Should you visit Thailand or Indonesia?Thailand is the most popular country to visit in Southeast Asia, and its economic dependence on tourism can be felt in even the smallest and most remote parts of the country. The beauty of Thailand is quite evident, and the diversity of landscapes, combined with the generally friendly nature of its people lead to a huge number of tourists every year. But all of these visitors can drive prices up a bit. Bartering is a must in Thailand where the tourist prices are dramatically higher than local prices.
Indonesia is a relatively inexpensive destination known for beautiful tropical beaches, exotic jungles teeming with wildlife, and large urban areas full of culture and markets. Visitors to Indonesia are often surprised at the number of activities to do and places to visit, as once they step away from the beach, they find historic temples, eco-tourism adventures, jungle and mountain hiking, and more.
When is the best time to visit Thailand and Indonesia?
Much of Indonesia is very close to the equator and quite tropical. Therefore, the seasons are divided between wet and dry depending on seasonal winds. The dry season is from May to September, while the wet season is from October to April. A few places have an exception to this (such as Sumatra), but you can expect warm tropical temperatures everywhere in the country.
Why is Thailand more expensive than Indonesia?Thailand's economy is strongly dependent on tourism. Thailand has a numerous bus and other transportation companies in place that cater specifically to backpackers and mid-range travelers. These services are significantly more expensive than the public government-run transportation system that locals use. (However, they are not always more efficient.)
Touristy areas in Thailand are expensive simply due to supply and demand. On many islands, land is limited and therefore accommodation options are not as numerous as the number of tourists needing beds. Also, many of the islands need to have food, fuel, and supplies shipped in, leading to a higher cost of food at restaurants, higher taxi prices, and an increase in the price of souvenirs, clothing, etc.
The overall low cost of living of Indonesia, combined with low wages and a massive population has left the tourism industry with plenty of competition, especially compared to some of its Asian neighbors. For western travelers from the U.S., Australia, or Europe, this means that Indonesia is a dream destination for a cheap price (once you pay for a plane ticket). With some of the most beautiful tropical destinations in the world available for extremely low prices, it's easy to see why this is a popular destination.
What are the most expensive and cheapest cities and regions in Thailand and Indonesia?
Visitors to the larger cities can experience a mix of prices. With a more diverse range of options, travelers to Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pattaya, and other urban areas can find both cheap and expensive accommodation and food options.
In the countryside of northern Thailand, prices tend to be cheap. Smaller towns in the north wish to attract visitors and lower their prices accordingly. However, sometimes transportation can get pricey.
Tourism has driven up prices in some areas of Indonesia, namely Bali, Lombok, and some of the surrounding islands known for their beaches and scenery. If other travelers are flocking to an area, then expect prices to be higher.
In the larger cities of Indonesia, it's possible to find a wide range of accommodation, restaurants, and activities at a variety of prices. Budget hotels and hostels are often found not far from high-end luxury hotels. If you want luxury, you can expect to pay a fair amount more for it, but it is still usually of good value and quality.
In the countryside, prices can be very cheap, especially in off-the-beaten path locations.
How you can save money when visiting Thailand and Indonesia?Negotiate hard! This is particularly true in Thailand, but also true in Indonesia as well as most Southeast Asian countries.
Go off the beaten path. Prices in touristy areas tend to be the highest.
Eat the street food. In Indonesia, small eateries known as "warungs" are everywhere in urban areas. They offer delicious food at a cheap price. Also, buying food at local markets is significantly cheaper than at restaurants or larger stores.
Travel with the locals. Find local transportation (the government buses) whenever possible and avoid paying a premium for tourist or "VIP" buses. Often, the government bus station will be in the center of town or separated from the tourist areas.
Slow down. If you're rushing through the area you're going to spend more money. Transportation costs can be somewhat expensive, so the more places you visit, the more money you're going to spend.
Plan your trip schedule. Festivals are fun but expensive. If going to the Full Moon Party isn't your priority, avoid the island areas during these times. Also look at the holiday schedule to see when locals are on vacation.
Flying between the islands of Indonesia can get expensive. Instead, pick just a few islands and stick to them, or look for the less expensive ferry boats. Use public transportation whenever possible.