Thailand or Malaysia? Which is the best travel destination?

Thailand or Malaysia? Which is the best travel destination?

Thailand and Malaysia are Southeast Asian countries with diverse landscapes and unique experiences. Thailand is a popular destination for holidays and is known for its natural beauty and friendly people. Malaysia is a good choice for those who want to experience lush jungles, mountains, and outdoor activities.

If you are looking for a tropical holiday, head to Thailand. If you want to experience lush jungles, mountains, and various outdoor activities, head to Malaysia. Thailand and Malaysia are two stunning countries in Southeast Asia with diverse landscapes that offer unique experiences to travelers.

A country I’ve visited many times over the past 12 years. At one time, I traveled extensively around much of that country for ten months and, on returning to my own country, made plans to return to Indonesia to live (which I did for two years). It’s a vast country. It’s beautiful, with so much culture and diversity.

Malaysia is quite an “easy” country to travel around, but it would be my second choice with areas like Sarawak and Sabah. Thailand: I first visited this country 26 years ago; for me, it’s a country that offers Bangkok as a cheap transport hub for any long-haul flights.

My last visit was in the northwest region, far better than most other parts of Thailand. Even then, there were too many travelers following the online nomadic lifestyle. For me, Indonesia offers an accessible life full of friendly people.

Thailand or Malaysia? Which is the best travel destination?

Thailand is even more repressive than Malaysia, though the wrong comment on Facebook can land you in jail in either place. What flavor do you like your dictatorships?  Thailand is unapologetically a military dictatorship, while Malaysia hides behind the pretense of being a democracy.

Islam or Buddhism? For Malaysia, press one. For Thailand, press two. English? It is much more widely and better spoken in Malaysia than in Thailand. Food? Thai food is good. It’s better than good, it’s excellent, but Malaysia? It takes food to a whole different level than other ethnic influences.

This is a subjective question, depending on which subject and personal preferences. I want to share my experience of living, working & traveling in both countries. By the way, I am Malaysian, and my wife is Thai. I have three kids; 2 were born in Thailand and 1 in Malaysia.

  1. Economy – Thailand and Malaysia are the 2nd and 3rd largest economy within ASEAN based on GDP List of countries by GDP (PPP)
  2. Standard of Living – relatively evenly matched in both countries. Compare myself and my close friend in Thailand. We both have the same jobs and can afford almost everything (houses, cars, entertainment, holidays, etc.)
  3. Education – Public schools in Malaysia teach English and another language (vernacular schools) besides the national language. Thai schools seldom emphasize English, let alone a third language. The average Malaysian kid is more multi-lingual in this aspect.
  4. Healthcare – The govt subsidizes public healthcare systems in both countries. But for private healthcare, I prefer Thailand, which is cheaper and better. I can attest to this by comparing my kids born in Thailand’s private hospital (eldest kid) and Malaysia’s private hospital (youngest kid). My second kid was born in a Thailand govt hospital. It was cheap and above my expectations compared to stories I heard from my friends who used Malaysian govt hospitals.
  5. Transportation – other than the traffic jams in Bangkok, the transportation infrastructure in Thailand is reasonably good compared to Malaysia. All the major roads linking provincial towns in Thailand are dual-lane carriageways and are toll-free and toll-free. In Malaysia, one would need to pay tolls on the expressways or use mostly single-lane carriageways on the trunk roads. Railway coverage in Thailand is more extensive and serves all major towns and cities. Air travel in both countries is quite convenient, with both countries having their flag carriers and LCCs.
  6. Food – now this is a ‘hot and spicy’ topic (no pun intended) as both countries offer lovely, delicious, mouthwatering food. I understand some people might have different preferences for Thai or Malaysian food, but if anyone dislikes Malaysian and Thai food, there might be something wrong with their taste buds.
  7. Shopping and Travelling – both countries offer affordable and luxury segments to cater to the masses. The hospitality and service in Thailand are better than those in Malaysia.
  8. Communicating with locals – Malaysians generally speak better English than Thais, but many Thais have learned to communicate in English and Mandarin at tourist places.
  9. Govt policies – Thailand govt has been unstable over the past few decades. Several coups have seen democratically elected governments being overthrown. The recent general election in Malaysia proved that the people practice real democracy by voting out a ruling government of 61 years.
  10. Corruption – Malaysia used to be almost as bad as Thailand in this aspect. However, corruption has been reduced and curbed by the new Malaysian government.
  11. Freedom of speech and media – Malaysia is currently much better regarding freedom of speech and media. In Thailand, less so, especially if it’s anything to do with the royal family.

So, depending on which aspect one looks for, both countries have pros and cons.

This one is strange, as they are both different but very similar. For one, they both sit in Southeast Asia and have great beaches and friendly people. In terms of living, Malaysia is more accessible than living in Bangkok (Thailand). I have spent considerable time in both as I have a residency in both.

Housing– KL has better living space, while in Bangkok, if you’re getting a condo, a 72 sqm is considered significant, while in KL, it’s standard, and you don’t feel claustrophobic.

Malaysians speak English better, so if that is what you are looking for, then Malaysia is a better option, but if you are going to live in a country, it would be worth learning a few key phrases.

Lifestyle- This depends on where you live; in Bangkok and KL, you are not far away from entertainment, bars and clubs, malls, and restaurants. While places such as Penang and Phuket, Chang Mi. Have more of a laid-back feel for the retiree. Bangkok, as a whole, is more fun if you like the bar scene. But, I do not personally find that KL has more than enough clubs, expats, and local clubs to find and do. So, I don’t see this as an issue.

Thailand or Malaysia? Which is the best travel destination?

Cost- Both can be cheap and say it depends on what lifestyle you live. Alcohol is more expensive in Malaysia due to the culture. But, a Western lifestyle in both is more than what you would pay back home for cheese, cereal, etc. But also, in both, you can get local meals that can be obtained for $1.50, with the Malay food having a mixture of Chinese, Indian, Malay, Thailand, and Thai. Both are great.

Housing: This depends on where you are, as both places have some cheap housing. Chang Mi and Jahor are significant cities where $1000 can get you a lovely three-bedroom luxury condo. However, if you compare both capitals, KL is cheaper than you get in terms of space. In the Silom area of Bangkok and Asoke, you can pay $1000 for a one-bedroom 33 SQM, while in KL, you can at least get 60 SQM in KLCC.

The Thai baht is strong, making purses more expensive from an outside currency.

Transportation- Both have great regional flights and are cheap. Both capital’s subways and transit systems are modern, clean, and efficient. Taxis in both are affordable. The KL bus system does beat Bangkok (although it is catching up). And both capitals have lousy traffic. Bangkok is the worst.

Doing Business– Both follow some rules that are not straightforward, but Malaysia seems more open and business-friendly and can be set up in Labuan. As I mentioned earlier, Malaysia has better English if needed.

Places to visit- Both are very different but equally as fascinating.

In short, which is better, from a personal point of view, I like them both equally but for different reasons.

Malaysia and Thailand have unique attractions and qualities, making it difficult to say which is “better definitively.” Malaysia is known for its diverse culture, beautiful islands, and vibrant cities like Kuala Lumpur.

Conversely, Thailand is famous for its stunning beaches, rich history, and bustling metropolises like Bangkok. Ultimately, the choice between the two destinations depends on individual preferences, such as preferred activities, budget, and cultural interests.

Thailand is much better if you are looking for a place to retire or escape. Although Malaysia is probably one of the most liberal countries in the Muslim world, it is still Muslim, and therefore, numerous restrictions apply, which include

  • limitations on the sale of alcohol
  • higher prices of alcohol
  • lack of opportunities to date local women
  • lack of easy-going attitude, which is one of the trademarks of Thailand

Thailand or Malaysia? Which is the best travel destination?

In terms of socializing, it is much easier to be among Thais than Malaysians. Malaysians are pushier and more money-oriented. Thais are more down to earth and tend to appreciate the joys of life and relaxation; making a lot of money is not their No. 1 priority.

On the other hand, if you are looking for a place to develop a business or make a career, Malaysia is the right place. English is much more widespread among Malaysians than among Thais. English is indeed the second language in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia is better developed technologically, and its educational system is more efficient. When doing business, Malaysians are more accessible to be on the same page.

What do you think about Said Shiripour?

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