Bali vs Thailand in 2024: An Honest Comparison

Kurt Norris
Last Updated: January 22nd, 2024

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Bali and Thailand are two destinations often compared when planning a trip to Southeast Asia. After all, the two areas boast many similarities, including world-class beaches, tropical climates, and a rich culture intertwined with their local religions.

However, once you look past the postcard-perfect coastal landscapes and take a closer look at the local cultures and geography, you quickly realize that Bali and Thailand offer two vastly different experiences for different kinds of travelers.

Unfortunately, a trip to both destinations isn’t always possible, leading travelers to make the near-impossible decision of comparing Bali vs Thailand to choose which to visit.

But don’t worry. Having traveled and extensively researched both, I am here to help you determine which of these fantastic destinations is the perfect choice for you.

Which is Better Bali or Thailand?

Which-Is-Better-Bali-Or-Thailand
Long tail boats on a beach in Thailand.

If you are looking for a simple answer of which is better, Bali or Thailand, you just aren’t going to find it.

That’s because, despite their differences, both Bali and Thailand are fantastic travel destinations in their own right, and different kinds of travelers are bound to prefer either one over the other. There just isn’t one definitive answer to the question.

Instead, you have to weigh the differences between each destination (And trust me, there are some significant differences) and consider what you want from your trip.

So let’s take a closer look at just some of these differences to better understand what you can expect from both tropical holiday destinations.

Bali vs Thailand: A Quick Guide to Choosing

I’m going to break this down into three parts…

First up a mini guide to each location and why you should choose it.

Then I will show you the 5 key differences between Bali and Thailand.

Finally, I will close with answers to a few questions that travelers often have about these two locations.

Why You Should Choose Bali

Bali-Mini-Guide
The dense treetops of the tropical jungle surrounding Ubud, Bali. Image by: Kurt Norris

Bali Mini Guide

  • Size: 5,780 km²
  • Population: 4.362 million
  • Rainy Season: November to March
  • High Season: July to August
  • Top Sights: Tanah Lot Temple, Mount Batur, Tegallalang Rice Terraces, Kuta Beach
  • Major Airports: Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS)

Located within the Indonesian archipelago, Bali offers an idyllic island paradise with sprawling white sand beaches, rolling turquoise waves, and a daring volcanic landscape riddled with the exotic religious monuments of over 10,000 Hindu temples.

What’s more, Bali is a relatively small island, meaning that all of its marvelous attractions and wonders are within fairly close proximity to its major tourism centers and don’t require long and tedious travel times to reach. As such, Bali offers an abundance of things to see and do and is the preferred choice for travelers with less vacation time.

Why You Should Choose Thailand

Thailand-Mini-Guide
Koh Phi Phi Island in Thailand.

Thailand Mini Guide

  • Size: 513,120 km²
  • Population: 71.6 million
  • Rainy Season: July to October
  • High Season: November to March
  • Top Sights: Koh Phi Phi, Railay Beach, The Grand Palace in Bangkok, Khao Yai National Park
  • Major Airports: Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK), Phuket International Airport (HKT), Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX)

Unlike Bali, Thailand is a massive country. And while this means it requires more time to explore in its entirety, the experiences within its romanticized borders are also much more varied than those in Bali.

Travelers to Thailand seeking to experience city life can explore the urban jungles of Bangkok or Chiang Mai. Or if the idyllic island paradise closer to the experience found on Bali is more your speed, you can instead head over to one of the pristine islands in southern Thailand. There are hundreds of inhabited and uninhabited islands to choose from.

The 5 Key Differences Between Bali and Thailand

1. Bali is Much Smaller and Easier to Navigate

Bali-Is-Much-Smaller-And-Easier-To-Navigate
Woman hiking along the ridges of the top of Mount Batur in central Bali.

Thailand is a vast country. Bali is a small island in Indonesia. While this distinction may not seem that important, the size discrepancy is one of the primary attributes leading to many of the key differences between Bali and Thailand.

For starters, Thailand is a much more varied destination but consists of several different regions spread several hours apart. While not as varied as Thailand, Bali offers diverse experiences and attractions within its small landmass that takes no more than three hours to cross in either direction.

For this reason, Thailand is the preferred destination between the two for travelers seeking more extended exploration through several diverse regions. At the same time, Bali is the best choice for visitors looking to make the most of their limited vacation time.

2. Thailand Has a More Active Nightlife

Thailand-Has-A-More-Active-Nightlife
A full moon party in Koh Phang, Thailand Image by: Vladimir Varfolomeev / Flickr

When it comes to comparing Bali vs Thailand for nightlife, Thailand takes the prize for having the best party scene. While both destinations boast numerous bars and nightclubs, Thailand’s are much more vibrant and active.

This can largely be attributed to the country’s larger population and tourism volume, but it has also resulted in some truly spectacular parties and social hot spots. From its bumping nightclubs to memorable full moon festivals, the parties are just bigger and better in Thailand.

3. They Boast Two Very Different Religious Cultures

They-Boast-Two-Very-Different-Religious-Cultures
A woman burning incense and leaving an offering in Ubud, Bali.

Both Bali and Thailand are covered in religious temples and monuments. However, these attractions vary in the fact that Thailand is primarily Buddhist and boasts vibrant temple complexes. At the same time, Bali is predominantly Hindu and has its religion interwoven with the everyday life of the locals.

While this distinction may seem trivial for some visitors, it can also be a contributing factor in where to visit for those seeking to explore new cultures and religions.

4. Both Offer Unique Activities

Both-Offer-Unique-Activities
A Muay Thai fight in Bangkok, Thailand.

One of the most significant factors that should go into choosing to travel anywhere is the type of activities and experiences the location offers. And while both Bali and Thailand are known for their tropical beaches and religious temples, there is also a whole slew of activities that either destination provides that the other doesn’t.

For example, you can hike a volcano in Bali, tour through world-famous rice terraces, and even dive into an authentic WWII shipwreck. Meanwhile, in Thailand, the experiences are more varied and include visiting an elephant sanctuary, watching a Muay Thai fight, and visiting world-renowned cities such as Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

5. They Boast Two Different Rainy Seasons

They-Boast-Two-Different-Rainy-Seasons
The view of Mount Agung with clear skies and sunny weather in Bali.

Another key difference between Bali and Thailand is that their rainy seasons occur at different times of the year, resulting in each area’s prime tourist seasons happening at different times as well.

For example, in the southern hemisphere, Bali’s rainy season runs from November to April, meaning Bali is the best choice for travelers visiting Southeast Asia between May and October. Meanwhile, Thailand’s rainy season is between July and October, making it the best option for those taking their holiday between November and June.

6. Thailand is Slightly More Affordable for Backpackers

Thailand-Is-Slightly-More-Affordable-For-Backpackers
A group of backpackers in Bangkok, Thailand. Image by: Hideki Tanaka / Flickr

While Bali and Thailand are pretty even when it comes to budgeting a typical holiday for families or couples, where the destinations experience their most significant price distinction is when you compare the Bali vs Thailand cost for solo travelers and backpackers.

While Bali has become a popular destination for solo travelers and digital nomads in recent years, Thailand has been a backpacker haven for decades, dating back to at least the 1970s. As such, Thailand has had much more time to develop infrastructure catering to long-term and budget travelers, including more cost-effective hostels and budget eateries.

3 Questions to Help You Decide to Travel to Bali or Thailand

Questions-To-Help-You-Decide
Mother and son riding a bike through the rice terraces in Bali.

1. When Are You Planning Your Southeast Asia Trip?

Since the destinations have opposing rainy seasons, you can make the decision based on which country has the best weather during your visit.

This means that if your trip falls between May and October, then your trip is best suited for Bali. Meanwhile, if you are traveling between November and March, then you can experience the best weather conditions in Thailand.

2. How Long is Your Southeast Asian Vacation?

If you are traveling for a week or less, Bali is the perfect option for you as its many attractions are all within relatively close proximity to its tourist centers. However, those traveling for two weeks to a month or more will find their time best spent adventuring through Thailand’s various regions.

3. Which Offers More Convenient Flights?

Another great way to determine which destination to travel to is to base your choice on the availability and costs of flights to either spot.

For example, if you are traveling from Australia, Bali is just a short flight away for a relatively low cost. Meanwhile, Thailand offers a more convenient travel destination if you are traveling from Europe

FAQs

Is Bali Cheaper than Thailand?

When you compare Bali vs Thailand costs for families and couples, the two destinations are fairly even, and both are super affordable. However, if you are looking to cut your travel expenses as minimal as possible, Thailand offers the most cost-effective destination.

Is Bali or Thailand Better for Couples?

You can’t go wrong when choosing to visit Bali or Thailand as a couple. Both offer a romantic setting, and prices are fairly even when you compare Bali vs Thailand costs for couples. Nevertheless, Thailand is better to visit as a couple if you are looking for an adventurous holiday, while Bali is better for couples looking for a tropical island paradise.

Which is safer, Bali or Thailand?

Both Bali and Thailand are considered very safe destinations for tourists, and there is no clear winner for which is safer. Still, like anywhere in the world, both regions have their problem areas, and caution and common sense should be practiced in either destination.

Is Bali or Thailand Better for Families?

Both Bali and Thailand are great to visit for families. However, thanks to its smaller size and easily accessible attractions across the island, Bali is a slightly better destination for traveling with your children.

About The Author

Kurt Norris

A Canada-based freelance writer, Kurt acquired his bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Windsor. Upon graduating, Kurt left the courtside media desk behind and began venturing the globe. Throughout his journeys, Kurt enjoys partaking in slow travel and loves to explore the histories and cultures of each destination, which he shares with others through his writing.

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Kurt Norris

Kurt Norris

A Canada-based freelance writer, Kurt acquired his bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Windsor. Upon graduating, Kurt left the courtside media desk behind and began venturing the globe. Throughout his journeys, Kurt enjoys partaking in slow travel and loves to explore the histories and cultures of each destination, which he shares with others through his writing.

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