The main difference between Bali and Phuket essentially comes down to culture and affordability. These two sought after beach holiday destinations in South East Asia are admired by holiday-goers everywhere! And yes, apart from those two main differences – there are many more aspects to compare, so let us dive right in!
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Bali is a mountainous island province in Indonesia, located approx. 1200 km from Jakarta, the former capital of Indonesia. Phuket on the other hand is an island located in the far south of Thailand nearly 850 km from Bangkok, the capital of Thailand.
The Balinese culture has continued to thrive for many centuries, and the main religion followed in Bali for many years is Hinduism. It is more of a unique mix of Hindu Dharma that has influenced everything in Bali -from aged traditions to ongoing life, places of worship to art museums to shops to modern extravaganzas and food.
In Bali, you will have a plethora of Kovils to explore, festivals to witness, and a rich history you can immerse in. Iconic places like the Uluwatu Temple, Taman Ayun Temple, and the Goa Gajah, consist of breathtaking sceneries and historical significance that you can explore.
The main religion followed in Phuket, like all of Thailand – is Buddhism. A temple run can be a literal thing here since there are many stunning historic and modern temples to visit (but we don’t suggest you run).
The Wat Chalong, The Phuket Big Buddha (also an iconic landmark), and the Wat Suwan Khuha are some of the most visited and culturally significant temples you should check out here.
Phuket also takes great pride and pleasure in displaying its long history and passion for performative arts. You can see this well in the ceremonial rituals, festivals, and even prayers and entertainment – all of which heavily contribute to enriching Phuket’s beautiful culture.
Weather and Beaches
If you are a beach lover, then Bali should be at the top of your list. Because Bali has some beaches the world can be jealous of. From pristine blue waters to soft white sand and the lively beach vibe you can experience 24×7 – Bali has managed to make the most out of it.
Unfortunately, this also means large crowds. Most beautiful yet popular beaches like Pandawa Beach and Padang Padang beach in Uluwatu can get crowded. So if crowds are not your cup of tea, then you either have to go all the way to a quieter place like the White Sand Beach (Pasir Putih) or beat the crowds by coming a little early.
If you are a surfer, then Bali offers a plethora of world-class surf breaks, ideal for both experienced and beginner surfers when compared to Phuket.
The Bali weather is also perfect from April to October (the dry season). July to August is the peak time to enjoy the sunny weather and cool blue waters.
Phuket Beaches can be very exotic and stunningly clear and blue, and for you crowd haters – quite calm and serene. Yes, one thing that Phuket has and most Bali beaches lack is a more quaint beach surrounding.
The Panwa Beach (about 8 km from Phuket Town) is one such beach with calm waters, a rough sandy stretch, and tranquillity. The Layan Beach, Banana Beach and Laem Ka Beach are also very quiet yet breathtaking – worthy of visiting and taking a dip.
The weather, however, is quite different compared to Bali. The best time to visit beaches in Phuket is between April to May. The wettest season is usually experienced from September to October. So plan accordingly, so you can save your happiness from being all clouded.
Bali, being a top beach destination has some pretty epic beach parties to offer – it doesn’t matter if it’s day or night. The nightlife in Bali is upbeat and vibrant, and it even can get downright crazy (good crazy!).
While many Bali Beach parties are usually full of glitz and glamour, and the music is handled by some of the best international DJs and held in incredible rooftop clubs and bars with an epic beachfront – it’s pretty clear that Bali knows how to party!
No matter which beach town or city you are in, you can absolutely be sure, that the nightlife in Bali can never be dull.
When it comes to nightlife, Phuket doesn’t take the backseat to Bali. From crowded bars with flashing party lights to some good beats that get your limbs moving all on their own (could be the alcohol too), Phuket beachside roads are lit up and flooded with the commotion of happy travellers and locals enjoying good food and drinks and having a real good time.
Many who have travelled to Bali as well as Phuket will instantly say that Bali is cheaper. In many ways, they are correct, from flight rates to accommodation to transportation and entertainment. If you are travelling under budget and still crave to enjoy a holiday in a tropical paradise then Bali is your place!
Phuket leans less towards budget-friendly travel and is more towards opulent travel – especially around popular beach spots, where the beach resorts, cafes and shops are a little more upscale and pricey.
That being said, Phuket still offers some incredible things at reasonable rates. From food to beverages and transportation, these are decently priced in most situations.
Bali is crowded. It’s family-friendly, and it is an overall safe environment. Most beach destinations in Bali are usually safe for both adults and kids to swim in. All you have to do is pay attention to the safety precautions, board signs, and in some cases red flags, so you don’t venture into any risky waters. Petty crime, however, is more common, unfortunately. We are talking about scammers, pickpocketers, muggers, and petty thieves scavenging around different streets and popular destinations.
If you are part of a tour group, don’t stray too far alone from the group, if you came alone, make sure to research and read as many reviews from travellers who may have been victims of the petty crimes, so you can be ready to run in the opposite direction when a scammer comes your way.
Phuket is known to be a safe destination. Some travel bloggers and vloggers emphasize how safe it is for women travellers in Phuket. But if you are a foreigner here, and it’s your first time visiting, then please do your research, talk to tour experts, read as many recent reviews of those who have travelled (especially if you are not using a well-known tour guide), and of course, avoid deserted places, dodgy restaurants, clubs, and locals that might be trying too hard to get you into doing something – basically common sense can save you a lot from becoming a victim of any kind of scam, pickpocketing, or petty theft.
Things to See & Do
Discover Ubud’s Artistic Culture – Ubud – is a hotspot for Balinese art and culture. From some quirky museums to art galleries, there is vibrancy, colour, and allure everywhere you look. If you enjoy art gazing, enjoying the unique influence of Balinese, then the Agung Rai Museum of Art, the Neka Art Museum are some of the places you should visit.
Trek the Mount Batur – Beaches are not Bali’s only attractions. If you are less of the beach type and more of the trekking type, then maybe take up the chance to hike to the top of the 1,700 meter tall Mount Batur. Located in the highlands of the Kintamani District, this panoramic climb promises breathtaking views of the most mystical hills of Bali and a magical sunrise.
Explore the ancient Kovils and temples – Visit stunning temples like the Pura Ulun Danu Bratan – a unique place of worship that reflects the harmonious mix of Buddhism and Hindu influence on the Balinese culture. The Tirta Empul in Gianyar – is a national cultural heritage site that homes a beautiful spring that flows through its sacred grounds and the Tanah Lot – an ancient Hindu shrine, that stands on a rock with the waves constantly crashing at the foot, if you are a major culture and history buff these places will drive you wild.
Explore the Seminyak Flea Market – Bali is also known for its fabulous fashion, popping colours, bold patterns, and designs. So if you are looking to take some art home in hopes of wearing them, then you should explore the Seminyak square and village – where the shops and choices are ample. Don’t forget Seminyak Flea markets if you want a good bargain!
Chase waterfalls – Apart from mesmerising beaches, Bali also homes some enchanting waterfalls. If you are looking to trek the lush tropics of Bali for the first time- start with a hiking tour in Singaraja (north Bali) where you can visit the Sekumpul waterfall or the Git Git Waterfall. And if you are looking for a super special waterfall then visit the giant Blahmantung Waterfall in Tabanan.
Click here to check out our comprehensive list of places to visit in Indonesia and Bali
Do a Phuket Town Tour, and visit the Trickeye Museum – Phuket lies in the south of Thailand. This bustling beach town hosts lively bars, lavish restaurants, massage parlours, and more! Obviously, Phuket has much to offer. Stroll through the old Phuket Town, observe the architecture – influenced by traditional Thai style with a heavy touch of Portuguese aesthetic. If you have some time, you can drop by the Trickeye Museum – an interactive 3D art gallery as well.
Explore Islands through boat tours – Lounging on the beach is beyond fun, going diving and snorkelling and exploring the incredibly rich marine life beneath the waves is insanely exciting. But exploring the stunning islands is a whole different experience. From Nakha Yai, Nakha Noi on the east coast, to the beautiful and petite islands in the south like Koh Kaeo Yai and the Racha Yai to the even smaller Hoh poo on the west coast. These incredible small islets can bring new meaning to the term ‘Island Magic’.
Explore Ancient temples – Like Bali, there are some incredibly ancient and sacred temples that you can explore. We already talked about the culture, so if you are a true culture and history buff then you cannot miss some of the major ancient temples homed in Phuket. Wat Chalong (Chaithararam Temple) is a big one out of Phuket’s 29 temples. Many who have visited have always spoken of its beauty. Located in Chalong Bay, it’s worth a visit. Apart from that, the quaint Kathu Temples, the ancient Wat Phra Thong, and the Wat Koh Sirey – found in a small fishing island east of Phuket are also worth exploring.
Visit the Weekend and Night Markets in Phuket – Most of the hottest spots that made Phuket a traveller magnet are usually filled with other travellers. So if you want to take a break from the crowd of holiday-goers (much like yourself) by experiencing and enjoying the local scene, then the weekend and night markets are ideal. Start your explorations by visiting the Sunday Walking Street Market (from 4 – 9 p.m.). It’s set in the historical part of town, the place will be flooded with lights, music, and healthy market commotion, it’s a great place to get some flavour-packed local food and souvenirs. The Night Market is pretty much the same concept, but it’s usually kept outside of the Phuket town premises.
So, Bali vs Phuket – Which is Better?
Finally, it all comes down to the traveller, and what you want to explore first. At first glance, you might think there’s not much of a difference between Bali and Phuket. But hopefully, all of the above has convinced you otherwise. There’s much to see in both destinations and are worth visiting. But depending on your travel plans, time of travel, and most importantly travel budget, your first choice for a holiday in 2022 – could end up being Bali? or Phuket? You decide.
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