Looking for some awesome, affordable places like Thailand for your next trip? Check out our list of 11 alternatives.
Thailand has long been a popular destination for Aussie travellers, providing a mixture of affordability and adventure activities from surfing and diving to kayaking and kite surfing – there’s plenty to keep you busy on a Thai holiday.
That said, you might be ready for something new. Maybe you’ve lost count of the number of times you have basked on the beaches of Phi Phi or strolled the boozy backpacker haven of Koh San Road, or maybe you’d like to find somewhere that isn’t quite as heavily frequented by other Australian tourists.
Check out our list of 11 destinations like Thailand that could be the perfect place for your next holiday.
1. The Philippines
Boasting 7,107 islands and gorgeous beaches to delight any beach bum, the Philippines offers a wonderfully diverse island-hopping experience.
The widespread use of English is an added attraction for many travellers, especially first-timers as it makes getting around easy.
What to do: Kiteboarding, canyoning, kayaking and surfing.
When to go: December to February are the coolest months and see the heaviest tourist traffic while July to September is monsoon season.
Stay at: Daluyon Beach and Mountain Resort, right on the beach of the mountainous island of Palawan. The island is less crowded than beach spots like Borocay and is home to the underground river and is the gateway to stunning El Nido. Rates can be as low as $170.
The natural beauty of Malaysia is only surpassed by its assortment of cuisines and idyllic sandy beaches. Some of the must-see Malaysian attractions are the pristine beaches and dense jungles of Pulau Langkawi and the breathtaking surrounds of Pulau Tiga National Park, also known as "the Survivor Island".
What to do: Temples, jungle hikes, tea villages, Petronas Towers, Batu caves
When to go: May to October are the wettest months on the west coast while September to December receive monsoon showers in the east.
Stay at: the Holiday Inn Resort in Penang where the watersports are just around the corner and the cuisines is finger lickingly addictive.
Bali has long been a magnet for Australian tourists seeking an affordable tropical paradise and for good reason. It offers something for all sorts of traveller, from adrenaline junkies and party hunters to nature enthusiasts and family tourists.
What to do: Party, visit Gunung Rinjani (Indonesia's second largest volcano), hiking, watersports
When to go: The best time to visit Bali is considered to be during May, June and July.
Stay at: the four-star Holiday Inn Resort Bali Benoa. It boasts full spa services and a price tag that starts at $130p/n.
Cambodia's beaches are only matched by its rich cultural history. The temple at Angkor Wat is a must-see, depicting the might of Cambodia’s early kingdoms.
Cambodia is also riding a growing wave of ecotourism that introduces travellers to the country’s tropical wilderness and unique wildlife.
What to do: Angkor Wat, Bayon Temple, Angkor Thom, Botum Sakor National Park.
When to go: The wet season lasts from May to October and the tourist season runs from November to February.
Stay at: Paradise Angkor Villa Hotel where eco-tours and mountain biking abound nearby and hotel rates start from $69 per night.
The natural beauty of Vietnam is breathtaking and some of the most memorable in the world. For something akin to Thailand, make a visit to Ha Long Bay. Here, thousands of rugged limestone islands jut out of pristine waters.
Another foodie paradise, Vietnam’s street food also rivals Thailand’s for those who want to eat like a local.
Must do/see: Ha Long Bay and Hanoi, street food, rice fields, snorkelling, kayaking, hiking.
When to go: The climate varies considerably from one region to another. Check weather patterns for the regions you plan on visiting before booking your trip.
Stay at: the Sheraton Nha Trang Hotel & Spa is one of the most luxurious hotels you can lose yourself in. With water views and rates starting from $190p/n, it's hard to say no to.
6. Goa, India
Goa boasts white beaches and wide-ranging outdoor activities on top of the glimpse into a rapidly developing nation. The infrastructure in most places is good and easy transportation options are available for those who wish to travel further.
What to do: Kneeboarding, wakeboarding, windsurfing, diving, white water rafting, partying.
When to go: Mid-November to mid-February is peak season and offers a milder climate. During this time, Goa transforms into the party capital of India. The weather heats up from March to May and June is typically the wettest month.
Stay at: The Double Tree by Hilton Hotel is within 4km of Anjuna, Bag and Calangute Beaches and won't set you back to much at around $114 per night.
7. Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is hotly becoming the place to explore spectacular beaches, tropical rainforests and ancient culture. In it, adventurers can indulge in adventure activities and watersports, spiritual travellers can meditate in 2000-year-old temples and families can while away days on any one of its unspoilt beaches.
What to do: Temples, national parks, beach crawling.
When to go: The weather is ideal from December to February in the south-western and south coast areas.
Stay at: The Hilton Colombo Residence boasts panoramic views of the city and is minutes away from temples and beaches. Prices from $257.
Tonga’s 170-odd islands provide an excellent opportunity for travellers who want to get off the beaten track. The overall atmosphere in this tropical paradise is incredibly relaxed and it’s largely unspoilt by tourists. A visit provides an excellent opportunity to gain a true cultural experience from a tiny Pacific island nation.
What to do: Caves, waterfalls, water activities, humpback whale dives
When to go: The climate is warm and rainy between December and April and prone to tropical storms, so it's best to visit outside this period.
Stay at: the family friendly Likualofa Beach Resort where you and the family can hike, bike, scuba dive, kayak and snorkel until the sun goes down. Rooms from $118.
Borneo often gets overlooked amongst its more popular neighbours but for those who make the effort to travel there, it provides some of the most astounding natural scenery on Earth. Expect lush green rainforest, vivid blue ocean and rugged mountains as well as hundreds of pristine beaches undiscovered by tourists.
What to do: Jungle trekking, diving, watersports
When to go: The climate is appealing throughout the year but tourists looking to get involved in activities like jungle trekking and diving should avoid the wet months.
Stay at: Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu in Sabah. It costs around $167 per night and is a 10-minute walk from Warisan Square, Sedco Square and Filipino Market.
Thailand's neighbour to the west, Myanmar is noticeably less crowded and boasts beaches and temples that rival those in Chiang Mai, Phuket and Koh Samui.
Historical and spiritual sites abound with some areas boasting so many attractions that it would be impossible to see it all in a single visit.
What to do: Island hopping, hot air ballooning in Bagan, explore temples
When to go: November to February is Myanmar's winter, but the most comfortable time to visit as there's less rainfall and more comfortable temperatures.
Stay at: Kandawgyi Palace Hotel. This charming Yangon hotel has beautiful wooden features, four-post beds and spa baths and is within walking distance of the central rail station.
11. Okinawa, Japan
Still a relatively undiscovered gem amongst the travel crowd, Okinawa is all about the sun and the sea. While there are plenty of shrines and temples to fill your days, the focus is all on the 160 islands and whether you want to dive, snorkel, surf or sail.
What to do: Diving, snorkelling with turtles and whale sharks, jungle treks, island hopping, temples.
When to go: March to early May and late September to December should avoid the worst of the rainy season.
Stay at: the ANA Intercontinental Manza Beach Resort for a 5-star experience situated on a small cape, surrounded by the ocean with a private beach.
Which place like Thailand is best for…?
Thailand can seem like the perfect hub for Aussie travellers, attracting those looking for white-sand beaches, exotic food, ancient culture and cities full of life. It’s a well-worn destination that is easy and convenient to travel through for first-timers but also offers plenty of opportunities to get lost and away from the crowds for those craving some time off-the-beaten-track.
As the region develops and more travellers venture to new countries, it’s becoming easier to find all of the things we love about Thailand in a brand new location just waiting to be explored.
Places like Thailand for beaches:
- The Philippines: Known for having some of the best beaches in the world with powdery white sand, crystal clear waters and stunning sunsets to end your day.
- Vietnam: For days spent basking on sun-baked sands and evenings taking in the sunset, Vietnam has you covered with more than 2,000 miles of coastline.
- Sri Lanka: This beautiful island country is surrounded on all sides by the Indian Ocean and is filled with beach adventures. Snorkelling, diving, surfing or just catching some rays, you certainly won’t get bored here.
- Borneo: For an untouched vacation paradise, you would be hard-pressed to find somewhere more secluded than the beaches in Borneo. It’s a great place to escape the crowds and find the unmarred natural beauty you usually see in pictures.
Places like Thailand for food:
- Malaysia: An international crossroads of Chinese, Indian and Malay cuisines, Malaysian food is seriously underrated. It’s packed full of flavour and can sometimes be overwhelming for the faint-hearted on the chili front.
- Vietnam: Expect fresh ingredients, minimal use of dairy and oil, complementary flavours and textures, and a heavy reliance on herbs and vegetables. Traditional Vietnamese cooking is definitely up there with Thai food.
- Goa, India: Goan cuisine is very unique to the rest of India. Seafood is more prevalent, and often difficult to avoid and while the Hindu roots are definitely there, the meals are heavily influenced by the four hundred years of Portuguese colonisation and the Muslim rule that preceded it.
- Sri Lanka: Not as well represented in the rest of the world as Indian food, Sri Lankans love munching on local fruit, like coconut and jackfruit, seafood and use an arsenal of spices in their cooking.
Places like Thailand for temples:
- Malaysia: The Buddhist, Muslim and Hindu communities are prevalent here, making for a unique cultural blend of mosques and temples. Imagine floating mosques, 400 million-year-old caves, a three-tiered outdoor temple garden, an iron mosque and a modern temple fully equipped with wifi.
- Cambodia: Besides popular Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world, Cambodia is packed full of religious sites to keep you exploring tombs and climbing ancient staircases for days.
- Sri Lanka: Thousands of years of Christian, Buddhist, Muslim and Hindu heritage can be found in temples that dot this spiritual island. Some of the larger temples play host to important festivals and many are UNESCO World Heritage sites.
- Myanmar: Known as one of the most devout Buddhist countries in the world, Myanmar can be dazzling in the sun with the sight of the glittering gold of thousands of pagodas and temples.
Places like Thailand for islands:
- The Philippines: With many of its islands making the list for some of the best in the world, you know you’re in for a treat. The Philippines is also known for its island hopping that could certainly rival Thailand’s.
- Tonga: Unpolished and authentic, exploring the islands around Tonga is not just a feast on the eyes but also a cultural experience. Step into life in the slow lane and navigate the islands by kayak stopping to admire beaches, snorkel and chat with the locals.
- Okinawa: The islands around Okinawa truly offer something for everyone. From white sand beaches, snorkelling spots, a national park filled with mangroves and wildlife, hot springs and even the opportunity to see humpback whales.
- Myanmar: If you’re looking for the remote island vibe found in the likes of “The Beach” then Myanmar is actually your best bet. With islands that have limited place names on the map, no hotels and where you are likely to be the only tourist in sight, island hopping here is sure to have you going native.
Places like Thailand for city breaks:
- Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur and Georgetown: With iconic cities like Kuala Lumpur, known for its shopping culture; Kota Bharu, the royal capital packed with nature and the street food laden lanes of Georgetown, city lovers will be spoilt for choice.
- Vietnam’s Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City: The country is packed full of big-name cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh full of hustle and bustle with the colonial cities of Hue and Hoi An to provide a nice contrast.
Places like Thailand for yoga retreats:
- Goa: India is the birthplace of yoga and whether you want a yoga holiday coupled with some beach time or to take your practice to the next level, Goa is one of the most popular places in India.
- Sri Lanka: For active travellers, there’s no better option than Sri Lanka for a yoga holiday. You can couple surfing, hiking and culture with time for one or two yoga sessions a day.
- Bali: The “Love” destination in Eat, Pray, Love, the popular travel memoir, Bali is all about finding balance. Here, you’ll find a slew of yoga studios specializing in everything from spiritual practices to fast-paced vinyasa and power flows.
- Cambodia: If you’re inspired by tiny villages, far removed from the modern world then Cambodia has its fair share. Take your yoga practice offline and spend the rest of the day in tranquillity.
Places like Thailand for families:
- Bali: For a budget destination that will delight the whole family, you can’t go past Bali. Friendly Balinese seem to adore children and are open to accommodating families throughout the region.
- Vietnam: A great place to immerse the family in new cultures, exotic scenery and brand new foods with all the comforts that you would expect from a destination like Thailand.
- Malaysia: If your kids are always up for an adventure then you can entertain them with jungle treks, face-to-face encounters with semi-wild orangutans and river cruises to spot monkeys and river dolphins.
- Myanmar: The laid-back nature here means that your family can take sightseeing at your own pace. You’ve got a slew of temples to visit, museums, local workshops and villages where you can see all the aspects of traditional daily life.
Places like Thailand for Honeymoons:
- Bali: Imagine sharing a trek to a remote volcano, exploring an ancient temple followed by a dip on a secluded beach. Or you could just spend your time in your luxury villa with butler and private pool surrounded by green rainforests.
- Cambodia: A destination for couples who want to stretch the budget without sacrificing an exotic honeymoon experience. You can have authentic adventures during the day and return to your lush hotel at night.
- Vietnam: Take your pick of what you’d like to see when you wake up where you can choose to surround yourselves in orchid fields and rice terraces, tranquil beaches and UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
- Malaysia: Perfect for nature-loving couples who are keen to explore the ultimate rainforest destination for undeveloped natural beaches, waterfalls and wildlife.