Thailand Vs. Latin America

Having now spent more than six months travelling in Latin America, from Guatemala in Central America down to Peru, and having lived in Thailand for three years prior to this trip, I think I’m fairly well placed to write a quick comparison of the pros and cons of each destination. So here goes!

Thailand Vs Latin America

They’re going to battle it out on the following points:

Safety & personal security

This one is easy, in Thailand you can pretty much wander anywhere you like day or night, with cameras, phones and everything else on display. In Latin America, every city seems to have no-go zones, the bus terminal areas are like the Bronx, you just can’t trust taxi drivers, and something you hear more often than you’d like is “Es muy peligroso”.

Winner: Thailand


This one is hard to judge as there is such a variety in costs across Latin America. Nicaragua, Bolivia and Peru are vastly cheaper than Argentina and Chile. That being said, the average local meal in Thailand is about US$1, in Latin America it is probably about US$2. And travel is generally cheaper in Thailand.

Winner: Thailand

Friendliness factor

Thailand is known as The Land of Smiles which says it all really. The moment you step off the plane in Bangkok, you’re made to feel totally at home with welcoming smiles wherever you go. BUT, and it’s a rather large but, is there a superficiality factor at play here? Are the smiles genuine, or dare I say just a clever ruse to empty your wallet?

There’s no doubt that it’s more a case of “what you see is what you get” in Latin America

Winner: Draw


Thailand has some unbeatable beaches, some amazing jungle and some interesting mountains. Latin America has smoking volcanoes, 6000 metre Andes peaks, tropical beaches, the Amazon and of course a plentiful supply of picturesque Spanish colonial architecture. Say no more.

Winner: Latin America

Historical interest

Thailand has Sukhothai, and a couple of other ‘ancient centres’ dating back a few hundred years. Latin America has its Spanish colonial heritage, many UNESCO World Heritage towns, and of course it’s dripping in pre-colombian cultures like the mysterious culture of San Augustin in Colombia – an archaeologist’s wet dream.

Winner: Latin America


Chips, beans, chicken, rice, savoury bananas, chips, beans, chicken, rice, savoury bananas, chips, beans, chicken, rice, savoury bananas, chips, beans, chicken, rice, savoury bananas, f**K I’m bored…compared to possibly (along with India) the best and cheapest food on the planet in Thailand.

Winner: Thailand

Music & entertainment

Repetetive Karaoke poop vs. Latin Rhythms, Salsa, Samba, Spanish influenced classical guitar, pan pipes…ahh just listen to the music!

Winner: Latin America

Language – Ease of learning the language

Spanish versus a strange tonal language that sounds like a cross between someone being strangled and animal noises, and is almost impossible to learn to read and write.

Winner: Latin America


How do the people express themselves? Do they get excited? Do they argue, debate, put their true feelings across? Do they kiss their lovers passionately in public? In Thailand, the natural response to anything whatsoever is to smile sweetly, and of course they wear their jeans and long-sleeved tops in the sea which is utterly ridiculous. In Latin America, the blood is hot.

Winner: Latin America


It’s a hard one. Latin America wins more outright points, but the food is stodgy and dull, it’s a bit more expensive and frankly it some places it’s downright dangerous. If you like safe and easy travel, Thailand is your place, but for the shear scale, diversity of landscapes and archaeological sites, and passion of the people, Latin America wins hands down.

10 thoughts on “Thailand Vs. Latin America”

  1. That’s an interesting comparison.

    I’d be even more interested in reading your thoughts on Latin America vs. South-East Asia as a whole.

    Both regions are just as popular as travel destinations as they are with western ex-pats who have chosen to live there for short or long term.

    They each score big points in cultural and historical significance (albeit for different reasons) although I’ll have to agree that nothing beats the natural diversity of the Americas.

  2. Actually, I had similar thoughts when I traveled from Asia to Latin America last year and I have to tell you, I was so sick of noodles by the time I left Asia, that I completely disagree on the food vote! The only place I would actually say compares in food quality and variety is India but hands down, I would choose Latin American food any day! Actually I have because I now live in here…good article btw!


  3. I guess it depends on where you go in Asia SpeedyJ…I hardly ate noodles at all when I lived in Thailand, but ate mainly rice, but at least you had the choice of Noodles or Rice whereas in Latin America it is almost only rice.

    You are the first person I have heard of that has actively liked the bland food in Latin America in 9 months!

  4. I have lived in Guatemala on lake Atitlan for a year now and thinking about Thailand for my next stop. It seem lake Atitlan is becoming badly polluted and right now it is packed with algae. No more swimming. Still no sewage disposal system in Panajachel and this time it does not look like the lake will recover.

    Good article. It seems to say it as it is.

  5. Interesting article, but it’s not really fair to compare one country in Asia to the whole of Latin America. If you add Ankgor Wat in Cambodia, recent and ancient history in Viet Nam, and the temples in Burma and Laos, there’s plenty to see in Asia. Bring your own tunes, though. As a woman, I feel a LOT safer in Thailand. Thanks again for another great article.

  6. Thank you!
    You really write an interesting article!
    I was about to start my trip to south america and now you make me very interested in thailand!!!!
    I am from colombia; so thank you again to see this land with pure heart ; i wish for you the best in your trips and adventures

  7. Yep, that’s odd. Comparing one small country (Thailand) with almost an entire continent. Unbalanced and not particularly true. It’s like comparing Thaksin with the entire United States Congress. Odd.

    I’ve lived in Thailand for 10 years and, before that, traveled all over the world. For me, and many others, Thailand still wins hands down.

    The food, the culture, the people, the affordability and, yes, the scenery. (There’s a lot more beautiful scenery and interesting natural and historical aspects to see, other than what you mentioned – it’s not for nothing Thailand is rated as having some of the best beaches and best diving spots in the world, the most beautiful temples (more than 700 years old), Ayutthaya, Sukhothai, the Khmer ruins in Isaan, Chiang Saen (built around 545), the archaeological dig at Ban Chiang with artifacts dating back thousands of years, to the Iron Age etc. etc.

    A bit surprising you lived here for 3 years but seem to have missed so much of it.

    Nice blog. But, no, I don’t agree with you on this 🙂

  8. Oops, I just wore a t-shirt and shorts in the sea coz I forgot to pack my swimming suits in last minutes. I managed to find a bikini the next day in a local shop on Koh Mook. I’d love to visit Latin Amarica one day and I will surely have to bring hot chilli paste from Thailand. I enjoy reading your articles (^_^”)

  9. Hi Rachel and Diane, yes, of course the comparison is not entirely ‘equal’ in terms of area, but it was written as a fun and light-hearted cultural comparison between two vastly different cultural “types”! I wouldn’t say it’s unbalanced for the simple fact that pretty much all of the points I raised are still equally valid even if you were to pick a single Latin American country (Peru, Colombia, Argentina…) and ‘put it up against’ Thailand…

    I’ve also travelled a fair amount in the majority of countries in South East Asia, frequently going off the beaten track (living long-term in Mae Sot on the Burma border, cycling through Cambodia, motorbiking a lot around Northern Thailand).

    I can understand why Thailand wins hands down for you – you have settled there long-term and are, I think, promoting a Thailand orientated business/blog. With the above article I was trying to give a relatively objective comparison and as you’ll notice, they came out equal! Thailand is a fabulous country, but as with all countries, it does also have *some* negative points!


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