Should you visit Vietnam or India?Vietnam and India are both developing nations with relatively low costs for travelers. This puts both countries on the bucket lists of many budget travelers. But Vietnam is more expensive for a variety of reasons.
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.
The Indian tourism slogan is "Incredible India" and it is quite accurate! This massive nation is rich with beautiful culture, ancient history, amazing food, and a diverse set of activities to pique the interest of any traveler. From hiking in the Himalayas to tropical beaches in the south, to staying on houseboats in Kerala, to religious experiences in Varanasi, India has something for everyone.
And India is very affordable, too. At nearly every price range, travelers find India to be a good value. If you want to travel on a shoestring budget, India will reward your wallet with amazing gems at extremely low prices. But if you want luxury, India also offers terrific service, food, and accommodation options at amazing values.
The downside of India? Sometimes the culture of India can be a shock to visitors. Even when staying in more luxurious areas, it is almost impossible to shield yourself from India's high rates of poverty, population density, and diverse culture. First-time visitors can find it to be agitating, but once you embrace the culture and the excitement, you'll have no trouble experiencing India for the amazing destination that it can be.
When is the best time to visit Vietnam and India?
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.
The weather in India is diverse as the country is geographically large. In the central and southern regions, from October to March is generally best as the temperatures are a little cooler and precipitation is at a minimum. During the summer months, the temperatures can get quite warm and the monsoon rains bring a great deal of moisture. However, in the far north, the Himalayan regions should be visited in the spring and fall as winters are cold and summers are extremely wet.
Other than the weather in India, consider the various Indian festivals and holidays. While these festivals can bring an influx of tourists and raise overall prices in certain areas, they are also very much worth the extra cost. But plan accordingly if you need to make reservations in advance, or if you wish to avoid these areas during festivals.
Why is Vietnam more expensive than India?Vietnam's economy has been growing in the last couple of decades. With a population of 90 million and a growing middle class, as well as a large growth in foreign visitors, prices in Vietnam are on the rise. However, it's still generally cheap and on par with Southeast Asia as a whole.
While accommodation and food can be cheap, western standards for hotels and restaurants can be much more expensive than their local counterparts. In other words, if you want more luxury, expect to pay a premium.
Many tour companies have also started providing efficient, friendly, and convenient ways to see various destinations such as Halong Bay, the Mekong Delta, and other rural areas which might not be serviced by public transportation. While these tours are not overly expensive, they can be more expensive than planning the trip on your own with public transport and self-booking of accommodation.
India has one of the lowest costs of living in the world. Combined with a massive population (the 2nd largest in the world), the low wages for most of the country mean that everything is generally cheap. The tourism industry is no exception. The government encourages business growth, so local families often open small hotels or restaurants, adding to the overall competition for tourists and lowering prices. And the large agricultural production of India means that food is very cheap for all but the most luxurious restaurants.
What are the most expensive and cheapest cities and regions in Vietnam and India?
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.
While India is very cheap overall, touristy areas will usually be more expensive, as is the case in most countries. Agra, for example, is home to the Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of the world. As nearly every visitor to India comes to this city, expect prices for everything to be a bit higher, especially close to the main attraction.
Goa is another area known for drawing large crowds, as the beautiful beaches and nightlife attract visitors from all over the world. Expect higher prices for most services.
Prices in the larger cities can also get higher for those looking for more luxurious travel and higher-end services. Delhi and Mumbai, for example, have a large number of western style hotels with plenty of conveniences, but also prices to match. As is the case in most large cities, plenty of low-price, budget options are available, too.
The rural countryside can be extremely low in cost. Travelers have reported staying in family-run hotels for just a couple of dollars, or even for free if they buy food from the family. This is common in places where tourists rarely visit.
How you can save money when visiting Vietnam and India?Negotiate for prices in both India and Vietnam. 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."
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.)
While many travelers wish to raise their standard of luxury once they arrive in India, this is the main reason why people end up spending more than they planned. By lowering your standards and accepting that you will not be staying in western-style hotels, you can save significant cash. Sometimes the difference between a cheaper, family-run hotel versus a chain hotel can be as much as ten-fold in price. Avoid national and international chain hotels and restaurants, and you'll be amazed at the price difference.
In India, many people hire a car with a driver for an extended period of time, such as for a week or two. This may or may not be less expensive than using public transportation, so shop around.
Flights in India are often quite cheap. As the government subsidies some flights and some airlines, the overall prices can be lower than expected. Again, shop around and compare flights with train tickets or bus tickets before making your decision.