Bali vs the Maldives

Good for honeymoons, family travel and budget adventures, which popular holiday spot is the one you need to see: Bali or the Maldives?

Don’t let the pictures of over-the-water bungalows and romantic sunset dinners fool you, the Maldives is more than just a destination for honeymooners.

We compare the Maldives to Bali for honeymooners and family travellers to determine which is more budget friendly and where you can do the activities that you love most.

TL;DR: Our verdict

We love a good, cheap break and Bali has it in spades. It's an exotic location with beaches, villas and delectable eats that won't break the bank.

Bali vs the Maldives

Cost

Woman swinging on the cliff in the jungle rainforest of Bali Image: Getty

Which is better for cost?

Bali is a destination that can serve travellers with any kind of budget. The Maldives targets luxury travellers; however, you can cut costs by eating in-resort as most packages include meals and by abusing the resort's complimentary transport options.

If you do choose to make your own way around the Maldives, you can catch inter-island ferries for $2.50-$6.60 and speed boats for $9.70-$27.10. In Bali, taxis and scooters are the norm. A one-hour trip to another area of Bali costs $9.40-$28.20. You can also hire a scooter for $5 per day or a car for $25 per day.

Feature Bali The Maldives
Flights According to Skyscanner

, you can expect to pay the following for one-way flights:

  • Perth-Bali: From $109
  • Melbourne-Bali from $158
  • Sydney-Bali from $211
There are no direct flights to the Maldives. Approximate starting fares for one-way trips are as follows:
  • Perth-Maldives from $229
  • Melbourne-Maldives from $254
  • Sydney-Maldives from $260
Hotels (3-star hotel) Find accommodation from $13 per night. Prices obtained from Hotels Finder for a stay on 1 February 2020 Find accommodation from $69 per night. Prices obtained from Hotels Finder for a stay on 1 February 2020
Beer $3.49 $4.92
Meals $3-$12 $4.79-$15.97
Tour Full-day traditional sightseeing trip is $57.25 with Viator Full-day Malé walking tour is $107.34 with Viator

Prices obtained on 9 April 2019. Food and meal prices obtained from Numbeo.

  • Winner. Bali is cheaper by a landslide.

Flights

How do flights from Australia compare?

  • Cost. Flights are much cheaper to Bali than to the Maldives. We've seen flights to Bali drop as low as $99 while flights to the Maldives can drop down to $199 each way.
  • Airlines. You can catch direct flights to Bali, but not to the Maldives. Airlines that fly non-stop to Bali include Jetstar, AirAsia, Qantas, Garuda Indonesia and Virgin Australia. To get to the Maldives, you'll have to transfer at least once. Airlines that fly to the Maldives include Scoot, Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines.
  • Airports. Both destinations have one main international airport. Bali's is in Denpasar and the Maldives’ is in Malé.
  • Flight duration. Direct flights to Bali from Sydney take 6 hours and 40 minutes. Flights from Sydney to the Maldives take around 16 hours due to stopovers.
  • Flight times and frequency. Numerous direct flights depart from major Australian airports daily while flights to the Maldives are more complicated as they require at least one stopover, typically somewhere in Asia. This may work in your favour if you wish to visit multiple destinations on your holiday
  • Winner. Bali is much easier and cheaper to get to. There are numerous direct flights available on budget airlines saving you time and money.

Compare prices for flights to Bali and Maldives now


AYANA Resort & Spa, Bali Image: Supplied

AYANA Resort & Spa, Bali Image: Supplied

Meeru Island Resort & Spa Image: Supplied

Meeru Island Resort & Spa Image: Supplied

Hotels

Which is better for hotels?

For choice, Bali can't be beat. Hostels start at $10 a night, homestays at $15, hotels at $30 and villas for $100.

Options in the Maldives are predominantly limited to resorts. Guesthouses are becoming more popular and hotels can only be found in Malé, the capital. Your cheapest option is a guesthouse, with prices starting at $53, while a resort during the low season has prices starting at $79. During the high season, resorts can start as low as $130 but can easily reach up to $1,350 for more luxurious stays.

As a bonus, the Maldives is one of the few destinations in the world that offers overwater bungalows. Bali has none.

Things to do

Which is better for nightlife?

In both destinations you'll discover top DJs from around the world spinning decks. In the Maldives, the parties often happen in luxurious settings such as W Retreat and Spa or Niyama Maldives, aka the first underwater club.

Bali's nightlife is less refined, boasting a mix of raging clubs, relaxed bars and beachfronts. Make the most of the day and night with a beach and bar hopping tour.

  • Winner. Bali has more nightlife options, so it’s the clear winner of this round.
The beaches in the Maldives are absolutely divine. Image: Getty Images

The beaches in the Maldives are absolutely divine. Image: Getty Images

Bali beaches are often crowded and overrun with litter. Image: Getty Images

Bali beaches are often crowded and overrun with litter. Image: Getty Images

Which is better for beaches?

Bali offers white sand beaches in places like Uluwatu or volcanic black sand beaches filled with lounge chairs in hot spots such as Canggu. There's no shortage of sand in Bali, but be warned – if you stay in the tourist areas, beaches will be crowded and dirty with rubbish washed up on the shore. Short on time? Book a beach hopping tour to catch the best of them.

The Maldives is truly idyllic because of its soft white sand beaches and some of the clearest and bluest waters you will ever lay your eyes on. There’s no doubt that the beaches of the Maldives are one of the country’s highlights. They're uncrowded, clean and out-of-this-world beautiful. Catch the best of them on an island hopping tour.

  • Winner. I’m sure you’re with us when we say that we can’t miss visiting one of the top destinations in the world for beaches: the Maldives.

Travel style

Romance in Bali Image: Getty Images

Romance in Bali Image: Getty Images

Romance in the Maldives Image: Getty Images

Romance in the Maldives Image: Getty Images

Which is better for a honeymoon?

It’s difficult to compare Bali to the Maldives for a honeymoon as both destinations are completely different.

Bali offers a ton of activities for a more active honeymoon. These include snorkelling, surfing, hiking up volcanoes, visiting rice terraces and learning about local Balinese culture.

The Maldives is much quieter compared to Bali. It’s more tranquil and calmer, which is why it's more popular with lovebirds. There are less activities and entertainment, with most options limited to water-based activities such as snorkelling/diving, windsurfing, submarine rides and stand-up paddle boarding.

  • Winner. The Maldives specifically targets travellers looking for romance.

Which is better for families?

You won’t have an issue finding family-friendly accommodation in either island destination as there are a large number of resorts that cater to families in both places.

In the Maldives, the focus is on the sun, sea and sand. That means that activities are surrounded by water, such as snorkelling and banana boat rides, most of which are better suited to older children.

Bali has a wider variety of activities including water parks, animal parks, cooking classes and trekking.

  • Winner. Bali has more to offer families to help keep the little ones entertained.

Bali vs the Maldives: Features compared

Feature Bali The Maldives Winner
Popular activities
  • Snorkelling/diving
  • Beaches
  • Surfing
  • Island hopping
  • Visiting temples
  • Volcano treks
  • Visiting rice terraces
  • Snorkelling/diving
  • Beaches
  • Island hopping
  • Relaxation
Bali
Transport options Bali has no public transport system, so transport is limited to private drivers and some shuttles. The Maldives has public transport by inter-island ferry. The majority of resorts organise or include transportation. Maldives
Best months to visit April-September December-April Both
Landscape
  • Lush jungle
  • Mountains
  • Volcanoes
  • Beaches
  • Rice terraces
  • Beaches
  • Ocean vistas
  • Colourful sunsets
Bali
Airlines that fly there from Australia
  • Jetstar
  • Virgin Australia
  • Qantas
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • AirAsia
  • Malindo Air
  • Batik Air
No airlines fly direct from Australia. Bali
Average flight cost from Australia, according to Skyscanner
  • $277 (Darwin, cheapest city to fly from)
  • $753 (Sydney)
  • $749 (Melbourne)
  • $643 (Brisbane)
  • $1,083 (Sydney)
  • $975 (Melbourne)
  • $1,306 (Brisbane)
  • $1,394 (Perth)
Bali
Cuisine Indonesian cuisine mostly consists of rice, noodle or soup dishes. Dishes are typically fried and are packed with flavour. Western dishes are also popular. Maldivian cuisine (Dhivehi cuisine) uses a lot of coconut with plenty of vegetarian options and excellent seafood dishes. The cuisine uses mild flavours with an Indian and Sri Lankan influence. Bali
Travel style best suited for
  • Adventure travellers
  • Beach lovers
  • Culture
  • Beach lovers
  • Romantic getaways
  • Underwater adventurers
  • Relaxation
Both

Bali vs the Maldives: Who won?

Sorry, Maldives, while you'll never cease to be on our bucket list, Bali comes out on top as the more affordable people-pleaser. It offers various activities and cuisines to suit even fussy travellers and is only a short flight from our shores.

Here's a list of each destination's high points:

Bali

  • Offers direct flights
  • Cheaper flights, accommodation and on-the-ground costs
  • Variety of marine and on-land activities
  • Wider variety of cuisine, including traditional Indonesian and Western food
  • More lively nightlife

The Maldives

  • More luxurious accommodation, including overwater villas
  • Cleaner and more heavenly beaches
  • More serene and luxurious atmosphere, ideal for romance and honeymoons
  • Better public transport system

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