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Thailand vs Indonesia holiday – which is best?

So you’ve decided to take a holiday in Asia, but you can’t decide whether to go to Bali or Thailand? We’ve travelled many times to both countries and they both have their good and bad points.

What’s so great about Bali?

Bali is certainly much closer if you are flying from Australia or New Zealand … 4-6 hours travelling time from the East Coast of Australia, compared to maybe 8-10 hours to Phuket or Bangkok in Thailand. So if you really hate long flights, Bali has already scored some points. And then, of course, there’s the exchange rate … recently it’s been sitting over 10,000 Rupiah to the US dollar so your holiday money goes a very long way in Bali!

Bali has some beautiful beaches

Bali is still the top tourism destination in Indonesia and despite being one of the oldest tourist spots in Asia, it keeps developing and new locations seem to open up every year. So even if you’ve been to Bali before (and who hasn’t, it seems), there’s always somewhere new to stay, bars and restaurants you haven’t visited before, new beaches that have just opened up, and of course the ever growing range of mountain retreats in the island’s centre. And of course the people are generally the most friendly and courteous anywhere in Asia. Bali has great tourist infrastructure, great food, a vibrant nightlife, and a very contained geography that can be easily explored even in a one week break.

For the more off-the-beaten-track traveller, there are about 6000 inhabited islands in the Indonesian archipelago that you could potentially visit, although only a few of them have much to offer the western traveller.  Bintan Island at the northern end of Indonesia, near Singapore, is emerging as a viable alternative to Bali and also has fabulous resort accommodation, a lot of history, some great markets and some fantastic bargains if you’re into electronic equipment.

Yogyakarta (Jogjakarta) has long been popular with cultural travellers and continues to be the most popular tourist destination on the main island of Java. The major drawcard is Borobodur, an 8th century temple that is sometimes compared to Angkor Wat in Cambodia.  But be warned, volcanic activity has been increasing in this part of Java over the past decade and more major eruptions are expected within the next few years. So far Jogja, as it’s known to travellers, has been spared the worst.

What’s so great about Thailand?

Thailand has better beaches and more of them

For me, Thailand is kind of what Bali was 20 years ago. A tourism industry that, despite having been around for almost as long as Bali’s, is really still developing and trying very hard to win your hearts and minds. But where Bali’s beaches are becoming way over-developed, a lot of Thailand’s best beaches are still in pristine condition and you can even find beaches to yourself most of the time. One of the beach locations in Thailand that really stands out for us is Koh Samui island, near Phuket, where you can sit on beautiful white sand sipping a $2 cocktail and watching the sun set over Ko Phang’An. It’s truly magical. But there’s a lot more like that too, including:

Also there is so much of Thailand to explore, so even if you’ve been to Phuket and Bangkok, there’s much more to see, do and experience in places like Chiang Mai, Ayutthaya, Krabi and Chiang Rai. The adventure never stops! And of course the exchange rate sitting around 30 Baht to the US dollar, while not appearing as impressive as Indonesia’s, still buys a heck of a lot.

Thailand is also a great jumping off point to explore other parts of the region like Laos, Cambodia and Burma which are becoming increasingly popular with independent travellers. But even if you stay within the borders of Thailand you’ll have a great holiday and the chance to get way off the beaten track in places like Pai, Mae Salong, Mae Sai and the Golden Triangle.

So what will it be? Bali or Thailand? We can’t help you much with Bali at this stage, but if you’ve chosen Thailand then explore our website for more details about the great travel destinations and activities you’ll find. And don’t hesitate to ask us a question if you want to know more about something in Thailand.

If you still can’t make up your mind, check out this great video from Ka Sundance about a family who have lived in both Thailand and Indonesia.