Should you visit the USA or Vietnam?Vietnam is a much more affordable place to travel than the United States for a variety of reasons. Despite the war several decades ago, Vietnam has surged forward in the Southeast Asian region with a strong economy and growing tourism industry. Amazing sights and attractions, combined with history, culture, and great food make Vietnam a great choice for a travel destination.
If you're an American deciding whether you should travel internationally or domestically, then a large part of your decision may come down to cost. Surprisingly, if you travel independently abroad, it is often more affordable than traveling within the United States. Depending on where you go, you can often find cheaper accommodation, particularly if you're a budget traveler and willing to stay in hostels. Even if you want higher end accommodation, great deals are usually available.
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 the USA and Vietnam?
The southern United States and parts of California are lovely places to visit during the colder winter months, as temperatures are still fairly warm. Many cities also have interesting holiday decorations if you're planning to be in the country during that season. Skiing and winter sports are also popular in the mountains.
Summer months can become very hot in the southeast, but the northern states are often quite pleasant, even during the hottest months. In general, national parks are most crowded during the summer months. Visiting the busiest parks during the shoulder seasons is recommended if you want to avoid the crowds.
Vietnam is 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 & Hue), it's dry but very hot from January to late summer, and rainy from the summer through December. In the south (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 the USA more expensive than Vietnam?In general, the US is an expensive place to visit. The high cost of living and the vast size mean that transportation costs can be quite expensive. If you really want to see a lot of the country, flying is really your best option. Amtrak is the most well known train system, but it is limited to where it goes and prices are quite high. In some situations, flying is cheaper than taking the train. If you want to explore the country's impressive national park network, a rental car is a must.
Hotels in the United States are also quite expensive. There are very few hostels throughout the country, particularly when compared to European countries, so accommodation prices can be more than you might expect. If you're driving, there is an extensive network of budget hotels along the interstate highways, so prices between cities can be reasonable.
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 the USA and Vietnam?
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 the USA and Vietnam?Many larger cities in the United States have cheap public transportation systems that can save you money. Consider this when you plan your trip, especially if you intend to rent a car for a portion of your trip.
Hotels in the center of cities are more expensive, so look for options that are a little further out, especially if public transportation is available.
In the US, making reservations for hotels will usually save you money. Shop around for the best prices.
Negotiate for almost everything in Vietnam. When you make an offer, hold your line, stand firm, and be prepared to walk away if you don't like the prices. After that, you'll be surprised at how prices will come down just a few seconds later. A friendly smile goes a long way, too. Read up on negotiating strategies such as "cut their offer by a third when you counter offer, and don't pay more than half."
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.)