Bali vs Thailand? Is Thailand or Bali better for your next holiday? It’s a good question but there’s no straightforward answer. It’s really a matter of preference. Both have a fascinating culture, beautiful scenery, delicious food and beautiful beaches but there are some differences to consider.
This article compares these top holiday spots in Southeast Asia and looks at the similarities and differences to help you decide whether Thailand or Bali is better for you.
The first thing you need to know is that you can’t really go wrong. You could choose either Bali or Thailand and find lots of interesting places to see and fun things to do. In fact, I would suggest visiting both if you have the time.
I’ve enjoyed several holidays in both of these wonderful destinations and can recommend them both.
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Is Thailand or Bali Better for a holiday?
The main difference between the two is that Thailand is a country and Bali is an island in Indonesia and Bali is much smaller than Thailand.
Both are located near the equator in Southeast Asia and offer warm weather, a tropical climate and lots of fun things to do from visiting temples, swimming, snorkelling and hiking, to partying and relaxing with a massage or Spa.
Bali is best known for its surf beaches, and you’ll find white or black volcanic sands and big surf. But Bali also has beautiful mountains, lush green rice fields and sparkling waterfalls.
Thailand on the other hand, is much larger with a bustling capital city, Bangkok offering culture, nightlife and great shopping. In Thailand’s south, there are gorgeous tropical islands with white sandy beaches and turquoise water. To the north, there’s a more mountainous region with elephant sanctuaries, national parks and hiking.
Bali is a Hindu Island in a predominantly Muslim country, while Thailand is a Buddhist Kingdom. Both have ancient temples and a wealth of history and culture to discover and enjoy.
Both Bali and Thailand have a tropical climate with monsoonal weather and this means that some months are better than others for a vacation. Possibly the best way to decide whether Thailand or Bali is better for a holiday is to work out when you want to go.
Verdict: Either Thailand or Bali for a holiday…both have lots to offer
Bali vs Thailand: Best time to visit
The best time to visit Bali is in May/ June and the worst month is in December when the island is full of other visitors and the weather is wet. The most popular time for Bali is in June /July / August when the weather is warm and sunny and there’s less rain. I can personally recommend visiting Bali in July
While you can visit Bali at any time of the year, the rainy season is from October to April with the wettest months from December to February. At this time of year, you can expect high humidity and hot weather. During the wet season in Bali, the weather is often sunny with clear mornings and afternoon storms.
So, Thailand is a better choice if you’re travelling in December /January over Christmas or New Year.
In Thailand, April is uncomfortably hot, and the rainy season falls from May to October. At this time of year, Bali has warm, sunny days with cooling coastal winds. May to October is the best time of year to visit Bali.
Bali is a year-round destination, and even in the wet season in Bali, you can have a great holiday.
TIP: So have you decided on a trip to Bali? This comparison with Ubud vs Kuta will help you find the best place to stay.
Bali vs Thailand for local colour and ambience
Does Bali or Thailand have more appeal for local colour and ambience? Well, both offer a fascinating culture with a wide variety of things to see and do.
Visiting Thailand’s capital Bangkok is a highlight of Thailand. Bustling and vibrant, Bangkok is a sprawling city on the banks of the Chao Praya River offering stunning cultural sights like the magnificent Grand Palace, awe-inspiring temples like Wat Po and Wat Aran and lively street markets.
Delicious street food can be found everywhere in Bangkok, but Yaowarat Road in Chinatown has an energetic vibe after dark and is full of street stalls that offer an authentic eating experience.
In Bali, spirituality permeates everything, and daily life revolves around work, family, the local temple and the community. Bali has some very spiritual sacred sites, stunning scenery with waterfalls and verdant rice terraces. But some of the most popular places in Bali are very touristy and can get quite crowded during the high season.
In Bali, you can expect to be approached by hawkers and people striking up a conversation with the goal of selling things. It’s constant and can become a bit annoying.
Bali vs Thailand: Religion & culture
Thailand is a Buddhist Kingdom while Bali is a Hindu island in the Muslim country Indonesia.
For a rich and rewarding cultural experience, you can choose either Bali or Thailand and find beautiful temples and ancient traditions to enjoy.
The historical Parks at Ayutthaya and Sukhothai in Thailand, the impressive Royal Place and the ornate temples of Bangkok all stand out with their rich, intricate decorations and statues.
TIP: Visit the main highlights of Ayutthaya on a full-day tour from Bangkok. You will have the chance to visit the ancient ruins of the temples and learn about the city’s history.
In comparison, the Hindu Temples of Bali are modest but are often built in stunning locations. Bali’s lovely water temples at Ulun Danu Beratan, Tanah Lot, and Uluwatu are fantastic to visit, and the Bali Gates of Heaven at Pura Lempuyang overlooks an active volcano, Mount Agung with spectacular views over the green rice fields stretching to the coast and out to sea.
The spirituality of the Hindu faith and the sense of community around the Hindu religion affects every aspect of life in Bali. Balinese people are very religious, and the ritual of daily prayers occurs across the island with Canang Sari offerings of flowers, food and incense commonly seen.
Every house & shop has an altar for prayers and, when you visit a temple in Bali you must wear the traditional temple dress, a sarong & sash. Women who are menstruating are not allowed to enter Balinese temples.
While both Bali and Thailand offer rich and rewarding cultural experiences, Bangkok’s magnificent Grand Palace and stunning Wat Pho and Wat Arun are hard to beat.
Thailand vs Bali for Nightlife
Thailand has a reputation for being a party place and the nightlife in Bangkok is world-renowned. In Sukhumvit, there’s a great selection of classy rooftop bars and on Khaosan Road, there’s an energetic backpacker party scene.
If you head south of Bangkok to the stunning islands you can dance the night away at the most famous party in Thailand, a full-moon beach party on Kho Phangan. Kho Samui and Phuket also have pumping beach parties so you can have fun all night and relax on the beach during the day.
But in Bali, there’s no shortage of places to party. The nightclub strip in Kuta is the centre of Bali’s party scene but there are many upmarket beach clubs where you can relax and socialise. Head to Old Man’s or Finn’s in Canggu or relax at La Plancha in Seminyak on a colourful beanbag and watch a stunning beach sunset with a cocktail in your hand.
Winner: Thailand wins but Bali is close behind
Thailand vs Bali: Food
In either Thailand or Bali, you’ll find plenty of delicious food, but Thailand has a wider choice of local dishes from Thai-style fried rice noodles (Pad Thai) and tasty red and green curries to spicy shrimp soup (Tom Yung Goon). At the markets in Thailand, you’ll find all kinds of interesting dishes to try including fried insects.
Eating outdoors at a street food stall is the perfect way to experience Thai culture.
In Indonesia, you can enjoy a mouth-watering satay with peanut sauce, Gado Gado, a steamed vegetable dish or Babi Guling (roast pig). A favourite is Nasi Goreng, a fried rice dish that’s often served for breakfast with eggs or omelettes. Fresh Tropical fruit and fruit juices made from bananas, watermelon, pineapple, mango and young coconuts are a highlight.
Thai food is fresh and delicious but tends to be very spicy and full of hot red chilli. While Indonesian food can be spicy too it’s not as spicy as Thai dishes. In Thailand, you can always ask for less chilli if you don’t like the heat.
In Bali, you’ll find a fabulous café scene, especially in Ubud and the beachside suburbs like Seminyak or Canggu. It’s easy to find vegan and gluten-free food and eating out is very enjoyable in Bali.
Bali’s cafes and restaurants cater for foodies and Western tastes but in Thailand, the food tends to be more authentic. Eating at a street-side stall is a way of life in Thailand and the street food in Thailand is amazing and very budget-friendly.
Thailand vs Bali: Which is cheaper?
If you’re looking for a cheap holiday you can choose either Thailand or Bali. Both cater for all kinds of travellers from budget to luxury with a wide range of accommodations to choose from.
Bali is famous for its luxury villas and resorts, but there are many cheap hostels and homestays if you want to save the rupiahs.
TIP: If you’re looking for a bargain hotel, the popular beachside suburb of Kuta has been slow to recover from the Covid-19 epidemic and there are reduced prices on offer at some of the larger hotels and resorts, especially off-season.
Food is tasty and prices are cheap at both destinations if you eat at street stalls in Thailand or at local Warungs (Indonesian Restaurants) in Bali, you can get a meal for a just few dollars.
The cost of day trips and tours is similar in both Bali and Thailand.
Flights are often the biggest expense on a holiday and Bali is one of the cheapest overseas destinations to visit from Australia. But if you’re travelling from the US or Europe, the cost of your flight will be more expensive in the high season. The price will depend on the length of your flight and what time of year you’re travelling.
Winner: Thailand by a smidgeon. Choose either Bali or Thailand for a cheap holiday.
Bali vs Thailand: Getting around
Public transport is much better, cheaper and easy to access in Thailand. Bus, train and domestic flight services connect the country but of course, Thailand is much bigger than Bali and it takes a lot longer to cover the larger distances between places. Taxis and tuk-tuks are good for local transport in Thailand.
Bali is an island and is much smaller than Thailand. While public buses exist, taxis are cheap and Grab + Gojek cars and motorbikes are the best way to get around in Bali. A shuttle bus service runs between the major locations in Bali, and this is a slower, cheaper option for solo and budget travellers.
But in Bali, the traffic jams make travelling by road slow and frustrating. It is often quicker to take a motorbike, but this is less safe and there’s dust and dirt on the road. During the wet season getting drenched in a rainstorm on the back of a motorbike is not a pleasant experience.
A highlight of travelling to Bali is visiting the nearby islands like Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan, Lombok and the Gili Islands.
Bali’s islands are accessible by ferry but, in bad weather, big seas make the waters around Bali unsafe, especially during the rainy season. Smaller fast boats stop running in big seas and getting to and from the islands near Bali can be unreliable.
Even in the dry season, there can be stormy weather and I got stuck in June in the Gili Islands in Lombok. While there are worse things than being marooned in paradise on a tropical island, I met several people who had missed international flights and tours because they were unable to return to Bali. While you can fly to Lombok, the flights are often booked out when the ferries aren’t running.
Bali vs Thailand: Things to do
You can choose either Bali or Thailand and find an exciting choice of things to do. Both offer incredible UNESCO World Heritage sites such as Thailand’s stunning Ayutthaya and Sukhothai Historical sites and Bali’s Jatiluwih Rice Terraces and ancient water temples. Balinese temples like the beautiful Pura Ulun Danu Beratan and Tirta Empul are part of the Subak traditional irrigation system and are recognised for their cultural significance.
In addition to its lovely temples and famous surf beaches, Bali has some of the most idyllic waterfalls in the world and volcanoes like Mount Batur and Mount Agung that offer great hiking experiences and stunning scenery. On the island of Java, near Bali, you can actually stand on the edge of an active volcano at Mount Bromo, an incredible experience.
Yoga classes are popular in Bali, and you can book a retreat or an Indonesian cooking class, relax with one of Bali’s famous luxury spa treatments or take a flower bath.
The stunning islands just offshore from Bali, Nusa Penida and Lembongan and the Gili Islands in Lombok offer gorgeous coastal scenery, with coral reefs, shipwrecks, underwater sculptures and the opportunity to swim with manta rays and endangered sea turtles.
In comparison, Thailand is a large country, and the attractions are further away from each other, so you need to choose your activities as they are less centralised than in Bali. In the south of Thailand, there are stunning tropical islands offering gorgeous beaches, dramatic scenery with limestone caves, rock climbing and water activities like snorkelling, swimming, diving and kayaking.
In central Thailand are the remains of the ancient capital cities Ayutthaya and Sukhothai Historical Parks, and in the north, there are national parks, mountains, elephant sanctuaries and hill tribes with unique cultures. And all around the country, there are temples with impressive Buddha statues that are distinctively Thai in design.
You can visit either Thailand or Bali and be spoilt for choice with amazing things to do but, because Bali is a small island, you can base yourself in one place and still see the whole island. Bali’s dramatic volcanos also give it the edge.
TIP: On the Bali Mount Batur Sunrise Hike, watch the sunrise from the top of Mount Batur on an early morning hike up Bali’s most emblematic mountain. Experience the stunning views from the active volcano near the village of Kintamani, and learn more about the region from a local private guide.
Bali vs Thailand: Beaches
You can have an amazing beach holiday in either Thailand or Bali but it’s in the south of Thailand that you’ll find the idyllic white sandy beaches and turquoise water of a dream holiday. Skip touristy Phuket and head for Krabi and Railay Beach or to one of the gorgeous tropical islands such as Kho Phi Phi, Kho Samui or Kho Phangan to relax and soak in the sun.
Bali is also famous for its beaches and there are many beachside suburbs to choose from but Bali’s most famous beaches are a bit disappointing. While Kuta Beach is world famous for its surf and dramatic sunsets, it’s in Uluwatu that you’ll find some of Bali’s best beaches with stunning white sands and crashing surf. While they’re beautiful, the big surf and strong currents are not ideal for swimming.
But Bali’s black sand beaches at Amed and Lovina are worth seeing. On the east coast, the black sand of Amed sits in the shadow of moody Mount Agung and offers beautiful scenery, diving, snorkelling and a slower pace.
Is Thailand or Bali better for shopping
While shopping is fun in either Thailand or Bali, Bangkok is a shopper’s paradise with bargains to be found at shopping malls like the MBK Centre, The Emporium or Central World. But the best place to shop in Bangkok is at the markets.
There are markets all over Bangkok with floating markets, night markets and the Maeklong Railway Market that actually moves to let trains pass through. But the Chatuchak weekend market is one of the best. It’s the largest and most famous market in Bangkok and an ideal place to bargain for souvenirs.
Bali on the other hand has shopping malls in Kuta, Nusa Dua and Seminyak and lots of small designer boutiques in Ubud and the beach suburbs. Some of the best things to buy in Bali are sarongs, batik, clothing, silver jewellery and wood carvings.
Visit the Maeklong Railway Market and the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market on either a private or group tour from Bangkok.
Is Bali or Thailand safe for solo travellers?
I can personally recommend either Bali or Thailand for solo travellers. Both are relatively safe destinations for women travelling alone. If you take the usual safety precautions and take care when you’re out alone at night, you’re likely to have a safe and successful solo trip in either Thailand or Bali.
Thailand is a bit easier for solo travellers to get around as the public transport links are cheap and reliable to use. But in Bali I found myself jumping on the back of a Gojek motorbike whenever I could or taking a taxi or shuttle bus between destinations. While riding on a motorbike is a fun way to see the sights of Bali as a solo traveller, it’s also a less safe way to travel on Bali’s busy roads.
Although taxis are relatively cheap in Bali, for one person, hiring a car can be an expensive option if you’re on a budget.
But for me, Bangkok felt less safe than Bali.
Is Thailand or Bali Better for Families?
For a family vacation, either Thailand or Bali is a good choice. Both offer an affordable vacation, a variety of fun activities, sun, sand and surf.
Although many of Bali’s beaches have big waves and strong currents, there are protected beaches, at Nusa Dua and Sanur that are perfect for a family holiday in Bali.
Overall Thailand’s beaches have calmer waters with little or no surf so most beaches are good for a family holiday.
Is Thailand or Bali better for a Honeymoon”
You could choose either Thailand or Bali for a honeymoon. Both offer luxurious resorts, fun activities and beautiful island escapes. A romantic dinner on the beach watching the sunset is a must in either destination.
In Bali, you can stay in a private villa or a luxury resort at Nusa Dua or Seminyak and escape to the stunning Gili Islands to bask in the sun. Base yourself in Ubud amidst lush rice terraces, relax with a luxurious massage and couples spa treatment and enjoy the sights around the island.
For a honeymoon in Thailand, head south to Krabi and gorgeous Railey Beach (with limestone cliffs on either side you’ll need to hire a traditional Longtail boat to get there) or spend a few days on gorgeous Kho Phi Phi or Kho Samui. These stunning tropical islands have white sand and turquoise water and are exceptionally romantic places to spend a honeymoon.
Final Thoughts: Is Thailand or Bali better?
So, is Thailand or Bali better for your next holiday? Well, Thailand wins this competition on many fronts offering a sumptuous palace and beautiful temples, heavenly beaches, tropical islands, great shopping and nightlife and many more fun things to do.
But Bali is also a great destination to visit with its dramatic mountains, picturesque rice terraces and idyllic waterfalls. Bali offers a wide range of activities, a beautiful, ancient culture, friendly local people, delicious food and lively nightlife.
Thailand is one of my favourite places in the world, but Bali in Indonesia is close behind and is also a great choice for your next vacation. If you still can’t decide whether Bali or Thailand is better, why not visit both?