Similarities and differences between Thailand and Philippines
After a few visits to both countries I decided to write a blog post to give you an insight into similarities and differences between Thailand and Philippines.
The opinion and thoughts in this article are based on my personal experience, loads of observations and speaking to the locals and other travelers who visited both Thailand and Philippines.
In late 2011 I went to Thailand three times during my SE Asia trip and I spent altogether around 5 weeks there. I also spent 3 weeks in the Philippines on the same trip. At that time there was only a 3-week tourist visa available for Slovak citizens (I am from Slovakia).
One would think that both being Asian countries, they should be very similar, right? But if you have been traveling for a long time, then you know it is not true. Our expectations about destinations are usually wrong – or better, or worse than the reality itself.
After my first visits in 2011, I revisited Thailand a couple of times (stopped counting it). And I also spent another month in the Philippines. That being said, it’s true that so far I did spend more time in Thailand than in the Philippines.
Let me start by saying that I truly do LOVE both countries but for different reasons.
I found both many similarities and differences between Thailand and Philippines. Keep reading to find out which ones.
Similarities between Thailand and Philippines
Both Thailand and the Philippines can be proud of their breath-taking beaches. You know, all those beautiful secluded beaches with white sand, palm trees and crystal clear water can be found in both countries. Yes, welcome to paradise! Even famous party Boracay island can be still proud of its stunning beaches, such as the less visited Puka beach :)
Both countries consist of many islands (Philippines of thousands more than Thailand). There is a bunch of islands in both countries that very few foreigners have heard of. The smaller the islands, usually the better to visit. Well, at least I do prefer quiet empty beaches over those crowded ones.
3. Small grocery stalls and street vendors
They are very common in both countries. That makes it very easy to munch on something at the street. In Europe and North America street vendors are not popular at all so in a way it’s easier to get a snack, or even a proper meal in both Thailand and the Philippines.
Trust me, after visiting these 2 countries I just could not eat rice again any more for a couple of months when I came back home to Slovakia! They even eat loads of rice for breakfast! What? Where is my fresh fruit?! But to be honest, I did enjoy visiting Batad rice terraces in the Philippines, such an incredible place! However, since my first SE Asia trip I don’t enjoy eating rice that much any more.
It’s usually very easy to get tropical fruit and fresh coconuts almost anywhere in the Philippines and Thailand. That’s pretty much all I need to be happy! The big part of my meals are fresh fruit and I can’t get enough of tropical fruit.
As you can imagine, weather is very alike. Hot and sunny, or monsoon months.
7. Religious life
Many people of both countries really live a religious life even though the religion itself is very different.
Many Thai and Filipinos cannot swim. I never understood this thing as mostly people from countries with no sea can swim and those that have coasts cannot. But those locals who can, in Thailand and Philippines, will jump into the sea not only in the bath suit, but in T-shirts or even jeans, especially women. It is more than obvious who is who, I mean if you want to distinguish foreign female tourists (all in bikini) from those local ones. I understand, different culture and priorities.
For non-smokers like me, Philippines and Thailand are a true paradise! Very few locals smoke there (at least comparing to for example Italy, Spain, Albania or some other countries where you see so many smokers everywhere).
It seems that in these 2 countries people are just not big alcohol fans. Personally, I saw very few Filipinos drinking. Well, apart from that crazy night when we ended up at the swimming pool at 3.30 am. And as well I noticed just a couple of Thai persons drinking alcohol, not even much when we went out at night.
If we can generalize, it seems there are less locals drinking alcohol in Thailand than in the Philippines so I am not really sure if this point should be in the similarities or differences :D
But when I compare my personal experience and locals I met in these 2 countries, I think less locals drink there compared to back in Europe. e.g. in Eastern Slovakia where I was born.
Philippines and Thailand differences
I was really surprised to find out that life in the Philippines is not as cheap as you would expect. Some things were a lot more expensive than in Thailand, such as transportation. You have to pay airport and terminal fees separately in the Philippines every time you travel and they were not included in the ticket price when I was there in 2011 and late 2016. Annoying!
I think using public transportation in Thailand was way easier than in the Philippines. Buses and trains are not that overcrowded in Thailand… but in the Philippines? OMG! They squeeze 20 people in a small van designed for 10 people together with all those hundreds of bags and backpacks. And sometimes even chicken.
Tall people like me really suffer when traveling around the Philippines (I’m 180 cm tall). Traveling around Thailand is more comfortable for taller people than it is in the Philippines.
I mean, yes I understand it’s about earning more money when more people are taking the same van/bus, but the truth is, most of us foreigners are way taller and/or bigger than the Filipinos are. But well, it’s part of the cultural experience, right?
3. Long distance trips
If you are going to touristy places, in Thailand there are bus trips, or bus and boat trips organized that will take you there (such as a trip to Koh Phangan or Koh Lanta). To buy the second one directly tends to get cheaper than to buy a bus ticket only and then the boat/ferry ticket separately. It really amazed me how well organized all those trips were. At each transfer point there was someone waiting for us to tell us where to go. But in the Philippines I haven’t really noticed such a thing as combined tickets. I don’t think it was because I was traveling there with my local friends, but because those organized bus/boat trips just don’t really existed there yet.
4. Spicy food
Unlikely to the Filipino cuisine, most of Thai food is spicy. I am not a huge fan of spicy food, I have to admit. On the other hand, it is a lot easier to get vegan meals in Thai restaurants than in the Philippines.
5. Fish meals
Fish is extremely common to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner in the Philippines. Fish soup, grilled fish and many other ways of preparing fish kept me alive when there in 2011. I even tried catfish as that was before I became vegan (they call it hito) for the first time there.
However, I have been vegan since 2013 so I wouldn’t eat any fish any more ever since.
6. Junk food
In the Philippines they eat a lot of junk food. They even have their local kind of McDonald’s junk food restaurant called Jollibee and believe me, it can be found everywhere! Thai people seem to be healthier and I didn’t really notice many of them eating fast food.
I’ve heard from many travelers that filipino food is the worst out of all SouthEast Asian cuisines. To be honest, I’ve never met anyone who would say they enjoyed the food in the Philippines but don’t hate me for saying that.
Obviously, Thai and Filipino languages have nothing to do with each other, but now I also mean English language.
In the Philippines, English is widely spoken and for them it is kind of a second language while in Thailand I found mostly basic English. In Thailand, English is more commonly spoken in touristy places (more on islands than in Bangkok, for example.)
If you plan to visit the less touristy areas in Thailand where English is not widely spoken, it is well worth learning Thai before you head off on your trip. This will make communication far easier, and will also enable you to immerse yourself in the culture and enjoy a far more enriching travel experience.
But still… it’s way easier to communicate in English while in the Philippines. Almost everyone speaks English there.
I have to say that I LOVE all the Filipinos. They are super helpful, nice, smiling all the time, hardly ever in bad mood (apart from some bus drivers). The saying goes that Thailand is the land of smiles but from my personal experience I can tell that Filipinos smile even more.
Just to make an example, I made a lot of Filipino friends just after 7 weeks there, but not even one real Thai friend after visiting Thailand more than 6 times. Could be also because of the language barrier, I guess.
Thailand is one of the best countries in the world to pamper yourself with the best massage ever. You can choose from many different massages and they can be very cheap compared to other countries. Each time I am in Thailand, I get a massage almost every day. Unfortunately, massages in the Philippines are not as common and the prices are higher.
It looks like the wifi in the Philippines is way worse than in Thailand. At least that was my own experience, and I heard the same from other travelers. I know it’s getting better year by year but it’s still difficult to be a digital nomad and work online from the Philippines outside of Manila and Cebu.
When I was in Malapascua and I saw clouds on the skies, I knew the wifi would not work at all.
11. Sex industry
Personally, I do not mind any of the things I am going to mention below. I believe everyone can be and do what they want, especially when it comes to sex orientation, and being a male/female. But sometimes it’s sad to see some situations and behaviour.
Sex reassignment surgery is so popular in Thailand that you have to be careful when you meet a perfect sexy Thai woman unless you don’t care she was a he before. Ping pong shows in Bangkok and prostitutes in Pattaya are just one of hundreds things many Thai women do for living (so upsetting). Obviously, some of them are tricked to that orthink they do not have any other choice to support themselves and their families.
And another thing Thailand is famous for, is young Thai girls making their living by ‘’spending time’’ with older foreigners. It’s really a big part of both Thai tourism and everyday life there.
You will see that happening everywhere around you. I personally noticed many young Thai women with older Westerners. This is less common in the Philippines and during 7 weeks there I did not see that much of it, even though I heard young Filipinas and older foreigners issue does exist there, too. And I only saw one ladyboy in the Philippines and it was during a show anyway.
TIP: Check out more posts of this kind: Similarities and differences between Mexico and Thailand and also Similarities and differences between Chile and Argentina.
TIP 2: Read also my post about 23 things to do on Malapascua in the Philippines. To be honest, I fell in love with the Malapascua island while there. Such a chill vibe there!
Have you found more similarities and differences between Thailand and Philippines? Tell me in the comments.