Idyllic white sand beaches…tick. Copious amounts of stunning natural scenery…tick. Friendly and welcoming locals…tick. And cuisine to fall in love with…tick. Both Bali and the Philippines fare very well for the vacation checklist.
But with Bali being just one island compared to the 7000 plus islands that make up the Philippines, you may struggle to get the peace and tranquility in Bali that you can find in the Philippines. However, over in the Philippines, the nightlife might not satisfy you as much as the lively, tourist centered party scene of Bali.
So, although at first glance, both these Southeast Asian destinations offer many of the same draws, there are several things you may want to consider. From how far your money will stretch to what types of activities are on offer, we’ve curated a handy little comparison guide. So, Bali vs the Philippines, who will come out on top?
Bali vs Philippines: Things to do
Luckily, neither of these destinations will have you twiddling your thumbs wondering what to do. Besides sunning yourself on the exquisite beaches, Bali also hosts a varied selection of bustling markets, thrilling waterparks and jaw-dropping waterfalls.
However, a few things no Bali itinerary should be without are Tegalalang Rice Terrace (a scenic haven of rice paddies and lush greenery), Mount Batur (an active volcano featuring a stunning crater lake and plenty of hiking opportunities) and Tanah Lot (a temple in the sea, surrounded by crashing waves).
And if you’re feeling adventurous, perhaps you’ll want to hire a scooter and explore all the island has to offer at your own pace. Or for an authentic experience, why not book yourself into one of the many Balinese cooking classes on offer and learn how to make a mean pepes ikan (fish wrapped in banana leaves).
So, while we know there’s plenty to fill your day planner in Bali, how does it fare with the Philippines? Well, being a country that is host to a multitude of islands, there is certainly more choice of where to spend your time. Whether you’re getting your thrills in Boracay’s epic watersports scene, exploring turquoise lagoons in Palawan, or trekking in thousand-year-old rice terraces in the Philippines’ largest island, Luzon (also home to capital city, Manila), you’re sure to be entertained.
A top pick for any tourist to the Philippines is the Chocolate Hills – at ease chocolate lovers, this is in fact a photo worthy collection of over a thousand green covered hills, which turn brown in the dry season (hence the name). However, other notable things to do around here are shipwreck diving on Sangat Island (explore shipwrecks from WWII, many being a habitat for a host of diverse fish species) and Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park (an impressive collection of caves in an underground river and one of the Philippines UNESCO World Heritage Sites).
Winner: Philippines, for the variety.
Bali vs Philippines: Prices
With Bali being a lot more tourist-centered, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that it is a slightly pricier option than its island companion to the north. You would be looking at shelling out around $65 a day in Bali and $59 a day in the Philippines. So, although not a world of difference, every little counts.
However, accommodation in Bali can come in at as little as $3. So, if it’s a stop-off in the backpacking itinerary, rather than a luxury romantic getaway, you can get by on a shoestring budget. But with great food, nightlife, and excursions, as well as a few tempting Balinese massages, you can watch your money whittle away quite easily around these parts.
So, what is the breakdown of the budget in the Philippines? Well, over here, an average meal will cost around $5 and even the most luxurious resorts will only come in at around $50. However, where things can get costly is in the island hopping of this vacation. Unlike Bali, which is just one of the Indonesian islands, the Philippines will lure you with thousands of possibilities. So, even if you base yourself in Manila, the sea life rich coral reefs of Bohol, or the surf capital of the Philippines, Siargao, will more than likely have you splashing out on a boat trip.
Bali vs Philippines: Accommodation
Bali vs the Philippines in accommodation choices is certainly a tough one. With both destinations offering ridiculously cheap hostels, as well as luxury resorts set in the most stunning locations, a trip to either can cater to your needs.
If you like the sound of a 3-story pool, set to a backdrop of lush tropical greenery, look no further than The Kayon Jungle Resort in Ubud. Or if you’ve always fancied getting a good night’s sleep to the sounds of wildlife (and not just on tape), you will definitely want to book your stay at Mara River Safari Lodge, where the likes of rhinos, oryx and even lions roam nearby.
And in keeping with animal-themed resorts, it’s not just Bali getting in on the action. The Philippines is home to Hotel H20, where you get your own private aquarium next to your bed – nothing quite like sleeping with the fishes (in the non-gangster way of course). However, accommodation can vary quite a bit in price here, with the capital, Manila, and tourist hotspot Boracay being significantly more expensive than some of the other parts of the country. So, you might need to shop around for some good deals.
Bali vs Philippines: Food
If you’re a bonafide foodie on your travels, Bali’s culinary scene is sure to satisfy your palate. Taking influences from Chinese and Indian cuisine, as well as indigenous traditions, this part of Indonesia has many tasty treats. A few favorites with locals and tourists alike include babi guling (spit-roasted suckling pig), mie goreng (fried noodles and vegetables, with meat or seafood), and pisang goreng (banana fritters).
Fruits, vegetables, and seafood are widely utilized here, due to the abundance of rich landscape on the island. And whether you’re sampling local street food or dining in one of the many incredible restaurants, one thing for sure is that you’ll be eating like a king, due to ridiculously cheap Southeast Asia prices.
Like Bali, and indeed like many other Asian nations, you’ll never have to look far for a fried rice or noodle dish. However, the Philippines is also home to a fair few standout dishes of its own. Often called the national dish of the Philippines, adobo (meat or seafood marinated in a variety of flavors, including vinegar, soy sauce and salt) is a definite must-try. Kare-Kare (a stew, usually made with oxtail and a peanut based sauce) is another favorite.
Then for dessert, you simply must give the halo-halo a try. This dish, literally meaning mixed is exactly that. Serving up a glass of ice cream, sweetened beans, fruits, crushed ice and so much more, it’s definitely a treat for your palate.
Bali vs Philippines: Nightlife
With a world-renowned party scene, Bali has been on the map for clubgoers for quite some time. And although the Philippines has the nightlife hubs of Boracay and Manila, it is still hard to beat the buzz of Bali.
Whether you’re enjoying rooftop cocktails, soaking in the beach club ambience, or raving like a madman at one of the many clubs, the sun will creep up in no time around here – the ultimate ‘time flies when you’re having fun’ destination. The epicenter of Bali’s nightlife lies around the Kuta, Legian and Seminyak regions. However, although famed for its backpacker party scene, Bali’s after dark entertainment has something for everyone. With popular shadow puppet shows, epic karaoke bars and bustling night markets, great nightlife doesn’t always have to equal next-day hangover.
So, how does the Philippines compare? Well, with the wild party scene limited to just a couple of areas, this is a country with many other ways to enjoy yourself past sundown. Some top things to do in the Philippines after soaking in the incredible summer sun (temperatures reach around 35°C/95°F in the height of summer) are to check out a comedy club, experience some live music or take in some Filipino culture at one of the many theatres.
Winner: Bali, for the buzz.
Bali vs Philippines: Beaches
Bali vs the Philippines in terms of beaches is another close call. However, if we’re talking amount, the Philippines unfairly wins hands down due to sheer size. But when it comes to beauty, amenities and watersports, the competition gets a little trickier.
In Bali, you can find most of the best beaches in the south of the island. Depending on how you take your beach day – with a dash of watersports, a sprinkle of shopping, or just a whole load of relaxation, there’s a beach for everyone. Kuta Beach is by far Bali’s most famous beach and although one of the busiest, it is a perfect spot to soak in the vacation atmosphere. Also, make sure to stay and take in the infamous red sunsets here. But around 30 minutes south, at Nusa Dua, an abundance of thrilling watersports await, from jet skiing to parasailing. However, Geger Beach is the place to be for tranquility. This white sand tropical haven is delightfully secluded compared to many other Bali beaches and the calm waters here are perfect for taking a dip in.
However, with more than 7000 islands to choose from over in the Philippines, finding crystal clear waters and beach heaven couldn’t be easier. Compared to Bali, the Philippines has a lot more options for a peaceful trip to the beach. Here you can find many that feel like your own private beach, from the pink sands of Tikling Beach to the beach forests of Flower Island. The Philippines is also rich in marine life and has many spectacular snorkeling spots. And you can even swim with whale sharks at Donsol Bay.
Winner: Philippines, for the choice.
Bali vs Philippines: Culture
Balinese culture can be seen throughout the island in the many temples, galleries, and festivities. Much of its culture was influenced by early traders to the island, especially Indian traders, which has now resulted in a strong Hindu presence. Throughout Bali, you will see small baskets filled with colorful flowers and sometimes food items, which is a Balinese Hinduism daily offering called canang (left as gratitude to the gods).
Traditional dance, rituals, and celebrations are a big part of Bali life, with some of the more famous festivals being Galungan (held in honor of ancestral spirits), Nusa Dua Fiesta (a week of art exhibitions, cultural performances, and sporting events), and Bali Arts Festival (Indonesia’s longest running arts festival).
So how does this compare with the Philippines? Well, over in the Philippines the main religion is Christianity (in fact it’s one of only six Asian nations where Christianity is the predominant faith), and you will find exquisite churches dotted all around the country. However, as well as having an abundance of churches and museums to visit, it is also no stranger to a festival.
Some of the larger-than-life festivities include Ati-Atihan Festival (week-long celebration in honor of Santo Niño – baby Jesus), Sinulog Festival (religious festival, filled with processions, street dancing and plenty of drumbeats), and Pahiyas Festival (in honor of the patron saint of farmers and known as one of the most vibrant and colorful). So, there’s no shortage of ways to soak up the culture over here either.
Winner: Bali, for the more intimate cultural feel.
Bali vs Philippines: Conclusion
And the winner is…the Philippines.
After a fairly neck and neck battle, we feel that the Philippines just manages to take the trophy this time. However, with having more of most things on offer, this destination did start with the upper hand.
But if you’re looking for a cheap destination, with nightlife by the bucket load, friendly locals, and many temples to admire, Bali can most definitely provide.
So, although the Philippines fared slightly better on our vacation necessities, we definitely recommend adding both to your bucket list.