Are you stuck on whether to visit Thailand or Indonesia?
If it were up to me, I’d say… both! But of course many factors lead to travellers having to choose between different countries all the time.
Thailand is a tropical paradise known for its lush jungles, beautiful beaches and colourful culture. Food lovers will revel in the vibrant street food scene while adventurous types can enjoy a range of outdoor activities like scuba diving, rock climbing and kayaking.
Meanwhile Indonesia offers an unforgettable experience for tourists with its unique combination of modern cities, luxurious island retreats and ancient temples. Natural attractions also abound, such as the orangutan-inhabited jungles of Sumatra and the ancient volcanoes of Java.
Both are extremely popular destinations, but, as you can see, it would be a tough choice for anyone to make between the two.
No matter which destination you pick, both countries will provide plenty of opportunities for an unforgettable journey. However, there are some things that set Thailand and Indonesia apart from each other:
That’s why I decided to make this Thailand vs Indonesia comparison of everything these incredible countries offer and determine which one is the best option for you.
You might also like:
- Bali Bucket List: 30 Unique Things to do in Bali (2023)
- Ultimate Thailand Bucket List: 28 Fun Things To Do In Thailand
- Thailand Island Hopping: A Guide to The Best Islands in the Land of Smiles
Full disclosure! See those links below? If you happen to click on one of these and purchase something I recommend, I’ll get a small commission (wohoo). Don’t worry, this is at no extra cost to you (in fact, often I’ll have some discounts you can enjoy!). As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying sales. You can read my full disclaimer here.
A Quick Comparison
- Spectacular coastline
- Picturesque rice paddies
- More affordable
- Plenty of diverse food
- Better opportunities to spot wildlife
- Great nightlife
- Stunning landscapes
- Zen nature of Buddhism
- Best for beaches
- Many national parks to explore
Thailand, often referred to as the ‘Land of Smiles’ is a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be discovered. Its rich history is beautifully mirrored in the grandeur of its temples, palace complexes and ancient ruins, offering visitors a glimpse into the nation’s past.
The capital city, Bangkok, is a buzzing metropolis teeming with vibrant markets, stunning palaces, and a nightlife scene that could give any city in the world a run for its money.
But that’s not all! Thailand is also home to some jaw-dropping landscapes. Sun-kissed beaches of Phuket and Krabi, lush mountains in the north around Chiang Mai, and the picturesque rice fields in Isan offer a visual treat for the nature lovers.
And let’s not forget the numerous national parks where wildlife enthusiasts can get up close with the country’s diverse flora and fauna.
My favourite places to stay in Thailand
Bangkok: Bangkok Tree House
Phuket: Panwaburi Beachfront Resort
Chiang Mai: Ping Nakara Boutique Hotel
Indonesia is an archipelago of over 17,000 islands that offer a wide range of experiences. It’s home to some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world – from snow-capped volcanoes and unspoiled beaches to dense jungles filled with exotic wildlife.
The capital, Jakarta, is one of the most vibrant cities in Asia, with its bustling markets and a vibrant nightlife. This is also where you’ll find some of the country’s best street food which is sure to tantalize your taste buds.
But Jakarta isn’t all that Indonesia has to offer – the country boasts some of the world’s most stunning diving spots around Komodo Island, as well as numerous cultural experiences like the unique Yogyakarta and Bandung. Whether you’re looking for an adventure or just to relax, Indonesia has something for everyone.
My favourite places to stay in Indonesia
Bali: Grand Whiz Nusa Dua
Jakarta: Citadines Gatot Subroto
Lombok: Seven Havens Residence
Thailand vs Indonesia: Where Should You Go?
You can’t go wrong with either, as both countries offer unforgettable experiences. But ultimately, your choice may depend on your budget, the weather you enjoy, your individual travel preference, etc. So how do both compare in these criteria? Let’s find out!
Whether we like it or not, budget is one of the most, if not the most, decisive factors in choosing a travel destination. What’s the point of visiting a country your budget only allows you to stay a couple of days in, and not experience all it has to offer?
Fortunately, both Thailand and Indonesia are relatively affordable, making them a crowd favourite amongst travellers to South East Asia.
Thailand tends to be slightly more expensive than Indonesia. After all, it’s one of the most tourism-dependent countries in Southeast Asia.
It has a more developed transportation infrastructure, offering various options for travellers of different budgets. These tend to be pricier than public transportation in Indonesia. Plus, accommodation is a bit limited on many of Thailand’s idyllic islands, and these lands aren’t cheap to maintain.
So it’s only natural it’d be pricier. And the more popular the destination, the more expensive it is.
That said, since the majority of tourists to Thailand tend to end up in either Phuket or Bangkok, and the smaller towns of northern Thailand are now wanting to attract tourists, they tend to offer cheaper accommodations and services.
Indonesia doesn’t have the same emphasis on tourism as Thailand, and the cost of living is relatively cheap there. Even if you’re on a mid-range budget, you can still enjoy upmarket hotels and high-end restaurants. So it definitely offers more bang for the buck.
Of course, some regions in Indonesia are pricier than others. If you’re staying in Bali (especially in Nusa Dua, one of the most expensive areas in Bali), you’ll note that the costs of accommodations and services are higher than the likes of Java or Sumatra.
Overall, though, Indonesia is the more affordable destination.
A country’s weather can make or break your trip. Being from Ireland where it rains ALL THE TIME, I can attest to this. Below, I’ll explore the climate differences between both countries so you can determine which one caters to your seasonal preferences.
You should note that Thailand is pretty incredible all year long. That said, let’s see what each season offers so you can time your trip properly.
If you want to take a trip during the classic winter season (December to February) to enjoy the cold weather in Thailand, I’m about to disappoint you.
Usually, the country isn’t actually that cold during winter. The air is dry, but the temperature is moderate, and the days are sunny. This might be off-putting for winter lovers, but the nice weather makes this one of the best times to visit the country.
Summer in Thailand is from March to July. If you’re a die-hard summer lover, first, why do you hate yourself? Second, this season is perfect for you. You get the full package: High temperature (up to 40°C), high humidity, and little rainfall.
You might experience some breeze now and then, but that’s it. It’s not for the faint of heart!
Wet Season (rainy season)
The wet season (July to October) is for people who enjoy the atmospheric vibes of the rain. Not only does it last hours on end, but it’s also quite heavy. It’s the best time for a romantic dinner in the rain. That said, when I was there in October, we barely had a shower or two each day, and the temperature was only around 25°C.
The humidity was another story. But you’ll get that in most Southeast Asian countries that time of year.
Unlike Thailand, Indonesia only has two seasons, with each one offering a different experience.
The dry season starts from April and runs to October. The rain slows down, and the atmosphere becomes more welcoming. Here’s an interesting fact: It gets colder the more you head toward the centre of the island. So if you’re looking for cooler weather, Indonesia is the way to go.
The wet season is from November to March. You might think that it should be the cold season, but November marks the beginning of the summer in Indonesia.
Unfortunately, the weather isn’t friendly during that time. Not only are the temperatures and humidity at their highest, but the oceans also swell up, making them dangerous to swim in.
Why would I want to visit it during that off-season? Since the weather isn’t great, it won’t be that crowded. It’s also when prices are at their lowest, so you can get affordable accommodation.
One of my favourite things about travel is that I get to learn about a country’s diverse culture. You get to know the people, how they think, what they love, how they go about their daily lives.
Fortunately, both countries deliver just that.
If you vibe with the zen nature of Buddhism, you’ll love Thailand. Buddhism is the primary religion in the country. It has a large influence on the vibrant culture, and they don’t make any effort to hide it.
Don’t get me started on the statues. From small souvenirs to bus-size structures, you’ll see varying sizes of Buddha statues all over the country. And yes, you’ll even find classic monks wearing orange robes all about Thailand.
Thai people are very friendly and welcoming. They love expressing their love for food, music, and dancing. While that sounds incredible, it merely scratches the surface compared to Indonesia.
Indonesia consists of thousands of beautiful islands. So it’s only natural it hosts different cultures and traditions. Buddhism is one of the most common religions in Indonesia, as well.
However, the country also has a blend of religions, like Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, and Confucianism.
You can even find a few individuals with distinctive tribal beliefs. So Indonesia offers a more diverse cultural experience. Accordingly, It offers various historic temples, like the Tanah Lot and Uluwatu temples.
Cultural diversity isn’t limited to ancient temples, though, as The Hindu culture has a direct influence on the architecture and cuisine of Bali.
If you want to join the Buddha monks in experiencing a magical sunset, very few spots can compete with Borobudur temple’s stunning view.
Sure, Chiang Rai in Thailand offers diverse tribal villages with authentic traditions, but so does Indonesia. You can head toward the Samosir islands in Northern Sumatra and see the beautiful villages with extraordinary musical talents.
Speaking of music, Indonesians have a knack for arts, as they have traditional gamelan music and various traditional dances.
Here are some of the best Indonesian and Thai temple tours:
Travelling isn’t just about meeting different people and visiting cultural sites. Some people are animal lovers and want to see the exotic species various countries have.
Thailand has its fair share of exotic animals. Some of them, like coral snakes, are dangerous. Others, like Asian elephants, aren’t.
It’s also home to various endangered species, like gibbons and Indochinese tigers. What sets Thailand apart from many other countries in Southeast Asia is its unique marine life. If you go scuba diving, you’ll see various exotic sea animals, like moray eels, manta rays, and clownfish (you know, the one that looks like Nemo).
So if you’re looking to create a live-action adaptation of that film, now you know where to go.
Let’s start with the country’s national animal: The komodo dragon.
Komodo dragons, although not actually dragons, are the largest lizards in the world, weighing up to a whopping 70 kg. They may be venomous, but they rarely kill humans.
The other animal Indonesia is famous for is the orangutan. Most of the world’s population of orangutans lives in Indonesia.
They’re intelligent, spontaneous, but, unfortunately, critically endangered. You can also find langurs and gibbons on the island of Java.
And while Thailand is home to a wide range of marine species, Indonesia has a more diverse aquatic life collection. You can spot epaulette sharks, pygmy seahorses, banggai cardinal fish, hammerhead sharks, and more.
Here are some of the best Indonesian and Thai wildlife experiences:
If you want to travel to Indonesia or Thailand, I assume you’re more into natural views than state-of-the-art architecture. Well, lucky for you, both countries don’t hold any punches when it comes to natural attractions.
Thailand really is a stunning country with a varied arsenal of pristine landscapes. You get national parks, islands, mountains, and more. It’s not just about quantity, though. These landscapes provide a one-of-a-kind experience.
Phanom Rung Historical Park is one of the few places that reflects Thailand’s true landscape. Not only does it have Hindu and Buddhist influences, but it also sits on top of an extinct volcano.
With unique architecture and rich history, the Phanom Rung Historical Park is a must-see if you choose Thailand..
Few spots can offer a similar view to the Samet Nangshe Viewpoint. The vibrant green grass and the clear water make it a popular destination for anyone who wants to experience a soothing atmosphere.
Combine that with the isolated location, and you feel like you’re the only person in the world experiencing this moment.
Mountains and Cliffs
We can’t forget Phu Chi Fa Mountain. Not only does it offer a breathtaking view of the surrounding mountains and lush jungles, but it also gives you a glimpse of authentic Thai tribal culture.
A few local tribes reside on the hillsides of the surrounding village. So you can explore their traditions, clothes, music, etc.
If you want more greenery, though, Lom Sak Cliffs are the way to go. The limestone cliffs are becoming more accessible now, and you get a great scene of vast forests and a gorgeous sunset.
Not only is Indonesia a natural paradise, but it’s also a larger country, so it stands to reason that there would be more natural sites you won’t see anywhere else.
If you’re an adventurous traveller, you can actually hike on active volcanoes in Indonesia. That’s how crazy its emphasis on natural beauty is. I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t it dangerous? Sure, maybe, but I recommend you hire an experienced tour guide.
These guides know the ins and outs of those volcanoes and can help you navigate them safely. Don’t worry. It’s a popular custom among tourists!
Tens, if not hundreds, of foreigners go volcano hiking in Indonesia every year. Plus, the dangerous ones are inaccessible to tourists. So you really have nothing to worry about.
If you’re following a specific schedule when you’re travelling, visiting rice terraces is a great chance to slow down and embrace the moment. Indonesia doesn’t fall short on rice terraces, and each one has a different structure, appearance, and vibe.
However, nothing comes close to the Lodok Spider web rice fields in Flores. As the name suggests, these fields are divided like a spider web, offering unique scenery with vibrant colours.
For a great view of rice paddies, I recommend having a go on the Bali Swing!
As we’ve already established, Indonesia hosts more exotic animals than Thailand. So it’s only natural it’d have more rainforests. Once you set foot in the Tangkoko Nature Reserve, you’ll think you’re on the scene of The Jungle Book.
The reserve consists of rolling hills, hardwood trees, and vast valleys. It also hosts various animal species, like wide-eyed tarsiers, black macaque, cuscus, and hornbills.
Here are some of the best Indonesian and Thai nature experiences:
Beaches & Landscape
Not everyone wants to stay on the move during their travels. Sometimes, you just want to sit back and relax. Few places can help you reach such serenity like the beach.
The competition in this criterion is brutal, as both countries offer stunning beaches.
As a country that depends heavily on tourism, Thailand’s pristine beaches have everything you might ask for: Crystal-clear water? Check. Gorgeous landscapes? Check. Coral Reefs? Check. Enough generalisations, though. Let’s talk about Thai beaches.
The moment you decide to visit that beach, you’ll see why it’s a popular destination. With golden sands and turquoise water, Maenam Beach has so much to offer. You’ll find tall palm trees along the coastline, making it perfect if you like a bit of greenery (okay,lots of greenery).
You can go snorkelling, diving, or on a boat tour to the Bamboo and mosquito islands. And if you’re not into water-based activities? No problem. You can play football, volleyball, or badminton on the coastline.
Railay Beach is one of the most popular beach destinations in Thailand for a few reasons. First, you can only go in and out of it by boat. I know it might sound like a hassle, but the isolated nature of that beach accentuates how peaceful and tranquil it is.
Second, it’s not just about the relaxing vibes. If you don’t want to lie down all the time, you can take a boat trip and explore the surrounding islands. If you want adrenaline to pump through your veins, you can even go rock climbing on the surrounding cliffs.
Despite being the largest archipelago in the world, Indonesia doesn’t have as beautiful beaches as Thailand. However, it offers something that not many countries have: Coloured beaches. Yes, it has white-sand beaches, black-sand beaches, and pink-sand beaches.
The Seseh Beach
Seseh Beach may not offer many amenities, but it’s hard to find a beach with similar soothing vibes. It’s not as crowded as Thai beaches, making it perfect to sit back and relax.
The beach is also the heart and soul of the Seseh surfing community, hosting various competitions every year. You can find local vendors and parasols for rent, but that’s about it.
Komodo Pink Beach
This is one of the prettier beaches in Indonesia. If you’ve seen the Barbie movie and are looking for a trip with similar vibes, this one would be a dream destination for you. Before I say anything, let’s address the elephant in the room: Why is it pink?
The foraminifera inside the red corals on the beach break down and mix with the sand, turning it pink. As the name suggests, Komodo Pink Beach lies in the famous Komodo islands. While it doesn’t have any shops or restaurants, you can still find a few vendors here and there.
This beach offers gorgeous underwater scenery, with diverse species and colourful coral reefs, making it great for scuba diving. If the sun is hot enough, the warm waters will make you feel like you’re in hot springs.
So, the key difference between Indonesian and Thai beaches is the amenities. If you’re looking for gorgeous beaches with various services, Thailand wins. If you want a simple beach visit with laid-back vibes, Indonesia takes the lead.
Here are some of the best Indonesian and Thai beach experiences:
Now you’re done with beach life and want to party all night. Which one offers a more vibrant nightlife? That’s probably one of the few criteria where there’s a clear winner.
With atmospheric lights and upbeat vibes, Thailand has a more lively nightlife culture. It was once famous for its wild night parties, although it’s matured a little throughout the years.
Whether it’s Koh Phangan, Bangkok, or Koh Samui, Thailand can still give its visitors a good time. The most prominent example of that is Coco Tam’s Beach Bar.
The Coco Tam’s Beach Bar
As an open-air bar, Coco combines chill and energetic vibes. It has swing seats, bean bag chairs, cabanas, and more. The menu is also diverse, offering over 10 drinks and signature mixes.
I know it sounds like a regular bar so far, but Coco Tam’s never leaves its visitors without a show. From fire dancers to underground bands, it’ll always keep you entertained.
Full Moon Party
If you want to experience Thailand’s wild nightlife, the Full Moon Party is where it’s at. This party only takes place once a month on the island of Koh Phangan and attracts thousands of international guests.
As soon as the sun sets, its attendees turn into crazy dancing creatures, fueled by loud music and cocktails. The event also features great entertainment, such as fire shows and acrobatics.
Indonesia has a more modest nightlife culture. It’s perfect if you just want to relax with some drinks and chill music. Most of the places are outdoor bars located on beaches or in secluded bays.
White Rock Beach Club
One example is White Rock Beach Club located in Bali. It provides an incredible view of the ocean and a party like atmosphere.
This bar is known for its stunning sunset views, amazing live music, and delicious cocktails. Unlike some bars in Thailand, the atmosphere is much more relaxed here. If you don’t feel like partying, you can just as easily chill on the outdoor couches or watch the sun go down from the infinity pool.
The Colosseum Club
The Colosseum club incorporates the nightlife style of Indonesia more than any other nightclub in the country. Not only does it offer an astounding 1000-square-metre venue, but it also doesn’t settle for a classic nightclub experience.
It hosts foreign DJs from all over the world. With the best sound system on the market, each DJ brings a different flavour to the club.
Unfortunately, the vibrant nightlife style isn’t as widespread in Indonesia as it is in Thailand.
That means outside the major cities, like Java and Bali, you may not get the same experience. Even acquiring alcohol can be challenging, as the smaller towns tend to be more conservative (being a predominantly Muslim country). So, if wild night parties are a crucial part of your trip, I’d have to recommend sticking to Thailand.
You can’t go wrong with either Thai or Indonesian cuisines, as both have the most delicious food in Southeast Asia. They use authentic cooking techniques, add fresh herbs, and offer punchy flavours.
We also can’t forget that both cuisines have a strong emphasis on rice and noodles. However, both have had different cultural influences throughout time. So let’s see how they stack up against each other.
Thai cuisine is inspired by French, Japanese, and Dutch cooking. With its aromatic nature and the balance between sweet, sour, salty, and bitter flavours, Thai food has made a name for itself in the culinary world.
Thailand is famous for its spicy food, as cooks love adding different types of chilli, offering sharper flavours. Few countries can compete with Thai seafood. Whether it’s squid, prawns, or grilled fish, you name it, Thailand has it.
You can’t resist the street food scene in Thailand. It really is part of the culinary experience in the country. You can get some of the most mouth-watering Thai food there from food stalls, so don’t be shy.
With unique flavours and authentic culinary techniques, Thai food has had a massive cultural influence. You can see famous chefs, like Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver, making Thailand’s most popular dishes, like Pad Thai and green curry, on TV.
Although it might not look like it, Thailand also has a strong emphasis on cafe culture. You can find a few of the best Bubba Cafés in Koh Phangan and Bangkok.
If you’ve always struggled with cooking mango sticky rice (yum), take a cooking class in authentic Thai cuisine. You’ll learn how to make that and other popular dishes like Thai fried rice, tom yum, and green curry.
Indonesian food is a bit more diverse than Thailand’s, as each region has its own techniques and flavours. Like Thailand, Indonesia is famous for using aromatic spices, adding sharp, complex flavours.
Some of the traditional dishes in Indonesia are inspired by other countries. Have you ever heard about Nasi Goreng? Although it’s a popular dish in Indonesia, it’s just classic fried rice with local Indonesian ingredients, like sweet soy sauce and fish sauce.
The culinary aspect where Indonesia takes the lead is catering to vegetarians. Bali has various vegetarian restaurants that offer authentic Indonesian plant-based meals, like Gado-Gado, Sambal, and Padang.
Ultimately, I can’t claim that one cuisine is better than the other, as that’s the most subjective criterion on this list.
If you want to have diversity in your food, Indonesia offers a wide range of dishes. However, if you like having that balance between sweet and sour flavours, Thailand has much to offer.
Here are some of the best food experiences in both Thailand and Indonesia:
PIN TO READ AGAIN LATER!
Wrapping Up: Indonesia vs Thailand
So whether you choose Indonesia or Thailand, each country offers a different experience, and you really can’t go wrong with either. They’re both pretty amazing destinations. Ultimately, it comes down to your personal preference.
If you’re on a budget, Indonesia would be a safer choice. If you care about having wild night parties, Thailand is the perfect place to go.
So set your priorities and use this guide to determine which country caters to your needs.
Vourneen is a travel junkie and chronic illness warrior. Although she was late to game in terms of travelling, she has picked up numerous tips and tricks from the almost 30 countries she has visited in the past 5 years.