Are you planning a trip to Southeast Asia and can’t decide between Vietnam and Thailand? These two countries are the most popular holiday destinations in the region, each offering unique experiences. While they share some similarities, their cultures, lifestyles, and travel experiences differ greatly. Join us as we explore 10 major differences between Vietnam and Thailand, helping you decide which destination suits your preferences.
Vietnam or Thailand: An Overview
Vietnam and Thailand both boast rich histories, stunning landscapes, and delicious cuisine. However, it’s important to understand their distinctive features before making a decision.
We Recommend Thailand if You:
- Are visiting Southeast Asia for the first time: Thailand encapsulates the essence of Southeast Asia, from its Buddhist temples and exotic food to its tropical islands and rainforests. With developed tourism services and facilities, you’re guaranteed a top-notch experience.
- Prefer a beach holiday: Thailand offers a wide range of breathtaking beaches, surpassing Vietnam in this aspect.
- Plan to celebrate a honeymoon or anniversary: Thailand exudes a romantic vibe and provides numerous opportunities for special experiences, such as dinner cruises and couples’ spas.
- Are traveling with kids seeking plenty of activities: Thailand offers an array of exciting activities, including snorkeling, elephant encounters, and banana boat rides.
We Recommend Vietnam if You:
- Seek a rustic and authentic experience: Vietnam, less developed than Thailand, is known for its natural beauty, ethnic charm, and ancient towns.
- Want to experience a big contrast in culture: Vietnam’s mixed culture and complex history, influenced by China, French colonization, and the Vietnam War, offer a unique blend of traditions and customs.
- Seek a more affordable price: Vietnam is generally more economical and budget-friendly than Thailand.
1. Culture and History
Vietnam and Thailand stand out for their distinct cultural backgrounds. Vietnam’s diverse culture is a result of Chinese and French influences, while Thailand is deeply rooted in Buddhism.
Vietnamese culture reflects its historical ties with China. Customs, traditions, and beliefs are heavily influenced by Confucianism and Taoist deities. The country embraces a combination of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism as its main religious beliefs. French colonialism has also left its mark, most notably seen in the distinctive French architecture of Ho Chi Minh City. Additionally, remnants of the Vietnam War, such as battle tunnels and equipment, can still be found in Ho Chi Minh City.
Thai culture, on the other hand, revolves around Buddhism. Monks hold a high status and conduct various Buddhist rites, contributing to the country’s vibrant festival culture. Thai society also embraces Western thought and lifestyle, valuing a fun and enjoyable approach to life.
2. Convenience of Travel
When it comes to travel convenience, Thailand takes the lead with its mature tourism industry.
Ease of Getting There and Around
Both Thailand and Vietnam are easily accessible by international flights. However, Thailand boasts a more convenient city network, making it easier to navigate.
- International flights to Thailand are readily available.
- Getting around within Thailand is a breeze, with options like metros, buses, taxis, and local tuk-tuks.
- Flights to major Vietnamese cities are easily booked.
- However, due to Vietnam’s narrow and complicated terrain, navigating the country can be more challenging. Taxis and private transfers are recommended.
Visa and Entry Requirements
Thailand offers smoother and faster entry procedures compared to Vietnam.
- Visa-free access is granted to 56 countries/regions, including Australia, Canada, and the UK.
- Visitors from 22 countries can enter visa-free, including France, Italy, and the UK.
- For visitors from other countries, the most convenient way to enter Vietnam is by applying for an e-visa online.
English is more widely spoken in Thailand compared to Vietnam.
- English is commonly spoken, especially in major cities. English education is mandatory for children from kindergarten onwards.
- While English is spoken by those involved in tourism, it is not as prevalent on the streets as in Thailand.
3. Travel Experience
Vietnam and Thailand offer distinct travel experiences, each with its own highlights.
Thailand: Beaches, Temples, and Elephants
Thailand is vibrant and diverse, catering to various interests.
- Thailand boasts some of the best beaches in Southeast Asia, such as Ko Phuket, Ko Samui, and Krabi. These destinations offer stunning beaches, thrilling water sports, and resorts with breathtaking views.
- Immerse yourself in the local lifestyle by exploring lively markets and taking a ride on a long-tailed boat.
- Discover the country’s rich Buddhist culture and history through its glittering palaces and temples.
- Thailand’s rainforests are home to exciting wildlife encounters, including elephants and other exotic animals.
- Indulge in unique experiences such as romantic dinner cruises, traditional Thai floating lantern making, and cooking classes.
Vietnam: Towns, Villages, and Cruises
Vietnam provides a more relaxed and tranquil travel experience.
- Get lost in the narrow alleys of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, explore the colonial street sights of Ho Chi Minh City, and delve into the remnants of the Vietnam War.
- Experience the authentic cultural charm of ethnic villages in the mountainous northern regions.
- Embark on a cruise along Halong Bay or Mekong River for a truly unique experience.
- Although not traditionally known as a beach destination, Vietnam now offers idyllic spots like Phu Quoc Island and Nha Trang on its south coast.
4. How Long to Stay
Both Thailand and Vietnam offer abundant tourism resources. For most first-time tours, it is recommended to allocate around 8 to 10 days for Thailand and 10 to 14 days for Vietnam.
- A popular itinerary is to visit two cities and an island, which can be comfortably achieved in 8-10 days.
- If you desire a more immersive experience, consider dedicating around 2 weeks to explore different regions of Thailand, including its forests.
- For a comprehensive exploration from north to central to south, plan for approximately 3 weeks.
- A typical itinerary covers Hanoi in the north, Hoi An in the middle, and Ho Chi Minh City in the south, taking around 10 days to complete.
- If you wish to include more beach time, allocate 2 weeks for your Vietnam journey.
5. Weather and Best Times to Visit
Both Vietnam and Thailand have tropical climates, with distinct rainy and dry seasons. Thailand generally experiences hotter weather due to its lower latitudes in the south.
- The best time to visit Thailand is between November and March, when the weather is cool and dry.
- April to June can be scorching hot, while the rainy season lasts from June to October. However, visiting during the rainy season offers lower prices and fewer tourists.
- Given its long and narrow shape, the weather in Vietnam varies across regions.
- The best time to visit North Vietnam (Hanoi and Halong Bay) is from March to May and September to November.
- The ideal time for Central Vietnam (Hue, Da Nang, Hoi An) is from January to August.
- South Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City, Mekong Delta) experiences the best weather from December to April.
6. Travel Costs
While Southeast Asia is generally affordable, Thailand tends to be more expensive compared to Vietnam.
- Thailand caters to various budgets, ranging from backpacker-friendly options to luxury experiences.
- Daily trip costs in Thailand can range from $50 to $150 per person, depending on the level of comfort desired.
- Known for its affordability, Vietnam offers a lower price level.
- Daily expenses in Vietnam typically range from $30 to $100 per person, covering budget to luxury options.
Both Thailand and Vietnam boast delicious cuisine, each with its own unique flavors.
- Thai cuisine is famous worldwide for its sour and spicy flavors, as well as mellow curries. Must-try dishes include pad Thai, tom yum goong, and a variety of Thai snacks found in bustling night markets.
- Vietnamese cuisine focuses on fresh and flavorful elements, still incorporating a hint of sourness and spiciness. Iconic dishes include pho and Vietnamese spring rolls.
Both Vietnam and Thailand offer a wide range of accommodation options to suit different budgets. However, Thailand features more high-end hotels.
- As a mature tourism destination, Thailand provides hotels that meet Western standards, particularly in Bangkok, Phuket, and Koh Samui. Expect world-class facilities and exceptional service.
- The standard of hotels in Vietnam is generally lower than in the West. It is recommended to book higher-rated hotels to ensure a comfortable experience.
Thailand reigns as the more popular destination, welcoming almost twice as many international visitors as Vietnam.
- In 2019, Thailand attracted over 39 million international tourists, while Vietnam received more than 18 million.
- Since their reopening in 2022, Thailand has seen around 500,000 international visitors, while Vietnam welcomed more than 250,000 tourists in the first two months.
Thailand is renowned as a shopping paradise, while Vietnam does not stand out in this aspect.
- Bangkok, the shopping hub of Southeast Asia, offers a wide variety of international and local brands at favorable prices. Duty-free shops, shopping malls, and night markets are popular shopping destinations.
- Although Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have some shopping malls, their scale and product ranges are not as extensive as those in Thailand. Pedestrian streets and markets, like the famous 36 Streets in Hanoi, are more popular for shopping.
Plan Your Southeast Asian Adventure with Us
Whether you choose Vietnam or Thailand, or even both, Ekilove can help you plan the perfect trip. We offer a range of recommended tours that can be customized to suit your needs. Visit Ekilove to explore our offerings and start your adventure today.
- 12-Day Thailand Wonders Tour
- 14-Day Classic Vietnam and Thailand Tour
- 15-Day Best of Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam Tour
- 19 Days Highlights of Southeast Asia