Indonesia vs. Thailand: A Local Comparison Guide (2024)

written by local expert Anna Faustino

Anna is a co-founder of Adventure in You and has been traveling the world for the last 9 years. She has spent time living in Thailand, Mexico, Indonesia, and Spain and is our local expert in these areas. Her expertise on travel, gear, and building businesses have been featured on Foundr, Business Insider, Yahoo Travel, and more.

Trying to decide between Indonesia vs. Thailand for your next trip to Southeast Asia?

As someone who has both lived and traveled extensively in both countries, I can confidently say that they each have their own unique charm and appeal.

In this article, I will share my personal insights and experiences to help you compare and contrast Indonesia and Thailand across several categories, including beaches and landscape, culture, food, transportation, and affordability. 

Indonesia and Thailand happen to be two of my favorite Southeast Asian countries (after my home in the Philippines, of course).

Whether you’re looking for adventure, relaxation, or cultural immersion, Indonesia and Thailand offer a wealth of options for every type of traveler.

By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of the similarities and differences between these two amazing destinations, and be able to make an informed decision about which one to visit.

Let’s get going!

A comparison guide between Indonesia and Thailand

Quick Answer: Indonesia vs. Thailand

As I mentioned, my partner (and co-founder of this blog) and I spent tons of time between these two countries.

We spent almost around a year and a half living in Thailand and around 8 months living in Indonesia.

We have also traveled Indonesia from top to bottom so I can say with confidence that I know both destinations fairly well.

In a nutshell, you can’t really go wrong choosing between these two destinations as both are amazing. It all boils down to what type of experience you’re looking for.

Indonesia is a huge country and although most visitors only spend time in Bali. Venturing to smaller destinations like Sumatra, Sumbawa, and the Komodo Islands can feel like you’re venturing off-the beaten path. This would be a hard feeling to get when traveling in Thailand.

Thailand, on the other hand, is known for its more touristy destinations, with crowds often flocking to the main Thai islands. If you’re looking for an “easy” destination to travel to, Thailand is a go-to.

What more can they offer?

Although you can visit smaller islands with a more chilled vibe like Koh Lipe or Koh Chang, the Thai Islands (especially the hot spots) are generally a lot more built up and crowded.

So if you’re looking for secluded beaches and a more remote experience, Indonesia wins on this front.

However, having said that, the beaches in Bali are not as pretty as those in the Thai islands. If you’re looking for white sandy beaches, you will have to visit one of the beaches in Uluwatu, Lombok, or the Gili Islands.

Culturally, travelers who visit Thailand can immerse themselves in the country’s rich cultural heritage, with a plethora of temples. Places like Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai in the North of Thailand offer a more unique and laid back vibe compared to the hustle and bustle of Bangkok.

While there are a lot of important cultural sites to visit in Indonesia, it doesn’t quite compare to the cultural attractions in Thailand. However, this is like comparing apples and oranges!

For me, personally speaking, Indonesia has a more diverse landscape rich with natural attractions while Thailand has more cultural attractions to visit.

When it comes to food, Thailand wins hands down. Thai food considered to be some of the best in Southeast Asia.

However, Indonesia offers a unique culinary experience with its diverse ethnic groups and regional specialties, such as Padang cuisine from Sumatra and Manado cuisine from Sulawesi. Although Indonesian food is good as well, it doesn’t compare to Thai food.

While this is just a general outline comparing these two countries, keep on reading for a more detailed comparison of each.

PS. Want to find out how Thailand compares to other place? Check out some of our comparison guides

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Infographic Comparing Indonesia vs Thailand

comparison chart indonesia vs thailand

Indonesia vs. Thailand: General Travel

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Indonesia Travel

Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world, with over 17,000 islands and a diverse culture influenced by various ethnic groups, religions, and traditions.

Growing up, I thought the Philippines had a lot of islands (7,107) but it definitely doesn’t compare to Indonesia!

The capital city of Indonesia is Jakarta, which is home to the country’s main international airport, Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. However, as most travelers head to Bali first, the main airport is Ngurah Rai International Airport.

It is one of the busiest airports in Indonesia and is located in Denpasar. This airport serves as a major gateway for international visitors to Bali. It offers direct flights to and from many cities in Asia, Australia, and the Middle East.

Indonesia is known for its stunning natural beauty, including sandy beaches, tropical rainforests, and active volcanoes.

The country is also home to a wealth of cultural and historical sites, such as the Borobudur Temple in Yogyakarta, the Prambanan Temple in Central Java, and the historic city of Malacca in Sumatra.

Traveling around Indonesia can be challenging due to the country’s vast size and diverse geography, but visitors can expect to find a range of transportation options, including planes, trains, buses, and ferries.

Beautiful statue in Indonesia (Indonesia vs. Thailand)

Apart from Bali, English is not as widely spoken in Indonesia as it is in some other Southeast Asian countries, but many locals are friendly and willing to help travelers.

When traveling in Indonesia, visitors should be aware of some potential safety concerns, such as pickpocketing and petty crime in tourist areas. Visitors should also be mindful of local customs and traditions, especially when visiting religious sites.

Overall, Indonesia is a fascinating and beautiful destination that offers a unique blend of natural beauty, culture, and history.

With its friendly people, delicious food, and diverse attractions, it’s easy to see why Indonesia is becoming an increasingly popular destination for travelers from around the world.

Photo of us in Bali, Indonesia

Must-visit attractions in Indonesia

  • Borobudur Temple in Yogyakarta – a stunning Buddhist temple built in the 9th century with intricate carvings and panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.
  • Beaches- Bali’s beaches, including Uluwatu, Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan, and Canggu are perfect for surfing and swimming. The surfing in Bali is some of the best in the world!
  • Mount Bromo in East Java – an active volcano known for its dramatic landscape and stunning sunrise views.
  • Lake Toba in North Sumatra – the world’s largest volcanic lake with crystal-clear waters, perfect for swimming, fishing, and boating.
  • Tanah Lot Temple in Bali – a beautiful sea temple perched on a rocky outcrop, with stunning sunset views over the Indian Ocean.
  • Gili Islands – a group of three small islands known for their turquoise waters, white-sand beaches, and great snorkeling and diving opportunities.
  • Tegalalang Rice Terrace in Bali – a stunning UNESCO World Heritage site with terraced rice fields set against a backdrop of lush forested hills.
  • Ubud in Bali – the cultural heart of Bali, known for its art, dance, and music scene, and a great place to experience traditional Balinese culture. It is also a great wellness place for those looking to detox and unwind.
  • Mount Rinjani in Lombok – the second-highest volcano in Indonesia with a stunning crater lake at the summit, and a popular trekking destination for adventurous travelers.
  • Komodo National Park – a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to the famous Komodo Dragons, the world’s largest lizards. Diving in Komodo is some of the BEST scuba diving we’ve ever done. The best way to see this area is through a private charter cruise.
Komodo Island
Photo of me in the Komodo Islands

Thailand Travel

Thailand is a beautiful and diverse country located in Southeast Asia, known for its stunning beaches, vibrant culture, and delicious cuisine. The food is some of the best in Southeast Asia and is very inexpensive and delicious.

The capital city of Thailand is Bangkok, which is also the main airport and transportation hub for the country. Suvarnabhumi Airport, located about 30 kilometers east of Bangkok, is the largest airport in Thailand and serves as a major gateway for international travelers.

Suvarnabhumi Airport connects to various International airports around the world, making it a relatively cheap destination to travel to.

Bangkok itself is a very large modern city with tons of temples, night markets, and tourist attractions. There’s absolutely a ton of things to do in Bangkok meaning you’ll never get bored.

Two pagodas in Chiang Mai, Thailand
You can visit the breathtaking temples and pagodas of Chiang Mai, Thailand

Thailand is a relatively easy country to travel around, with a well-developed transportation system that includes buses, trains, and domestic flights.

It is a large travel hub so everything is pretty “built up” for tourism. This isn’t such a bad thing as it makes moving around from one destination to the other easier.

Modern cities aside, Thailand is also known for its beautiful islands and beaches, such as Koh Phangan, Koh Lipe, Phuket, Koh Samui, and Krabi, which attract millions of tourists each year.

The Thai islands hold a special place in my heart and I can assure you that every traveler that you meet will also have a ton of interesting stories about their time there.

English is widely spoken in major tourist areas, but it’s always helpful to learn a few key phrases in Thai to help communicate with locals. Thailand is a relatively safe country, but visitors should still take basic precautions to protect themselves and their belongings.

Overall, Thailand is a fantastic destination for travelers looking to experience a unique mix of culture, nature, and adventure.

With its stunning landscapes, idyllic islands, and delicious food, it’s easy to see why so many people choose Thailand as their go-to vacation spot.

Bangkok rooftop bar
Photo of us enjoying the many rooftop bars in Bangkok City

Must-visit Attractions in Thailand

  • Bangkok – the bustling capital city of Thailand, known for its street food, cultural landmarks, and vibrant nightlife.
  • Chiang Mai – a laid-back city in northern Thailand known for its beautiful temples, markets, and local food.
  • Phuket – Thailand’s largest island with stunning beaches, crystal-clear waters, and great diving and snorkeling opportunities. At the time of writing this article, we’re living in Phuket close to Naiharn Beach and Rawai Beach.
  • Ayutthaya Historical Park – a UNESCO World Heritage site with ancient temples and ruins, including the famous Buddha head entwined in tree roots.
  • Pai – a small town in northern Thailand known for its scenic countryside, hot springs, and relaxed vibe.
  • Krabi – Railay Beach and Ton Sai Beach are known for their limestone cliffs, turquoise waters, and great rock climbing opportunities.
  • Phi Phi Islands – a group of islands in the Andaman Sea known for their stunning beaches, crystal-clear waters, and lively nightlife scene.
  • Chiang Rai – a small city in northern Thailand known for its stunning White Temple and nearby hill tribe villages.
  • Khao Lak a coastal town in southern Thailand known for its stunning beaches, coral reefs, and waterfalls.
  • Koh Lipe – a small island in the Andaman Sea known for its pristine beaches, turquoise waters, and great diving and snorkeling opportunities.
Koh lipe thailand
Koh Lipe is one of our favorite destinations in Thailand

Comparison of Beaches and Landscape

Summary: If you want to experience remote beaches and go off-the beaten path, head to Indonesia. If you want to head to a beach destination that is more lively with lots of things to do, head to Thailand.

Both Indonesia and Thailand are known for their breathtaking natural beauty, including stunning beaches and scenic landscapes.

Indonesia, with its vast archipelago, offers a wide range of diverse attractions. From white-sand beaches, turquoise waters, rice terraces, volcanoes, and rainforests. We spent about 3 months traveling Indonesia from top to bottom and is in fact one of our favorite countries due to its diversity.

During our time in Indonesia, we hiked to an active volcano, did some of the best scuba diving in Indonesia, and trekked to see wild Orangutans in Sumatra.

Personally, I think Indonesia’s main attractions are when you venture out of Bali. Also, if you love surfing, Indonesia wins on this front as it is a haven for surf enthusiasts.

Meanwhile, Thailand’s tropical beaches, limestone cliffs, islands, coral reefs, national parks, mountains, and waterfalls make for a stunning backdrop. Koh Phangan, Koh Tao, Phuket, Krabi, and Koh Samui are among Thailand’s most popular beach destinations.

Although very beautiful, most of the islands have a similar vibe which is why we prefer Indonesia. I would like to mention again that when you compare it to just Bali, Thailand has better beaches as Bali beaches are mostly black-sand.

However, once you visit places like Nusa Penida, Lombok, the Gili Islands, Sumbawa, and the Komodo Islands, prepare to be amazed.

While both countries offer a range of beaches and landscapes, Indonesia may have an edge in terms of diversity as you’re able to hike up volcanoes, visit rainforests, and see a range of attractions.

indonesia mount bromo
The stunning Mt. Bromo in Java is a huge attraction in Indonesia

Comparison of Food

Summary: Thailand has the best food between these two countries. Although Bali has a ton of fantastic international restaurants, the variety of Thai food that is both cheap and delicious is pretty hard to beat.

Thai and Indonesian cuisines are both known for their bold flavors, use of fresh herbs and spices, and emphasis on rice and noodles.

However, there are some key differences to note. Thai cuisine is perhaps best known for its balance of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy flavors, with dishes such as Tom Yum soup, Pad Thai noodles, and green curry.

Thai food also features a lot of seafood, with grilled fish, prawns, and squid being popular choices. In addition, Thai cuisine is known for its vibrant street food scene, with food stalls and markets selling everything from grilled meat skewers to mango sticky rice, a local dessert delicacy.

Indonesian cuisine, on the other hand, is more diverse and reflects the country’s many cultural influences. There are six main regional cuisines in Indonesia, each with its own unique flavors and ingredients.

Some popular dishes include Nasi Goreng (fried rice), Satay (skewered meat), and Gado-gado (vegetable salad with peanut sauce). Indonesian food also makes use of a lot of spices, including coriander, cumin, turmeric, and galangal.

Gado Gado indonesian food

Who has better food: Indonesia or Thailand?

Overall, both Thai and Indonesian cuisines offer a range of delicious flavors and dishes. Thai food tends to be spicier and more focused on seafood, while Indonesian food is more diverse and influenced by many different cultures.

Whether you prefer the sweet and sour flavors of Thai cuisine or the spicy and fragrant dishes of Indonesian cuisine, both countries have something to offer for foodies and culinary enthusiasts.

Personally speaking though, I find Thai food to be much more flavorful and diverse. While it’s easy to get a bad meal in Indonesia, every local Thai meal that I’ve had (in both restaurants and side streets) are amazing.

Thai street food markets are also very popular, allowing you to try a variety of dishes in one sitting.

pad krapow
Pad Krapow is one of our favorite Thai Dishes

Comparison of Culture

Summary: I think this area deserves a tie as it is like comparing apples and oranges. Although Thailand has a lot more cultural attractions, places in Indonesia like Bali have their own cultural attractions that are absolutely beautiful and worth discovering.

Indonesia and Thailand are both countries with rich and diverse cultural traditions. In Thailand, Buddhism is the dominant religion and has had a strong influence on Thai culture.

Many of the country’s most famous cultural landmarks are Buddhist temples, such as Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace in Bangkok, the White Temple in Chiang Rai, and the ancient city of Sukhothai.

In addition to Buddhism, Thai culture is also known for its vibrant festivals and celebrations, such as the Songkran water festival and the Loi Krathong lantern festival.

Loi Krathong Festival in Thailand is one of our favorite cultural events!

In Indonesia, the cultural landscape is more diverse, with Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism being the main religions.

The country is home to a wealth of cultural and historical sites, such as the Borobudur and Prambanan temples in Yogyakarta, Tanah Lot temple in Bali, and Uluwatu Temple.

Indonesia is also known for its traditional music and dance, with gamelan music and the Balinese kecak dance being two popular examples.

In recent years, Bali in Indonesia has become a popular destination for the health and wellness crowd, with many yoga retreats, meditation centers, and wellness resorts popping up across the island.

The island’s natural beauty, including its stunning beaches, lush jungles, and rice terraces, make it the perfect place to unwind and focus on wellbeing.

Overall, while both Indonesia and Thailand offer a wealth of cultural and historical sites to explore, their cultural landscapes are quite different with Thailand being more heavily influenced by Buddhism and its vibrant festivals.

Indonesia’s culture on the other hand is more diverse and offers a unique blend of religions, music, and dance.

Beautiful landscape of Puru Ulun Danu in Indonesia
Popular Tanah Lot temple in Bali

Comparison of Nightlife (Bali vs Thailand)

Summary: In general, Thailand has a more vibrant nightlife compared to Indonesia as the nightlife is mainly just in Bali. However, with that being said, Bali has a ton of amazing clubs, DJs, and fun beach bars.

When it comes to the nightlife scene, Indonesia and Thailand offer very different experiences. In Indonesia, the nightlife is mainly confined to Bali, where there’s a lively and vibrant party culture.

Bali has plenty of bars, nightclubs, and beach parties that attract visitors from around the globe. Some bars in Canggu and Uluwatu are world renowned and is visited by loads of party goers from all over the world.

It’s important to note, however, that Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim country, and the rest of the country is more conservative. As such, nightlife options outside of Bali may be limited, and alcoholic beverages may not be as easily accessible, especially in rural areas.

Thailand, on the other hand, is known for its lively nightlife culture, especially in Bangkok and on the southern islands, such as Phuket, Koh Phangan, and Koh Samui.

There’s a wide range of bars, nightclubs, and beach parties that go on until the wee hours of the morning. With the legalization of marijuana, Thailand has also seen an uptick in smoke shops and cafes, especially in tourist hotspots, which adds to the nightlife culture.

Bangkok has a thriving LGBTQ+ scene, with bars and clubs catering to different preferences and interests. Bangkok also has a ton of amazing rooftop bars and speakeasies!

Overall, while Bali is the main hub for nightlife in Indonesia, Thailand offers a more diverse array of options throughout the country.

Despite their differences, both countries offer unique and enjoyable nightlife experiences that travelers can enjoy.

rooftop bar in Bangkok
One of our favorite rooftop bars in Bangkok!

Comparison of Transportation and Accessibility

Summary: If you’re looking for general ease of travel, Thailand wins on this front as it is a country built up for tourists.

As mentioned, in terms of accessibility, Thailand has a more developed transportation infrastructure than Indonesia, making it easier for travelers to get around.

Thailand has two main international airports, Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok and Phuket International Airport, which connect to many other destinations in Southeast Asia and beyond.

Domestic flights in Thailand are also frequent and affordable, making it easy to travel from one region of the country to another. Additionally, Thailand has a well-established network of buses, trains, and taxis, making it easy to get around cities and towns.

In Indonesia, on the other hand, transportation can be more challenging due to the country’s vast size and diverse geography.

While Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport is the main gateway for international flights, domestic flights can be expensive and not as frequent as in Thailand.

Traveling between islands in Indonesia often requires taking ferries, which can be slow and unreliable at times. However, there are also some budget airlines that operate domestic flights in Indonesia, and private car rentals and taxi services are available in most cities and towns.

Overall, while Thailand may have a more developed transportation infrastructure, both countries offer a range of options for travelers to get from one place to another, whether by air, land, or sea.

Boat with fruits and vegetables at floating market

Comparison of Affordability

Summary: Although there isn’t a huge difference, Thailand considered a lot more affordable than Indonesia, given that traveling around Indonesia can get quite expensive due to its size.

Both Indonesia and Thailand are relatively affordable destinations for travelers, but there are some differences to note.

Generally, Thailand considers to be a more affordable destination overall, with lower prices for accommodation, food, and transportation. Visitors can find budget-friendly guesthouses and hostels in most cities and towns, as well as affordable street food and local markets.

Public transportation is also very affordable, with buses and trains connecting many destinations throughout the country.

In Indonesia, prices can vary depending on the region and type of accommodation. For example, Bali offers luxury resorts and high-end restaurants, which can be quite expensive. However, visitors can also find budget-friendly guesthouses and homestays in Bali, as well as affordable street food and local markets.

Bali vs. Thailand: Which one is cheaper?

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In other parts of Indonesia, such as Sumatra or Java, prices tend to be more affordable overall, with budget-friendly accommodation and food options available.

In terms of transportation, both countries offer a range of options, including buses, trains, and flights. However, domestic flights in Indonesia can be more expensive than in Thailand, and transportation between islands often requires taking a ferry, which can be slow and somewhat costly.

In Thailand, domestic flights are frequent and affordable, making it easier to travel between different regions of the country.

Overall, both Indonesia and Thailand offer a range of options for travelers on a budget, with Thailand generally being more affordable overall.

However, with some research and planning, visitors can find affordable accommodation and food options in both countries.

Our amazing villa in Bali

Conclusion on Indonesia vs. Thailand: Which Should You Choose?

Both Indonesia and Thailand are incredibly beautiful and fascinating destinations with much to offer travelers.

Whether you’re interested in exploring cultural landmarks, trying new foods, or simply relaxing on stunning beaches, both countries have something to offer.

Ultimately, the decision of which country to visit depends on your individual travel preference and what type of adventure you’re looking for.

If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly destination with a wide range of street food options, Thailand may be the perfect choice. It has a vibrant nightlife and is an extremely easy country to travel around.

On the other hand, if you’re interested in seeing remote destinations and experiencing a diverse landscape, Indonesia is the ideal destination. It has everything from beaches, world class surfing, cultural sights, and wildlife.

Regardless of which country you choose, you’re sure to have a memorable trip filled with stunning scenery, delicious food, and rich cultural experiences.

Hopefully, this article helped you figure out which country to visit. Happy travelers!

FAQ on Indonesia vs Thailand

Is Indonesia better than Thailand?

The answer to whether Indonesia is better than Thailand really depends on what you’re looking for in a travel destination. Indonesia offers stunning natural beauty and diverse landscape, as well as cultural and historical sites to explore.

Meanwhile, Thailand is more developed in terms of transportation infrastructure, offers a vibrant street food scene and bustling cities, and is known for its cultural landmarks such as Buddhist temples. Ultimately, consider your individual travel preferences when deciding which country to visit.

Which one is better, Bali or Thailand?

To be perfectly honest, it is very difficult to say which is better, Bali or Thailand as both destinations offer completely different experiences. Bali is known for its natural beauty as well as its health and wellness scene.

Thailand on the other hand has prettier beaches and offers a rich cultural heritage, bustling cities, and delicious cuisine. Consider your individual travel preferences to decide which destination is best for you.

Is Thailand cheaper than Indonesia?

Generally, Thailand is cheaper than Indonesia, with lower prices for accommodation, food, and transportation.

However, prices can vary depending on the region and type of accommodation, and with some research and planning, visitors can find affordable options in both countries.

Is Thailand bigger than Indonesia?

If you’re wondering if Thailand is bigger than Indonesia, the short answer is no. Indonesia is the larger country, with over 17,000 islands and a total land area of 1.9 million square kilometers. Thailand has a land area of approximately 513,000 square kilometers.

Which country has the best food, Thailand or Indonesia?

When it comes to choosing the country with the best food, Thailand or Indonesia, I would say Thailand wins in this front. Thailand is often considered to be the best destination in Southeast Asia, with a diverse range of dishes that are known for their bold flavors and fresh ingredients.

With that being said, Indonesia also has a rich and varied cuisine, with influences from Chinese, Indian, and Dutch cooking. Ultimately, which country has the best food depends on personal taste.

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Indonesia vs. Thailand: A Comparison Guide | Trying to decide between Indonesia vs. Thailand for your next trip to Southeast Asia? Click here to see our complete guide details. #travelindonesia #travelthailand
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