Phuket vs Bali: Which Island Paradise Should You Visit?
Both Phuket and Bali have reopened to international tourists - which of course includes Singaporeans. For those seeking a beach holiday with as much fun or relaxation as desired, both islands offer a great deal. But which island should you visit this year? Here we've broken down some of the key advantages to these two tropical idylls.
Phuket: more pleasant beaches and scenery
The beaches of Phuket - Thailand's largest island - are clean and well looked after, offering exotic backdrops against the azure-blue Andaman Sea. Soft white sand is standard across the island - which isn’t always true of Bali’s beaches. If you're looking for a party, Patong, Karon and Kata are all buzzing come sunset - but there are also quieter, more peaceful beaches to explore - such as Bangtao and Mai Khao.
Bali: more variety to enjoy
From the busy, people-packed beaches of the Kuta-Legian-Seminyak strip, where you can enjoy everything from surfing lessons to sipping on a cold beer, to more tranquil, secluded beaches, Bali delivers a great deal of choice. Uncrowded beaches can be found along the north, east and west coasts, often featuring unique black sand. Additionally, you're never far from a beach massage or a shaded sun lounger.
Phuket: more hotels with beach views
While Phuket doesn’t have as many hotels and guest houses as Bali, it does offer a wide choice of hotels boasting sea views - particularly in Patong. As well as being close to the beach, you can expect large pools, fantastic dining options - and that world-famous Thai welcome.
Bali: more hotels - for all budgets
Bali is home to numerous luxurious hotels - which cost a good deal less than their counterparts in Singapore. You can rejuvenate the mind, body and soul - a la the 'Eat, Pray, Love' novel (and movie), with a selection of hotel rooms and villas that feature plunge pools, teak-wood floors, stunning rice terrace locales, lotus ponds, and more. For those on a budget, there are simple rooms available for as little as 5SGD!
Phuket: abundant Thai cuisine
Thai food is among the world's most popular - so on Phuket you're never far from a delicious tom yum goong, massaman, or pad Thai. You can choose from mouth-watering and low-cost streetside eats - to upmarket restaurants offering finer culinary treats.
Bali: a variety of international dishes
While both islands offer a variety of international cuisine, Bali pips Phuket at the post in terms of choice. You can sample everything from Chinese to Malay, Indian to Arabic, plus amazing Indonesian and Balinese dishes - such as babi guling roast pork, sambal chilli dips and crispy fried duck. Like Phuket, you can enjoy cheap local food stalls and high-end meals (both of which are more affordable than in Singapore).
Phuket: colourful festivals and iconic landmarks
From the Big Buddha to the Old Town, Phuket has a number of iconic landmarks and attractions to explore. The island also plays host to various festivals, including the vegetarian festival (late September to early october) and the Por Tor hungry ghost festival (held by the local Chinese Hokkien community). And of course, the water splashing fun of SongKran may be making a comeback - but not until next April.
Bali: regular festivals
Whenever you visit Bali you're likely to happen upon a colourful Hindu festival - from the Bali Kites festival to eve of Nyepi (a day of complete silence - although be warned the power is cut off to encourage quiet!). There are festivals held almost every month, including many anniversary celebrations for the many temples.
Phuket: panoramic sea views
The most Instagrammable viewpoints on Phuket include Promthep Cape and Kata, while Khao Rang looks out of the old-world Phuket Town. Plus there are many other viewpoints to enjoy.
Bali: more diverse scenery
From cliffside temples such as Uluwatu to green-clad mountains and sandy beaches kissed by the sun, there are many memorable sights to see on Bali
Phuket: lots to do above and below sea level
Plunge into the warm Andaman Sea and enjoy scuba diving, snorkelling and large sailing events. You can also take a boat trip to Koh Phi Phi beach (made famous in the movie The Beach) and the fantastic Similan Islands. On dry land you can fill your hours with relaxing Thai massages, Muay Thai boxing, or the effervescent Patong nightlife.
Bali: mountain hikes and dramatic sea views
Inland Bali offers early-morning hikes up volcanic mountains where you can experience stunning sunrises. Come sundown, you can choose from towering cliff edges or relaxing on the beach - particularly on the island's western coast. Wow your Instagram or TikTok followers with photos and clips of stunning locations like Jimbaran Bay, Uluwatu and Tegalwangi Beach.
Phuket: ideal for the casual party goer
Like much of Thailand, Phuket boasts some rather eye-catching nightlife options, including the noisy go-go bars of Bangla Road, along with more upmarket bars and nightclubs. A local beer costs about 4 SGD - less than half of the cost back home! One thing's for sure: a night out in Phuket needn't be costly - and it certainly is never boring!
Bali: international DJs and a little more conservative
Bali is a port-of-call for many international DJs, fuelled in part by the many Australains who visit the island. There are also plenty of drinking holes, ranging from rooftop bars to small pubs. But as a more consrvative part of the world, you won't find the salacious go-go bars of Thailand in Bali.
Phuket: massages are more costly but with cleaner environments
Starting at 400 baht (16 SGD), massages in Phuket are hardly expensive - but they do cost more than in Bali. However, Phuket massages are generally cleaner and better run than those in Bali - especially at the cheaper end of the market. Many other spa treatments are also available. A tip will be expected.
Bali: worth paying a little more for your massages
You can still get a massage in Bali (including the Thai variety) for as little as 6 SGD, but if you pay a little more you are likely to get clean sheets and a more professional service. Take care you don’t wind up in a more questionable establishment - although this is a feature of Phuket massage parlours, too. Tipping is also common here.
Phuket: it’s still the Land of Smiles
The world-famous Thai smile remains a common feature of Phuket holidays - although after decades of tourism, it’s a little harder to find "authentic" Thai villages where life goes on unaffected by foreign visitors. Certain areas are geared towards high-end visitors - both local and overseas - which means you can find top-end boutique stores and classy bars aplenty.
Bali: a warm welcome is assured
Similarly, the Balinese are famed as gracious hosts. But here you'll come across more village life and traditional customs that operate outside the field of tourism. That said, there's a lot for those seeking glitzy bars and top-brand shopping.
Is there any entry restrictions and travel insurance requirement?
For both Phuket and Bali, you are permitted entry for 30 days without quarantine as long as you have at least two Covid-19 vaccine doses. For Thailand you’ll need to get a Thai Pass, too.
Travel insurance with a minimum coverage of $10,000 USD is mandatory for Thailand visits. Bali does not require insurance, but is highly recommended.
Both islands offer a wealth of activities, from hiking to scuba diving, so it’s important to have adequate travel insurance - particularly when it comes to medical cover.
^At time writing: 01/08/22
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