If you’re stuck between Thailand or Singapore for your next adventure abroad, the decision is not going to be an easy one. Both Southeast Asian countries might be on the backpacker trail, but their cultures and landscapes are strikingly different, and whichever you choose promises a very different experience.
Singapore is a tropical island nation off the southern tip of the Malay Penisula. A city, country, and state all-in-one, Singapore’s uniqueness is ever-alluring, and the modern mecca is full of surprises. At the same time, Thailand is a rustic backpacking haven and the jewel of southeast Asian travel. Beaches, parties, and scenery are just some of the reasons millions of travelers flock to the sultry shores every year.
This guide looks at all that makes Thailand and Singapore unique, from getting there to the varying food customs. You might think you know southeast Asian travel, but a journey through either nation is likely to show you otherwise. So let’s get into it.
Thailand vs Singapore for the Beaches
Although Singapore might be better known for its magnificent skylines, modern appeal, and efficient transport, the beaches are certainly something to talk about. Although most of them are artificial, the white sands and towering palms are enough to rival Thailand’s shorelines.
Formed at the edges of reclaimed land, the East Coast Park Beach is the longest stretch of sand on the island and is a treasured urban beach getaway. While Palawan Beach, taking its name from the picturesque region of the Philippines by which the scenery is inspired, is the best swimming beach in Singapore. The man-made islet joins Sentosa by a suspension bridge, and you’ll have your bucket-list moment visiting the cove, as it’s the Southernmost Point of Continental Asia.
Singapore is all about entertainment. Although the beaches lack a certain rustic charm of Thailand’s untouched island paradises, no pebble has been left unturned when it comes to keeping visitors busy. Palawan Beach boasts a pirate-themed water park, Cabana-style beach bars, restaurants, and shops, and all this is just minutes away from the city. And if you want to less loose, Tanjong Beach, just walking distance from Palawan, is teeming with partygoers late into the night, with beach parties and lively bars at every turn.
Still, the beaches aren’t something for which tourists flock to Singapore. The cool alluring water and laidback vibe are a welcome escape from bustling city life, but Thailand triumphs over most nations when it comes to the beaches.
Images of powdery white sands, Edenic tidal lagoons, and looming limestone cliffs that come to mind when we think of Thailand aren’t even close to the reality of Thailand’s beaches. They’re even more breathtaking in real life.
From peaceful paradises to party strips, Thailand has some of the best beaches in the world for everything from swimming and sunbathing to kayaking and cave exploring. Thailand is also home to one of the most famous coves in the world. Maya Bay in Koh Phi Phi was the location for Danny Boyle’s 2000 blockbuster, “The Beach,” starring Leonard DiCaprio. Since then, tourists have flocked in their thousands to the heavenly azure waters and unspoiled jungle bay every year.
The variety in beaches is why travelers gravitate to Thailand time and time again, and although it puts up a good fight, Singapore can’t compete.
Thailand vs Singapore for the Ease of Travel
Thailand and Singapore are only two hours apart by plane, so the process of getting to either country shouldn’t be too different. However, Singapore’s Changi airport is a popular layover destination from most western international airports to Thailand. So wherever you’re coming from, you’ll be more likely to find a direct flight to Singapore than the Land of Smiles.
When we talk about traveling, it’s easy to get carried away with the end goal, but it’s just as much about the journey as the destination. If you’re not convinced, you’ve clearly never been to Singapore airport. With gardens, innovative services, retail, dining, and the world’s largest indoor waterfall, you’ll be endlessly entertained. There’s even a swimming pool at Changi Airport, and there’s genuinely nowhere like it in the world.
Although Singapore won’t give you a taste of authentic Southeast Asian travel like Thailand, being over 700 times smaller than the Land of Smiles, getting around will be just as exciting. Singapore is famed for its Mass Rapid Transit subway system, which is as impressive as it sounds. The underground network stretches across the entirety of the city. Still, with clean air and magnificent greenery among the modern cityscapes, walking in Singapore is as much of a joy.
Thailand’s travel is defined by its rustic buses and ferries, which are an experience in themselves, but nothing compared to the modern luxuries of Singapore’s transport systems. Bangkok International Airport is impressive, but the polluted city makes walking and taking tuk-tuks largely unpleasant.
Getting around by scooter is popular in the southern isles of Thailand and is a great way to see the country at your own pace. But scooter culture is not unique to Thailand, and you can experience this anywhere in southeast Asia. Compared to Singapore’s convenient, sustainable, and affordable railway, deemed the best-in-class public transport in Asia, how can Thailand beat that?
Thailand vs Singapore for the Food
Food plays a massive role in the cultural traditions of both Thailand and Singapore. With strong oriental influences, the cuisines are aromatic and hearty, and local customs are centered around feeding and sharing in both nations.
Thailand and Singapore are alike in that they’re both known for their seafood. Still, Singapore’s gastronomy is more unique, inspired by surrounding nations but with a Singaporean spin on every dish. Some quintessential meals include chili crab, black pepper crab, sambal stingray, and steamed fish. Their local chicken rice from the Hainan province is also a popular staple, bursting with flavor and steamed with thick soy sauce.
While Singapore and Thailand share a street food culture, Singapore’s cuisine is defined by Hawker culture, a practice where people from all walks of life gather at Hawker centers, or community dining rooms, to eat, share, and bond over food. They remain integral in most Singaporeans’ way of life. Although comparable to Thailand’s night bazaars and street food restaurants, Hawker culture is has adapted to Singapore’s modern demographic and shows no signs of dying out.
Thai gastronomy needs no introduction and is one of the most globalized cuisines in the world. Although local Thai food varies by region and sees a heavy focus on seafood, you would likely have tried the staples of Pad Thai and Green Curry well before ever venturing to the Land of the Smiles. Fragrant, mild, and infused with Thai basil, the food is less spicy than other Asian cuisines but beloved worldwide. Eating out is an equally social affair in Thailand, but the rustic street food traditions define the culture.
Still, the variety and originality in Singaporean cuisine, with its untainted customs unfamiliar to the rest of Asia, make a journey through the local dishes much more exciting for a Western visitor.
Thailand vs Singapore for the Things to Do
No matter which country you visit, you won’t be bored. There is variety around every turn in Thailand. Each corner of the country promises something different, and it’s a nation where adventure and culture intermingle no matter where you go.
Despite Singapore’s smaller size, it’s an entertainment hub, and the island has been built from the ground up to appeal to the masses. Singapore will never fail to impress with its modern technological advancements and spectacular architecture.
From the SuperTree Grove Light Show, the Helix Bridge, and the Cloud Forest to the Botanical Gardens and Har Par Villa, Singapore’s attractions are all about man-made spectacle. A journey through Singapore is a lesson in how far technology has come and what this has meant for the nation.
On the other hand, Thailand’s rich history and religious culture are often at the heart of the things to do. The ancient temples are a huge pull factor, and the majestic statues of Buddha all over the country are more spectacular than any modern feet of engineering. But Thailand is also about thrill-seeking. From zip wires and quad-biking to jungle trekking and shooting ranges, the most popular attractions make the most of the vast landscape and appeal to the adventurous backpacker in all of us.
Although Thailand has much more variety, Singapore is like nowhere else in the world, and the skyline is just as much of a bucket list vision as Thailand’s temples.
Thailand vs Singapore for the Cost
Even though Thailand is much bigger than Singapore, its economy lags behind the island nation. Singapore is essentially a first-world nation with developed infrastructure, advanced innovations, and state-of-the-art transport and manufacturing. The GDP per capita in Singapore is around $62,400, while it sits at just $9,900 in densely populated Thailand.
Still predominantly an agricultural economy, Thailand relies on crops and tourism and remains underdeveloped for the most part despite the modern capital and surrounding areas. Singapore is a state of luxury from the accommodation to the things to do and the food, and the nation is over two times as expensive on average as Thailand.
A budget meal in Thailand’s capital will set you back less than $3 on average, compared to $14 in Singapore. At the same time, a trip to the mid-range restaurant should cost less than $20 per person in Thailand, but closer to $40 in Singapore. Rent can cost over three times as much in Singapore, with endless facilities and first-world luxuries being accessible to most. And while an apartment in Bangkok could cost just $6,000 per square meter to purchase, you’d need closer to $25,000 for the same space in Singapore.
So, are there any areas where the countries are comparable? Well, when it comes to travel, you can get around locally for less than $2 in both Thailand and Singapore. The impressive yet affordable railway system is just one example of how high Singapore’s quality of life is. Still, Thailand remains a much cheaper and accessible country, regardless of budget.
Thailand or Singapore – The Verdict
Our guide puts Thailand and Singapore neck and neck. Still, it’s only their vast differences that create this outcome. Thailand might win on the beach front, but Singapore’s dazzling cityscapes are not to miss. Singapore’s food culture might be more unique, but Pad Thai is famous worldwide for a good reason. Whichever you choose, you won’t be disappointed, and you certainly won’t be stumped for things to keep you busy.
If it’s an authentic taste of traveling you’re after, there’s nowhere in the world that can compete with Thailand. But for a futuristic city break, a few days in Singapore promises plentiful once-in-a-lifetime experiences. So which will it be?