While beach holidays have always been popular among Indian travellers, Lakshadweep has never really been in their itinerary thus far. That distinction would go to Goa, which has been the most sought-after domestic beach destination. For many though, Thailand and Vietnam are becoming a preferred alternative. The main reason is that these places offer better value for money over Goa.

Abhishek Rai, an investment banker, has been to all three destinations and says Goa cost him almost twice the expenses than what he spent on his vacations at Vietnam and Thailand. Despite spending a large amount in Goa for the family vacation, it didn’t feel good, he says. “Hotels are more expensive and the service is inferior. We paid about 30,000 for Novotel Goa resorts, which are not even on the beach. In contrast, we paid 9,000 for a hotel on the beach in Phuket that had a private pool and the rooms were almost three times bigger. Similarly, in Vietnam, we paid 6,000 for Movenpick Camranh, one of the best resorts I have ever been to,” said Rai.

A quick search on any online travel aggregator (OTA) site will tell you a similar story. A highly rated 3-star hotel in Goa will easily cost 4,000-6,000 per night. These properties are located nearby beaches but are not sea-facing. In comparison, a similar property in Phuket or Pattaya (Thailand) can be booked at half the price. In fact, one can find a sea-view Airbnb in Pattaya located right at the beach for 5,000 a night. In Da Nang, a coastal city in Vietnam, sea view hotels are even cheaper starting at 3,500 per night. Beach properties in Goa are priced over 10,000 per night.

Hotel tariffs pinch the most in a trip to Goa. Revenge travel post the Covid pandemic, rising real estate prices and Goa emerging as a top wedding destination have pushed up hotel prices in the city over the last 2-3 years. Rai said he paid about 14,000 per night for Taj Aguada Goa in late 2021, which is more than 35,000 currently.

In an interview with Mint in December 2023, Rohan Khaunte, state tourism and IT minister, said about 10 million visitors had come to Goa since March, surpassing pre-pandemic levels. Given the rise in tourist influx, the cost of food and bike/car rentals have also gone up.

Mumbai-based Viraj Mehta, who regularly travels to both Vietnam and Thailand due to his work, said one can afford luxury in these countries. “A luxury 5-star hotel in Goa is selling for 35,000-75,000 a night. You can book a similar hotel in Hanoi (Vietnam) for 6,000 a night. Hotels are ridiculously expensive in Goa and Indian travellers have been priced out,” said Mehta, a financial services professional. Visa-free entry permitted by Thailand to Indians has made the deal sweeter. In Vietnam, however, a Visa fee of about 4,500 per person has to be paid. One can apply for e-visa on the Vietnam visa government website and the application is processed in 10 days.


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(Graphic: Mint)

What is cheaper?

Apart from hotel room tariffs, flights are the other big expense in most travel budgets. On this front, Goa is cheaper as it’s a domestic destination. For instance, a round trip from Delhi for the last week of January is about 13,000 per person for Goa. In comparison, you will need to shell out about 21,000 for Vietnam during the same time, about 50% more. Thailand is more expensive as a round trip will cost about 28,000. Take note that these prices are for direct flights from Delhi and may cost less if one were to take a connecting flight to the international destinations.

Mehta pointed out that this gap in airfare is closing as direct connectivity to Vietnam has improved in the last few years. “There are now flights available even from some tier-II cities like Ahmedabad,” he said. In any case, reaching Goa will always be cheaper as there are multiple options. There are trains available from all parts of the country, which cost almost half the airfares. Of course, the cheaper fare comes at the cost of longer travel time, especially from cities in north India that can take up to 48 hours one-way. There are overnight buses that ply from major cities like Hyderabad, Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore.

For fair comparison, Mint has compared flight prices for all the three destinations (see graphic). The extra cost of flying to Vietnam or Thailand can, however, be recovered through accommodation and meals.

Food in both the countries is extremely cheap, Mehta points out. “Goa doesn’t have a street food culture so the choice for food is narrow. This is not the case in Vietnam and Thailand, which offers food options for all budgets,” he said.

Two sit-down meals in Goa can cost about 1,500 per day. There is less scope to squeeze meals in the Goa travel budget. On the contrary, both the southeast Asian countries offer abundant street food options at dirt cheap rates. One can manage all three meals in a day in under 1,000 in both these countries by opting for a mix of street food and dining at restaurants there. For seafood lovers, Mehta says Vietnam is a downright better choice.

The difference in hotel and meals cost combined can recover the extra 50-100% that you may pay on flights to those destinations.

The other major difference between the two options is in transportation—Goa is a tiny state, whereas the other two are countries and involve inter-city travel. In the latter, you may even have to take flights in some cases, say from Bangkok to Krabi or Phuket. Similarly, in Vietnam, from Hanoi to Da Nang, which can add 7,000-10,000 to your overall budget. A Bus or overnight train is a cheaper alternative in both countries but takes 14-20 hours and may not suit those on a one-week holiday.

However, local commute in cities is reasonable in either of the countries. Just like Goa, you can rent self-driven bikes or cars at 500-1,800 per day. In fact, most cities in Thailand have cheap public transport options that cost 50-200 per day. In Goa, on the other hand, hiring a cab or a self-driven vehicle is the only option to get around the city.

Travelling to either Vietnam or Thailand can cost the same or less than Goa if it is planned well. There is scope to save money on food by eating in local eateries and taking overnight trains for intercity travels, if time allows. For local commute, it is best to avoid cabs and hire a scooter or car instead. Rai said the expenses could work out to be similar given high transportation costs in the case of Vietnam and Thailand, but these are better even just for experience than in Goa.