Should you visit Indonesia or Vietnam?Indonesia is a relatively inexpensive destination known for beautiful tropical beaches, exotic jungles teeming with wildlife, and large urban areas full of culture and markets. Visitors to Indonesia are often surprised at the number of activities to do and places to visit, as once they step away from the beach, they find historic temples, eco-tourism adventures, jungle and mountain hiking, and more.
In the last decade, tourism has surged in Vietnam. The reasons are obvious, as this diverse and beautiful country offers much to do and see to the visitors. While the beaches are nice, the real gems are the authentic local experiences to be had in every region, from floating markets in the Mekong Delta to trekking through the Hmong villages and rice terraces in the north. And don't miss the stunning landscapes of Halong Bay, either.
Vietnam offers a terrific value to tourists as prices are cheap, accommodation options are of good quality, transportation is efficient, the food is amazing, and the locals are friendly.
When is the best time to visit Indonesia and Vietnam?
Vietnam is very warm all year, so just accept that you'll be in a tropical country. There is really no best or worst time to visit, as you'll probably be visiting the entire country during your trip which spans multiple climate regions. At higher elevations, the weather is significantly cooler. Fortunately, some of the higher elevation towns are on the must-see list, so that should alleviate some of the heat during your trip.
In the north (Hanoi), summer months are hotter and have more rain, while winter months are dryer and cooler. In the central area (Danang, Hoi An, and Hue), it's dry but very hot from January to late summer, and rainy from the summer through December. In the south (Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta), it's hot and dry in winter months, and hot and wet in summer months.
Other than the weather, local festivals in various cities might make you want to visit, or leave, a particular area for a short period of time, but this varies by location.
Why is Indonesia more expensive than Vietnam?Indonesia's economy is growing, as it is the world's fourth most populated country. While the cost of living is generally cheap compared to other Asian nations, the large population means that demands for goods and services is on the rise. Imported goods from China, Australia, and other larger countries can be pricey, as can imported food. While budget travel options are very affordable, luxury services can get expensive, especially in more touristed areas such as Bali.
As a country on the rise (some still use the term "developing"), Vietnam as a whole is quite cheap. A large influx of tourists has led to a rise in the tourism business, but a pro-business government has allowed competition to flourish, leaving prices fairly low. This means that every mom and pop has opened a hotel or a restaurant catering to travelers. Quality might be inconsistent, but the options are plentiful.
What are the most expensive and cheapest cities and regions in Indonesia and Vietnam?
In the larger cities of Indonesia, it's possible to find a wide range of accommodation, restaurants, and activities at a variety of prices. Budget hotels and hostels are often found not far from high-end luxury hotels. If you want luxury, you can expect to pay a fair amount more for it, but it is still usually of good value and quality.
In the countryside, prices can be very cheap, especially in off-the-beaten path locations.
As Vietnam is a highly populated country, even visiting the smaller towns or the countryside means that plenty of infrastructure, accommodations, and restaurants are available. This means that prices are fairly consistent even in more rural areas compared to other countries. Rural in Vietnam does not have the empty feeling that it does in other countries.
In the big cities such as Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Da Nang, and Hue, a variety of options are available for food and hotels. Prices can be higher if you want more luxury, but cheap options abound everywhere, too. Generally, the more touristy a destination, the higher one can expect prices to be for tourist-related activities. But food and other goods tends to stay consistent.
How you can save money when visiting Indonesia and Vietnam?Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate, negotiate! When you're done, negotiate again. Vietnam is one of the most difficult countries in the world for bartering. It's even worse than Thailand. Hold your line, stand firm, and be prepared to walk away if you don't like the price. After that, you'll be surprised at how prices will come down just a few seconds later. Read up on negotiating strategies such as "cut their offer by a third when you counter offer, and don't pay more than half."
Eat the street food. In Indonesia, small eateries known as "warungs" are everywhere in urban areas. They offer delicious food at a cheap price. Also, buying food at local markets is significantly cheaper than at restaurants or larger stores.
Flying between the islands of Indonesia can get expensive. Instead, pick just a few islands and stick to them, or look for the less expensive ferry boats. Use public transportation whenever possible.
Shop around. Don't go for the first thing you see, whether it be a small souvenir, a hotel, or an all-inclusive tour. Whatever it is that you're looking at, chances are there's another right next door. This might sound comical, but once you're there, you'll understand.
Overall, if you want to save money in Vietnam, the rule is "go local". Eat local food, as it's not only yummy and healthy, but also very cheap. Locally owned hotels and hostels are also very cheap. Think small and your wallet will thank you - and you'll have a more authentic experience, too..
Take local transportation and avoid the multi-day tours that prey on tourists and backpackers. Buses go everywhere in Vietnam for a very cheap price. Taxis are not too bad, either. With the conveniences of the tours comes the higher prices and less authenticity.
Overnight buses are a good way to get around and avoid paying for a hotel room at the same time. (Just don't expect a great sleeping experience.)