If you’ve stumbled upon this article you might be wondering whether you should go to The Philippines or Vietnam. Of course, the answer is it depends on what you’re looking for and what you want out of the trip. This article will explore various topics to help you decide.
The Philippines vs Vietnam
Both countries have their plusses and minuses. I will go over a few of them to help you make an informed educated decision. I have spent a significant amount of time in both countries and have made several categories and indicated a winner in each one for your convenience.
Nightlife Winner-The Philippines
If your goal is to go to a nice bar and meet someone to spend time with then The Philippines is your best bet. Don’t get me wrong there are plenty of bars here in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi its just that it’ll be difficult to communicate with locals.
English is the second language in The Philippines and even the poorest Filipinos understand English to some degree. Outside of the wealthy districts in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi good luck finding locals that speak English to have an actual conversation in a bar.
Crime – Vietnam
If you include petty crimes such as pickpocketing Vietnam has a higher crime rate overall. However, if you look at serious crimes such as murder, The Philippines is significantly more dangerous. The Philippines has 6x the murder rate as Vietnam according to NationMaster. Murder is a serious problem in The Philippines. The good news is it doesn’t really impact foreigners too much but you will hear about foreigners getting whacked, especially in the provinces. from time-to-time.
Traffic – Vietnam
If you go to any large city traffic is just a fact of life, so you can imagine my surprise in Saigon when I saw the traffic moving relatively freely. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t plan to drive in Ho Chi Mihn City (Saigon) or Manila but without doubt traffic in Saigon is significantly lighter than in Manila. To be fair Manila has way more cars to deal with. It’s one of the most densely populated cities on the planet.
Cost of Living-Vietnam
Vietnam is about 20% cheaper than The Philippines but honestly the things most tourists care about such as hotel prices, the cost of a big mac, and the cost of alcohol they’re pretty much the same. Where you’ll save money in Vietnam is travel costs. It’s cheaper to take the bus to different places in Vietnam and you don’t need to fly, unlike in the Philippines.
Now don’t get me wrong you can get some super cheap flights on Cebu Pacific but you need to plan in advance. I can catch the bus from Saigon (Ho Chi Mihn City) to Phenom Pehn Cambodia for $14USD anytime–no advanced planning required.
|Inexpensive Meal at a Resturant||$2.00||$3.00|
|Electricity||$60.00 (p/mo)||$120.00 (p/mo)|
|High-Speed Internet||$11.00 (p/mo)||$43.oo (p/mo)|
|A Can of Beer||$0.88||$1.00|
All prices are an approximation in US dollars from Numero.com. Please keep in mind that cost of living comparisons are notoriously difficult to make due to the number of variables in each person’s situation. Most people say to live in Manila comfortably you need to bring in about USD 2000 per month while you need about USD 1700 in Saigon.
This wasn’t even a difficult decision. If you ask most westerners in The Philippines to rate their favorite aspects of The Philippines, the food is pretty low on the list. Filipino food just doesn’t contain that many spices. Salt, garlic, sugar, and MSG are pretty much what you’re going to get here.
Vietnamese food, by contrast, is delicious and cheap, not as good as Thai food mind you but still quite tasty. I can get a plate of Banh Xeo (a Vietnamese crepe) for USD 4. McDonald’s and Burger King largely failed in Vietnam because of the availability of cheap sumptuous street food there. The Philippines, by contrast, has embraced American fast food. I’m sorry, but I don’t want to travel to the other side of the world just to get a manufactured McDonalds hamburger.
Making Friends – The Philippines
It’s just a lot easier to make friends in The Philippines for the simple reason that they speak English. I keep saying this over and over because it’s extremely important. The ability to communicate with the people around you is critical to integrating into any society.
Vietnamese isn’t the easiest language to learn for westerners because even though they use Latin letters its a tonal language. That means the same word can have different meanings depending upon the pitch it is spoken in. For example, the word “Ca” can mean to sing, to fish, or an eggplant depending upon the inflection that it’s spoken in.
Plus, I haven’t found a country full of as many friendly people as The Philippines. Seriously, its the Filpino people that make living in The Philippines worthwhile. Click here to see my list of best dating sites in The Philippines. That’s not to say Vietnamese are not friendly although in the North they are stereotyped as unfriendly. Many Vietnamese are eager to speak English and communicate with westerners and are willing to pay handsomely for it. This leads me to my next winner.
Finding Work – Vietnam
Just like the food, this wasn’t even a close call. The Philippines does not look kindly on foreigners taking jobs that Filipinos can do and are very strict in their work permit requirements. An American was deported for working behind the counter at a resort that he owned (in his wife’s name) in Boracay.
Vietnam, on the other hand, is eager for westerners to come and teach them English and they pay handsomely for it too. In the countryside, they pay $20USD per hour to teach English. Keep in mind this is a country where the average salary is $456 per month. That’s amazing! I’ve heard in Hanoi the salaries can go as high as $40 per hour! WOW!
Starting a Business- Vietnam
Foreigners may own 100% of a business in their own names in Vietnam. The Philippines has many equity restrictions for foreigners although they are slowly being loosened. But as of this writing, most businesses can only have 40% ownership by foreigners. Many get around this by putting the business in their wife’s or a Filipino friend’s name, however that carries many risks.
Long Term Visa – Vietnam
The Philippines is the winner for a short term tourist visa for the simple fact that Americans and Europeans don’t need one. However, it starts to get tricky if you want to stay here longer. You can keep extending your visa every 2-6 months for up to 36 months but at that point, you’re at the whims of the immigration officer at the Bureau of Immigration Office. I find it to be an inconvenient hassle. You can get a long term visa, namely the SRRV and a 13a Spousal Visa (learn more about these) but these are time-consuming and expensive processes.
Vietnam makes it easy. You can get a 1-year business visa if you’re an American and you’re good to go. This visa gives you in-and-out privileges and no need to keep paying the immigration office every 2 months and having to worry about if the officer behind the counter is having a bad day. I appreciate Vietnam’s immigration process.
If you just skimmed the headlines you may get a false impression that I’m recommending Vietnam hands down as it won more categories. However, the value of speaking the same language as those around you cannot be overstated. The fact that The Philippines has English as a primary language is HUGE and shouldn’t be discounted.
Many of my American friends in Vietnam say while they love living there, they often feel isolated since they can’t communicate with 80% of the population. If you decide to come here to live you’ll be dependant on a Vietnamese friend (at least in the beginning) to help you do basic things such as opening a bank account, even buying a SIM card, and selecting a cell phone plan.
If you get lost you won’t be able to just ask someone around you for directions. It’s not like in Bangkok where most locals understand at least some English. Many Vietnamese, especially in the countryside understand zero English! Well, maybe ‘hi’. If you decide to go to Vietnam you need to be sure you can handle that. I recommend at least doing some Vietnamese lessons with Rosetta Stone beforehand. They have an affordable package on Amazon.com that you should check out.
In general, you’re a single retired male with a monthly pension those guys typically are happier in The Philippines. If you’re a young person who still needs to work ad earn money there’s no question Vietnam is a better choice. If you’re going on vacation (but not to meet women) then Vietnam is a better choice as there are lots of beautiful temples and historical sites to see. However, if you’re just looking to sit on the beach, wet your whistle at the bar, and meet some friendly locals to spend time with then The Philippines is the better choice.