Should I go to Thailand or Vietnam?
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): Hochlist.com by hochlist
I also did a break down of pros/cons below.
Pros/Cons of Vietnam:
- Beautiful country (Nature, streets, countryside)
- Amazing food - Banh Mi (1.00 on the street) is the best sandwich you will ever have. Pho soup is savory, delicious, and a great hangover cure.
- Fun night life with a city that literally never sleeps. Always a nearby sandwich shop or place to play some pool.
- Cheap. Super super cheap. I used to buy beers for 50 cents.
- 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
- The word for Too expensive in Vietnamese is mắc qua pronounced Mack Qwah.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- Also amazing food. Papaya salad and pad thai to name a couple.
- Also a beautiful country.
- Easy visa scenario. You don't need a visa - just a passport (if you are from usa)
- Beautiful temples.
- So used to tourists that at times the niceness of locals, even when they are authentically being nice, can be interpreted as fake.
- 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.
- More expensive than Vietnam. Overall it is still very cheap!
Essentially, you should visit BOTH.
Yet, for your question, the choice depends on what you want from your vacation.
LUXURY - Thailand
Thailand has luxury hotels with unrivalled price-quality ratio in the world. For the price of a 3-star hotel in Europe or US, you can book into a 6-star hotel like Erawan Grand Hyatt or the Peninsula in Bangkok. The service is generally impeccable.
Vietnam's top hotels are at best acceptable and many are mediocre.
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.
Bus Services and Planes
The bus services are surprisingly good. They are clean and somewhat comfortable, and offer buses with bed-like seats. This allows you to sleep while you're on your 5+ hour journey. They stop several times to give you a toilet break and let you buy some refreshments. You can book onto these buses when you are in Vietnam, as there are tons of travel agencies available to help.
Vietnam is very long. When I say long, I mean there is a whopping 1621 km (according to Google maps) between the two major cities. To put it into perspective, that's a 32 hour drive (and that's in a car).
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.
To each his own, but I would like to tell you more about Vietnam and Vietnamese culture as many here seem to not know much about it.
Vietnamese are foody people. We love food and eating out. There is not just one type of Vietnamese cuisine but there is many. Most foreigners are shown only the basics like Pho, Banh Mi and spring rolls. However they are completely ignorant of our food scene. To anyone wanting to travel Vietnam I suggest you download the app foody.vn or Địa điểm ăn uống to discover more about our food scene.
Pho is the most popular and common noodle soup in Vietnam. You'll find it all over Vietnam and Vietnamese people eat it all times of the day. It is a comfort food. For example when you don't know what to eat, your back up option is Pho, when you suddenly feel hungry at night, you go for Pho. Pho is the heart and soul of Vietnamese people and it's one single dish that unite all of us. However it is not predominant in Vietnamese food scene.
Banh Mi is more popular in the South than the North. It is a snack and it's not usually considered a very important part of Vietnamese cuisine. However it is marketed to foreigners because of the belief that they feel more affinity for it.
Here I will tell you the different types of Vietnamese cuisine:
The most common way to socialise in Vietnam besides cafes is to ăn nhậu. This term means to gather and drink alcohol while eating a wide variety of different food. Drinking restaurants are all over Vietnam and usually very busy and loud. Some common dishes include suckling pigs, various meats and seafood dishes. Usually dishes prepared elaborately and flavourfully. Most drinking places in Vietnam are beer restaurants, you'll see it advertise all over Vietnam.
Vietnam is the land of noodle soups. You'll find all types of different noodle soups in Vietnam. Each region has their own special dish. Noodle dishes usually include various cuts of meats and noodle in bone broths.
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!