Wondering where you should go during your next holidays in Southeast Asia? I know – it’s a hard one. Bali and Thailand both have great things to offer. If it’s not possible for you to travel to both Bali and Thailand, I’ll be comparing both destinations to help you make a decision.
Who am I to tell you which one is the best destination for you?
I lived in Bali for over a year and I was always pretty sold on Bali… until I decided to take two months to travel around Thailand. After only one week, I realized how much Thailand had to offer and I decided to extend my stay.
Bali and Thailand are “same-same, but different”. They both have beaches, island vibes and can be done on a budget or in total luxury. Still – they are different.
Let’s take a look at the major differences and let’s see on what you could base your decision. Will you travel to Bali or Thailand?
Table of Contents
Bali or Thailand
There are different factors and things to consider while making a decision between Bali or Thailand. Here are some questions you should ask yourself before making a decision. Keep reading to find if your answers would be a better fit for Bali or Thailand.
- When will be your holidays?
- What’s your budget?
- Where are you flying from?
- What kind of activities would you like to do?
- How long are your holidays?
Bali vs Thailand – Season
When are you planning your holidays? Going on a trip might sound fun – but did you know about the burning season or the rainy season? There are good times to visit Thailand and Bali, and there are also bad times too. That being said, if you want to make the most of your holidays, you should consider the season when deciding on where to go.
Best Season to Visit Bali
The best time to visit Bali is between April and September. October to April is the rainy season. It doesn’t rain constantly but if you have a limited time in Bali, you should aim for the good weather.
✅ April to September
❌ Rainy season from October to April
Best Season to Visit Thailand
Thailand is a big country, which means that depending on your destinations, you might face different types of weather. The worst time to visit Thailand would be between August and October – which refers to the rainy season (and more importantly the wettest months for Thailand in general).
To give you an idea, I’ll split Thailand into different sections and indicate the rainy season as well as the burning season.
Islands in the Gulf of Thailand (Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Tao): The rainy season is between September and December. The best time to visit would be from January to March.
Islands in the Andaman Sea (Koh Lanta, Koh Phi Phi, Phuket, etc.): The rainy season is between May and October.
Chiang Mai: Chiang Mai has a burning season which is not recommended for travel as it’s hard to breathe out there. It starts towards the end of February and lasts until April. The rainy season in the north is between November to February.
✅ Gulf of Thailand: January to March
✅ Andaman Sea: November to April
✅ Northern Thailand: May to October
❌ Rainy season in the Gulf of Thailand: September to October
❌ Rainy season in the Andaman Sea: May to October
❌ Burning season in Northern Thailand: February to April
👉 Depending on your travel dates, you should pick your destination according to the right season.
Thailand vs Bali – Cost
What is your travel budget? Where are you at the moment? When I make travel decisions, I always take a look at the flight prices first. The idea is to go somewhere without spending too much at first if you’re on a budget. If the budget isn’t a problem, then, you won’t have to worry about this section too much. If you are wondering if Bali or Thailand is cheaper, then keep reading! I’ll be comparing both with a holiday perspective as well as a cost of living perspective for the long-term nomads out there.
Is Bali or Thailand Cheaper?
If you’re traveling on a budget, I totally understand why this matters to you – been there, done the whole extreme budget traveling! Overall, I found that both countries can be done on a budget. Here are some real-life examples to help you understand the differences.
Is Bali cheap? What to expect from Bali in terms of expenses
- The cheapest dorm found in Bali is currently at $3 per night.
- The cheapest daily rate for a scooter is at $3.50 per day.
- The cheapest meal you can get is around $1.
You can read my backpacking guide to Bali here.
Planning your upcoming adventures? Travel by bus! (It’s cheap!)
Is Thailand cheap? What to expect from Thailand in terms of expenses
- The cheapest dorm found in Thailand is currently at $2 per night.
- The cheapest daily rate for a scooter is at $4.70 per day, but you might have to negotiate to get to this rate.
- The cheapest meal you can get is around $1.
🔔 Keep in mind that the cost on the Thai islands will be higher – places like Koh Tao are less budget-friendly.
🔔 Remember that some Thai destinations/islands can be far from each other – which means you’re going to have to pay for transport between your destinations. Sometimes, it can be cheap, but sometimes, it can add up quickly. You can read more about Thailand transportation here.
Bali Cost VS Thailand Cost | Long-Term Living
If you’re thinking of moving to Bali or Thailand, this section is for you. I’ve been living in both countries for an extended period of time. You can read my full guide on living in Bali here or my guide to living in Koh Phangan here.
Overall, at the end of the month, both countries cost about the same. If some expenses are higher in Thailand, some others are higher in Bali, so it’s about the same total-wise.
In these two examples, I’ll only share the main expenses as you already have an idea of budget meal prices. Then, you can also add the price for co-working spaces in you are a digital nomad. These are prices I found while living in Canggu, Bali and in Koh Phangan, Thailand. Of course, it can vary depending on your standards or destinations.
Cost of living in Bali for long-term nomads
Accommodation: $335 per month including electricity
Scooter rental: $42 per month
Gym membership: $70 per month
Co-working space: Price starts at $49 for the smaller packages (25 hours)
Cost of living in Thailand for long-term nomads
Accommodation: $375 per month (some bungalows will require you to pay electricity at the end of the month – in our case we paid $62 for 5 weeks in Koh Phangan)
Scooter rental: $109 per month
Gym membership: $47 per month
Co-working space: $203 for the unlimited monthly membership
🔔 Remember that the cost of living on an island is higher than on the mainland – Chiang Mai would be cheaper than this example.
👉 The budget-friendly award goes to both places as it can be done on the cheap in both destinations. Although, if you want to live on the very cheap, Chiang Mai could be a cheap base. As I haven’t been there yet, I can’t provide a real-life example.
Bali Beaches vs Thailand Beaches
If I say the word “beach”, what comes to your mind?
If your answer is something like: “white sand beach with turquoise water” – I would suggest Thailand.
If your answer is something like: “I don’t care as long as I can surf” – I would suggest Bali.
Most beaches in Bali are ideal for surfing – in fact, Bali is one of the best destinations for surfers around the world. The beaches are fun as long as you enjoy swimming in the waves. They aren’t the prettiest though.
Of course, you can find beautiful beaches around Uluwatu and the Nusa Islands (about 30 minutes from Bali by speedboat). But – let’s be honest here – the sand is quite dark (after all, Bali is a volcanic island) and during the rainy season, the beaches are quite dirty as the trash washes on the beach.
✅ Perfect for surfing
🔔 You can still find beautiful beaches in Uluwatu and around the Nusa Islands
❌Overall, Bali doesn’t have the most beautiful beaches
Did you know? You could get an extra Airbnb discount using this link! If you already have an account, you can create a new one. Thank me later!
Thailand beaches, on the other hand, are incredibly beautiful. Think of white sand beaches with turquoise water. If you’d rather go somewhere with still water (where you won’t have to fight for your life), then Thailand beaches are probably a better option for you.
With so many beautiful islands to pick from, you won’t be disappointed with the beach options. You can read more about Koh Lanta, Koh Tao and Koh Phangan. If you’ve heard of the famous Railay Beach before, you can read more about it here too.
✅ Beautiful & clean beaches
👉 The most beautiful beaches award goes to Thailand.
Thailand vs Bali – Food
If you’re a foodie – you might want to take a look at this section! Although, if you aren’t a foodie, but a budget traveler, this section should be interesting to you too as there’s a big difference food-wise between Thailand and Bali.
As mentioned above, you can find cheap food options in Bali. If you eat vegetarian, you can easily eat for $1 per meal in local warungs.
If I compare Bali to Thailand, there aren’t as many options when it comes to local food in Bali, and eventually, I got sick of it. When I was on a tight budget, I ate local food 3 times a day, which was super budget friendly. Nasi Goreng and Mee Goreng were part of my daily diet – but so were the stomach issues.
When my financial situation got better, I started eating western food – which is more expensive. Although, western food options are better in Bali than in Thailand. That being said, for long-term nomads, this could be a great selling point.
🔔 Ever heard of Bali belly? You can read more about it here. Even though I lived in Bali for a long time, I still got sick a lot and regularly. Eating in Bali (even if you only eat in nice restaurants) comes with a risk. If you’re planning short holidays in Bali, you could get Travelan tablets to make sure to keep your belly happy.
As mentioned above, you can find cheap food options in Thailand. In fact, there are so many good Thai food out there. Pad Thai, curries, fried rice, name it! With so many food markets, food courts as well as great Thai restaurants, you’ll have plenty of options when it comes to food. I, personally, love Thai food and it’s harder to get sick of it as there are more options.
👉 The most delicious food award goes to Thailand. Although, for long-term nomads who want to drink great coffee in hipster cafés and have good western food options too – Bali could be a better option.
Bali vs Thailand – Nightlife
If you want to party during your holidays, you should know that the nightlife is great in both destinations. Although, you’d be facing different types of parties depending on where you go.
I’d say the main difference between Bali and Thailand is about the drug situation. Bali has serious laws when it comes to drugs which means it’s not recommended to do drugs on the island if you want to avoid jail time. Thailand has a lot of options when it comes to drugs – so you can expect the party scene to be different. (Personally, I don’t do drugs, so I wasn’t interested in parties like the Full Moon Party in Thailand.)
Bali has a great party scene for any kind of partiers. You can find high-end clubs, beach clubs and beach bars as well as parties on the beach. There are many great options and there’s something going on every night of the week. You also have big festivals such as GypsyLand.
Depending on where you are in Thailand, you could be doing pub crawls or parties in Koh Phangan. You could go in high-end clubs in Bangkok too. There are great options scattered around the country but on most islands, you’ll find relaxing beach bars with fire dancers.
👉 The most fun party scene award goes to Bali. You can find any kind of parties in a smaller area, which makes it a lot easier for partiers.
Bali vs Thailand – Getting Around
Getting around Bali and Thailand is absolutely different! The most important thing to consider is the size of Bali vs Thailand. Bali is one big island, but Thailand is one big country. Let’s take a look at the differences between Bali and Thailand when it comes to transportation.
Getting around Bali
You should note that there is no public transport in Bali. To get around the island, you have a few options:
- Driving around the island with a scooter
- Hiring a driver
- Using apps such as GoJek or Grab to go from one place to another
✅ If you do enjoy driving around with your own scooter, then, Bali would win in terms of cost.
🔔 Driving around Bali might be a bit intimidating at first. The traffic can get quite intense and busy, so if you are a beginner driver, you should make sure you feel confident enough to drive in Bali.
Getting around Thailand
There are many options when it comes to transportation in Thailand. You can book buses, ferries, local transports pretty much everywhere around Thailand, which makes traveling around the country super easy. Although, it also comes with costs as distances can be further between destinations.
✅ Public transportation available
👉 The most convenient award when it comes to transportation goes to Thailand. You can find transportation easily across the country. Although, if you like to drive your own scooter around – it will be cheaper to do so in Bali.
Thailand vs Bali – Popular Activities
When it comes to activities during your travels, that’s where the fun begins! Depending on the things you’re planning on doing abroad, this could have a major impact on your decision. If some activities can be quite similar, some others are totally different.
This section will be a bit different – I’ll be naming the activities and say if it’s available in Bali, Thailand or both destinations.
As you can see, both destinations offer a wide variety of activities – but some activities might have different standards. I’ll give you an example – you can find beaches in both places, but in terms of beauty, Thailand wins. You can also find waterfalls in both places, but Bali waterfalls are more impressive than the ones found in Thailand. That being said, depending on your priorities and your definition of fun – your final choice may be influenced by the things you can do in both places.
You could also ask yourself these questions to help you make a decision:
- Would you rather trek on a volcano or in the rainforest?
- Would you rather lay down on a beach or learn how to surf?
- Would you rather hang out with elephants or dive with the famous manta rays in Nusa Penida, Bali?
👉 The most amazing activities award goes to both countries as they both have a lot to offer. Basically, you won’t get bored in these two destinations.
Bali vs Thailand – Safety
When it comes to safety, there’s a major difference between Bali and Thailand. After living in Bali for more than a year, you should know that “nothing major happened to me”, but I was always very cautious about many things as I heard so many horror stories from friends. I felt safer in Thailand as I didn’t have to be so cautious at all time.
Safety in Bali
As mentioned above, nothing happened to me as I was fully aware and cautious about all the things listed below:
- ATM scams: Card skimming is pretty common in Bali. You can join Facebook groups to be aware of the last card skimming in Bali. I personally used the Maybank ATM in Canggu and so far, so good. My pick was the Maybank ATM located next to the Savage Kitchen. Save the location here.
- Bag snatching: Unfortunately, purse and bag snatching is also pretty common, especially when it’s dark outside. The best way to avoid this is to put your purse in the seat of your scooter or to make sure your backpack has straps at the front too. It is pretty common for people to be driving at night and getting their purse snatched. It happened to two of my close friends while I was living in Bali. My main concern about this is the crash risk. The thieves might push you off your bike while trying to snatch your purse. (My friend got kicked off her scooter and they managed to snatch her purse – and she got injured.) This might sounds scary – so to avoid being in this situation – you should always put your purse in your scooter seat. That being said – if you are walking around at night, you won’t be able to avoid potential bag snatch – so try to avoid walking alone at night if you can.
- Groping: Unfortunately, some areas in Bali especially dark shortcuts in Canggu area, have a pretty bad reputation for ladies. Many of my female friends got groped in dark shortcuts just outside Canggu on their way to Pererenan area. To avoid these situations, you should take the busy main roads instead of the dodgy dark roads and you could also put a jumper or a sarong on to cover yourself at night. This way you won’t get any unwanted attention while you drive and it could keep you safer at night.
- Currency exchange scams: You should try not to use the currency exchange shops while in Bali. They are very good at showing an amount of money and giving you a different amount. Unless you want to witness a magic trick, you should simply avoid them. If you have to change your currency, then make sure to count everything before leaving and insist to get your money when the money is missing.
Safety in Thailand
When I got to Thailand, I was so used to being so cautious in Bali that I asked my friends what I had to be aware of. They laughed and said, “Mel, this isn’t Bali”. I asked all my questions and they couldn’t stop laughing like what none of these safety tips were useful in Thailand.
That being said, Thailand felt super safe compared to Bali (even though, nothing happened to me in Bali).
👉 The safety award goes to Thailand. It doesn’t mean you won’t be safe in Bali, but you might have to be more cautious and take some safety measures to have a positive experience.
Thailand vs Bali – Visa
When it comes to visa, it depends on your nationality. I’d recommend you check this website to know if you need a visa.
These two examples are for Canadians (Canadian passport holder here). Note that many other countries are similar criteria or requirements.
When entering Bali, you can get 30 days free entry. To get the stamp, you simply have to go through the main immigration lane.
If you’re planning on staying longer, you’ll have to head to the “Visa on arrival” office to pay a $35 fee. They accept different currencies, which makes it quite convenient. This visa on arrival gives you the right to extend your stay up to 60 days. You will still have to go to immigration to request this 30 extra days. This procedure requires you to head to the immigration for a total of 3 times:
- Form and fees (another $35)
- Photo and fingerprints
- Passport collection
To avoid this, I normally use an agent (visa4Bali), which means I have to head to the immigration office only once for my photo and fingerprints. They will send someone to pick up and drop off the passport – it’s more convenient and you will waste less time this way.
If you’re planning on staying for 6 months, you could also get a social visa before entering the country.
When entering Thailand (by flight), you can get 30 days. You can also get an extra 30 days later on if you decide to stay longer by going to the immigration office around you. I’ve done it in Koh Samui, you can read about it here.
Here’s a list of the Thailand visa requirements you’ll have to provide:
- Photocopy of your passport
- Photocopy of your current visa and immigration card
- Visa extension form
- TBH 1900 in cash (about $60)
If you’re planning on staying for 3 months, you could also get a visa before entering the country.
👉 The visa-easy-experience award goes to both destinations. IT ALSO DEPENDS ON WHERE YOU ARE FROM. For some people, it’s easier to go to Bali in terms of visa and for some others, Thailand would be easier. For longer stays, Thailand would be cheaper and more convenient as you can decide to extend your stay without having to get a visa on arrival at the airport.
Bali vs Thailand | Final Thoughts
For a very long time, I preferred Bali over Thailand. At the time, I only visited a few places in Thailand on short term trips. I didn’t have the time to appreciate Thailand. After spending two months in the south of Thailand, my opinion of the country has changed. I was able to see myself living there too, which was for me, a big thing.
Overall, when you take a look at the winners in every section, I’d say Thailand would be the big winner here. Still feeling unsure? Keep reading!
Bali is best for:
✅ Sense of community: For long-term nomads, Bali has a lot to offer. There are several co-working spaces across the island. I based myself in Canggu (which is #1 on Nomadlist by the way) and I’ve met wonderful friends while I was there. There’s a huge expat community as well as many cool cafés to work from and great comfort overall.
✅ Gorgeous scenery: The North of Bali is my favorite part on the island. Imagine stunning waterfalls, lakes and beautiful rice terraces. You can even see the mountains and volcanoes in the background. For me – that’s hard to beat.
✅ Ease and comfortable life: Most locals speak great English which makes everything super easy. You can get super affordable villas and guesthouses that are comfortable. In fact, the best bed I’ve ever had in my life was in Bali. I felt like I had a “western comfort” with the island vibes in Bali and that’s why it was very hard for me to leave the island. It got even too comfortable sometimes.
Bali would be the ideal destination for nomads who want to make friends have a sense of community while enjoying the comfort that can be found at home (in my case, home is in Canada) and the island vibes.
Thailand is best for:
✅ Beaches: When I think of beaches and exotic islands, Thailand wins. Turquoise water, white sand beaches and relaxing vibes are on the menu. If you want a daily swim, then Thailand has many beaches to offer.
✅ Thai food: When it comes to food, Thailand wins. It’s cheap, it’s good, it’s spicy, it’s healthy.
✅ Much more to discover: There’s more to see in Thailand and the reason is simple: it’s much bigger than Bali. Myself, I still have a lot to see in Thailand.
Thailand would be the ideal destination for travelers (especially first-timers in Southeast Asia) and for nomads too (especially in Chiang Mai).
So, where is it going to be? Bali or Thailand? Let us know what your pick is and why!
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