Bali ahead for fare bargains

BANGKOK, 10 April 2018: If islands top the holiday wish list, then how does Bali stack up against relatively newcomer Pho Quoc in Vietnam?

Bali has a long track record for providing superb hospitality and the diversity of hill country and beach destinations.

It’s packed with five-star resorts, luxury villas rented on Airbnb and wellness spas in every nook and cranny of this holiday playground.

Phu Quoc Island, on the other hand, is a newcomer to five-star tourism. Standing in the Gulf of Thailand, clearly visible from neighbouring Cambodia, the island gained its first internationally branded hotels last year.

For short holiday breaks both islands have the advantage of direct flights. Other island competitors may require time-consuming land and ferry transfers.

Ideally, four days is the minimum to explore Phu Quoc Island and the big incentive is that busy travellers, who fly there and are not planning to visit mainland Vietnam, can take advantage of the island’s visa-free status.

But it doesn’t have the cheapest direct roundtrip fare, despite being much closer to Bangkok than Bali. That accolade goes to Bali

A roundtrip fare Bangkok-Bali kicks in at USD 168 on low-cost Thai AirAsia (FD). It’s a mite inconvenient to have to depart Bangkok at 1935 (rush-hour) and arrive in Bali at 0110 for a contrasting traffic experience. At that time most Bali residents, including taxi drivers, are tucked up in bed; roads deserted.

For a USD 194 roundtrip fare you can depart Bangkok on the Thai AirAsia flight at the crack of dawn (0615) and arrive in Denpasar in time for lunch at 1130.

Both fares are ahead of Bangkok Airways’ lowest fare for a direct flight to Phu Quoc at USD 246 (Skyscanner) and USD260 on Google Flights.

It’s only a one-hour, 45-minute flight from Bangkok compared with four hours and 35 minutes to Bali, but Bangkok Airways is the only airline offering a direct Bangkok-Phu Quoc service.

For those who must treat themselves to small luxuries when hopping to an island destination, Thai Airways International flies direct to Bali and its cheapest fare is pegged at USD442 with a departure time of 0933 that gets you into Denpasar by 1455.

They serve a meal, give you a generous luggage allowance and seats come with more room to stretch your legs.

The airline uses a Boeing 777 on the route and that gives economy class passengers an above average legroom of 81 cm compared with a below average 71 cm when travelling on AirAsia’s A320.

There is an alternative to flying Bangkok Airways to Pho Quoc Island. Vietnam Airlines will get you there for USD 274 with a one-hour and 45 minute stop in Ho Chi Minh City. Flight time end-to-end is five hours and 25 minutes.

Bangkok Airways even at the higher USD 260 fare is a better deal and for short island stays, Vietnam Airlines’ five hours plus each way will cut into beach play time.

The airline uses its 70 seat ATR-72s on the route and despite its smaller dimensions passengers enjoy an above average legroom of 79 cm, although the seats are very narrow if you are a candidate for the XL waistline club.

For hotels, check the link on the TTR Weekly home page to TripAdvisor for reviews and bookings.