentGoodNatural beauty with cliffs
PhuketResort GoersLuxury resorts, beachesExpensive, BusyNov-AprExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellentGoodTouristy but scenic
Phi Phi IslandsIsland HoppersStunning beaches, nightlifeBusy, expensiveNov-AprModerateModerateExcellentExcellentExcellentGood-ModerateIsland paradise
Koh SamuiRelaxationBeautiful beaches, relaxed atmosphereLess cultural activitiesDec-Feb, Jun-AugModerateExcellentExcellentModerateExcellentGoodIsland paradise
Koh Pha NganFull Moon PartyFull moon parties, beachesCrowded during full moonDec-Feb, Jun-AugModerateModerateModerateExcellentGoodGoodParty island
Koh TaoDivingExcellent diving spots, less crowdedLimited other activitiesDec-Feb, Jun-AugModerateGoodExcellentModerateExcellentGoodDiving paradise
Koh ChangNature LoversJungle treks, less crowdedLimited nightlifeNov-FebModerateGoodGoodPoorGoodGoodNatural and less developed
Koh Ngai & Koh MakQuiet RetreatSecluded beaches, relaxationLimited amenitiesNov-AprPoorGoodExcellentPoorExcellentGoodSecluded and natural
Chiang MaiCulture SeekersTemples, mountains, cultureFar from beachesNov-FebGoodExcellentGoodModeratePoorExcellentCultural and historical
Chiang RaiExplorersLess touristy, natural beautyLimited amenitiesNov-FebModerateGoodGoodPoorPoorGoodNatural and historical
Isan RegionOff-the-Beaten-PathAuthentic Thai culture, less crowdedLimited tourist facilitiesNov-FebPoorModerateGoodPoorPoorGoodAuthentic and rural
Best areas to stay in Thailand
Best areas to stay in Thailand
Best areas to stay in Thailand

Philippines

Philippines accommodation ranges from backpacker dorms under $10/night to high-end hotels averaging $100-200+/night. Mid-range hotels in the $30-60 range are plentiful.

Outside major hubs like Cebu and El Nido, it’s going to be harder to find a quality hotel. For that, you should book really in advance (usually cancellation is free anyway).

For example, when I stayed in Puerto Princesa, one of the major entry points to the Palawan region with a major airport, I could count only a bunch of hotels in the old town.

Generally speaking, the Philippines has fewer lodging options overall compared to Thailand.

Where to stay in Coron

Food in Philippines Vs Thailand

Thailand

The food culture in Thailand is just amazing with its tantalizing mix of spicy, sour, sweet and salty flavours. Rice and noodle dishes prevail, along with regional curries and stir-fries.

Thailand boasts also an incredible street food scene. Meals suit all budgets from $1 street eats to gourmet restaurants. The choice is very wide and the quality is usually super high, doesn’t matter which part of the country.

Philippines

The food in the Philippines integrates Spanish, Chinese, Malay and American influences. Specialties like adobo, sinigang soups, and lechon showcase culinary flair.

Local markets and food stalls provide tasty cheap eats. Upscale dining is limited outside major hubs like Cebu.

On this comparison, Thailand wins big time I believe. Of course, it’s just my opinion and I want to give more possibilities to Filipino food, however, it’s a hard battle with the Thai flavours.

Eating dim sum in Phuket. There is such a great choice of food on the island
Eating dim sum in Phuket. There is such a great choice of food on the island

Beautiful Beaches in Philippines and Thailand

Thailand

Think Thailand as an enormous playground of stunning beaches, especially around Phuket, Koh Samui and Krabi. Soft white sand, gentle waters and picturesque palm trees make Thailand perfect for beach holidays.

The number and quality of options are tough to compete with. The great thing is also that most of these beaches are easily reachable which makes Thailand so convenient.

Philippines

With over 7,000 islands in the Philippines, you will have endless stretches of sand that compete with Thailand’s beaches in raw natural beauty.

Top beach areas like Boracay, Palawan, and Siargao boast powdery sand, turquoise waters, and gorgeous palm-fringed shores.

Surprisingly enough, some of the most popular destinations like Coron or El Nido, do not have actually a real local beach, but then you join one of the many tours (usually identified with “A”, “B”, and “C” based on the route) and you will discover some of the most spectacular beaches on earth, even more impressive than Thailand in my opinion.

Banana Island
Banana Island, doable on a day trip from Coron

Is Nightlife better in Philippines or Thailand?

Thailand

Famous nightlife hotspots like Bangkok’s Khao San Road, Pattaya and Phuket keep energy pulsing into the early morning hours. Go-go bars, nightclubs, rooftop lounges, beach parties, and more satisfy party-seekers.

Thailand’s nightlife options eclipse anywhere in the Philippines.

Philippines

The Philippines has some lively nightlife zones catering to tourists and expats, especially around Manila, Boracay, and Cebu City. But after-dark offerings lag compared to the world-famous scenes found in Thailand.

Entertainment typically revolves around local beerhouses, clubs, and karaoke joints rather than huge party complexes.

Also, the Manila clubs can be dangerous sometimes, so I would not suggest visiting any.

Fire show by the beach in Koh Samui
Fire show by the beach at the Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan

Travel around Thailand and Philippines

Thailand

The range of transportation options in Thailand is so wide that you will not find any trouble when moving to the next destination. The country enjoys excellent public transit including affordable taxis, tuk-tuks, buses, the Skytrain in Bangkok (subway), and domestic flights between destinations.

Large, organized buses and rail networks connect all corners of the country. You will have so many options for an independent trip.

Philippines

On the other hand, The Philippines is a little more difficult to get around. Public transport is notoriously chaotic with congested roads and lacking infrastructure. Jeepneys are the main form of local transit within cities.

Provincial buses, taxis and habal-habal motorbikes connect most towns. Organized mass transit is limited to Manila’s LRT system.

Most of the transportation I took was not really running on a timetable but on a “once the van gets full” policy, surely a greener solution, but more time-consuming.

Thailand’s infrastructure is far more advanced.

Tuk tuk is one of easiest, and most fascinating, way of transportation in Bangkok. You need to experience it, if travelling to the Thai capital. They are literally everywhere. I was lucky enough in my last trip to pop into a tuk tuk depot, so many of them and such a great place to shoot few photos :D
Tuk-tuk is one of the easiest, and most fascinating, ways of transportation in Thailand

What country is bigger in size, Thailand or the Philippines?

Thailand

Thailand covers over 500,000 square km including diverse regions from northern mountains to southern beaches. It stretches around 1,600 km from north to south. Thailand’s area is similar in size to a European country like Spain, to give you an idea

Philippines

The Philippine archipelago spans 300,000 square km across over 7,000 islands. The Philippines is comparable in size to Italy or Japan.

The biggest difference is that Thailand’s territory is mostly mainland, and this is one of the reasons why it is easier to get around the country.

Stefano Ferro - MEL365.com Founder and Editor

About the Author

Stefano is a seasoned travel expert and the visionary founder of MEL365.com, a leading travel website with traffic across 6 continents. With a rich background in the travel industry, Stefano spent four pivotal years at Amadeus Travel Distribution System, gaining invaluable insights into travel technologies and distribution.

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