Bali vs Maldives - Which Tropical Destination Should You Go to Next?

The vacation season is upon us, and choices must be made! Planning a holiday is no easy task, as many things must be kept in mind. There are a million things to mull over before making your decision, and it can seem very daunting indeed. A tropical beach destination is a clear choice in everyone's bucket list. Who can say no to a gorgeous beach holiday, with pristine waters, stark sand, waving palms and a drink in your hand?! And then the question arises - which tropical destination to choose? Don't worry as we've got your back. We've narrowed it to the two most popular island destinations - Bali and Maldives, and compared every aspect under the sun to make your choice easier. Go through our comprehensive comparison, and make your choice!

Location and Getting Around

Woman on a rented scooter in Bali, Indonesia

Bali is located in the Indian Ocean - a gorgeous tropical island measuring 5780 square kilometres. It is well-connected to other international destinations through the Ngurah Rai International Airport. It is located to the east of Maldives and is a part of Indonesia. Getting around Bali is very convenient considering the variety of transport options available to the millions of tourists who visit every year.

Maldives is an island country on the other side of the Indian Ocean, leaning westwards. It is composed of 26 atolls, full of coral reefs and tropical delights. There are 12 airports in Maldives, the international airport located at Malé, the capital. It is well-connected to the world as well, and you can take ferries or seaplanes to visit the different islands.

Since Bali is a single island, it is easier to get around. You can access most locations on land, and public transportation is cheap and safe. Alternatively, in Maldives, you have to pay a hefty sum (up to USD 700) to get a seaplane and reach the resort islands. So, Bali is the more economical option here.


Ocean villa at Maldives

Both islands have a predominantly tropical climate, making it difficult for the average traveller to choose. Both islands have two monsoon seasons, the first from June to September and the second from November to March. However, there are some predominant differences between the climate of the two regions that you must consider, before choosing.

In Bali, the temperature averages to about 28 degrees Celcius, with a maximum temperate of 33 degrees Celcius and a minimum temperature of 22 degrees Celcius. May is the hottest month, while January is the coldest. April gets the most sunshine, clocking in 9 hours. This means that the summer months, while the hottest, are the best months to visit the island as you can make maximum use of the weather and daylight. The wettest month of the year is January, where you can expect rain almost 16 days a month, measuring 90-100mm. The sea has a general temperature of a warm and comfortable 29 degrees Celcius.

In contrast, Maldives has an average temperature of 29 degrees Celcius, with March being the hottest month of the year. The temperature ranges from 33 to 24 degrees Celcius. January is the coldest month, but February gets the most sunshine, with a whopping 10 hours! Sun-lovers ought to avoid the Maldives in September as it sees about 245mm of rainfall, with rains in 16 days out of 30. The ocean is a comfortable 30 degrees Celcius in April, making it the best month to swim in.

Thus, if you're planning a vacation in the first half of the year, between February and June, you should visit Bali. This is during the dry months, so you won't get much rain, and it isn't too hot or cold. If you're planning to go in the second half of the year, between October and January, then Maldives is your best bet. You can avoid the rain and enjoy the sunshine!


Indian Ocean at Maldives

Both islands are relatively safe to visit, as they thrive on the tourist economy. However, some things are to be kept in mind while visiting either location.

Bali is a busy island, other than the idyllic resort properties. Pickpockets and petty thefts are relatively common, so be careful about your belongings. Avoid paying heed to hawkers and roadside vendors as they may fool tourists. Be cautious while purchasing alcohol. Drug offences are punishable with long prison sentences, so exercise caution. Avoid swimming in beaches without lifeguards.

Culture in Maldives is taken very seriously. Drinking is prohibited except on resort islands, so be careful with alcohol. Dress modestly while visiting public places, and beware of scammers. Use your discretion while dealing with hawkers. Keep your belongings in a safe place.

Bali is freer and more at ease when it comes to clothing, while in Maldives you must dress modestly while out in public. The traffic laws are better in the Maldives, as is the protection. The sea is calmer in Maldives as well, making it safer than Bali.


Breathtaking sunset at Bali, Indonesia

Tropical holidays aren't usually the most affordable, but there cost-friendly ways to go about it. If you're looking for a pleasurable holiday with no holds barred, Bali and the Maldives will definitely not disappoint!

In Bali, you will need a minimum of USD 40 per day per person, on a tight budget. This means that you will have to compromise on the taste and variety of food and accommodation. A luxurious holiday package may cost anywhere above USD 1000.

In Maldives, things may get a little more expensive because of heavy taxes and fewer options, especially in scarcely populated islands. You will need a minimum of USD 60 - USD 100 per person per night, for food, transport and accommodation. Navigating from one island to another is an added cost as well. Holiday packages begin from USD 1000. Off-season prices are usually USD 100 - USD 300 lower.

Thus, Bali easily wins in terms of cost efficiency and budget. While you may get a good deal during the off-season in Maldives, Bali is still cheaper. With a minimum budget of USD 40 per person per day, Bali is the more economical option.

Places to Visit

Fish seen during snorkelling at the Maldives

In Bali, the best beaches are Kuta Beach, Nyang Beach and Sanur Beach. The Bali Marine and Safari Park boast of exotic animals like the Komodo dragon, orangutan and the Bali Mynah. More than 200 species of birds, animals and corals are housed in the park. Enthusiastic mountaineers and adventure-junkies can also take an expedition to Mount Batur. You can go shopping in Bali, or visit the grand temples to get more familiar and comfortable with the local customs and practices. Local markets make for interesting conversations, but be careful with your belongings.

In the Maldives, there are many atolls you can visit that have their own charming sights. The Baa Atoll is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, which houses many exotic species of flora, fauna and marine life. The main fish market at Malé is a must-visit for seafood enthusiasts. The Fulhadoo Beach, Amilla Fushi and other quaint beaches in the atolls are serene getaways from busy city life. The Artificial Beach and Banana Reef are great picnic spots. Local monuments like the ones on Utheemu Ganduvaru island offer history on a platter.

If you're one for flora and fauna on land, Bali is an easy winner as it boasts of more than 200 species of land animals and birds in the Safari Park. The animal and bird safari is an exciting option. If adventure on land is on your mind, Bali is for you. On the other hand, the Maldives offers better alternatives for the sea - the Baa Atoll offers amazing snorkelling, diving and underwater expeditions. Watersports in Maldives are better, and there are many places to try them.


Kite surfing in Bali, Indonesia

Bali has a host of adventure activities for its visitors. Water sports like surfing, windsurfing, diving, snorkelling, fishing and others are very common here. You can shop for beautiful teak and bamboo handicrafts in local markets - if you're ready to bargain. Kitesurfing, white water rafting, paintball, sea walks and nature walks are also great activities to do. Quaint, hidden waterfalls and walking trails make for great picnics!

Island hopping in Maldives is one of the most enjoyable things to do as each island holds a different surprise. Popular activities include fishing, shark watching, dolphin spotting and whale watching, ray spotting, surfing, windsurfing, diving, canoeing, kayaking, snorkelling and diving. You can also cycle and walk around the islands, and take romantic walks on the beach. Day cruises offer trips to different atolls in the country. You can also embark on nature walks and tours.

In terms of activities, both Bali and the Maldives rank equally, as both offer water sports and unique shopping experiences. However, Maldives gets the upper hand here as you can also embark on day cruises to other atolls, adding to the flavour of your vacation. Besides cruises, Maldives also has more privacy due to the sheer number of atolls and islands on the archipelago. This also means that there are more chances of relaxing beach time in Maldives, making it a better option.


Breakfast at Bali

Bali offers a scintillating variety of food that goes by the term Balinese. The most popular local dishes include Nasi Campur, Nasi Aya, Lawar and Jimbaran. There are plenty of vegetarian options as well, but vegan options are hard to come by. Restaurants in resorts can customise your food to your liking.

Maldivian food is an eclectic combination of Indian and local dishes. Called 'Dhivehi', these dishes find lovers in both vegetarian and non-vegetarian preferences. Tuna, Mashuni, Saagu Bonidbai, Bis Keemiya and Garudhiya are popular local dishes. You must try the Maldivian breakfast combination of chicken and rotis - you are sure to love it! The seafood is delicious as well. Keep in mind that pork will not be served in restaurants due to religious reasons.

In Bali, a single meal for two people can cost anywhere between USD 2 - USD 30, in a mid-range restaurant. In Maldives, the cost ranges from USD 6 - USD 40. Thus, Bali is the cheaper option. However, if you're an alcohol enthusiast, Maldives is the safer option because all alcohol is sold only in resorts. In Bali, illicit alcohol may be poisonous, so avoid purchasing alcohol in small shops.  

Best Time to Travel

Shack at the Maldives

Bali is in its prettiest, busiest form in the months of April, May, June and September. This is during the dry months, where there is minimal rainfall. Humidity is also not that high, making it the perfect vacation time. However, since Indonesia is a tropical country, you can visit Bali any time of the year. Tickets and hotels are cheaper during the off-season months, and resorts offer more privacy during that time.

The tourist season in the Maldives extends from February to April, during the dry season. This time is ideal for water sports as well, and the seafood is delicious. Surfers can visit the country in May for the best breaks, while snorkelers can visit the Maldives in January to spot the most marine life.

For Couples

Couple watching a sunset in Bali, Indonesia

Bali is hailed as a popular honeymoon destination - who wouldn't want to wake up to stunning sunrises with your gorgeous partner?! Bali has breathtaking private villas that don't compromise on privacy and luxury, for you and your loved one. The beaches of Bali with couple-friendly activities like watersports, couples' diving and snorkelling are a must visit. You can even refresh your vows in the traditional Indonesian style!

The Maldives is a lovers' paradise as it offers privacy, luxury and gorgeous vistas. Resorts cater to all your whims and fancies. From water villas to private bungalows, shacks to suites, the Maldives offers many romantic choices. Candlelight dinners by the beach, couples' watersports and nature walks are a few of the exciting options for you. There are many beaches that are not frequented by many, that can be a haven of privacy. Read more about Honeymoon in Maldives.

Bali is clearly the cheaper option as resorts offer rooms starting from USD 300, while resorts in the Maldives offer packages starting from USD 550. Water villas are decidedly more expensive. Amenities are also cheaper in Bali, making it a more economical pick. In terms of romance and the aura of the location, Maldives is the more romantic option.

For Solo Travellers

Bali beach

Bali is an island that has a host of activities for solo travellers, including water sports. There is not much travel involved in terms of island-hopping, but you can stay in resorts and indulge in the luxuries offered. Bali is friendly to tourists, but caution must be used when bargaining and shopping in local stores. Culture and rules are very important to the locals - dress appropriately and do not drink in public.

The Maldives is hailed as a popular location for solo travellers as it provides many options and amenities. It is advised to stay in resorts if you're not sure about the area. Island-hopping and resort-hopping are much-recommended, especially for women travellers. There are many islands in atolls that you can visit by ferry for a nominal fee, where you can experience eccentric cultures. If you're not travelling to resort islands, it is important to dress appropriately - wear clothes that cover your shoulders and knees.

Bali is definitely the friendlier option for solo travellers because it is more economical and travel-friendly. Transportation between various locations is easier, and accommodation for solo tourists is much cheaper. Maldives offers more in terms of adventures and going to different islands, but it is more expensive.

For Family Trips

Family trip to Maldives

Bali is hailed as a family-friendly location due to its variety of activities and amenities. You are sure to have fun with your family in Bali, as part of a larger cruise trip or an individual trip to the island. Maldives is not as popular as Bali in terms of family friendliness as it is seen more like a couples' retreat. Bali has more locations to visit, more children-friendly activities and easier transportation systems that accommodate children. It is cheaper for the entire family as well.

For  LGBTQ+ Travellers

Couple at Bali, Indonesia

Public displays of affection are generally frowned upon. You are expected to dress modestly while in public places. LGBTQ+ practices are also illegal, but you should be fine as long as you don't indulge in PDAs while out in public.

Both Bali and the Maldives rank equally her since both locations are not very supportive of LGBTQ+ rights. While law enforcement differs, the resort managements are not opposed and are usually supportive of customers' sexual orientations.

Vacation must be a truly memorable experience, and meticulous planning is necessary to make it work. We've laid before you the pros and cons of each location, but the ultimate choice is yours. Remember to keep finances, location, amenities and activities in mind before making a decision. Which place appeals to you the most? Which tropical destination have you chosen? Bali or Maldives? Comment below, and let us know! Let the polling begin!

This post was published by Nivedha Narayanaswamy