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Bali vs Thailand: Which should be your next holiday destination?

Find out which tropical paradise is going to be your dream holiday destination: Bali or Thailand.

Updated

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A woman relaxes while floating on her back in the warm turquoise waters of Thailand.

Bali and Thailand are both exotic destinations that offer budget-friendly and luxurious options.

Stuck between the two? We break down costs, accommodation and types of holidays to help you choose the paradise for your next big break.

TL;DR: Our verdict

The winner: Thailand works out to be cheaper overall, has a wider range of cuisines and activities for families and has cleaner beaches. If nightlife is where you're at though, Bali is the winner. Scroll here for our quick side-by-side comparison of each destination.

Bali vs Thailand

Price

Which is better for cost?

Generally, Bali and Thailand (using Bangkok prices) are quite on-par in all aspects of travel (accommodation, food, drinks) except tours and flights. You can score flights for as little as $99 each way on budget airlines, whereas to Bangkok cheap seats tend to cost closer to $199 each way.

Price also varies depending on where you are going. For example, ground costs on Thai islands such as Phuket or Koh Phangan during the full moon party cost more than Bali.

Bali costThailand cost
Flights$917 return (average paid by Australians in 2018)$1,015 return (average paid by Australians in 2018)
Hotels (3-star hotel)From $41 per night (based on a stay on 1 November 2019 via Hotels Finder)From $28 per night (based on a stay in Bangkok on 1 November 2019 via Hotels Finder)
Beer$3.81$3.84
Meals$2.72-$38.11$2.88-$38.36
Tour10-hour Bali tour from $20Full-day Bangkok city tour from $60

Prices (other than flights) obtained on 30 January 2020. Food and meal prices obtained from Numbeo.

  • Winner: Bali works out to be slightly cheaper, especially once flights are factored in. However, on-ground costs are very similar.
Bali art market stall. Image: Getty Images

Bali art market stall.

Chatuchak market in Bangkok. Image: Shutterstock

Chatuchak market in Bangkok.

Flights

How do flights compare from Australia to Bali or Thailand?

  • Cost: As mentioned above, flights to Bali start lower than those to Thailand. The average cost paid by Australians to Indonesia is also cheaper ($917 return) than to Thailand ($1,015 return).
  • Airlines: A variety of budget and full-service airlines service both Bali and Thailand. Budget airlines that fly direct to Bali include Jetstar and AirAsia. Popular full-service airlines that fly to Bali are: Garuda Indonesia, Qantas and Virgin Australia. Flights can start from $99 out of Perth on carriers like Jetstar. Budget airlines that fly to Thailand include: Jetstar, AirAsia and Scoot Airways. Popular full-service airlines that fly to Thailand include: Qantas, Virgin Australia, Thai Airways and Singapore Airlines.
  • Airports: Bali only has one airport while Thailand, being a country and not a city, has multiple popular tourist cities, each with their own airport. This includes Bangkok, Phuket and Chiang Mai.
  • Flight duration: Bali is much closer to Australia than Thailand. From Sydney direct flights to Bali take 6.5 hours while flights to Phuket take 9.5 hours and into flights to Bangkok take 14 hours.
  • Flight times and frequency: Something you might also like to consider is when flights depart. If you're flying from Sydney, journeys will take at least 6.5 hours so you may prioritise night flights where you can sleep on the plane to max your working hours and holiday hours. These vary per airline and season.
  • Winner: Thailand has more options for budget and full-service airlines. Price-wise, Bali does come up cheaper though. Find your flight with Skyscanner.

Hotels

Which is better for hotels?

Bali offers a wider variety of choice than Thailand with everything from budget hostels to homestays (guesthouses), hotels, luxury beach resorts and villas available.

Prices vary significantly depending on which area you're staying in. Hostels in Bali start at $10 a night, homestays at $15, hotels at $30 and entire villas for $100. Depending on the level of luxury you're going for, accommodation can be upwards of $500 per night. Seminyak, Canggu, Uluwatu and Nusa Dua are the most expensive areas on Bali.

In Thailand your choices for accommodation include hostels, bungalows, hotels and resorts. Hostels start at $5 a night, bungalows at $15, hotels at $40 and resorts at $50. Again, prices vary significantly depending on where you're staying in Thailand. Expect accommodation in places such as Phuket, Bangkok and Chiang Mai to be pricer. Top luxury resorts can cost as much as $1,000 per night.

Compare your hotel options now on Booking.com.

  • Winner: Outside of heavily touristic areas Thailand offers better priced accommodation for a similar variety of styles and hotel classes.
5-star hotel Baan Laimai Beach resort in Phuket
5-star hotel Baan Laimai Beach resort in Phuket

Finder Hotels

Things to do

Which is better for nightlife?

The top areas to party in Bali include Kuta and Legian, but you'll find plenty of beach clubs in Seminyak and Canggu too. The nightlife scene is Bali is more sophisticated than Thailand as Bali brings in big-name DJs and international artists for concerts at high-end beach clubs and rooftop bars. See it all in a short amount of time with a skip-the-line Bali party crawl walking tour from $52 per person.

Thailand's nightlife is best for those on a budget, where buckets (large alcoholic drinks are served in buckets typically used for sand) are common and go-go bars are everywhere. Thailand's nightlife is more seedy than Bali's but it is still abundant with something for all ages. You can hit up the streets of Patong, Phuket from $30 on a dedicated Phuket pub crawl.

  • Winner: Bali takes this round with its sophisticated range of nightclubs, which aren't too pricey as well if we do say so ourselves.
Bangkok by Night: Temples, Markets and Food by Tuk-Tuk
Bangkok by Night: Temples, Markets and Food by Tuk-Tuk

Viator

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Which is better for beaches?

Bali is surrounded by beaches and is the spot to go if you're interested in surfing. Beginners can try surfing in Canggu and the pros can hop on their boards in Uluwatu. Bali has both white sand beaches and volcanic black sand beaches. While Bali does offer some stunning beaches, not all are spectacular as it is common to find garbage floating in the water and on the beaches.

Thailand's islands have all types of beaches, most of which are idyllic. You won't have issues running into garbage like you do on some Bali beaches. The waters are calmer in Thailand making it an ideal destination for snorkelling and diving.

While most Bali beaches are busier, you will find some with few people. But in Thailand it is easier to find a paradise mostly to yourself.

  • Winner: Thailand's beaches are cleaner and more geared toward the visitor with snorkelling and diving opportunities. If you're a keen surfer though, we say Bali all the way.
Phi Phi, Maya Bay, Bamboo Island and Rang Yai island hopping
Phi Phi, Maya Bay, Bamboo Island and Rang Yai island hopping

Viator

Which is better for food?

Another point of consideration is food. If there are some picky eaters in your crew then Thailand is the winner as there is an abundance of choices, with Thai cuisine that is loved by travellers and Western food also easy to come by. Bali also has many Western food choices, which is great for anyone who loves the creature comforts of home, but the local food has less variety than Thai cuisine.

  • Winner: Thailand has food that can please just about anyone.
Chicken satay skewers in Bali Image: Getty Images

Chicken satay skewers in Bali Image: Getty Images

A sample of Thai cuisine Image: Getty

A sample of Thai cuisine.

Travel style

Which is better for a honeymoon?

Both Bali and Thailand are filled with romantic resorts, restaurants overlooking the water and spas.

The best way to decide which is ideal for your honeymoon is when you're planning on going. Thailand and Bali have opposite rainy seasons, so Bali should be visited between April and September while Thailand is best between November and April.

If you have limited time and want to see everything, Bali may be best as it is much smaller than Thailand.

  • Winner: Bali wins for honeymoons between April and September and Thailand for honeymoons between November and April. What can we say? We'd prefer good weather over anything else when celebrating.

Lovers enjoying the view in Bali

Which is better for families?

Bali and Thailand both offer a wide-variety of family-style accommodation and family-friendly activities.

Bali's landscape of beach, rice paddies, temples and mountains offers marine activities, sightseeing and hiking trails for families. Thailand's landscape is much more rich and varied, particularly as it is a country rather than an island. Within its borders are beaches, jungle and city which seek to please beach bums with water based activities, adventurous souls with animal sanctuaries and shoppers and sightseers with buzzing markets, shopping centres and temples.

  • Winner: Thailand has a greater variety of activities up its sleeve to please everyone in the family.

Bali vs Thailand: Features compared

FeatureBaliThailandWinner
Popular activities
  • Visiting temples
  • Surfing
  • Sunrise volcano trek
  • Beaches
  • Rice terraces
  • Visiting temples
  • Night markets
  • Hanging out with elephants
  • Island-hopping
  • Beaches
Both
Transport optionsBali has no public transport system so transport is limited to private drivers and some shuttles.Flights, ferries, trains, buses and shuttles.Thailand
Best months to visitApril–SeptemberNovember–AprilBoth
Type of scenery/landscapeLush jungles, mountains and volcanoes, scenic beaches, rice terraces.Jungle, mountains, scenic beaches, islands, cities.Both
Popular airlines that fly there from Australia
  • Jetstar
  • AirAsia
  • Virgin Australia
  • Qantas
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Jetstar
  • AirAsia
  • Scoot Airways
  • Thai Airways
  • Qantas
  • Virgin Australia
Thailand
Average flight cost from Australia (according to Skyscanner)
  • $277 (Darwin, cheapest city to fly from)
  • $753 (Sydney)
  • $749 (Melbourne)
  • $643 (Brisbane)
  • $662 (Sydney to Phuket)
  • $680 (Melbourne to Phuket)
  • $899 (Brisbane to Phuket)
  • $865 (Sydney to Bangkok)
  • $777 (Melbourne to Bangkok)
  • $882 (Brisbane to Phuket)
Bali
CuisineIndonesian cuisine mostly consists of rice, noodle or soup dishes. Dishes are typically fried and are packed with flavour.Typical dishes include rice, noodle and soup dishes. Thai food is typically light and flavoursome.Thailand
Travel style best suited for
  • Adventure travellers
  • Beach lovers
  • Culture
  • Foodies
  • Beach lovers
  • Culture
Both

*Flight prices are Skyscanner's average fares for travel in 2018.

Bali vs Thailand: Who won?

Thailand wins our vote here with its wider range of activities and cuisines, cheaper on-ground costs and greater family-friendly appeal. It's best for foodies, beach lovers and culture.
If you're after a better party scene or surf however, then Bali is the place to go.

Bali

  • Cheaper flights from Australia
  • Cheaper tours
  • Wider variety of hotels, including villas and homestays
  • Better weather from April-September
  • More Western food options
  • More sophisticated nightlife
  • Beaches are better for surfing

Thailand

  • Cheaper food and drink
  • Cheaper hotels
  • Better weather from November-April
  • More family-friendly activities
  • Wider variety of food
  • Cleaner beaches with snorkelling and diving opportunities
  • Wider variety of public transport options
  • Wider variety of airlines fly to it

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    LInetteJune 15, 2020

    I am wanting to take a spiritual mental retreat I will be traveling alone as my husband passed. I am looking for ocean view serenity and peacefulness and safety. Thailand where is it safe for my situation.

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