Thailand or Vietnam

Vietnam and Thailand - All the same in South-East Asia?

We travelers who keep coming back to Thailand are often very convinced of "our" land of smiles. We should definitely think outside the box. Helena Lüddecke describes very personally why this can be enriching. Check out their Vietnam travel tips.

Many people travel to several countries directly within a month - we prefer to give each country its own journey (about a month) so that we can get to know the country and its people better. However you do it: The countries in Southeast Asia differ greatly from one another - not only in terms of language, but also in their very own cultures. Have you already been to Thailand and are you wondering whether your next trip could take you to Vietnam? I have the right thing for you: a little comparison of the two countries.

The human

I'll start with the most important thing, people. It is often said that they are so unfriendly over there in Vietnam - I cannot confirm that. The friendliness is just different than in Thailand. It's not the land of smiles. In Ninh Binh we met a Thai, with whom we discussed exactly about it: In Vietnam, I find the friendliness more authentic. If people don't feel like you or are just interested in the money, they just show it openly. We met a lot of people who noticed our interest and proudly explained or presented things to us - be it with little gifts from the kitchen or explanations. As a Ruhrpottler by choice, I of course appreciate a direct manner and when people simply show how they feel. Yes, the way is a little different, but unfriendly? I didn't notice any of this. Throw a smile into the world and it will come back!

Language: Vietnamese

Less English is spoken in Vietnam than in Thailand. This is because tourism is still very young, especially in more rural areas. So it is worth learning a little Vietnamese beforehand 🙂 Otherwise, however, you can get by with a mixture of English and funny gestures - if necessary, the translator of the big G will step in.

We at are absolutely convinced that a trip becomes more intense if you can communicate a little in the country. This also makes contact with Vietnamese easier with the Vietnamese crash course. Try it! You will be surprised how easily this can be done.

The Landscapes

The landscapes are terribly varied and beautiful. There is desert, jungle, caves, karst rock formations, rice fields, big cities, village life, ... Here nothing is left to be desired. Only with the tropical sandy beach like in Thailand we did not find it - but there are certainly beautiful beaches in Vietnam. We just weren't looking for them!

The food

I personally like the food better in Thailand. Beverages are always fortified with sugar in Vietnam and I found the dishes to be a little heavier in my stomach. There are many regional specialties - but the kitchen is often very seafood-heavy, which is why I stood there in the rain. However, we always got full and there was always something delicious - but I still missed the curries 😀 There were vegetarian or vegan restaurants mainly in the larger cities. Street food usually includes the well-known fish sauce - even if it says vegetarian. It's best to ask beforehand! (The Vietnamese crash course shows how to inquire about this.)

The infrastructure

Most of the areas we visited were well developed for tourism. Still, the infrastructure wasn't quite as good as in Thailand. Everything is a bit more original - but you have a more adventurous feeling! The homestays and guesthouses are more common than hotels. Less luxury, closer to real life. Another point for those who prefer adventure and authenticity to the luxury of hotel chains. You are somehow “closer”. The bicycles, which were available for free at almost every homestay, were awesome - I've never ridden so much! We were much freer than in Thailand (but we never paid attention to bicycles there, there are certainly opportunities there) in our locomotion, since we don't drive a scooter, and it is usually very flat and comfortable to drive.

The travel budget for Vietnam

In terms of price, Vietnam is a little cheaper than Thailand. We spent a total of around 1200 euros per person for 26 days (excluding return flights from Germany, including two domestic flights), as in Thailand - but there we made significantly fewer changes of location! This sum includes all accommodation (middle class, clean and cheap, mostly homestays), excursions such as to the caves of Phong Nha or to Halong Bay, several hours by train, food (both street food and restaurants), souvenirs and transfers.

The Vietnam travel route for 3 weeks

1. Saigon, arrived at night: 4 nights

Spent the night: Boholand Hostel, I recommend, good location, nice family!

Highlights: The War Museum, Cafe Apartment

Don’t do: Bad day trip to the Mekong Delta

Then by plane to Da Nang and directly to Hoi An

2. Hoi An: 4 nights

Stayed in CoCo Farm Hoi An, absolute recommendation, equipment completely made of wood in caravan style

Highlights: cycling through the rice fields, downtown, the food.

By train to Dong Hoi and direct to Phong Nha

3. Phong Nha Ke Bang: 2 nights

Stayed in Fami homestay, only recommended if you want it really cheap. Would stay an extra night in a different homestay next time 🙂

Highlights: The cave tour, booked through Farmstay Phong

By train to Hanoi

4. Hanoi: 3 nights

Stayed in Hanoi Guest House Royal, mega accommodation! Absolute recommendation

Highlights: City life, Omamori Spa, the lake, and the clean hospital (which hopefully you don't have to "visit")

5. Halong Bay

Overnight: Cruise booked for 90 euros per person with Cozy Bay Cruise. Great food, good tour. It's just touristy, you have to be prepared for that 😀

We got the good price via - we went there personally. You have to be careful - in Hanoi every second shop is called The Sinh Tourist.

(Kilian has described an alternative to the beautiful, but also touristic, tour in Halong Bay here.)

6. Hanoi: one night

In the same hotel to relax after the cruise. By train to Ninh Binh

7. Ninh Binh: 4 nights

Spent the night: Mai’s Homestay Trang An Village, Basic but clean and very warm, recommended!

Highlights: Hoa Lu, cycling, goat pizza and boat tour.

By train to Hanoi

8. Hanoi: another 3 nights

Same hotel. Troubled by hospitalization.

9. Bangkok, 2 nights. Booked three because our departure was at night and we wanted to shower again.

Spent the night: Maven Stylish Hotel Bangkok. Completely outside, next time back in the center. This time they were too expensive for us.

What would I do differently: In the end we just had too much time to spare, but not enough to go on a trip to another place. The last three nights in Hanoi were necessary due to illness. Next time I would pack Hanoi at the end and plan a place before that. The other places were good from the time, only in Phong Nha would I stay one more night 🙂

Best travel time to Vietnam

It's not that easy to determine, it depends on the area you want to travel to. Because through the 3 different climate zones over which the country extends, you can actually travel around the year. You can always find a spot where the weather is good.

You can find more information about this on “Travel to Vietnam”.

My Conclusion on the Vietnam trip

Do you feel like Vietnam? Well! It's really worth it. Suitable for everyone who wants to see something different than Thailand, who is looking for new adventures and a different culture and who wants to move out of his comfort zone. The country is really great!

You might be interested in: World Heritage Site Hoi An

Photos by Masif / Valentyna April / Dino KF Wong / Jelle Canipel on Reshot