Are you trying to decide between Thailand or the Philippines for your next holiday? The choice is not going to be easy. These two Southeast Asian countries are home to miles of stunning coastlines with picture-perfect, tropical beaches, and turquoise seas. And that’s not all!
Make no mistake, these countries have many differences. Thailand has been welcoming millions of tourists every year for a long time, and that means it is the more developed of the two. The Philippines, however, is more rural which means fewer crowds but also a more underdeveloped infrastructure.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at many aspects that make these two popular Southeast Asian countries so unique. From the gorgeous coastlines, mouthwatering food, and bustling nightlife in Thailand to the crystal-clear waters and the adventure-packed tours in the Philippines, we’ll help you decide where is better to visit.
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Thailand or Philippines: Ease of travel
While it’s not difficult to catch a flight to either Bangkok or Manila, getting around these countries might be a different story. Let’s take a look at the ins and outs of traveling in and around…
Most travelers that visit the Land of Smiles will start their journey in bustling Bangkok, arriving at one of the two international airports there. Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) is the newer and the larger of the two. It serves most long-haul flights and non-budget carriers. The older airport, Don Mueang, is mainly used for shorter flights and low-cost airlines.
There is a cheap public bus that connects the two airports, often used by those looking to link up with domestic connections to popular areas like Phuket, Krabi, Chang Mai, and Koh Samui. Flying is the quickest way to get around Thailand, but it’s not always the cheapest. Plus, it won’t take you everywhere. There are also lots of bus connections and a couple of train lines around the country. To get to the islands, you will usually need to get a boat. Unless you’re flying, you don’t usually need to pre-book your transport. Just ask around locally to find the easiest options at the best rates.
While getting into the Philippines isn’t difficult either, traveling around the country is somewhat harder than around Thailand. This is an archipelago made up of 7,640 islands! So, it’s no surprise that going from one place to the other can be quite time consuming. The main international arrival hub is Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, but most people skip the capital and head straight to one of the many beautiful islands.
Again, flying is by far the easiest way to travel between the islands in the Philippines, especially since domestic flights are quite cheap and easy to book. However, while on paper getting around the Philippines seems relatively easy, the country is less developed than Thailand and the quality of the roads means that travel times are often extended beyond what Google may suggest. The weather can cause some major disruptions like road closures and flight cancellations, too.
Thailand or Philippines: Food
Food is always high on a list of things to consider when choosing a holiday destination. Luckily, Thailand is a food lover’s paradise with its world-renowned cuisine. And there is a good reason for that. The mix of fresh ingredients, rich flavors, and variety makes it a great holiday destination for all foodies. From yummy pad Thais from the street vendors to the range of colorful curries with rice, Thai food is hard to beat – especially if you like it spicy!
While Filipino cuisine is also tasty, it can’t compete with Thailand’s mouthwatering cooking. That, of course, is subject to opinion, but food in the Philippines is generally not as complex as that in the Land of Smiles. Meals are unpretentious and simple, with less distinctive flavors. That doesn’t mean that food in the Philippines is bad. Far from it. There are lots of great dishes out there that shouldn’t be missed when visiting the Pearl of the Orient. They include adobo, kare-kare, and crispy pata, along with lots of fresh seafood and fish.
Thailand or Philippines: Beaches
Whether you choose Thailand or the Philippines for your next holiday you won’t be disappointed with the beaches you’ll find there. Both countries are famous for having long stretches of white sands, turquoise, warm waters, all backed by tropical palm trees.
With over 1400 islands and access to both the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, it is no surprise that the Land of Smiles is packed with some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. From high-rising limestone cliffs to soft sands and shallow, crystal-clear seas, Thailand has no shortage of amazing bays that are hard to beat. It’s not easy to choose the best beaches in Thailand, but a few of our favorite ones include:
- Maya Bay (Koh Phi Phi) – Probably the most famous beach in Thailand, if not in Southeast Asia, thanks to Leonardo DiCaprio’s feature in The Beach. Its fame is well deserved for its undisputable beauty.
- Bottle Beach (Koh Phangan) – This remote beach can only be accessed by boat or a hike through a jungle. Ah, but it’s worth it.
- Sunrise Beach (Koh Lipe) – As the name suggests, this beach is great for watching the sunrise. As the crowds disperse during the day, you’ll see a long stretch of white sands and shallow, clear water. It’s also perfect for snorkeling.
- Kantiang Bay (Koh Lanta) – A pristine, sandy bay surrounded by the lush green hills of southern Koh Lanta.
How do beaches in the Philippines compare with those in Thailand? Well, they’re pretty amazing, so it’s not an easy task to choose which country wins this category. Think picture-perfect, white-sand bays, super-clear waters with some of the world’s best coral reefs. Some of our favorite ones include:
- White Beach (Boracay) – This beach has sands so white that it could easily be confused with the Caribbean.
- Nacpan Beach (Palawan) – With four kilometers of soft sands backed by a line of coconut trees, this beach is one of the most beautiful in the country.
- Sandira Beach (Bantayan Island) – Otherwise known as Paradise Beach, this one is a regular Instagram photo.
- Cloud Nine (Siargao) – A popular surfing spot on the small island of Siargao. It can get a bit crowded.
Winner: Philippines, just.
Thailand or Philippines: Nightlife
Full moon beach parties, fluorescent paint, fire shows, and dancing till sunrise, Thailand’s party scene is wild and well known. Whether it’s Changs in Pattaya, buckets at one of Koh Phangan’s beach parties, cocktails at sunset on Koh Lanta, or loud parties on Koh Phi Phi you’re after, you can rest assured that Thailand has something for all.
That’s not to mention the vibrant nightlife scene in the capital. Bangkok never sleeps, and there are loads of nightlife venues around the city. Take a walk on Khaosan Road to experience the touristy party vibes and head to Sukhumvit Soi 11, the famous party street, or even Thonglor to have all-night fun with the hipsters.
Although the Philippines nightlife scene is also famed in SE Asia, it is perhaps not as vibrant and diverse as that in the Land of Smiles. That said, Filipinos do know how to have a good time, especially when it comes to karaoke and stage performance. In fact, you’re never too far from a karaoke bar here – at least in our experience.
When it comes to Boracay island, however, it’s a different story. This island may be famous for its stunning beaches, but there is also a lot going on after the sun goes down. From lively beach bars to all-night dance clubs, Boracay is the Philippines’ party capital.
Thailand or Philippines: Things to do
If you’re looking for a well-deserved relaxing beach session, then neither of these countries will disappoint. But there is a lot more to do around the beaches than just topping up your tan. Both Thailand and the Philippines are world-famous for their diverse marine life and offer some of the most affordable diving courses around.
The Philippines are home to nearly 9% of the world’s coral reefs, so it’s no surprise that it’s considered by many to be a diving paradise. Palawan’s Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is filled with rich marine biodiversity, and considered to be one of the best places to dive. That said, Thailand also has some great diving spots that shouldn’t be missed such as Similan Islands, Red Rock, and Koh Tao.
For something even more adventurous, there are great canyoneering areas in the Philippines, especially around the Kawasan Falls on Cebu. Thailand matches that with some amazing rock-climbing spots around Krabi and jungle treks in the north.
But for those not so keen on the heights and adventure, there are also plenty of other fun things to do in both countries. You shouldn’t leave Thailand without tasting some great street food or visiting the incredible temples. In the Philippines, you could try out your surfing skills or do island hopping on Bangka boats.
Thailand or Philippines: The conclusion
The choice between Thailand and the Philippines is not an easy one. Both these Southeast Asian countries have some of the best beaches and amazing diving and snorkeling conditions. But these countries are not that similar if you take a closer look.
Thailand has it all, the beaches, the food, the nightlife. It’s easier to travel, and the country has a better infrastructure to accommodate tourists. The Philippines, however, has those picture-perfect beaches that will cause some jealousy from your Instagram friends but is not as well prepared to host travelers as the Land of Smiles does.