Thailand and Malaysia are two of the most popular travel destinations in South-East Asia. Many travellers looking for a tropical beach holiday are often confused about choosing between the two.
The dilemma is well-justified.
Thailand and Malaysia share a border, and yet are starkly different from each other. The experiences are varied, and ideally each country merits a visit of its own.
But if you are short on time and must choose between the two, then this detailed comparison will help you make the right choice.
Malaysia Versus Thailand: The Vibe
Being a mix of different Asian cultures, each with their own language, cuisine and practices, Malaysia feels like many countries in one. It stays true to its catchy slogan – Malaysia, Truly Asia.
As ethnic as Malaysia is, its modern infrastructure and sprawling cities give it a sophisticated vibe. Planned to perfection, it does feel more like a commercial tourist destination.
Thailand, on the other hand, feels more authentic. Despite having embraced modernity, Thailand has retained its local flavour, visible even in sprawling cities like Bangkok and Phuket. In that sense, even in the most commercial of places, you can find something unique and offbeat.
Damnoen Floating Market via Gopal Venkataraman
The pace of life toggles on both ends of the spectrum– frenetic and laidback, suiting all kinds of travellers.
Malaysia Versus Thailand: Best Time To Visit
The best time to visit Malaysia is between March to early October. Although showers tend to start around August, they are heavy only from November.
Thailand is best visited from November to March. This time is best if you are planning to visit places in the southwest region of Thailand. If you are planning anything around the Southeast of Thailand, then it’s better to visit from January to August.
Malaysia Versus Thailand: Ease Of Getting There
Being two of the most popular destinations in the world, both Thailand and Malaysia are well connected by flights. Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok are both busy airports, and in most cases, you can get a direct flight to either of these countries.
Transportation within both countries is robust, with the exception of islands, where the options may be limited, but yet are convenient enough.
Malaysia Versus Thailand: Resorts & Villas
The accommodation in Malaysia is pretty diverse, with everything from beach resorts to swanky villas. They come at a price though, and to experience good hotels, you will usually have to look at 4 to 5-star range.
In Thailand, you get better value for money, with charming hotels even in the three-star range, which are consequently more affordable. In fact, it’s possible to find even beach bungalows and resorts for surprisingly cheaper rates in Thailand.
Malaysia Versus Thailand: Beaches
Malaysia’s island getaways are known for their gorgeous white-sand beaches. The waters hugging the shores are so crystal clear that you can snorkel right off the beach and discover vividly colourful corals.
Thailand is on par with Malaysia when it comes to stunning beaches. Some of its beaches like Railay often feature among the most beautiful ones on the planet.
From isolated beaches which look like private islands to ones which are bustling with activities, Thailand has a beach for every traveler.
Malaysia Versus Thailand: Adventure Activities
Those wanting a spectacular underwater experience would get a chance to explore some of the best dive spots in the world in Sipadan and Redang islands of Malaysia. You can spot a diverse aquatic life here right from giant sharks and manta rays to turtles and thousands of smaller species.
Those who love mountains can hike to Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia’s tallest mountain. Thrillseekers can try paragliding, white-water rafting, zip lining and bungee jumping. Also, Malaysia is the only place in Asia where you can skydive onto a beach.
Thailand’s Koh Tao is one of the most beautiful and one of the cheapest places to scuba dive in the world. It’s not uncommon for divers to encounter massive whale sharks on their diving trips. The underwater world is a riot of colours, the visibility is incredible, and the waters are teeming with marine life.
For those who seek high-voltage action, Thailand has skydiving, bungee jumping and giant rope swings. Water babies can enjoy tons of watersports like flyboarding, wakeboarding, kitesurfing, jet skiing and parasailing.
Needless to say, Thailand is an adventure lover’s dream.
Malaysia Versus Thailand: Nightlife
The nightlife in Malaysia is niche and more sophisticated in comparison to Thailand’s insane party culture. Elite clubs, glamorous sky bars and retro-styled clubs define the party culture here. Also, alcohol is heavily taxed in Malaysia, making it more expensive.
If partying is important in your scheme of things, then there is no contest. Thailand wins hands down. Thailand has been known for its crazy party culture, right from roadside dancing to beach parties to the world-famous full moon party that attracts thousands of travellers from around the world.
Full Moon Party Koh Phangan
If you want a more laidback night scene, then there are swanky sky bars, street side drinking hubs and beer bars.
Malaysia Versus Thailand: Island-Hopping
Malaysia has many beautiful islands, each having a character of their own. From the hippie islands of Perhentians and honeymoon-perfect Langkawi to remote and beautiful Layang Layang to a Sultan’s privately-owned island of Rawa, there are choices catering to every traveller.
Thailand is no slouch either. It has innumerable gorgeous islands dotting its coastline. Some of these islands have almost become like celebrities, having featured in movies. And there are islands suiting every mood and occasion.
Lamai Beach Samui
Islands like Phuket and Koh Samui are known for their luxurious retreats and are popular among honeymooners. Others are like Koh Phangan and Koh Phi Phi are hard core party islands making for an ideal place to travel with friends.
Malaysia Versus Thailand: Things To Do/ Places To See
Malaysia is an urban adventure with its towering cityscapes and glitzy mega malls. There are theme parks, museums, zoos and temples.
At the same time, Malaysia has jungles older than humanity. There are plenty of national parks studded with dense rainforests. The icing on the cake is the diverse wildlife you can spot, from orangutans to tapirs to colourful birds.
Sightseeing in Malaysia is more relaxed and subdued.
So, if you have an endless checklist on your mind, then Thailand is the place to go.
Bangkok Bike Tour
From temples, floating markets, museums, bicycle tours, island tours, national parks, animal safaris, underwater aquariums to mega malls, Thailand is an endless stream of sights, sounds and action. The sheer volume and variety of things to do here will boggle you.
Thailand and Malaysia both have loads of spectacular experiences, are comfortable to travel to, and are easy on the wallet.
So, choosing the place really depends on the kind of trip you are looking for.
If you want a comfortable and laid-back family holiday, Malaysia is a better choice. But if you are looking for a fun-filled roller-coaster ride and want to experience something unique, then Thailand is the clear winner.