If it’s come down to Thailand or Taiwan, then we say you’ve got a bit of thinking to do. These are quite different places. They have different cultures and climates, offer different nature parks and beaches, and sit in different parts of Asia – one in East Asia, the other in Southeast Asia.
Taiwan is actually an island nation. It’s located just off the east coast of China in the South China Sea, offering amazing mountain parks and the huge city of Taipei. Thailand is on the Indian Ocean and the Thai Gulf, with famous islands like Koh Samui and party towns like Pattaya on offer.
This guide to Thailand or Taiwan will help you make the choice between the two countries. It will do that by running through a number of key things about each destination. We’ll take a look at where offers the most breathtaking nature, where has the most exciting things to do, and how easy it is to reach both by plane.
Thailand or Taiwan: Beaches
When it comes to beaches, it is no surprise that Thailand comes out on top. With miles of stunning coastline on the Andaman Sea and the Thai Gulf and over 1,400 tropical islands, Thailand is a beach lover’s dream. From white-sand bays backed by lush palm trees to dramatic limestone cliffs rising from the warm, turquoise waters, the Land of Smiles has plenty of amazing beaches to choose from.
With so many fantastic beaches, it’s not an easy task to choose the most beautiful ones. From Maya Bay, the set of The Beach, to the long stretches of golden sands in Krabi and the picturesque sandbars of Koh Lipe on the Andaman Sea, there really is loads to keep you busy.
Although Taiwan may not be as much of a beach destination, there are still lots of lovely beaches around this beautiful island. The most popular sandy bays are in the Kenting National Park on the southern tip of the country. This part of Taiwan not only enjoys the hottest tropical climate but also has sands like lovely Baishawan.
If you’re after some dramatic coastal scenery in Taiwan, visit Qixingtan Beach in Hualien, where misty mountains meet the sea. Alternatively, you can go to Waiao Beach to practice your surfing skills.
Thailand or Taiwan: Nightlife
There is not much competition when it comes to the nightlife here.
In Thailand, the bustling capital, Bangkok, is full of party streets. You can sip cold Changs on the touristy Khaosan Road and dance all night in one of the clubs on Sukhumvit soi 11. But it’s not all about the capital. Pattaya and Phuket both have reputations for being party centers with plenty of rowdy clubs and go-go bars. Koh Phangan is famous for its Full Moon Parties, which draw up to 40,000 people, and Koh Samui has plenty of modern nightlife venues. There’s loads.
When it comes to nightlife in Taiwan, the capital is the place to go. Taipei has a lively drinking scene with lots of bars and clubs across the city. Places tend to stay open very long hours thanks to little regulation. Each district here has a different vibe. For the best clubs, base yourself around the Xinyi neighborhood. Anyone after more casual drinks and a wider range of pubs should stay near the Zhongshan area. Just be ready for evenings that can go on until the very early hours if you want them to.
Winner: Thailand – for the backpacker parties.
Thailand or Taiwan: Prices
Thailand has long been known as a budget-friendly destination. Although prices have been on the rise and it may not now be one of the cheapest countries in Southeast Asia to visit, it is still cheaper than Taiwan. You should find that everything from food and accommodation to transport will cost less than in most European and North American resorts.
There are also plenty of backpacker-friendly hostels that can cost less than $10 a night. However, if you choose to stay in the most luxury hotels, you can expect to pay in excess of $150! Eating out will not break the bank, as the average cost of a basic Thai meal on the street can be as little as $5.
Taiwan is considerably pricier than Thailand, but it is still a relatively cheap destination if you’re coming from countries like the USA or UK. Your holiday here can easily be done on a budget if you choose to stay in the most basic accommodation, costing below $20 a night. Staying in more upscale hotels usually won’t be less than $100 a night. On average, you should budget around $800 per person for one week’s holiday.
Thailand or Taiwan: Cities
Taipei is the big, thrumming capital of Taiwan. Home to a whopping eight million people in its greater metro area, the town is spiked through by the UFO-like scraper of the Taipei 101 (you simply have to get to the top of that for the view) and home to the sprawling National Palace Museum (a collection of some of the most priceless Chinese art on the planet). But that’s really just scratching the surface of the urban areas here. There’s also the gritty port town of Kaohsiung in the south, where waterside temples collide with hipster café quarters, and Tainan City, sporting its old Dutch fort and abundance of art galleries.
A mention of the cities in Thailand are usually dominated by one place alone: Bangkok. There’s really nowhere else like this on Earth. From the soaring forest of skyscrapers in Silom to the edgy bar hubs of Banglamphu, where frantic Khaosan Road whizzes through massage parlors and open-air bars, it’s a ceaseless bout of real Asian life. The nightlife is epic, too, and the temples – particularly the Grand Palace – are some of the most amazing you’ll ever see. Chiang Mai is the second city and we also love that. It’s more chilled, more vintage, has maze-like night bazaars and loads of coffee shops.
Winner: Bangkok probably steals this one for Thailand.
Thailand or Taiwan: Climate
Taiwan technically gets four seasons, though most of the locals talk only of one long summer and then one long winter. The first is balmy and can get humid, on account of the sub-tropical nature of the island. It lasts from May to September and sees temperatures soar to over 95 F (35 C in the height of June and July). The warmth dips after November into the 70s and then the 60s until at least March, which when you can also catch the rare snowfall in the high mountains of central Taiwan. Generally, it’s pleasant year-round, though, with chilly winters and hot summers.
Thailand certainly only has two seasons: The dry and the wet. The first is the time you’ll want to come as a traveler – unless, that is, you’re keen on saving as much money as you can. The dry season usually begins in November and finishes up in March, and is, as the name implies, the time with the least rain. It’s also beach weather extraordinaire, with temperatures in the 90s and 100s but plenty of sunshine to bathe the isles from Samui to Phi Phi. You’ll probably want to avoid February in the north, though, which is when Chiang Mai undergoes the so-called “Burning Season” and the air pollution in Thailand’s second city soars.
Winner: Draw – different times of year are different in both.
Thailand or Taiwan: Ease of travel
Thailand is one of the most accessible countries in Southeast Asia, with its busy international arrival hub in the capital. In fact, there are two large airports in Bangkok that welcome millions of visitors every year. Suvarnabhumi Airport is the newer and the bigger of the two, and Don Mueang, the older one, is mostly used for low-cost international and domestic connections.
Despite being a large country with many remote islands, traveling around Thailand is relatively easy and inexpensive. You will find many domestic flights to Chiang Mai, Phuket, Krabi, and Koh Samui. There are also buses and boats that will take you to more remote destinations and smaller islands.
Although getting into Taiwan isn’t difficult, you will find fewer airlines going there. You will likely need to change either in Hong Kong, Bangkok, or mainland China to reach the largest airport serving Taipei. However, once you get on the ground, you should find that Taiwan has a very efficient transport system.
The most popular way to travel around Taiwan is either by train or bus. Buses can be cheaper and often faster than trains unless you opt for Taiwan’s superb high-speed rail. In fact, the bullet trains here are one of the world’s fastest and can travel at over 190 mph!
Thailand or Taiwan: Things to do
Taiwan offers some incredible things to do. It’s a country that comes with buzzing cities and wild nature alike. You can start a trip gazing at the incredible lights of Taipei and end it walking through the peaks of the Yangmingshan National Park. That means there’s actually something for lots of different types of travelers on this island, whether you’re after outdoor activities or urban enjoyments. Here are just a few of the top things to do in Taiwan:
- Taipei 101 – The top deck of this massive skyscraper has incredible views of Taiwan’s capital city.
- Sun Moon Lake – A very pretty lake destination in the mountains of Taiwan, popular with walkers, yogis, and honeymooners.
- Teahouses – Visiting teahouses is a must in Taiwan. There are some that sit on top of mountains and others in the middle of frantic cities.
- Hot springs – Take the Beitou Hot Springs as an example. They are said to have naturally healing waters that can relieve ailments.
Anyone who’s ever been to Thailand should know that there’s no shortage of amazing things to get up to in the Land of Smiles. Relaxing on the beaches of tropical islands surely has to be close to the top of the list – everywhere from Koh Lanta to Koh Phi Phi to Koh Samui offers that. But there’s also loads more, courtesy of Bangkok and other places across the country. Some of the top things to do in Thailand are:
- The Grand Palace – The home of the Thai King and some very important Buddhist temples.
- Pai – Escape away to this hippy mountain village to dance in jungle parties.
- Bangkok life – You have to experience the energy of Bangkok, especially the night markets and backpacker area around Khaosan Road.
- Railay – Rock climbers simply cannot miss this rugged part of south Thailand.
Winner: Taiwan, but mainly because Thailand is often about just lazing on the beach!
Thailand or Taiwan: Nature
There’s no question that both of these countries are attractive places. However, they are different when it comes to nature. Taiwan is far more mountainous than Thailand. The highest peak gets to 3,952 meters at the Jade Mountain, but mountains of all shapes and sizes are on offer in the Taroko National Park and the Yangmingshan National Park near Taipei. There’s everything from rugged gorges to forested valleys to jaggy summits to get through, making Taiwan better for those who like alpine walking in the great outdoors.
Thailand does have some mountains, but the country isn’t known for them. Where it beats Taiwan is on the shoreline. Thailand has a much longer coastline than Taiwan, along with plenty more islands. Thailand’s coastline is also much more famous for its exotic appearance, with white-sand beaches on Phi Phi and Koh Tao meeting big cliffs that come straight from turquoise water in the Andaman area. The beaches of Kenting in Taiwan aren’t bad, but Thailand does win when it comes to sand and the sea.
Winner: Draw, because Thailand has better coast, but Taiwan has better mountains.
Thailand or Taiwan: Food
Foodies will love both Thailand and Taiwan. These are known as two of the food centers of Asia. They each offer spicy dishes and street food that your taste buds won’t forget in a hurry. The cuisine in Taiwan is a little more influenced by China and Japan. It uses lots of soy sauce, fresh vegetables, rice, rice wine, chili peppers, and seafood. Some of the dishes you should definitely try while traveling to Taiwan are:
- Beef noodle soup – Slow-cooked beef and rich beef stock top egg noodles in this national favorite.
- Gua bao – Bao buns are served all over Taiwan. They are really filling steamed buns with meat inside.
- Green onion pancake – A flatbread with onions fried in oil, commonly served with an egg.
Thailand is famous all around the globe for its incredible food. It’s very famous for its street food, especially thanks to Bangkok and the markets that serve noodles, skewers, and mango sticky rice there. South Thailand also has unique dishes like coconut curry, fish curry, and massaman curry. Be sure to try:
- Red curry – Coconut and chili are the key ingredients to this hot Thai dish.
- Pad Thai – Noodles fried in soy sauce with a topping of peanuts and egg. This is the national dish of Thailand.
- Tom yum goong – A very spicy soup with shrimps inside.
Winner: It’s got to be Thailand.
Thailand or Taiwan: The conclusion
The choice between Thailand or Taiwan shouldn’t actually be too hard to make. When you get a feel for just how different these two countries are, you can focus on what it is you want out of your trip to Asia. If it’s glorious beaches with very warm seas and snorkeling under palm trees, then Thailand has you covered. If it’s modern cities and skyscrapers, rustic teahouses, and mountain climbing, the winner has to be Taiwan.