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Vietnam vs Thailand - 5 Major Differences

Vietnam and Thailand: the most popular holiday destinations in Southeast Asia. They are similar in climate and food, while some differences are obvious, including culture and language.

Below we list five major differences between Vietnam and Thailand, to help you decide which to visit. These are based on our own travel experiences and investigations over the past two years.

Differences between Vietnam and Thailand

Vietnam … Thailand … Vietnam or Thailand?
Culture and history …is influenced by three main religions and the Vietnam War. …is influenced by Buddhism and a western lifestyle. Vietnam
Convenience of travel …is okay to travel to and within the country, but a bit more effort required. …offers easier and faster access to and within the country. Thailand
Cost and currency …accepts USD or Dong; prefers cash. …accepts USD or Baht, and uses various types of card. Thailand
Travel experience …boasts diverse landscapes and authentic local experiences. …is proud of quality beaches and comfort of travel. Vietnam
Heads up for the downside …sometimes has issues with cheating and is inconvenient at New Year. …has issues with cheating, theft and porn deals. Vietnam

1. Culture and history

Vietnam

  • There are great cultural differences between Vietnam and non-Asian countries which are an attraction to westerners, many of whom would prefer to escape to a destination with big differences than to one which is similar to where they live.

Thailand

  • Thailand is a constitutional monarchy and the king and the princess are greatly loved and respected by the people.
  • The main religious belief in Thailand is Theravada Buddhism. You can find a Buddha statue in almost every home and monks have very high status in Thailand.
  • The whole country has a higher acceptance of western thought and lifestyle. Thai people are easily satisfied and you will receive many more smiles in Thailand than in Vietnam.

Vietnam or Thailand? Vietnam wins among American families and among travelers who want to experience a bigger contrast in cultures compared with their home countries.

2. Convenience of travel

International flights – Thailand has more direct connections

There are not many international flights from western countries to Vietnam, only a few from the big cities of Australia, Europe or Asia. Most international flights from western countries need at least one connecting flight.

There are many more direct international flights from western countries to Thailand than to Vietnam. Thai Airways and Bangkok Airlines both have a good reputation, and besides, a lot of cheap airlines offer flights to and from Bangkok.

Domestic Travel – Thailand has better flights, buses and trains than Vietnam

Domestic flights in Vietnam are very convenient, and there are many routes and many flights between the main cities. However, domestic buses are not as good as those in Thailand. Trains are also available in Vietnam, but the conditions are not so good.

There are many domestic flights in Thailand and there are two airports in Bangkok. Buses in Thailand are in very good condition and some long-distance buses even include a meal or snack, with water.

Trains are also a good way to travel in Thailand, but they are a little bit slow and may be in poor condition, possibly okay for those who are staying a long time in Thailand or those who simply love taking trains.

Visas – Thailand provides easier and faster access

Compared to Thailand, the Visa on Arrival (VoA) service in Vietnam is not so convenient. Citizens of most countries can get VoA, and the price is $25 for 30 days, but visitors should prepare an Approval Letter in advance. The VoA is only available at the airports in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang.

Thailand is much easier and more convenient with respect to visas. Citizens of most countries can get a visa exemption for 90 days, and the VoA processing is also very fast. It is one of the rare countries you can just visit without worrying about a visa.

Language – English is commonly used in Thailand

The Vietnamese language is totally different from Thai.

Vietnamese people engaged in tourism can speak English, but it is not as popular on the streets as in Thailand.

In Thailand, English is so common that most people in the cities can speak English. English is an obligatory course from kindergarten onwards.

Vietnam or Thailand? Thailand wins with regard to convenience and comfort. Vietnam offers an easier taste of authentic local life.

3. Cost and currency

Cost – both countries offer good-value hotels

Compared with other Asian countries, the cost of hotels in Vietnam is relatively low. The cost of a 4 star hotel is around $60 to $100 per night, much cheaper than in China, Japan, Myanmar or Korea.

Thailand can not only meet the backpackers’ on-a-budget requirements, but can also satisfy those who looking for a luxury experience. No matter where you are, you can choose from between budget hostels right up to the most luxurious resorts. Accommodation in Thailand is generally good value. 

Currency – USD are more widely accepted in Thailand

You can use either Thai baht or US dollars in Thailand. Besides, debit or credit cards are often acceptable in many places (restaurants, supermarkets). All kinds of currency exchange are convenient.

Vietnam or Thailand? Thailand wins with respect to acceptance of US dollars and popular international credit cards throughout the country. Vietnam still prefers cash over any type of card.

4.Travel experience

Scenery and activities – Vietnam’s diverse landscape vs Thailand’s quality beaches

The tourist resources in Thailand are very rich, both in cultural attractions and high quality beaches. The land-based scenery is dominated by temples, however, which may lead to aesthetic fatigue.

The landscape in Thailand is less diverse than in Vietnam. The night-life activities in Thailand, however, are much richer than in Vietnam.

Local experience – Vietnam’s authentic local experience vs Thailand’s comfort travel

Vietnam or Thailand? Vietnam wins in diverse landscapes and authentic local experience. Thailand offers more exciting night-life activities and better services.

5.Heads up for the downside

Vietnam – there is some cheating and it is inconvenient at New Year

Cheating in the shops can be one of the most annoying problems for many travelers to Vietnam. Shops may attract customers by advertising lower prices, but the price may increase at any time and you may end up pulling out more money than what was originally asked for.

In addition, cheating may even happen when you exchange money. Since the denominations of Dong are very large, sometimes travelers may be confused with the trail of “0”s; so please pay attention when exchanging money, paying, or receiving change.

Another problem travelers complain about is the inconvenience when traveling in Vietnam during Vietnamese New Year (late January to mid-February).

Since New Year is a time of family reunion, local people will migrate back to their hometowns before New Year. Most shops, offices or businesses will close for a week and the traffic will be extraordinarily busy.

If you have been to Thailand, local people in Vietnam might give you the feeling that they are a little bit shrewd by comparison, and you might not receive as many smiles as you did when you were in Thailand.

Thailand – cheating and porn deals happen

Cheating of some kind may also happen in Thailand. Some restaurants have two menus, one for locals and the other for foreigners, with higher prices. If you are walking along the street, some tuk-tuk drivers may tell you they can take you to visit many temples and you need only pay 20 baht.

After visiting a few ordinary temples, they'll convince you to go to some massage shops and tailors that they recommend. The prices in those shops will certainly shock you, for they will be two or three times higher than the normal prices.

Thailand’s medical system is very good compared with Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries, and relative to American or European medical costs, it is relatively cheap.

Porn deals are hard to avoid in Thailand and have even become a common phenomenon. The sex industry generates upwards of 100 billion baht each year.

When you travel in Thailand, you will be vulnerable to being caught up in this. Please note that some people may try and earn money from you via sexual transactions.

Theft of credit cards and passports is common in Thailand. Therefore, it’s best to buy insurance for personal property to protect against losses.

The lack of exceptional natural landscape is one of the drawbacks of travel in Thailand. The land is dominated by temples, and you might get tired when you see so many temples which look the same. And most of the time you may feel like you're in a tourist land, not in a real country.

Vietnam or Thailand? Vietnam wins in general honesty and simplicity. Thailand is relatively not quite so safe and porn deals are not uncommon.

Explore Southeast Asia with Asia Highlights

Our specialists are glad to help you plan your Southeast Asia journey according to your special interests and requirements. Check our Vietnam and Thailand itineraries below as inspirations. 

13-Day Vietnam Classic Wonders with Sapa: Walking in an Idyll

13-Day Essence of Thailand Tour: Far More beyond Temples

28-Day Grand Indochina Tour:Discover and Experience Only the Best

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