Decide which dream destination is going to be the best island getaway.
Two top island destinations, only one holiday.
To help you get over the line we compare costs, flights, hotels, cuisine, beaches and travel styles to see which comes out on top.
TL;DR: Our verdict
The winner: Bali is the cheaper and bigger people pleaser of the two. More direct flights are available to its shores on budget airlines and on-ground costs are generally less than they are in Phuket. It also offers a variety of landscapes, from beach to mountain to rice paddy, making it ideal for the beach lover and the adventure seeker.
Bali vs Phuket
Which is cheaper?
Phuket is one of the most expensive destinations in Thailand. Compared with Bali, the cost of hotels, food and tours is higher overall. That being said, both are still miles cheaper than what you'd expect to pay in Australia. For example, a cheap meal in Bali averages $2.77 while in Phuket it's $4.44.
|Flights||$917 (average price paid by Australians to fly to Indonesia in 2018)||$1,015 (average price paid by Australians to fly to Thailand)|
|Hotels (3-star hotel)||Starting from $10 per room, based on a booking on 1 November 2019 via hotels.finder.com.au||Starting from $16 per room, based on a booking on 1 November 2019 via hotels.finder.com.au|
|Meals||$2.77 in an inexpensive restaurant or $22.21 for a 3-course meal for 2 in a mid-range restaurant||$4.44 in an inexpensive restaurant or $22.91 for a 3-course meal for 2 in a mid-range restaurant|
|Tour||9-hour private custom sightseeing tour from $35.91||1-day Phuket sightseeing tour from $283.43|
Prices obtained on 26 March 2019. Food and meal prices obtain from Numbeo.
- Winner: Bali is much cheaper than Phuket for virtually everything, except beer. Though at 39 cents more it's not too much extra to pay for a drink.
Which is better for flights?
- Cost: Flights to Bali can start from as little as $99 each way on low-cost carriers. Flights to Phuket generally start from around $150 each way on budget airlines.
- Airlines: You won't struggle to find direct flights to Bali with Jetstar, AirAsia, Qantas, Virgin Australia and Garuda Indonesia all servicing the island paradise from cities across Australia. Phuket is a little more difficult to get to with Jetstar being the only airline that offers direct flights to the city. Indirect flights are available on airlines such as Qantas, AirAsia and Scoot though these may include long stopovers in their home hub cities.
- Airports: Both destinations are serviced by a single airport. Bali's is Ngurah Rai International Airport, which is also known as Denpasar International Airport. Phuket's is Phuket International Airport.
- Flight duration: Being closer, Bali flights are generally shorter from whichever Australian city you're flying out of. For example, direct flights from Sydney to Bali are 6 hours 40 minutes while direct flights from Sydney to Phuket are 9 hours and 20 minutes long.
- Flight times and frequency: Something else you may want to consider is when flights depart and how often. As flights can be quite long, you may want to fly out in the evenings, sleep on the plane and wake up fresh in your destination city. From Sydney, Bali flights depart daily on Garuda Indonesia, Virgin Australia, Qantas and Jetstar however all the departure times are during the day, with the latest departing at 6.45pm. Direct flights to Phuket are available only three days a week.
- Winner: Bali is much cheaper and easier to get to with more direct flights available. You also have a wider variety of airlines flying directly there, including budget airline Jetstar and full-service airlines Qantas and Garuda Indonesia.
All times and details are current as at 4 April 2019.
Which is better for hotels?
Bali offers everything from beachfront resorts and spas to mountain retreats and city centre living. All budgets can be accommodated for with hotels ($10), homestays ($15), budget hotels ($30), villas ($100) and luxury resorts ($500+).
Phuket also accommodates for various budgets with hostels ($10), budget hotels ($14) and luxury resorts for $100. Phuket is known to have some of the cheapest 5-star hotels in Thailand. However, Phuket has mostly beachfront resorts which have a road between the resort and the beach.
- Winner: While Bali has a wider variety of accommodation options but starting prices run much cheaper in Phuket, particularly for luxury accommodation. We're giving this one to Phuket, purely on cost. Compare your hotel options now through Hotels Finder, which powered by HotelsCombined.
Which is better for a honeymoon?
There’s no shortage of romantic or luxurious accommodation in either Phuket or Bali, so what it mostly boils down to is when you plan on going on your honeymoon.
Bali and Phuket have total opposite travel seasons with Bali experiencing its dry season from April to September and Phuket from November to May.
Outside of the weather, the other factor to influence your decision is the activities available. Phuket is ideal for beach lovers as island hopping is popular. Bali is better suited for active travellers as hiking a volcano or swinging over a rice field is common.
- Verdict: Choose your destination based on the travel season, we definitely would prefer to stay dry and be able to explore the island.
Which is better for families?
Both Bali and Phuket offer water activities, culture, scenic sites and nightly entertainment suitable for the whole family.
If surfing is your family’s thing, make your way to Bali. The flight time is much shorter than to Phuket, which could reduce some stress when flying with young children.
- Verdict: For families with young children Bali is our obvious choice but for an older family it’s really a toss-up.
Things to do
Which is better for nightlife?
No matter which destination you choose you'll be able to experience the nightlife.
Bali often has international DJs hitting the stages at the island's world-renowned clubs. Bars, beach lounges and a more sophisticated vibe take over Bali's hottest partying spots in Kuta and Legian. Canggu and Uluwatu offer more-relaxed party venues. You can get a feel for the nightlife with Bali nightlife tour.
Phuket is known for its nightlife but not for being as classy as Bali's. Patong is the main party area in Phuket with half of the street lined with go-go bars and the other filled with backpackers. Buckets (sand buckets filled with beverages) are aplenty and bars open onto the street where the party flows out on to. You can get a feel for the nightlife with a Phuket nightlife tour.
- Verdict: If you're serious about music Bali is a must but if you prefer to party on a budget Phuket is the clear winner.
Which is better for beaches?
Bali and Phuket aren't short on beach bliss. To pull out some major differences, Bali offers travellers more choice with volcanic black sand beaches as well as coral and white sand beaches. It's also a prime destination for surfing, though be warned the beaches are quite dirty. Short on time? You can see the best with a Bali beach hopping tour.
Phuket on the other hand has idyllic white soft sand beaches that are well maintained. Beach-hopping tours abound to let you see more in a short space of time.
- Verdict: We opt for cleaner and more idyllic beaches making Phuket the winner in this round.
Which is better for food?
For those of us who travel according to our stomachs, Bali and Phuket both have much to offer. Balinese food consists of flavoursome rice, noodle and soup dishes. Due to its popularity with Australians it boasts numourous Western food options. This makes it ideal for picky eaters or the unadventurous.
Food options on Phuket are more traditional, featuring noodle, soup and fried dishes that are packed to the gills with flavour. This is because Thai food in general aims to hit all flavour tastebuds: sweet, salty, sour and bitter, making it the ultimate taste sensation.
- Winner: Phuket's food is by far more renowned, adventurous and authentic.
Bali vs Phuket: Features compared
||Both. Bali for land-based activities, Phuket for water-based activities.|
|Transport options||Bali has no public transport system so transport is limited to private drivers and some shuttles.||Phuket is very easy to walk around in most areas. Public buses are available and tuk tuks or taxis are affordable to hire.||Phuket|
|Best months to visit||April to September||November to May||Both|
|Type of landscape||
|Airlines that fly there (direct) from Australia||
|Average flight cost from Australia (according to Skyscanner)||
|Cuisine||Indonesian cuisine mostly consists of rice, noodle or soup dishes. Dishes are typically fried and are packed with flavour.||Thai cuisine is world famous and has a wide range of flavourful noodle, rice and soup dishes.||Phuket|
|Travel style best suited for||
Bali vs Phuket: which wins?
Bali offers a wider range of scenery, has a well-regarded nightlife scene and has a much cheaper starting flight cost from Australia. Things also cost less once you’re there, apart from the slightly more expensive beer.
- Cheaper to fly to from Perth and Brisbane
- Cheaper overall for food and sightseeing
- More direct flight options from Australia
- Wider variety of accommodation options, including homestays and villas
- Better to travel to in April to September
- Better for active travellers/families
- World-renowned nightlife scene
- Wider variety of beaches
- Ideal for surfers
- Cheaper to fly to (on average) from Sydney and Melbourne
- Better to travel to in November to May
- Better for marine-based activities
- Cleaner beaches
- Public transport options for the budget-conscious
- Wider variety of food