Are you trying to decide between Indonesia and the Philippines for your next Southeast Asian vacay? This is not an easy decision to make, but you don’t have to flip a coin. Both destinations offer incredible coastlines across their countless number of islands, yet there are some key differences that distinguish the two.
Indonesia consists of over 17,000 islands, all dotted along the Ring of Fire region of the Pacific Ocean. There are hundreds of volcanoes (most of which are active) located across the chain of islands. This makes for incredible and exciting landscapes. The Philippines is another island nation but has a significantly lower number than Indonesia. It is made up of 7,640 islands in the western Pacific Ocean.
So what makes these two chains of islands different? And how can you choose which is the better Southeast Asia destination that is worth visiting?
From culture and cuisine to beaches and things to do, we have done the hard research on both these popular destinations. Whether you are budget travelers or planning a luxurious dream getaway, here is all you need to know when it comes to the question, Indonesia or the Philippines?
Indonesia vs. Philippines: Culture
Indonesia offers a unique cultural experience. From the countless amount of Hindu temples dotted across Bali to the Maimun Palace in Sumatra, visitors can visually see the diverse cultural influences that make up the nation. This isn’t to say the Philippines doesn’t have a rich culture, but the influences from the Western world have diluted the traditional sense.
There are over 1300 ethnic groups and 700 regional languages in Indonesia. It will pay off to learn basic Bahasa Indonesian to help you get by when island hopping. Many locals in tourist destinations will be able to speak a whole range of languages including English, Dutch, Chinese, and Korean. Whereas, in the Philippines, English is a recognized national language alongside Tagalog, so you can travel around fairly easily.
Both the Philippines and Indonesia are generally extremely welcoming of tourists. Friendliness and warmth are common traits found across most Southeast Asian countries.
Indonesia vs. Philippines: Getting Around
Both Indonesia and the Philippines have plenty of international flight arrivals, so getting into the country isn’t the hard part. It’s the getting around that can prove challenging. In larger cities, like Manila or Jakarta, public transport systems are in place to keep up with the faster-paced life. However, hopping between islands in both Indonesia and the Philippines can be somewhat difficult and pretty tedious.
It’s a close call, but the Philippines has slightly better and more reliable flights, trains, and boat travel between islands. Once you get out to one of the smaller islands, you may find that road quality is poor so traveling overland can take longer than you think. Be prepared to change your plans last minute if the weather changes, which happens frequently and suddenly in the Philippines.
Indonesia is vaster with more islands to navigate. Getting out to the more remote destinations can be a tiring journey consisting of domestic flights, bumpy boat rides, and slow road travel. Public buses are not worth trying as you will most certainly go round the houses and add hours on to your travels.
In both countries, remember to be careful when getting taxis. Always negotiate a price to your destination before getting in the car otherwise they will inflate the cost dramatically.
Indonesia vs. Philippines: Beaches
How do beaches in the Philippines compare with those world-famous beaches in Indonesia? Both are pretty amazing, so it’s not easy to choose which country takes the title of best beaches. From picture-perfect, white-sand bays framed by lush jungle canopies to super-clear waters over some of the world’s best coral reefs. Some of our favorite Filipino beaches include:
- White Beach (Boracay) – Iconic, the white sands could easily be confused with the Caribbean. There are loads of cafes, bars, and restaurants nearby too.
- Nacpan Beach (Palawan) – Just down the road from El Nido, a favorite surf spot, the tranquil four kilometers of soft sands backed by a line of coconut trees. This beach is one of the most beautiful in the country.
- Seven Commandos Beach (Palawan) – Set underneath a dramatic limestone cliff, this is another beautiful white beach that can only be accessed by boat, making it even more idyllic to any adventure seeker.
- Sandira Beach (Bantayan Island) – Also known as Paradise Beach, this one is a popular Instagram favorite. It is remote and rarely busy.
- Cloud Nine (Siargao) – The Philippines’ top surfing spot on the small island of Siargao. Be warned, it can get crowded.
Indonesia also shares the picture-postcard dream beaches alongside the bold black volcanic beaches and unique pink beaches that make a statement, all with turquoise waters lapping the shores. Across the thousands of islands, you can find beautiful beach upon beautiful beach, all offering the dreamy views and vibes you want from a tropical island. Some of our favorite beaches in Indo are:
- Pink Beach (Flores) – Located in the Komodo National Park, the pink sands are one of seven on the planet. There are also world-famous dive sites and coral reefs to snorkel.
- Tanjung Aan Beach (Lombok) – Pristine white sand, crystal clear water, and flourishing palm trees. Depending on the swell, there is a small, fun wave here that is great for beginners to learn how to surf.
- Nyang Nyang Beach (Bali) – Escape the crowds of Bali and discover this remote picturesque stretch of sand. This seemingly never-ending beach is perfect for quiet sunbathing.
- Kling King Beach (Nusa Penida) – Made famous by Instagram, this spot is also known as Jurassic Park beach. The rock formation is breathtaking and will leave a lasting memory on you.
- Padar Island (Flores) – Another jaw-dropping location dotted in the middle of the Komodo National Park, prepare for a hike up the hill to get the best view of both bays.
Indonesia vs. Philippines: Things To Do
Surfing on the Filipino and Indonesian reefs is simply magical. Both destinations have consistent swell and warm waters, making it one of the most popular activities to do when visiting these islands. But what else is there to do and which destination has more to offer?
Both the Philippines and Indonesia are home to some of the world’s best coral reefs, so it’s no surprise that both are considered diving paradises. Palawan’s Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park in the Philippines is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is filled with rich marine biodiversity. Indonesia’s rival is the Komodo National Park or the unbelievable dive sites around Raja Ampat close to West Papua.
If diving or surfing isn’t for you, why not get a different kind of adrenaline rush and try a canyoneering tour in the Kawasan Falls of Cebu, Philippines. Other fun tourist attractions include Bohol’s Chocolate Hills and the Underground River in Palawan.
On the other hand, Indonesia has countless amount of volcanoes for you to climb and conquer. Mt Batur in Bali is the most popular due to access, but other good volcanoes to climb are Mt Bromo (Java) and Mt Rinjani (Lombok). As well as impressive volcanoes are incredible waterfalls. The Indonesian landscape is truly magnificent. The Indonesian culture lends itself to providing unique things to do. From watching fire dance performances at Uluwatu Temple, tasting strong Java coffee at plantations, or exploring the traditional rice terraces over the islands, there is certainly no shortage of things to do.
Indonesia vs. Philippines: Wildlife
Southeast Asia has an exotic and diverse range of wildlife across the board. Some animals are dangerous, but most are just weird and wonderful. If you want to see unparalleled wildlife, you need to head to Indonesia.
Bali is home to Ubud’s Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, and these monkies can be found across the whole island. Many tourists flock to the Komodo National Park to see the world’s largest lizard, the famous Komodo Dragon – many dive trips incorporate visits to see these animals in between dive spots. Some people head deep into the Sumatran jungle to catch a glimpse of the endangered and majestic orangutans.
And then you head to the waters and discover a whole new world in the coral reefs. From giant manta rays to curious sea turtles and tropical fish, the Indonesian wildlife is unbeatable. The Philippines also has an interesting ecosystem, but it really doesn’t come close to that of the remote areas of Indonesia.
Indonesia vs. Philippines: Nightlife
Although the Philippines night scene is famed in SE Asia, it is not as vibrant and lively as that found in Bali, the world’s number 1 travel destination. Bali is famous for its cheap party scene from Kuta to Canggu. You can find relaxing beach lounge vibes or nightclubs pumping into the night. It’s no secret as to why Australians choose Bali as their go-to party island!
Kuta and Seminyak are populated by nightclubs and cheap bars selling cold Bintang. Make sure you check out some of the beach clubs located along the stretch of sand between Kuta and Canggu. To mention a few:
- Potato Head
- The W
- Finns Beach Club
- The Lawn
That being said, Filipinos do know how to have a good time. You’ll discover you are never too far from a karaoke bar and friendly locals up for a laugh. The most lively destination is Boracay island. Famous for its stunning beaches, this island also has a lot going on after the sun goes down. With quirky beach bars and all-night dance clubs, Boracay is the Philippines’ party capital.
Indonesia vs. Philippines: Food
Food is an important part of every trip. And a trip to Southeast Asia always offers a chance to be adventurous with the cuisine. Filipino cuisine is tasty but tends to be not as complex as dishes found in Indonesia. Meals in the Philippines tend to be simple with less distinctive flavors, which doesn’t mean that it is bad. Far from it. There are lots of great Filipino dishes to try, including:
- Crispy pata
- Fresh seafood and fish
But Indonesia does just do it that little bit better. The flavors and spices create mouthwatering cooking that will leave a lasting impression on you. Once you’ve tasted a nasi goreng there is no going back. Canggu in Bali has some world-class dining options, offering plenty of choices for vegans and healthy eating.
Street food is a popular thing in Indonesia and well worth a try. Be brave and give the sate stalls a try, it may be the best thing you’ve ever tasted. If you are in Padang (Sumatra), you have to sample the rendang. Trust us, this delicious local dish will blow your mind.
Indonesia vs. Philippines: Hotels
As Indonesia is the more popular destination for tourists, you can expect there to be more of a choice when it comes to accommodation across the islands. Tourism has been well established in Indonesia for several decades now, whereas, the Philippines is slowly being discovered by more travelers. There are a staggering 20,420 properties available on booking.com for Indonesia and only 5,701 in the Philippines.
However, there is a similar theme when it comes to both – your money goes a long way. Hotels and guesthouses are generally cheap and you find some super luxurious places for less than you would pay for a Travelodge in London!
In both the Philippines and Indonesia, you can expect daily housekeeping and even breakfast included in many stays with guesthouses and homestays. If you wish to stay longer, like a month, for example, you are able to negotiate a cheaper rate directly with the locals.
Indonesia vs. Philippines: Prices
SE Asia is known and loved for its mega cheap prices. But which out of Indonesia and the Philippines is the cheapest? There are always tips and tricks for people to travel on a budget, and both Indonesia and the Philippines offer budget options.
On average, a week in the Philippines can cost you around $403 USD (per person), whereas a week in Indonesia typically costs around $358 USD.
|$51 USD||Average daily cost||$58 USD|
|$54 USD||Accommodation (/night)||$41 USD|
|$6.58 USD||Transport (/day)||$19 USD|
|$13 USD||Food (3 meals /day)||$14 USD|
|$8.60 USD||Daily activities||$13 USD|
|$4.32 USD||Alcohol (/day)||$9.67 USD|
|$1.056 USD||Water (/day)||$1.28 USD|
Choosing Between The Philippines and Indonesia
So, which is the winner in your eyes? From prices to accommodation, things to do to wildlife to see, Indonesia comes out on top for us. The culture and charm of these islands steal the show every time and promise an unforgettable experience.
However, if you are longing for a quieter and less tourist established destination, the Philippines may just be where you need to head to. Get out of Manila and head to the quiet regions, like Siargao, and you are guaranteed beautiful beaches and chilled vibes. Just be cautious of the season as the Philippines does get battered with monsoons between May and November.