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  • Writer's pictureBianca

The Ultimate Solo Travel Showdown: Thailand vs. Vietnam

Updated: Dec 26, 2023

Whether you're about to take your first solo flight or you're a solo traveler pro: two countries frequently come out on top as recommended for a solo trip - Vietnam and Thailand. Let's take a trip through Southeast Asia, meticulously comparing the solo travel pros and cons of these two titans. 

This post will take a deep dive into the nuances of each destination. From delectable street eats to navigating bustling markets, I'm leaving no stone unturned in this comprehensive comparison. It's time to find out - which is really best for solo travel? Thailand or Vietnam? Spoiler alert if you know me or have read my posts, I think you already know which of these southeast Asian countries is my all time favorite for solo travelers, but I promise to try my best to be unbiased!

Picking Your Solo Paradise 🌍

Now I want to preface this by saying that regardless of whether you choose Thailand or Vietnam as your final solo travel destination, your travel experience will be top notch. But will you find yourself in the midst of the lively chaos of Thailand's major cities or in the serene charm of northern Vietnam? 

Thailand, known as the Land of Smiles, pulsates with a vibrant energy that can be both invigorating and overwhelming for the uninitiated solo traveler, especially in big cities like Bangkok and Chiang Mai. The bustling markets, lively street scenes, and the magnetic pull of its islands make Thailand a popular destination.

On the flip side, Vietnam whispers tales of ancient traditions, where tranquil landscapes like Ha Long Bay and the bustling streets of Ho Chi Minh City create an inviting atmosphere for the lone adventurer. Vietnam is a popular option for solo travelers with its stunning geography and landscape which beckons into a realm of self-discovery. 

Maybe it's the allure of Thailand's beautiful beaches that awaits or the cultural richness of Vietnam's Mekong Delta is calling you – your ideal solo travel paradise is waiting for you.

Thai vs. Vietnamese Cuisine 🍜

One of the most important things about travel in my books is the food a country has to offer. When comparing which of the two South East Asia countries has the best food, it's honestly a pretty close call but let's take a closer look.

Thai cuisine is renowned for its vibrant and explosive flavor profile, a harmonious blend of sweet, spicy, sour, salty, and umami notes. It aromatic spices and bold ingredients. Thai spice is something on another level. Chances are if you go to a local restaurant (not a tourist trap claiming to serve local food) the spice levels will blow your tastebuds off. The use of ingredients like lemongrass, galangal, lime leaves, and Thai chilies gives the country's staple dishes a distinctive and aromatic quality. And of course you absolutely have to check out a local night market for some mouth-watering street food.

Where Thai cuisine is fiery and bold, Vietnamese cuisine is fresh and subtle. Each Vietnamese dish is so simple, yet the subtlety of the ingredients captivates the palate. It is characterized by a harmonious balance of sweet, sour, salty, and umami tastes, often highlighted by the liberal use of fresh herbs and a variety of textures. The cuisine features a wealth of aromatic ingredients such as lemongrass, mint, cilantro, and basil, contributing to the distinct and refreshing quality of Vietnamese dishes. The use of nuoc mam (fish sauce) is a common thread in the Vietnamese staples which adds depth and umami to many recipes. From the iconic Pho, a fragrant noodle soup, to the vibrant and flavorful Banh Mi sandwiches, Vietnamese food is a celebration of simplicity and complexity coexisting in every bite. 

Don't get me wrong, Thai food is delicious Vietnamese food takes the cake, so to speak. Sitting on a tiny plastic stool eating food from a street vendor is a Vietnam rite of passage and the flavor profiles only get better the further into northern Vietnam you go. I have to hand the win to Vietnam for the food category.

Winner: Vietnam

Solo Safety ⚠️

Safety is a top concern for the solo traveler, and especially top of mind for solo female travelers. 

Being a super popular destination for backpackers, Thailand offers plenty of well-trodden paths for solo adventurers. With a robust tourism infrastructure, English-friendly facilities, and a generally low crime rate, Thailand provides a reassuring environment for those navigating the solo terrain. Even the more "off the beaten path" locations in the country are still pretty well explored by backpackers and safety isn't a huge concern. Of course, you should always exercise caution when traveling to an unfamiliar place (and honestly, even in familiar places), but generally personal safety isn't a huge issue in Thailand. 

Vietnam presents a similar safety landscape to Thailand in that it is also a country that is very well traveled by backpackers and it is easy to find other foreigners to travel with in groups - in fact it's not uncommon for solo travelers to join small group tours with backpackers they've just met. There is always safety in numbers, but you don't have to rely on this if you want to have a truly solo experience. In my own personal experience as a solo female traveler in VietnamI always felt completely safe in the country. Locals are extremely friendly people and will usually do their best to help you out. Additionally, there are travel agencies everywhere. They can always recommend you the best places to visit to make sure you have a great experience as a solo traveler. 

It's extremely difficult to choose a victor in this category, especially since violent crime isn't really a huge thing in either country. So I'm calling it a victory for both Thailand and Vietnam!

Winner: Tie 

Cost 💸

Solo travel, especially in South East Asia tends to involve heavy budgeting since South East Asia often attracts loads of budget travelers. However, I have good news: your wallet will be happy in either of these countries as both Thailand and Vietnam make it to the list of the cheapest countries to visit in Asia. But let's break it down a bit further.

On my first trip to Vietnam, I was pleasantly surprised by how little I had to spend to have a good time in the country! Vietnam is extremely budget-friendly and a great place to get the most bang for your buck. Having visited several times, I can truthfully say it is one of the cheapest places I have ever visited. It offers a wide variety of affordable options for accommodation, meals, and transportation. A typical street food meal of an entree plus a beer will run you around $1.20 USD. Dine-in meals aren't much pricier either. 

Thailand, while still cheap and also offering a range of options, can be a tad more demanding on the solo budget. Think $4-5 for every $1.20 you would spend in Vietnam. The more popular tourist destinations, like Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, come with some extra cost in comparison to cheaper locations in the country.

A lot of Thailand's allure lies in its luxurious resorts and vibrant party scene, but for the solo traveler looking to make their dollar stretch further, Vietnam emerges as the clear winner.

Winner: Vietnam

Scenery 🏞️

Beautiful landscapes and scenery might be the first thing on your mind when it comes to choosing which popular destination you want to head to. 

Thailand has many diverse offerings, from the limestone karsts of Krabi to the lush jungles of Chiang Mai. On top of the gorgeous nature, northern Thailand also has a slew of incredible temples to admire if architecture is more your cup of tea.

While Vietnam doesn't have nearly as many extravagant temples, the landscapes are absolutely unreal. From the karsts in Ninh Binh and Halong Bay to the mountains and caves of Da nang and much much more, Vietnam's landscapes are so varied with each location more stunning than the next. 

Winner: Vietnam

Convenience for Solo Travelers🛫

This final category assesses the convenience of solo travel in both Thailand and Vietnam. Convenience is a crucial factor and takes into consideration transportation options, communication facilities, and overall ease of navigation. 

Thailand, with its well-established tourism infrastructure, takes the crown for convenience. English-friendly services, readily available transportation, and a plethora of solo-friendly accommodations streamline the solo experience. Whether you're navigating the bustling streets of Bangkok or island-hopping, Thailand caters to the solo adventurer with unmatched convenience.

Vietnam, while making improvements in enhancing its tourism facilities, may present challenges in communication and transportation, especially for solo travelers veering off the beaten path. This isn't to say that Vietnam isn't convenient - after all it has a lot of the same conveniences of Thailand (hello Grab!). However, the language barrier and lack of English signage alone can be a major inconvenience and might deter a less experienced solo traveler. 

Thailand takes the victory here, if only by a small margin.

Winner: Thailand

The Final Verdict

It is so difficult to compare these two incredible Southeast Asian countries as they both stand tall in their unique offerings. Thailand, with its vibrant energy, incredible architecture, and convenience, beckons the solo traveler seeking a dynamic adventure. On the other hand, Vietnam, with its rich history, culinary delights, and budget-friendly appeal, extends an invitation to the solo nomad craving authenticity.

However, a winner must be decided. And in the case of this showdown, that winner is Vietnam! You absolutely cannot go wrong with either country, but Vietnam is a must-visit and you'll see why once you arrive!

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