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QUIZ! Thailand vs Vietnam: Which should you visit first?


You. Just. Can’t. Choose. Beyond beautiful beaches or soulful slurps of steaming hot soup? Underground cave exploration or underwater adventures? Grand palaces or history-ridden traditions? The debate between Thailand vs Vietnam, and where you should go first, will bring out the indecisive version of you (that you never knew existed).

Exploring Vietnam is like exploring history. Caves, age-old architecture, and traditional food – next to turquoise waters, unending rice fields, and beautiful lagoons. And Thailand? Stunning island exploration, late-night Vespa tours, royal palaces, and shimmering emerald waters…

Basically, you can’t really choose. Then I guess, all you can do is decide where to go FIRST. And guess what? We can help you there! Let’s take a look at some interesting differences between Thailand vs Vietnam that might just help you come to a conclusion.

Culinary affairs: Vietnam for the mild flavours & brothy noodles, Thailand for the spicier aromatic curries

Ah, we’re already diving in deep. Food is where the Thailand vs Vietnam question gets intense. How could you possibly choose between a steaming hot bowl of Pho & slurping down some Pad Thai? Thailand and Vietnam might be geographically close, but when you look closely – there are some definite differences. 

And the most distinct of them all is their cuisine. For starters, there’s a LOT more fish sauce used in Vietnamese cuisine. Think broths, soups, milder flavours, and roasted meat. And Thai cuisine? That’s more about the spices, coconuts, rice dishes, fresh vegetables & herbs, and pan-fried meat.

So it depends on what kinda food you’re craving. And oh, if you’re vegan or vegetarian – not be biassed, but Thailand is particularly known for being vegan-friendly.

assortment of Thai curries, Thailand

Image source:Contiki

Cultural treasures: Vietnam for historical architecture & rustic cultural experiences. Thailand for the vivid nightlife & Buddhism-inspired palaces

Oof. Tough one here. Both Thailand and Vietnam have unique cultures worth experiencing once in your lifetime. Thailand’s culture will give you hints of Buddhism, ancient Thai kingdoms, a beautifully vibrant nightlife, and just the right amount of Western influence.

Vietnam on the other hand, has a wonderful history of its own. You’ll find clues from French colonisation, the Vietnam War, and even parts of Chinese culture in the interiors. So, while Thailand is more tourist-oriented, Vietnam is more rustic and authentic.

Street shopping: Thailand for the unending street stalls loaded with everything you can imagine, Vietnam for local handicrafts and local garments

Saved up some space in your bag to take back all those souvenirs? Rightfully so. Shopping in both these countries is going to be an irresistible part of your trip – so you might as well embrace it. No wonder it’s obviously a TREAT that the face-off of Thailand vs Vietnam in this case is a fiery one. 

Thailand (Bangkok, specifically) has a lot to offer. You’ll find big shopping malls loaded with everything you can ever imagine. Handicrafts, spa products, spices, and even…edible insects (yeah). But guess what? Vietnam’s catching up too. If you’re looking for local handicrafts or garments, the streets of Ho Chi Minh City are lined up with colourful displays of them all. 

Hoi An, Vietnam

Image source:Contiki

Solo travel: Thailand for smooth solo travel, Vietnam if you’re craving something more rugged

This really depends on what you want to experience as a solo traveller. If it’s your first time travelling solo, naturally, you might wanna pick a destination that has ease of travel and communication – which in this case is Thailand. But if you’re a seasoned traveller, or you’re feeling up for a slight challenge, Vietnam can be a great choice too. Or, maybe, you’d like to join a Contiki trip? (Which will take away all the stress of travelling solo while still giving you the freedom to explore). It’s a deal if you ask me. 

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Activities: Thailand for the beaches and elephants, Vietnam for some raw adventure

Everyone knows. Southeast Asia is packed with adventure. So obviously, in this debate of Thailand vs Vietnam, we need to talk about ALL the awesome activities you can do there.

Let’s start with Vietnam. Ever imagined trying to dip into the river to catch your own food? How about crawling through hand-dug wartime tunnels? Maybe you’d like to take a mud bath? Or kayak your way through Halong Bay? And you know, there’s nothing like feeling the tropical breeze kiss your face as you’re chilling on a traditional junk boat.

Thailand? It’s a gift that keeps on giving. Island hopping. Authentic cooking classes. After dark tours on a Vespa. PLENTY of bewitching beaches. Rafting on a serene river. And even hanging out with rescued elephants! Thailand is the island paradise we’ve all imagined in our minds. Simply amazing. (And before I forget – you can do all of these on a Contiki trip!).

Ha Long Bay in Vietnam

Image source:Contiki

Other questions to consider

Saving or splurging? Vietnam for a more budget-friendly trip, Thailand if you’re feeling a lil fancy

Okay. No-one’s looking to break the bank here. Ultimately, considering what your budget looks like will be an important factor that’ll help you decide between Thailand vs Vietnam. Luckily, both destinations are quite affordable compared to most other tourist spots in the world.

So if you’re looking to save some of those bucks, the stats are clear – Vietnam is cheaper than Thailand. Since Thailand is quite tourist-oriented, it tends to be a bit more expensive. But hey, not to say that all the jaw-dropping views Thailand offers are not worth the spend. I know, it’s a tough choice. So choose wisely, friend. 

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Beach vibes or historical hives? Thailand if you love the beach, Vietnam if you love history

Prefer spending your days chilling on a white-sand beach? Or going underground to explore historical hidden caves? Both Thailand and Vietnam have their charm when it comes to major attractions. Thailand has show-stopping beaches (THE place to be for your Insta beach photo dump). And Vietnam is known for intriguing everyone with stories from the past (perfect for inquisitive souls). 

A group of women enjoying social travel on a boat in Thailand.

Image source:Contiki

Hello (in another language) or Goodbye? Vietnam if you’re up for a language challenge, Thailand if you wanna take it easy

How would you react if someone asked you to learn a new language? If you’d run & hide – maybe you should consider visiting Thailand first. It’s no surprise that Thailand is English-speaker-friendly. With almost 27 million tourists visiting your country every year, you kinda get used to it, I guess?

But hey, it’s the age of the internet. And nothing other than the meaning of life is a question mark these days. So don’t worry if Vietnam is your calling – with Google Translate (and an amazing Trip Manager if you’re on a Contiki trip to Vietnam) you’ll be mingling with the locals in no time. 

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