Should you visit South Korea or Vietnam?
South Korea is fairly expensive compared to the low travel prices in Vietnam. The overall cost of living in the modern, developed nation of South Korea is mostly responsible for the overall higher prices, leaving Vietnam to be a much more affordable destination.
South Korea is a modern, cultural, and moderately priced Asian nation with a diverse number of sights and activities for its relatively small geographical size. Here you can experience big cities, rural countryside, beautiful mountains, unique national parks and relaxing beaches. Modern, western conveniences are all around, and at a price that is a little cheaper than Europe or North America, but still more expensive than many other destinations in Asia.
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.
Which country is cheaper, Vietnam or South Korea?
Should I visit South Korea or Vietnam? This is a popular question for many travelers. By figuring out which country is more expensive, you'll understand where you'll get more bang for your buck. A week in Vietnam can cost you about $432 (per person), while a week in South Korea may cost you around $778. These differences become even more noticable if you plan to spend a longer time in the country. 10 days, two weeks, or even one month of travel to Vietnam or South Korea can really add to your travel budget.
Accommodation is often cheaper in Vietnam compared to South Korea ($27 vs. $50). Budget travelers usually stay in less expensive hostels and guest houses, while nicer hotels often appeal to families and upscale travelers.
Compare hotel prices here: South Korea Hotel Prices and Vietnam Hotel Prices.
Or, compare hostel and guesthouse prices between Vietnam and South Korea to find the cheapest accommodation here: Vietnam hostels and South Korea hostels.
When comparing food in South Korea vs. Vietnam they are not just different in cuisine, but also in price. Meal and restaurant costs in South Korea ($29) are often cheaper than Vietnam ($14).
When is the best time to visit South Korea and Vietnam?
Haedong Yonggungsa Temple and the Haeundae Sea in Busan, South Korea.
South Korea experiences four seasons, and winter can be cold with a decent amount of snow. However, skiing in the mountains is quite popular, so don't let winter turn you off. However, with warmer summer temperatures, this means that South Korea's peak travel season is from May to September. During this time you can expect more crowds and higher prices, but also more comfortable temperatures and more activities.
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 South Korea more expensive than Vietnam?
South Korea's economy has been growing steadily for many decades, and this has led to both an increase in luxuries as well as a higher cost of living. For tourists, this translates into higher prices but a good value, as modern conveniences are everywhere. Hotels and hostels are spread throughout the country, but a good, healthy demand from tourists has led to higher prices all around compared to many other Asian nations.
As a country with a growing economy but still low wages and a low cost of living, 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 South Korea and Vietnam?
The rice fields near Sapa, Vietnam
By far, the most expensive areas in South Korea are resort destinations. In the winter, skiing around mountain areas such as Pyeongchang can get very pricey, as hotels, restaurants, and entrance tickets charge a hefty penny. In the summer, various beach resort areas can experience similar price increases.
Seoul can be expensive if you desire luxury. Although, with any large city comes diversity. So, inexpensive options for accommodation, food, and activities are plentiful. Just shop around if you're on a budget, as good values can be found at any price range.
In the big cities of Vietnam 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.
South Korea's rural countryside offers a good opportunity to view gorgeous mountains or rolling hills at an affordable price. Many smaller cities and towns are inexpensive while still providing plenty of fun activities and an authentic atmosphere.
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.
How you can save money when visiting South Korea and Vietnam?
In South Korea, booking ahead for a hotel or hostel can save you money. Locally owned places are not always cheaper, but do tend to have more interesting charm.
Eat with the locals. Local restaurants serving Korean food tend to be much cheaper than places serving western fare. Korean restaurant owners have figured out that many visitors don't care for Korean food, and will price their menus to take advantage of it. Find some Korean food that you like, and don't be afraid to experiment. Your tummy and your wallet will like it!
In Vietnam, negotiate for everything. Vietnam is one of the most toughest countries in the world for bartering, as the locals are quite skilled at it! 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. In South Korea, public transportation is everywhere, and it's cheap and fast.
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.)