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Which Country is Cheaper to Visit, Thailand or Vietnam?

Lying close together in Southeast Asia’s Indochinese Peninsula, Thailand and Vietnam are two of the most popular tourist destinations for international travelers in the region. While Thailand has been a popular destination for western tourists for more than 50 years, Vietnam is fast closing as one of the major tourist locations in Southeast Asia, after just 20 years as a tourist destination. Its fast development of tourism following the Doi Moi period of Vietnamese history has come on the back of returning US and French expats, and the new markets and destinations developed in the early 2000s. Now this long narrow country is vying for the top position as having the world’s best beach with Thailand, who has held that crown for decades.

Thailand, on the other hand, has changed little over the last 20 years, and even the cost of a normal vacation in this former Siam nation has not changed much in more than two decades. However, with a more elite type of tourist now patronizing some of the islands that lie of Thailand’s peninsula coast, the cost of staying in some of the more stunning locations around the coast has risen dramatically. And with premiere hotels now open on former party islands such as Koh Samui and Koh Pha Ngan, the elite are coming to party too, with a much higher price.

Check for a 14-days Vietnam and Thailand classic tour package.

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Economic Situation of Thailand and Vietnam

Thailand has been a tourist destination for a very long time, and it shows in the economy of the country over the recent years. Once, Thailand was the cheapest country in the world to travel to, and in the late 80s, backpackers from all over the world descended on the kingdom because of the very low cost of living. One week’s wages in the US could feed and house you for around three months in Thailand in the late 1980s.

Bangkok City
Bangkok City

Things are a little different now. While the majority of the country is still relatively well priced, in terms of the cost of living, you have to get out of the heavy tourist areas to really feel it. Most expats that live in Thailand now, live in areas outside the tourist-oriented places, because their retirement pension can go so much further there. The same goes for the backpackers. Most people backpacking around Thailand now steer clear of the more expensive resorts that used to be great party beaches, and head for the more remote areas where prices are lower and tourists are fewer. Even Bangkok, renowned for its low cost of living, has gone up in price, compared to the rest of the kingdom.

Bangkok City

Vietnam is still a developing country, and as such, the prices are still relatively low across the board. And even in the areas most frequented by tourists, such as Halong Bay and Hue, the prices are still low enough to be affordable for the local population. Hence, the famous Halong Bay is still the most popular domestic tourist destination in Vietnam.

Vietnam is still very affordable for whatever you want, and while the bigger hotels are getting into the bigger cities, the prices are yet to reach those of Thailand, even in Hanoi and Saigon. Prices in most of Vietnam are only slightly less expensive than in rural Thailand, but well below the prices of Bangkok and the major tourist resorts. Overall, Vietnam is the better place for your cost of living on your holiday.

The Cost during the Trip

The daily cost of any trip to Vietnam or Thailand is normally going to be for the essentials, such as food, accommodation, transport, etc. This cost is budgeted for so that you have enough to cover the entire trip, and should also include such things as entrance fees and short fares around the local area.


Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, is one of the main cities for tourists to Vietnam, and has a wealth of hotels and hostels for you to stay in. Compared to most large cities, hotels in Saigon are relatively cheap throughout the year. An average price for a three-star hotel is normally between 17 and 35 dollars per night, while cheaper hostel accommodation can cost from as little as 5-8 dollars per night. One of the best cheap hostels in Saigon is the Ngoc Thao guesthouse, where you can get a dorm bed or private room from as little as seven dollars per night.

In Hanoi, the city can get very busy, even in the cooler months of the winter. Generally, the cost of hotels varies very little from high to low seasons, and you can expect a difference of between 5 and 30 dollars per night across the board. A 3-star hotel can cost from 17 dollars to as much as 55 dollars per night, while hostels can be as little as 3.50 to 8 dollars. The Chien Hostel, with its rooftop bar and laid-back atmosphere, costs just 6-7 dollars per night, which includes breakfast and free Wi-Fi.

Hanoi Hotel
Hanoi Hotel

Hue is a popular tourist destination, and the former capital of ancient Vietnam. By international standards, hotels are very cheap, even in the peak months from December through march, while the low season has very cheap options. A 3-star hotel in the peak season can cost from 16 dollars to 50 dollars per night, while hostels are a much cheaper option at around 5-9 dollars for a dorm bed or private room. The Amy Hostel on Tran Cao Van is a delightfully cheap place to stay for as little as three dollars per night with inclusive breakfast.

Bangkok has always been the center of tourism in Thailand, though for accommodation, there are few really cheap options available. A three-star hotel costs from around 22 dollars to as much as 74 dollars per night, while hostels, which are more popular with backpackers, start at around 11 dollars to 26 dollars per night. The Overstay, a funky lodge with dorms and private rooms, is one of the cheapest at around 3-4 dollars per night with their special low-season offers, or around 10 dollars per night in the peak season.

Bangkok Hotel
Bangkok Hotel

While Phuket may be an expensive beach resort island, it is not too expensive to stay in. A three-star hotel can cost from 18 to 100 dollars per night, while hostels range from 4.50 to 14 dollars for dorm beds and private twin rooms. The Phuket Backpacker is one of the original backpacker hostels in the city, and costs from as little as 3-4 dollars per night, with free Wi-Fi and just a minute from the center of town.

In the far north, in Chiang Mai, hotels can be found that are some of the best bargains in the world of independent travel. While the peak months can be more costly, the most expensive time is at Christmas and New Year. A 3-star hotel costs from 13 to 60 dollars per night, while a dorm or private bedroom in a hostel can be as little as 4-11 dollars per night. The Rose Guest House and Restaurant, on Ratchamanka Rd, has dorm beds from 4 dollars per night and around 8 dollars for a private room.

Overall, if you are looking for the best value for money, Thailand has the edge, as it has better facilities for the cost. But if you are looking for cheapest, then Vietnam is the better option. Of the six cities in both countries, Chiang Mai has the better value accommodation of all, where you can get a basic 3-star hotel for as little as a private hostel room in most cities.


Transportation is one of the main costs of any vacation, and making sure that you get value for money is important. Whether it is on your international flights or the local transportation available, spending too much is never a good option.

Flights to Thailand or Vietnam

Flights to Thailand from the United States can cost from around 341 US dollars, for a one-way economy ticket, while from the UK, it can cost from around 700 dollars for a direct flight to Bangkok. All flights from outside Asia to Thailand are going to be fairly expensive, and flights from Europe are more expensive than from anywhere else.

Vietnam airline
Vietnam airline

For Vietnam, a flight from the US cannot be direct, and can cost from around 300 dollars for the one-way economy flights, while from the UK, a direct flight to Saigon will cost more than 900 dollars. As with flights to Thailand, international flights from Europe and the United States are more expensive than anywhere else.

To get the cheapest airline flights to Thailand or Vietnam, you can use the comparison websites and look for the best offers, as most of the budget airlines that serve international flights to Asia have some great deals in the low seasons.

Local transportation

Taxis are a common and safe way of getting around a city, but are no good for long distances, costing from around 30-50 cents per kilometer. Bus travel is the most common form of overland transport between cities, and there are many different types of tourist buses, as well as the smaller, non-air-con local buses. You should try to book with one of the larger companies, who run buses all over the country, as you will get one person per seat. Trains in Vietnam have been renovated, and while they are clean and reliable, they are slow, and often have hard seats. Overnight trains between cities are the best option, as you can sleep on the train, and arrive refreshed in the morning. For those city tours, the “cyclo”, Vietnam’s version of bicycle rickshaws, is the most popular and cheapest option.

In Thailand, buses are the best form of transport between cities, with the air-con buses being faster, but more expensive. The rail network in Thailand is also a good way of traveling long distances, though it does not cover all of the country. Locally, tuk-tuks are the main form of transport, which are cheap and reliable, and found in every city in the country. In Bangkok, taxis are more popular and relatively cheap, or you can use the BTS Skytrain, which is fast and avoids the chaotic traffic of the city.

Thailand Tuk Tuk
Thailand Tuk Tuk

The public local buses and cyclos in Vietnam are the cheapest forms of transport from the two countries, and overall, Vietnam has the cheaper options for travel, even when using air-con buses and taxis.


Thailand has always been well known for its low-cost street foods and simple restaurants. But when it comes to budget food, Vietnam is a hands-down winner in the food stakes. In Vietnam, the most popular simple dish, Pho, costs around a dollar for a bowl of filling soup, while in Thailand, a cheap meal will cost you from around two dollars and up. Street food in Thailand has increased in price over the years, and a breakfast on the streets will cost you around a dollar fifty. In Vietnam, the prices are still low, with a cheap breakfast of wither local or western food costing as little as $1.20, and a good dinner at around four dollars in a sit-down restaurant. A cheap restaurant dinner in Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, can cost from around 6-11 dollars. For that best option from both countries, the Vietnamese Bahn Mi, a French baguette sandwich with lots of fillings, can cost as little as 95 cents, up to 41.29 for the largest baguettes.

Check for what to eat during Bangkok tour.

Thailand food
Thailand food

Vietnam has the cheaper options when it comes to dining for less, and with plenty of cheap street food options to choose from, your budget is not going to be stretched, even if you eat a lot.

Other cost

As it happens, the cost of attraction is about the same in Thailand and Vietnam, with prices in a wide range depending on the popularity and locations of the attractions. Vietnam is much cheaper for alcohol, with local vodka being the best option, though if you smoke, do not expect to get cheap cigarettes in Thailand, while Vietnam has exceptionally low prices, even for the imported American Marlboro.

If you are shopping in the local markets, then you can find very cheap local foods in both Thailand and Vietnam, and it is comparable in both countries. Local food markets are the best places to shop, and you can get most of your goods, including grocery items at lower prices than in the supermarkets and malls.


Overall, Vietnam does have the edge over Thailand when it comes to the cost of staying in the country. While Thailand may have been in the tourism game much longer, it has also seen higher price increases because of that very same reason, and traveling in Thailand is no longer the cheapest place to go for a budget vacation. Backpacking in Thailand is still popular, and is still really cheap, but for the same price, you can stay in a hotel instead of a hostel and travel by better transport in Vietnam.

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