Should I go to Thailand or Vietnam?
QuynhAnh Nguyen, lives in Vietnam
I lived both in Thailand and Vietnam, and love both countries.
Hiking: in general, the South part is always hotter than the North. Try going to Northern areas for a more comfortable weather.
- In Vietnam, you can try Sapa (northern region) where you can meet with tribal people, join mountainous fair and festivals, and hike easily. April is perfect timing because the mountains will be in bloom with white pear flowers and peach blossoms. It's difficult to get to, though, because roads are bad and there r no direct flights from International airports. There are also no luxury lodging in Sapa.
- In Thailand, you can try Chiangmai which is a full-fledge tourist city. Chiangmai is just a few hours by plane from Bangkok so it's quite easy to get there. It's a cultural city so you can do all sorts of cultural sightseeing, such as Buddhist temples and museums. You can do simple walking around the city; it's less taxing than going to Sapa.
Good food and meeting with locals:
- in Vietnam, you can try the Mekong Delta tour. It's a few hours by bus from HCMC and offers you a good insight into daily lives of boat people. You can go to the floating market (very early -6-8am!!!), see how people produce local food (like coconut candy, vermicelli, rice paper etc). HCMC is also a good food capital - there are many street vendors and late night food stalls that smell quie good.
- in Thailand, Bangkok is at the heart of such good food. Street food is every where though quite spicy. The night markets are a good place to stop by - it's both touristy and local. Pattaya is just a few hours away and I think if you went to Thailand you must once stop at Pattaya...no matter what people say about it.
I hope you have fun! If you do decide to go to Vietnam though I can recommend some good restaurants!
Khanh Pham, Travel Photographer | Asia
This is truly a tough question for me. It makes me feel like a parent being forced to compare between siblings. I’m from Vietnam, Vietnamese food is incredibly delicious but I also love the intense flavor that Thai food always has.
For a foodie traveler, it’s all about the taste. Each country has a typically different culture, ritual, lifestyle, and history, so does the cuisine. Food is the best gateway that leads to the understanding of culture and the harmony of human connections and generations.
No matter what country you travel to, Thailand or Vietnam, please try lots of street food and eat the dishes cooked by the locals.
Love this quote by Anthony Bourdain
Alex Backpacker, A couple months in to a year long backpacking trip
Having spent 2 weeks in Thailand and then 4 in Vietnam (2 weeks in laos passing through too) I would duly recommend Vietnam.
Both are great and if you get chance I’d go to both, but if you had to pick for me it would be Vietnam.
There is so much to see and great variety, awesome hustle and bustle in cities like Hanoi and HCMC. Stunning hills in Sa Pa, great coastline with Ha Long Bay and then awesome beaches all around and great towns like Hue and Hoi An.
Not to mention the great food, Pho and Banh Mi are great and so cheap.
Charlotte Walton, Professional Photographer, International Traveller
If you decided to go to Vietnam, check out this answer for tons of Vietnam Travel Tips!
Me and my partner spent 3 weeks last summer travelling from Ho Chi Minh up to Hanoi. We flew into the international airport and made our way up the country using bus services, and planes.
Marek J Michalski, Lived in Vietnam for 6 Months, Travel Blogger @Lifenomading
I have lived in Vietnam, and visited Thailand 4 or 5 times. I am going to admit I am bias, but I would recommend Vietnam. Here is an expat site we send to newbies who first go to Vietnam - it literally has an answer to every question you could possibly have (cab, cellphone, part of town to stay, etc)
I also did a break down of pros/cons below.
Pros/Cons of Vietnam:
1.Beautiful country (Nature, streets, countryside)
2.Amazing food - Banh Mi is the best sandwich you will ever have. Pho soup is savory, delicious, and a great hangover cure.
3.Fun night life with a city that literally never sleeps. Always a nearby sandwich shop or place to play some pool.
4.Cheap. Super super cheap. I used to buy beers for 50 cents.
1.Actual cons some of the locals will run on you - like 2 X or more on the price of some items. If you learn how to stand your ground on a price and say no this can be avoided
1.The word for Too expensive in Vietnamese is mắc qua pronounced Mack Qwah.
2.Petty theft - I actually got my phone stolen WHILE I WAS TALKING ON IT!(Motorcycle Bandit). This can be avoided if you don’t take your phone out near the street.
3.Not as used to tourism as Thailand, thus not as accessible. This can be a benefit from time to time as you might get a special treatment as your presence can be a rarity.
4.Visa on Arrival can be confusing and the Visa scenario can be slightly complicated. Read a blog post and you will figure it out.
Pros/Cons of Thailand:
1.Also amazing food. Papaya salad and pad thai to name a couple.
2.Also a beautiful country.
3.Easy visa scenario. You don’t need a visa - just a passport (if you are from usa)
1.So used to tourists that at times the niceness of locals, even when they are authentically being nice, can be interpreted as fake.
2.Slightly more “touristy” than Vietnam. Especially in Bangkok and Phuket. This can be good depending on what type of traveler you are. For me it was a bit of a turn off from time to time.
3.More expensive than Vietnam. Overall it is still very cheap!
Quinisha Anderson, Living in Thailand for 4-months
I spent six weeks in Vietnam in many of the most traveled cities and villages. I also spent three months in Thailand, including Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket. Based on your love of food I would take Vietnam off the table.
I've never been more dependent on fruit, eggs, burgers and spaghetti until I spent 6–weeks in Vietnam thinking I'd never enjoy food again.
I'd often have to remind myself that we eat to live, food is fuel and that I would soon be back in Thailand where food is seasoned and properly prepared.
Thailand gets food very right! You will have a variety of world cuisines at your fingertips as it's one of the most traveled countries in SE Asia. Vietnam has Banh Mih, their French influenced baguette sandwich, that's how I survived. They get bread and cheese right, but that's about it.
Unless you like seafood that tastes like the sea, snails likely scraped from a backyard and served up, I'd say save your tastebuds the disappointment.
Thailand has a lot of mountains, retreats, natural parks and is very easy to travel. You'll also receive a 30-visa on arrival for free. So, if you don't like Thailand at least you didn't waste money on a visa finding out.
The only upside to Vietnam is Da Nang, you'll get a culture rich experience there without being surrounded by tourists.
You won't find nice accommodations as cheap or food more inexpensive than in Thailand. Vietnam is more costly and far behind the curve in most things, including seasoning their food.
Vietnamese unfriendly? That is news to me. The Vietnamese are very hard working, but my experience is that they are usually quite friendly.
I lived in Hanoi for four years. I traveled from Hai Phong down to Phan Rang and across Quang Tri Province, almost to the border with Lao PDR. Working there gave me an immediate introduction, which helps. But wherever I went I would go out and walk around, meeting people in shops and in the street. People were always friendly (even in the areas where bombing and battles occurred during “the American War”). I could only claim basic Vietnamese skills, so I didn’t have that advantage - my failure.
Bargaining is a fact of life in much of the developing world. So you aren’t getting cheated if you pay more than me. The fair price is that which you agree on. If you pay much more than a local, you didn’t bargain well. Work on your bargaining skills, don’t complain about being cheated!
Sharvi Sharma, studied at St. Xavier's College Mumbai
I would recommend Vietnam. There is so much to explore in terms of culture & nature.
Places you can visit:
Ho Chi Minh City: The beautiful capital city of Vietnam.
Halong Bay: Take a cruise around the Bay - best treat you can give to your eyes.
Dalat: A city in the hilly regions of Vietnam where tourists go to escape the heat.
Phu Quoc Island: Enjoy the fresh air, Clear water, white sand and swaying coconut trees.
Nam Du Island: Nam Du, an extremely attractive destination with clean blue sea, coconut in sandbank .
Con Dao: Beautiful Landscape in a pristine island with white sandy beaches, mountains on the horizon brings a very peaceful feeling.
Binh Ba Island: Popular among tourists for cuisine.
Binh Hung Island: Here tourism is underdeveloped , so it is still quite and unspoiled island.
Offbeat places in Vietnam you can visit:
The Ly Son Island In Quang Ngai: It is known as the “natural pearl island” for its charming white sand and blue sea.
Dong Thap- the land of lotus: Dong Thap is a province in the Mekong Delta, the southern region in Vietnam, 165km southwest of Ho Chi Minh City, bordered by Pray Veng Province (Cambodia). The Tram Chim National Park enchants visitors with its various colours of nature as soon as the level of water rises.
Dong Van Karst Plateau GeoPark: It consists of narrow valleys alternating with rocky mountain ranges in the north of Vietnam. Journey to Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark is amazing with paths winding across mountains, pristine landscape and traditional life of the indigenous people.
Nhat Anh, Been to more than 10 countries
I am Vietnamese so I might be biased in advising this. Regardless, each country has its own unique characteristics.
Thailand - super popular for their tourism and there must be a reasonable explanation. And here it is: awesome beaches. Seriously! Do the island-hoping tour among Phi Phi Island, Koh Pha Ngan, Koh Samui, etc.
Vietnam - great food great culture. Come here with an empty stomach. Every region of Vietnam has its unique cuisine, not just Pho or Banh Mi. Although sightseeing might not be as terrific as Thailand, Vietnamese culture is very interesting. There are many festivals and celebrations all year round. Just check with your tour operator (or browse through websites).
All in all, both countries are amazing and worth your visit at least one. It depends on your purpose and preference. If you want to sit down and relax on the beach, head for Thailand. If you are more of the backpacking type, go to Vietnam.
Steven Smith, former Naval Aviator at U.S. Marine Corps (1982-1989)
I have been to Vietnam 4 times and Thailand 3 times.
For me, I have found Vietnamese people to be the most friendly that I have encountered anywhere. I have done a lot of volunteer English teaching and motorcycle riding there. Hanoi and Kon Tum are my two favorite cities.
A friend of mine told me that Vietnam today is like Thailand 20 years ago.