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Thailand/Phuket vs Bali: Which Is Better for You?

Thailand/Phuket vs Bali: Which Is Better for You?

By Chris QuanUpdated Jan. 26, 2022

Thailand or Bali…Bali or Thailand: which is better for you? Are you stuck between the two? It’s not going to be an easy decision as both have beautiful beaches, unique cultures, and excellent food options.

Don’t worry because in this article we are going to take a closer look at the pros and cons of both of these tropical paradises so you can decide which one is perfect for your next dream vacation destination.

The Most Visited Island in Thailand

The choices of islands to explore in Thailand are endless so, to make this a fair comparison, we have picked the most popular, Phuket, which also happens to be the largest.

There is something for everyone in Phuket: markets, temples, nightlife and, of course, stunning picture-perfect beaches line the island. But how do these all stack up against what Bali has to offer? Let’s find out.

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Quick Conclusion Facts about Phuket vs Bali

1. For family travelers:  If you are traveling with your family and are seeking children-friendly beaches, Phuket has the better options.

2. For active surfers:  If you are a keen surfer or you want to learn how to surf, Bali is by far the better choice.

3. For budget travelers: If you are traveling on a budget, Thailand has more wallet-friendly options for both food and accommodation.

4. For gourmets: If food is important to you then Phuket has a lot more to offer, boasting excellent local and international cuisine all across the island.

5. For best travel time: Bali and Thailand have different monsoon seasons so this may affect your planning. Bali’s rainy season is from October to April whereas Thailand’s rainy season runs from May to November. This is something to bear in mind if you want to enjoy the best weather on your trip.

Phuket vs Bali in Cost: Phuket Is More Affordable

On the whole, visiting Phuket is cheaper than Bali. There is a wider range of accommodation to suit any budget in Thailand, and the local food and alcohol is also very cheap in Phuket.

Bali is still inexpensive when compared with Western tourist destinations and other Southeast Asian countries, such as Singapore; however, for budget travelers, Thailand is still slightly cheaper.

There are cheap flights to Thailand all year round. Flights to Thailand from America and Europe are very reasonable year-round as there is so much competition between airlines. Bali is only ever cheaper if you are traveling from Australia.

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Phuket vs Bali in Culture: Bali (Ubud) Is Slightly More Interesting

Phuket Old Town (just Phuket Town to locals) is often overlooked by travelers as they head to the white sandy beaches but it is well worth some of your time if you are visiting Phuket. It’s an interesting mix with plenty of heritage houses and old-world Sino-Portuguese architecture.

Take a stroll down the ultra-colorful Soi Romanee where every house is painted in a different color and you will feel like you have gone back in time.

Phuket Old Town also boasts some of the best local food on the island. With Hokkien Chinese and Muslim influences, it’s a cultural melting pot and this is definitely reflected in the town’s unique local cuisine.

Ubud, in the highlands of Bali, with its traditional crafts and dance, a buzzing art scene, rain forests, and terraced rice paddies is known as the cultural center of the island.

Top attractions in Ubud include the Ubud Monkey Forest, the Tegallalang Rice Terraces, and numerous palaces and temples.

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Phuket vs Bali in Viewpoints: Bali Has Better Viewpoints

Phuket: Karon Viewpoint (formerly Kata Viewpoint) is known locally as Three Beaches Hill due to the fact that you can see the beaches of Kata Noi, Kata Yai, and Karon Beach from there.

It is the most visited viewpoint in Phuket and, once you are up there looking out over the stunning Andaman Sea, it’s easy to see why.

As you would expect, the viewpoint gets busy at peak times, with tour groups stopping there regularly, but it is still possible to get a good spot for a photo of the bay if you go at the right time.

Bali: Choosing Bali’s best viewpoint is nearly impossible due to the fact that there are so many!

Mount Batur is an active volcano so, to reach the viewpoint, you will have to undertake some hiking. If you do venture up Mount Batur, you will also be able to visit its stunning crater lake.

Pura Lempuyang Luhur, or Lempuyang Temple, is one of Bali’s oldest and most important temples. It stands at 1,170 meters above sea level and you’ll have to walk up 1,700 steps to reach the top. If you make it to the top, though, you’ll be rewarded with unrivalled views over Mount Lempuyang.

Uluwatu sits on top of a cliff with sunset views across the Indian Ocean below. Traditional dance performances are held there daily and you will never get lonely as there are plenty of long-tailed macaques to keep you company!

Phuket vs Bali in Travel Sights: Bali Has Better Attractions

Travel Sights in Phuket

1. The Big Buddha of Phuket. Located on a mountain peak near Phuket Old Town, the giant Buddha statue is 45 meters high and is covered in beautiful white Burmese marble. It is one of the most important and revered landmarks on the island.

2. Two Heroines Monument. This is a famous memorial statue of the heroines Thao Thep Kasattri (Kunying Jan) and Thao Sri Sunthon (Mook), who famously rallied islanders in 1785 to defeat Burmese invaders. Thao Thep Kasattri was the widow of the island’s governor. With her sister's help, she assembled what forces the island had and, after a month's siege, the Burmese invaders became exhausted and withdrew. King Rama I awarded Kunying Jan with the royal title of Thao Thep Kasattri.

Travel Sights in Bali

1. The Tegallalang Rice Terraces. The Tegallalang Rice Terraces are located a 20-minute drive from Ubud and the area is one of the most picturesque spots in the whole of Bali. The views of the rice paddies from the top of the valley are truly breathtaking.

2. The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. More commonly known as the Ubud Monkey Forest, this place really has to be seen to be believed. It is home to over 600 macaques and Balinese long-tailed monkeys, which seem to run the place themselves. The locals view it as an important spiritual, economic, and educational center for the village.

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Phuket vs Bali in Boat Trips: Phuket Has Better Boat Trip Options

Phuket is located in the stunning Andaman Sea, not far from the famous Phang Nga Bay. A boat tour to see this incredible collection of islands made of karst limestone cliffs should be at the top of anyone’s list of things to do in Phuket.

Phuket Boat Option 1.James Bond Island

First made famous when it featured in the 1974 film The Man with the Golden Gun, James Bond Island, or Khao Phing Kan, is well and truly on the tourist map and, therefore, it gets extremely busy. If you go on an organized tour rather than renting your own boat, be prepared to brave the crowds.

A definite highlight of a trip to James Bond Island will be stopping at the remarkable floating village of Koh Panyee.

Koh Panyee was built by Indonesian fishermen and sits out on the water on stilts in front of a giant rock. In the old days, fishing was the main income for this Muslim community. Nowadays, a lot of the locals are involved in the tourism industry, mainly servicing the day-trippers from James Bond Island that stop there for lunch and buy crafts from the locals as part of their tour.

If you’re in need of a bit of exercise after lunch, they even have a full-sized floating football pitch on the island so don’t forget to take your boots!

Phuket Boat Option 2. Hong Island

Hong Island is one of the jewels of the Andaman Sea. It’s a stunning little island with snorkeling right off the beach and a stunning turquoise lagoon for you to visit. Hong Island is best visited early in the morning before the crowds arrive. The best way to do this is to take a private boat from the northern tip of Phuket as early as possible.

Bali is close to the stunning Gili Islands near Lombok as well as Nusa Penida, which is probably the best place to snorkel in Bali. While the Gili Islands are reachable on a day trip, a boat there would expensive and they are probably better explored as a tourist destination in their own right.

Nusa Penida, however, is more geared toward day trips. You can head out on a speedboat to go snorkeling at Gamat Bay, Crystal Bay, and Manta Point, all of which give visitors an excellent opportunity to see the abundance of local sea life that is in the area.

Phuket vs Bali in Beaches: Strangely, Phuket Has Better Beaches Than Bali

Phuket is known as the ‘Jewel of the Andaman’ and when you see its beaches in high season, it’s easy to see why it got the nickname. With white sandy beach after white sandy beach, there is a stretch of sand for everyone in Phuket.

The most popular beach is Patong, which is also the most touristy by far. It’s where you will find the majority of the island’s watersports as well as Western fast-food chains and bars. If lively isn’t your thing, Phuket has plenty of other beaches to choose from.

The family-friendly and couple-friendly Karon and Kata beaches are great for swimming in high season and they boast some seriously classy resorts. If you head a little further down to Rawai and Nai Harn beaches, you’ll be welcomed by an even more laid-back family feel.

Bali’s answer to Patong is Kuta. It’s where you’ll find the majority of the bars and, if possible, it’s probably even more touristy than its Phuket counterpart.

Bali’s beaches aren’t known to be that amazing for swimming with the exception of Mushroom Bay and Crystal Bay, which are sheltered. If swimming is important to you then Thailand wins every time. Bali has the better surf beaches, however.

There really is no comparison between the two islands when it comes to beaches.

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Phuket vs Bali in Nightlife: Phuket Has Far More Exciting Nightlife

Phuket’s nightlife is mainly focused around Patong, namely the famous Bangla Road, which is also known as Patong Walking Street. There are plenty of bars and clubs to keep young partygoers dancing and drinking into the early hours.

If clubs aren’t your thing, there is no shortage of classy beach bars, cabaret shows, and even nighttime Thai boxing events to choose from all across the island. >>How to Spend a Wonderful Night in Phuket

Bali: The beaches of Kuta, Seminyak, and Legian are where the nightlife is at in Bali. KU DE TA is probably the most famous spot on the island to dance the night away but it’s very easy to check out a few different spots in one evening as Bali’s beach resorts are quite concentrated compared with Phuket. Traveling between the beaches in a taxi is easy and inexpensive.

Phuket vs Bali in Food: Phuket Wins Again

Both Bali and Phuket draw on lots of different cultures and this is reflected heavily in the food. Bali is heavily influenced by Chinese, Indonesian, and Indian cultures, and the most famous dish on the island is babi guling, which is a whole roasted suckling pig. It’s probably the most well-known and most eaten local dish by travelers to the island.

Phuket draws on century-old trading traditions as the basis of its cuisine. You can find Chinese, Malay, and, of course, Thai influences in the food. The variety of dishes in Phuket is mind-blowing.

From local favorites, such as moo hong (Chinese pork belly stew) and Hokkien fried noodles, to Muslim dishes, such as Thai-style biryani, and Thai classics, such as tom yum soup and various curries, you could literally eat a different dish for every meal while you are on the island and never get bored.

Tour Thailand and Bali with Us

So there you have it, all the pros and cons of both beautiful islands. Still can’t decide between the two? Why not let our knowledgeable travel advisers take on the planning and help you create your own customized trip in Bali or Phuket. You could even do both with very reasonable flights running year-round from Bangkok to Bali. Take a look at some of our most popular Thailand and Bali tours below to get some inspiration.

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