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Vietnam vs Thailand: Which to Visit (A Helpful Comparison for You)

Vietnam vs Thailand: Which to Visit (A Helpful Comparison for You)

By Chris QuanUpdated Oct. 27, 2022

Going to Vietnam or Thailand? Vietnam and Thailand are the two most popular holiday destinations in Southeast Asia. They enjoy some similarities, but there are many differences in culture, lifestyle, travel experience, food, and more.

Below we explore 10 major differences between the two countries to give you an overview of the travel experience for each and help you decide which to visit.

Thailand and Vietnam Location Map

Vietnam vs Thailand Travel Summary Table

  Vietnam Thailand
1. Culture and history French colonial history
Influence of Chinese culture
Vietnam War
Buddhist culture
Thai kingdoms
More Western lifestyle
2. Convenience of travel Okay to travel to and within the country, but a bit more effort required Offers easier and faster access to and within the country
3. Travel experience Diverse landscapes with cruises, cycling, and hiking
Charming old quarters and ancient towns
Mekong Delta
More rustic
Beaches
Wildlife and rainforest
Buddhist temples and festivals
More metropolitan
Colorful nightlife
4. Typical stay 8 days to 3 weeks 10 days to 2 weeks
5. Best times November to April November to March
6. Cost More affordable Higher consumption
7. Food Features a fresh and light taste
The second largest exporter of coffee
Famous food: pho noodles
Mainly features a sour and spicy taste
Famous food: tom yum goong (spicy Thai soup)
8. Hotels From home stays to starred hotels, but they may not meet Western standards So many options, closer to Western standards, and some are even world-class
9. Tourist satisfaction Around a 10% tourist return rate Over a 50% tourist return rate
10. Shopping Local markets and super markets are the main shopping places Shopping paradise with all kinds of shopping malls

We Recommend Thailand if You:

  • Are making your first trip to Southeast Asia: Thailand gathers the most southeast Asian elements: Buddhist temples, exotic food, tropical islands, and rainforest. Mature tourism services and facilities offer a very good experience.
  • Prefer a beach holiday: Thailand has better beaches than Vietnam and offers various choices.
  • Plan to celebrate a honeymoon or anniversary: Thailand is more suitable for a romantic vibe and provides more opportunities for some special experiences like a dinner cruise, couples spa, etc. See our Thailand Honeymoons/Anniversary: 8 Best Places for Romantic Stays, Itineraries
  • Travel with kids seeking plenty of activities: Thailand offers more interesting things to do like snorkeling, meeting elephants, banana boats...
Recommended Itinerary

We Recommend Vietnam if You:

  • Seek a rustic and authentic experience: Vietnam is less developed than Thailand. Natural scenery, ethnic charm, and ancient towns are the main highlights.
  • Want to experience a big contrast in culture: Due to the influence of Chinese culture, French colonization, and the Vietnam War, Vietnam has a mixed culture and complex history.
  • Seek a more affordable price: Vietnam is economical, definitely cheaper than Thailand.
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1. Vietnam vs Thailand: Culture and History

Vietnam features a more mixed cultural vibe due to the influence of China and France. Thailand’s profound Buddhist culture is its most representative aspect.

Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City Catholic Church in Ho Chi Minh City

Once a vassal state of China, Vietnamese culture is heavily influenced by Chinese culture, especially in the form of Confucianism and Taoist deities, which impact customs, traditions, and beliefs.

The main religious belief in Vietnam is a combination of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism.

Occupied by France, the legacy of French colonialism is most visible in distinctive French architecture in Ho Chi Minh City. 

Some battle tunnels and equipment from the Vietnam War also remain in Ho Chi Minh City.

Thailand

Loy Krathong Thailand Loy Krathong, Thailand

Thailand's culture, on the other hand, has developed in the direction of Buddhism.

The main religion in Thailand is Buddhism. Monks have a very high status and they conduct numerous Buddhist rites, from festivals to daily blessings. Most teenage boys become novice monks for a while, about a year, to earn merit for their families.

Many exuberant festivals are connected to both Buddhism and the changing seasons (such as Loy Krathong — Thailand's Festival of Lights).

The whole country is much influenced by Western thought and lifestyle. Thai people are easily satisfied and they believe that life should be fun.

Extending reading: Thailand Culture

2. Vietnam vs Thailand: Convenience of Travel

Thailand’s tourism is much more mature. Though Vietnam is catching up, Thailand wins with regard to convenience and comfort.

Ease of Getting There and Around

Both Thailand and Vietnam are easy to get to by international flight (now they’ve reopened for tourism “post-COVID”). Thailand is easier to navigate with more convenient city networks.

Thailand: With the resumption of international flights, it is easy to book a flight to Thailand. Flying is the main way to travel within Thailand. Metro, buses, taxis, and local tuk-tuks are the main way to travel around cities.

Vietnam: It is also easy to book a flight to Vietnam. Vietnam's major cities can be reached by air while, due to the narrow and complicated terrain in Vietnam with some scenic areas in the mountains, it is not that easy to navigate. Taxi or private transfer are the main recommended ways.  

A 2-Week Vacation including Peaceful Vietnam and Colorful Thailand

Visa and Entry Requirements

Thailand provides easier and faster entry procedures.

Thailand: Thailand offers visa-free access to 56 countries/regions, including Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Norway, the USA, and the UK. Whether you are vaccinated or not, you can visit Thailand without quarantine.

Vietnam: Visitors from 22 countries may enter visa free, including the UK, France, Italy, and Germany.

If you're from America, Canada, Australia, or about 80 other countries not on the list for visa-free entry, the most convenient way to enter is to apply for an e-visa online. Fully-vaccinated travelers can visit Vietnam without quarantine.

Check more requirements on our 10+ Asia Countries Open for Tourism without Quarantine in 2022.

Language

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

In Thailand, English is more common, and many people in the cities can speak English. English is obligatory for children from kindergarten onwards.

3. Vietnam vs Thailand: Travel Experience

Vietnam and Thailand have different highlights. Vietnam features a karst seascape, ethnic customs, ancient towns, and the Mekong Delta. Thailand features Buddhist temples, beaches, rainforest, and wild animals.

Thailand: Beaches, Temples, Elephants

Phi Phi Islands, Thailand Phi Phi Islands, Thailand

Thailand is vibrant.  

Thailand enjoys some of the best beaches in Southeast Asia. Beach destinations like Ko Phuket, Ko Samui, and Krabi offer beautiful beaches, exciting water sports, and resorts with stunning views. Lively local markets and long-tailed boats show you the lifestyle.

Flickering neon lights and the revelry from the bars and club parties show its crazy side.

Glittering palaces and temples inform you of its profound Buddhist culture and history. The elephants and other wild animals meeting in the rainforest will bring you charming surprises.

There are also many special experiences available, like a romantic dinner cruise, making a traditional Thai floating lantern, and cooking classes.

Extending reading: How to Plan Your First Trip to Thailand — 7 Easy Steps

Vietnam: Towns, Villages, Cruises

The Ancient Town of Hoi An, Vietnam The Ancient Town of Hoi An

Vietnam is relaxing and quiet.

Narrow alleys in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, Ho Chi Minh’s colonial street sights and Vietnam War relics, and the Ancient Town of Hoi An show its historical charm.

Ethnic villages in the mountainous northern area, cruises on Halong Bay,  and boats on the Mekong River are unique experiences.

Vietnam hasn't been widely known as a beach destination, but places like the island of Phu Quoc and the south coast destination of Nha Trang have recently become known as popular beach destinations.

The Best Southeast Asia Tour for First-timers

4. Vietnam vs Thailand: How Long to Stay

Both Thailand and Vietnam are rich in tourism resources. Thailand requires about 8 days to 3 weeks for most first-time tours. Vietnam needs about 10 days to 2 weeks.

If you want to plan a trip to both Thailand and Vietnam, you will need at least 2 weeks.

Thailand: It is popular to visit two cities and an island, which usually takes 8–10 days. If you want something different, like a forest park, you may need about 2 weeks. If you want to explore Thailand from north to central to south, you will need about 3 weeks. >>>2 Weeks in Thailand – 3 Perfect Thailand Itineraries

Vietnam: It usually takes about 10 days to travel from Hanoi in the north to Hoi An in the middle and Ho Chi Minh in the south. If you want to enjoy more beach time, 2 weeks is needed.

Extending reading: How Long to Spend in Southeast Asia (for First Timers): from 2 Weeks to 2 Months

5. Vietnam vs Thailand: Weather and Best Times

Vietnam and Thailand have similar weather conditions — both are tropical countries with rainy and dry seasons. Thailand is a little hotter than Vietnam due to a lower latitudes in the south.

The best time to visit Thailand is between November and March when the weather is cool and dry. Thailand experiences very hot weather between April and June. The rainy season in Thailand occurs between June and October, but lower prices and smaller crowds are the rewards.

Extending reading: Best (and Worst) Time to Visit Thailand & When is the Rainy Season

Vietnam Halong Bay Vietnam Halong Bay

As a long and narrow country, the weather in the south and north of Vietnam is quite different. The best time for North Vietnam (Hanoi and Halong Bay) is from March to May and from September to November; Central Vietnam (Hue, Da Nang, Hoi An) from January to August; and South Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City, Mekong Delta) from December to April.

Extending reading: Vietnam's Rainy Season and Best Times to Travel

A Southeast Asia Overview for a Shorter Vacation

6. Vietnam vs Thailand: Travel Costs

Although Southeast Asia is generally affordable and good value, by comparison, Thailand will cost more than Vietnam.

Thailand can not only meet the backpackers' on-a-budget requirements, but can also satisfy those who are looking for a luxury experience. The trip cost of Thailand can range from 50 to 150 USD per day per person from budget to luxury.

Vietnam's price level is relatively low. The costs of hotels and food will be cheaper. They typically range from 30 to 100 USD per day per person from budget to luxury.

7. Vietnam vs Thailand: Food

Thailand’s cuisine features a sour and spicy flavor, but there are more mellow curries. Vietnam’s cuisine focuses on a fresh taste, but it is still a little sour and spicy.

tom yum goong, Thai food Tom Yum Goong

Thai cuisine is more famous than Vietnamese cuisine overseas. It's known for its pad Thai, tom yum goong, and fantastic Thai curries. If you are a foodie, don’t miss the busy night markets in Thailand. You can find a huge variety of Thai snacks there. See 30 Best Thai Foods and Dishes You Have to Try.

Though Vietnamese cuisine is also a bit sour and spicy, it has a refreshing taste. Fish sauce and lime are the main seasonings. Pho and Vietnamese spring rolls are the best-known dishes.

Vietnam Pho noodles Vietnam Pho noodles

8. Vietnam vs Thailand: Accommodation

Both Vietnam and Thailand offer various accommodation choices matching a wide range of budgets, but Thailand has more high-end hotels.

Thailand: Being mature in tourism, the standard of hotels in Thailand is very close to Western standards, especially in Bangkok, Phuket, and Koh Samui. You can find world-class hotels there with high quality facilities and service.  

Vietnam: The standard of hotels in Vietnam is usually lower than that in the West. Book a higher-rated hotel as much as possible to obtain a comfortable experience.

9. Vietnam vs Thailand: Popularity

Thailand is chosen by more visitors. It’s about twice as popular as Vietnam.

Before the pandemic, in 2019, more than 18 million international tourists visited Vietnam, but Thailand received more than 39 million international visitors.

After their reopening in 2022, Thailand accepted about 500,000 international visitors in March and April. Vietnam received more than 250,000 international tourists in the 2 months since tourism reopened there (March 15 – May 15).

Extending reading: How to Plan Your First Trip to Thailand — 7 Easy Steps

Recommended Itinerary

10. Vietnam vs Thailand: Shopping

Thailand is renowned for being a shopping paradise. Vietnam does not stand out in this respect.

Thailand: Bangkok is the shopping paradise of Southeast Asia, known for its favorable prices and various international and local brands. Duty free shops, shopping malls like Terminal 21, and night markets are good places to shop.

Vietnam: Though Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh have some shopping malls, their scale and product ranges are not as big as Thailand’s. Pedestrian streets and markets are more popular shopping places, like the 36 Streets in Hanoi.

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