Vietnam vs Thailand: Similarities and differences!

Almost every Indian who has a passport and has travelled abroad has done at least one trip to Thailand, as it is closer, cheaper n easier to visit. But not many have visited Vietnam, mainly because Vietnam tourism hasn’t marketed itself much in India and there’re no direct flights between India and Vietnam. Thailand and Vietnam are adjacent countries, having similar geographies, terrain and climate. So what’s unique about Vietnam compared to Thailand? Is it adequate if you’ve visited Thailand or should you take extra effort to visit Vietnam? Having visited Vietnam recently and having been to Thailand multiple times, I am trying to give you a comparison of both countries, from the perspective of a traveler.
#
Factor
Vietnam
Thailand
Remarks
1
Accessibility (flights etc)
Moderate
Min 1 stop, no direct flights, minimum 8 to 10 hours including transit time, slightly expensive
Easy
Direct flight to Bangkok available from several Indian cities (min 4 hours +), cheaper

2
Visa
40 USD +
On arrival but pre-authorization needed, relatively less waiting, 1 month validity
30 USD
On arrival, but more crowd/waiting, 15 days (on arrival, longer if pre-applied)

3
Cost of visiting
Low
Hostel Stay from INR 500 a night onwards, food, sight seeing etc reasonable price
Low
Hostel Stay from INR 500 a night onwards, food, sight seeing etc reasonable price

4
Local rides
Indian DL not valid to rent/ride

Bus/taxi/bike taxi/train available
No Metro
Indian DL valid to rent bike or car

Bus/taxi/train available
Bangkok has metro train
Thailand is better in terms of transport options
5
Country side & landscapes
Mountains, paddy fields
Similar.
Highways slightly better maintained

6
Uniqueness of destination
High (not too many Indians visit Vietnam compared to Thailand)
Low (everyone goes to Thailand

7
Key tourist attractions
War tunnels, Beaches, Mountains, Limestone rocks in the ocean, Rivers & Country side
Beaches, Mountains, Temples, Limestone rocks in the ocean, shopping
Beaches are more accessible in Thailand
What’s unique in Vietnam not easily available in Thailand?
  1. War Tunnels: Cu Chi war tunnels are very unique experience in Vietnam, not available easily elsewhere in the world
  2. Culture: Signature Vietnam hats & bamboo baskets: There’re many cultural differences in Thailand and Vietnam. The Vietnam’s signature conical hat, the way they balance two baskets on a stick  etc are unique to Vietnam
  3. War Museums & History: Vietnam has seen more fierce battle during the Vietnam war that lasted 3 decades, compared to World Wars Thailand was part of. Vietnam has relatively more stuff to show related to war- impact of agent orange, the guerilla warfare, tunnels like I said earlier and other historic exhibits/information. If you’re interested in war history you will probably find it more interesting to explore the museums and places in Vietnam than Thailand
  4. Food n Coffee: Vietnam is popular for its coffee. Food in Vietnam is slightly different. Thai food is more popular. Not my expert area so I am unable to elaborate much. As a vegetarian, I find it more convenient in Vietnam- the smell was less, finding veg food was easier.
  5. Temples and Pagodas: Vietnam has more Chinese influence. Temples, Pagodas here are slightly different in design compared t Thailand.
  6. Better English Speaking Guides: Tour guides on our buses during various day trips I took in Vietnam spoke better English than tour guides in Thailand that I had come across. It was possible to have proper conversation in English with Vietnam guides, who replied with full sentence, not just few words like “Can/Can not, Have, Have not” which is the case with most Thai guides. But I could be wrong- my sampling is too low to draw a nationwide conclusion. Use your discretion.
  7. Landscape: I find more river based tourism in Vietnam. Though geography is largely same, both countries have their share of unique destinations. Halong Bay experience is very comparable with Phang Nga bay. Both countries have floating markets, temples, hills etc to explore.
  8. Feel like a millionaire: For 3000 INR, you will get 1 million Vietnamese dongs (VNDs)- feel your millionaire status while it lasts. From a cost aspect, both Thailand and Vietnam cost almost same to explore
#
Activity
Vietnam Cost
INR
Thailand Cost
INR
1
Stay, Hostel room, 1 bed, 1 night
8 USD
500
250 baht
500
2
Day trip- Halong Bay from Hanoi
30-40 USD
2500 INR


3
Day trip- James Bond island from Phuket


1400 THB
2800 INR
4
Airport bus (Hanoi Airport to City centre, 20 kms)
20000 VND
60 INR
120 THB
Airport bus-phuket airport to town, 50 kms
240 INR
5
Proper meals in Indian restaurant (1 main item, 1 side item, a starter n a juice)
150000 VND
450 INR
300 THB
600 INR
Vietnam is slightly cheaper compared to Thailand

Almost every Indian who has flown abroad would have had at least one trip to Thailand. Vietnam not many have travelled. So you will have more stuff to talk in your peer group if you go and explore Vietnam compared to just another trip to Thailand.

Thailand’s Advantages over Vietnam

  1. Easy Visa: Indians get visa on arrival for a lesser fee.
  2. Easy flights: There’re direct flights to Bangkok n easy flights to other destinations in Thailand, compared to flying to Vietnam
  3. Easy Mobility: In Thailand Indians can rent a car or bike and explore on their own. In Vietnam we’re largely dependent on tour operators and/or public transportation.
  4. More beaches: Thailand seems to have more accessible beach towns than Vietnam. Both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh are inland towns without a beach access. There’re many beach towns in Vietnam but you will probably need a domestic flight or overnight bus/train journey to reach them
  5. More adventure activities: With easy access to beach, various watersports/adventure activities are easier to access and cheaper to try in Thailand. I didn’t spot any active marketing of adventure activities in travel shops in Vietnam. I am sure beach towns in Vietnam will have some activities on offer
  6. Easier to find Tender coconut: TC is available in Vietnam but it is cheaper, more easy to find n tastier in Thailand.
  7. Tourism Authority of Thailand is more aggressive in marketing Thailand to Indians- you will find more deals, offers and easy information if you’re looking for a trip to Thailand, compared to Vietnam.
  8. Highways/country side roads in Thailand seem to be wider/better maintained than those of Vietnam. Vietnam is catching up. In terms of city, I find both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city more greener, spacious and well maintained compared to cities in Thailand that I have seen.
  9. Relatively less tourist scams: Though I didn't personally encounter any scams in Vietnam, internet literature suggests very high risk of becoming victim of various tourist scams, including robbery, cheating and frauds in Vietnam. Don't know the seriousness of this, but such scams though exist, relatively less in Thailand.
For a typical tourist who would like a relaxed holiday and some adventure in terms of fun, activities and food, Thailand will probably more convenient n economical. It offers everything a tourist needs -beaches, hills, drinks, long rides, adventure activities and so on in customized packages at affordable rates. Vietnam on the other hand will be tempting for a more serious traveler keen to explore war related history, country side and culture. Backpacking in remote areas for longer duration is more popular in Vietnam than in Thailand from what I have sensed.

Conclusion: Vietnam has its share of uniqueness and is definitely worth a visit. If you’ve been to Thailand multiple times already, to try Vietnam next. But if you ask me “will it offer a jaw dropping experience?” or “should I drop everything n plan a Vietnam trip asap” I would say NO. Do plan a visit when you find cheap fares or when you feel like exploring a new country. Check this post before planning your Vietnam trip.

Similar: Hong Kong vs Singapore * Read more Vietnam posts * Read all Thailand posts *

11 comments:

  1. The Vietanamese tourist guides may be speaking better English because of the American occupation of that country for three decades.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That could be a factor, but tour guides of today were born after the war...

      Delete
  2. Very detailed and informative post . Yes , it is true that most of Indians starts their abroad journey from Thailand :) . here I want to ask something . I read somewhere that that there is no direct flight from India to Vietnam ( As you also mentioned) and some tourists first go to Thailand and then they cross the border , is it true ? if yes , then I think , it will be more better & cheaper than flight to Vietnam ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No direct flight but you can take one stop flight via Singapore/Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur... Yes, land border can also be used.. It might be cheaper a bit but more paperwork and flight is lot more time saving n convenient.

      Delete
  3. Good Information, in point number 1.War Tunnels: Cu Chi war tunnels are very unique experience in Thailand,??? I feel it should be Vietnam

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hello, good detailed information, can you give more details like, how is Vietnam different from Thailand in ways to do shopping's as Thailand is also more famous for huge shopping malls etc.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't do too much shopping, so not really an expert on this. But Vietnam is generally cheaper by a few %.

      One product I checked- Nikon D7100 with 18-140 was INR 54000. You can do the comparison

      Delete
    2. but Thailand will probably offer more options and convenience.

      Delete

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