Looking for an island paradise for your next escape? Summer is here so for many sun-seekers it’s time to plan their dream holidays. From countless options to choose from two of the best ones are definitely Bali and the Maldives. They both offer beautiful beaches, amazing activities but they are also different. If you can’t decide between the two, here are some aspects you may want to consider to help make your decision.
The Maldives vs Bali: Location
The Maldives is an archipelago of nearly 1,200 islands composed of 26 atolls located in the Indian Ocean. It’s known for its pristine white-sand beaches, crystal blue waters, and amazing coral reefs.
The Maldives is easily accessible from Europe with round trips from several cities for less than $600 and 12 hours of travel time.
From the US flights are both longer and more expensive. From New York you can find tickets for $900 if you buy in advance with a total travel time of approximately 20 hours (with one stop) flying with Qatar or Emirates.
From LA a good flight with Qatar, Emirates or Turkish Airlines with one stop will set you back $1000 and take around 25 hours. There are some cheaper options for $550 flying China Eastern or China Southern but they take over 30 hours.
It’s also cheap to fly to the Maldives from Sri Lanka, India, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur or Dubai, so it could be a perfect add-on vacation to some of these destinations.
On the other hand, Bali, aka Island of the Gods, is a small island in Indonesia famous for its varied landscape of volcanic mountains, rice terraces, sandy beaches with world-class surfing and a unique culture that has been attracting tourists for decades.
A flight to Bali starts from $600 and takes roughly 18 hours from Europe, while from the US the cost is similar but the flying time extends to between 20 and 25 hours, depending on where you are flying from.
It’s worth mentioning that as the Maldives is composed of hundreds of islands you can’t go very far without taking a ferry or a domestic flight. After arriving at the Male International airport, you will have to take either a public ferry (cheap but slow), speedboat or a seaplane (around $250 per trip).
The Maldives vs Bali: When to go?
Even though the temperatures are high the whole year, the best months to visit the Maldives are during the dry season that goes from November to April. The peak season runs from Christmas to the end of February so if you want to enjoy great weather and cheaper prices March and April are great options.
Like the Maldives, Bali enjoys warm temperatures all year round but it has a wet season that lasts several months. It’s better to visit during the dry season that goes from April to September. July and August are the busiest months and the rates increase considerably making April, May, June and September the best months to visit Bali.
Bali vs the Maldives: What to do
It’s no secret that the Maldives has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and magnificent marine life. There are several options to go snorkeling and diving, do all kinds of water sports, swim with whale sharks, see manta rays and a wide variety of fish, visit a sandbank or one of the numerous picnic islands.
One of the main attractions of the Maldives are the visits to the resorts: instead of spending thousands of dollars to sleep there, you can simply pay an entrance fee (goes from $30 to $500 depending on the resort) to enjoy their luxury services all day long.
The Maldives is also famous for its beauty centers and massages, a great option for those looking to relax and enjoy the stunning views this country has to offer.
Apart from some nice beaches (especially in the south of the island) and water sports like surfing, windsurfing or snorkeling, Bali offers diverse activities.
If you like nature and trekking, you can climb Mount Batur, a 5,000-ft active volcano, and enjoy the sunrise from the top, visit Tegalalang or Jatiluwih Rice Terraces near Ubud, or visit Uluwatu, Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, Pura Tirta Empul or any other of the over 20,000 temples in the island.
In contrast, if you want to relax, there are plenty of yoga and massage centers in different parts of the island to help you unwind.
Bali or The Maldives : Accommodations
In terms of accommodation, both Bali and the Maldives offer options for all kind of budgets.
Not long ago the Maldives was a destination only accessible for a lucky few. Tourism was restricted to multinational companies that owned private islands and built luxurious resorts. However, in 2009 the government changed the law and allowed tourism on local islands creating jobs and giving tourists an opportunity to enjoy this amazing country for a fraction of the cost.
So now not only is it possible to sleep in a luxurious water bungalow, which goes from $200 to $25,000 per night, but you can also stay in simple local guest houses that offer rooms with air conditioning and private bathrooms for $60.
Bali also offers different types of accommodation for all tastes. From a $5 dorm in the popular Kuta, to a $120 room in a 5-star hotel in Seminyak or Nossa Dua, to the most exclusive villa in Ungasan or Ubud for $1000 per night.
The Maldives vs Bali: Cuisine
Maldivian cuisine (also known as Dhivehi Cuisine) combines Indian and local influences resulting in dishes full of flavors.
There are plenty of vegetarian options and delicious seafood. Some of the most famous dishes are Mas Huni (tuna with coconut, chilli and lemon), bis keemiyaa (a delicious pastry filled with cabbage, hard boiled eggs and onions), Garudhiya (a very popular fish soup served with rice and chili), and Rihaakuru (a spicy paste made from fish).
Balinese cuisine offers a variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian options as well as seafood. The use of herbs and spices is widespread so all the dishes are very tasty.
Some of the most popular local ones include Nasi Campur and Nasi Ayam (rice mixed with meat, different vegetables, and eggs, among other things), satay (grilled meat served with sauce), Be siap sambal matah or Balinese grilled chicken (chicken, lemongrass, lime leaves, chilli, coconut oil, shallots, and shrimp paste), and lawar (meat with vegetables, herbs and coconut, often mixed with blood).
How Do Cost Differ?
In terms of cost, Bali is a better option than the Maldives. Not only are accommodations cheaper but also food and activities in general.
A single meal for two people on the Indonesian island starts from $2 and gets up to $50 in a fancy restaurant, while in the Maldives the same meal starts at $8 in a local restaurant and can go up to $100.
As most of the activities in the Maldives include a boat trip in a high speed boat, excursions tend to be more expensive.
Overall expect to spend at least $100 per person per day including accommodation, food and activities in the Maldives in comparison to between $40 and $50 in Bali.
The best way to move around Bali is by renting a scooter. There are plenty of companies and it’s usually easy to get to the main sites on your own.
If that’s not for you, there are other options that get you almost everywhere in Bali as well as to neighboring islands such as Gili or Lombok.
The islands in the Maldives are very small and in most cases you can walk from one end to the other in a few minutes. To move around between islands you can either take a public ferry or a speed boat.
Dhivehi is the official language in the Maldives and English is also spoken by most of the population.
Balinese and Indonesian are the most common languages in Bali, and English is widely spoken in most tourist areas.
In the Maldives the official currency is the Maldivian Rufiyaa (MVR), with 1 USD equivalent to 15.5 MVR.
The official currency in Bali is the Indonesian Rupiah (IDR). 1 USD equals nearly 16,000 IDR.
According to official data, 100% of the population in the Maldives is muslim so keep in mind that pork and alcohol are not served in local restaurants. They can, however, be found in resorts.
Even though Indonesia is predominantly a muslim country with 85% of its population practising Islam, more than 80% of the population in Bali are Hinduists.
Nightlife in the Maldives is almost non-existent. Some resorts hold parties at night but you will not find them in local islands.
Bali offers a good selection bars and clubs especially in Kuta, Legian and Seminyak.
Bali vs The Maldives: The Verdict
Both Bali and the Maldives are great options for those looking for an island paradise and a dream escape. Which one is better? That depends on your tastes and budget.
If you are looking for a more adventurous holiday with different activities, trekking, volcanos, temples and rice terraces and your budget is more limited, Bali is definitely your perfect choice.
If, on the other hand, you want to enjoy some of the most beautiful beaches in the world with turquoise water, white sand, stunning underwater and water activities, the Maldives is probably your best bet. Keep in mind you will spend more.