As travel is starting again, many are looking for a getaway spot in Southeast Asia. Thailand and Vietnam are both great and popular destinations. If you are not Southeast Asia native, you might not know the difference in Thailand vs Vietnam each offers. Learn more about the two countries, their similarities and differences before deciding your trip!
Table of Contents
Thailand vs Vietnam: Location
Thailand and Vietnam are neighboring countries in Southeast Asia. In fact, a flight from Bangkok to major cities in Vietnam like Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh takes less than two hours! Both countries have a fair share of mountain ranges as well as coastal areas.
The key difference between Thailand vs. Vietnam is A) their neighboring countries and B) latitude
A) Thailand is connected to Myanmar at the west, Laos at the east, Cambodia in the southeast, and Malaysia at the south. Whereas, Vietnam is connected to China in the north, Cambodia and Laos in the west. Vietnam faces the South China Sea at its east.
B) Vietnam stretches further north connecting to southern China hence slightly cooler weather in Northern Vietnam. During winter, the winter wind blows from China blow directly into the northern part of Vietnam. On the other hand, Thailand is lower in latitude and therefore it has warmer weather.
Thailand vs Vietnam: Vacation Style
Both countries have bountiful nature of mountains and seas so you can enjoy mountain ranges, beach and islands. However, Thailand has slightly more developed large cities like Bangkok where you can find a lot of shopping malls, skyscrapers, and transportation modes like underground and BTS trains. Having said that, Vietnam is developing rapidly and it will certainly catch up soon!
Also, as we just recently came back from Vietnam, we would say Thailand is more walkable generally than Vietnam. We use Bangkok vs Hanoi as comparison here (both are capital cities of each country). Bangkok still has more pedestrian paths where pedestrians can actually walk. Also, crossing the street feels safer in Bangkok because people respect the traffic rules. On the other hand, in Hanoi there are so many motorcycles (and also cars at the same time). Crossing the street / road is challenging because motorcycles and cars do not stop even when the pedestrian light is green.
Thai vs Vietnamese: Language
Thai and Vietnamese language have similarities but there are more differences between the two. Both languages are tonal and the characters will indicate the tones. Both Thai and Vietnamese languages are also phonetic, meaning you can look at the words and pronounce them directly.
There are 5 tones in the Thai language whereas in Vietnamese there are 6. The Thai language is part of the Tai language family, which originates from an area at the border between Vietnam and China. On the other hand, the Vietnamese language is part of Austro-Asiatic language family. That means it comes from similar roots as Khmer in Cambodia and several other languages spoken by minority groups in the surrounding regions.
There are different external influences for each language. The Thai language is influenced by the Sanskrit language whereas the Vietnamese language is influenced by French and Chinese.
Make sure to check out more info on Thai language in our other dedicated post.
Thai vs Vietnamese: Food and Beverages
Thai and Vietnamese food are similar in terms of the herbs and raw vegetables that they serve with their dishes. Both dishes use a lot of basil and lime in their cooking. Also, fresh vegetables at the side or as part of the food are also common. Other than that, fish sauce as part of the seasoning is commonplace.
However, in general Vietnamese food is lighter in taste and texture compared to Thai food. Thai food is also generally more greasy and makes use of ingredients with heavy taste and texture like coconut milk. For food with gravy/soup, Vietnamese food typically has clear soup whereas Thai food has both. There is more stir frying involved in Thai cuisine compared to Vietnamese cuisine. Vietnamese cuisine on the other hand has a lot more fresh vegetables in their dishes / salads.
In terms of beverages, there are less popular Vietnamese drinks compared to Thai drinks that people know globally. Thai drinks that are popular among the general crowd include Thai milk tea, butterfly pea tea drinks, and also to a smaller extent Thai coffee. The most popular Vietnamese drink that most people know is Vietnamese coffee (drip coffee). We have a more detailed discussion on the differences between Thai vs Vietnamese coffee in our dedicated article.
Thailand vs Vietnamese: which one should you visit?
It depends. If you are into a mix of metropolitan city and nature side experiences, Thailand might be your pick. Bangkok as the capital of Thailand is very developed and it is easy to move around in the city with the BTS/underground MRT infrastructure. You can go to the outskirt area or even nearby beach/mountain area for a weekend trip too.
We have been from northern to southern Vietnam and loved every bit of it, however, the big cities in Vietnam like Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) are still not as developed as Bangkok. If you do not mind the slight inconvenience (e.g. taking a cab or Uber everywhere rather than taking the train), you can visit Ho Chi Minh (HCMC) or Hanoi and famous nature spots like Ha Long Bay too!
Localise your experience in Asia with us!