What are the Differences: North vs. South Vietnam?

12, July, 2017

What are the Differences: North vs. South Vietnam?

Anyone that travels the length of Vietnam from north to south will notice plenty of regional differences. From ethnicity to etiquette, culture to climate, language to landscape: the changes can be fascinating. A great aspect of Vietnam private tour is the ability to experience and observe these changes. The different characteristics are noticed when travelling in rural, urban, highland, coastal, northern, central or southern.

Many of the changes that occur are frivolous, important, subtle, or obvious, and include:

Weather & Climate
Vietnam has plenty of climatic differences that are likely to be experienced when travelling between the northern, central and southern regions. Many travellers will find the weather starts to get more changeable and unpredictable in the north of the country. Travellers that are north of Hue are certain to see the more variable weather conditions every day, which can influence the best time to visit Vietnam. While the climate in the south is more constant and hot and humid year-round, the north is much more variable and travellers may be met with spells of clear, overcast, windy, wet, dry, humid, cold and hot throughout the different seasons.

Read more: When is the Best Time to Visit Vietnam?, Vietnam Weather and Climate

Street Food
The street food scene in Vietnam is delicious, low-cost and an incredible way to experience Vietnamese culture. But the street food is slightly more prevalent in the south. Even if travelling to the most off-the-beaten track towns, there are still plenty of food traders lining the streets from first thing in the morning. This is not always the case when visiting the small northern settlements, such as the highland villages. Also, when there are plenty of food vendors, the menu choice and variety can be more in the south.

street food in hanoi

The architectural features that seem to be prevalent in the northern regions of the country include the pitched roofs and turrets. Travelling in the northern and central regions, tourists will see townhouses that feature the tiled, pitched roofs, while in the south the rooftop are more gentle sloping or even flat. Also, many of the churches in the Northern provinces have the more decorative domes and turrets to create the style of many of the Gothic cathedrals of Europe.

Landscape & Countryside
Visitors to the north of the country will soon encounter the mountainous regions and mystery that comes with this landscape. Northern and central landscape can be characterized by limestone. Whether in Pu Luong Nature Reserve, Halong Bay, or the Ninh Binh Province, the northern landscape is defined by the distinctive limestone karsts. This fascinating landscape is what helps to capture the Western imagination and creates the unique and exotic getaway in tropical SE Asia. Any trip that starts in the north, the very first sight of the jungle covered limestone peaks is certain to be a thrill.

landscape and countryside in vietnam

Etiquette & Hospitality
For the foreign travellers in the south, the local people can be extremely open, warm and hospitable, and more so than people in the northern districts. On occasion, the openness and friendliness can get overwhelming. At times the hosts in the south can get very excited and their hospitality can start to run to excess. However, this is still a wonder characteristic of the people in the south. On the other hand, the hospitality in the north can be more formal and restrained, which many guests on theIndochina tour package will feel more comfortable with.

Fish Sauce
Fish sauce is a must-have Vietnamese condiment and served with plenty of dishes whether in northern, central or southern Vietnam. However, the taste of the fish sauce can vary with the region of the country. For instance, the sauce in the north is more likely to be a salty fish sauce, compared to a sour or sweet sauce in other regions. The salty variety is often seen as the purest form of this condiment.

vietnamese cuisine

Ingredients & Flavours
The fundamental elements of local cuisine in southern and central regions are sweet and spicy. But, in the north of the country, the food has more sourness and saltiness to the regional dishes. Northern cooking relies on certain leaves and herbs that are rarely used as ingredients in southern dishes. Typical examples are likely to include dill and vine leaf (also called betel leaf).

Coffee & Tea
Tea is widely available throughout Vietnam, but a favourite type – fresh leaf green tea – is most common in the northern regions. In the north, the tea is served hot, tepid and warm. Plus, the varieties of tea change as you travel north to south on the Vietnam holiday. For instance, pandan, lotus, and artichoke leaf is common in the central highlands, while this changes to a bitter, green tea in the Northern provinces.

The tea in the south is classically served iced. This is likely to look like a large jug of aromatic jasmine tea with a sizable slice of ice. Ice tea is perfect to help cool down on the humid and hot southern days.

Coffee is plentiful, stronger and better in the south, but the quality of the coffee can decline in the north, with the exception of the high-quality coffee served in Hanoi. Also, the coffee is great in the central highlands where a lot of home-grown coffee is produced.

Read more: Coffee in Hanoi, Coffee in Ho Chi Minh City, Tea drinking, Eating and Drinking during your Vietnam travel

coffee in hanoi

A sure sign of being in northern Vietnam is the rice wine (also referred to as rice liquor). Rice wine is made with fermented sticky rice and blended with a variety of exotic ingredients such as wild jungle flowers and herbs. This brew is very common in the northern highlands and is widely consumed much like tea. This liquor has a long tradition of being brewed in the homes of locals and has deep cultural roots. While it can be hit-and-miss, there is often the opportunity to try a cloudy rice wine at a local homestay or simply while travelling in the region and passing a local village or farmhouse.

But, the Northern provinces also have several other thirst-quenchers options, including mass-produced lagers waiting to be enjoyed by tourists such Thanh Hoa Beer and Hanoi Beer.

In the south, the alcoholic drink of preference is lager, with regional brands like Tiger Beer to Vietnamese choices like 333, and Western varieties like Heineken ever-present in the south.