Roughly 300 kilometres from Saigon, the Central Highlands city of Dalat is a great spot to escape the traffic and humidity of the big city. If you want to visit the former French playground, here are the best ways to go.
The quickest way to get to Dalat is by taking a plane from HCMC’s airport to Lien Khuon International Airport, which was opened to handle larger aircraft after a 2009 remodel. The flight from HCMC is a short one; the seatbelt light hardly goes off, with total flight time being about 50 minutes. Getting a seat on any given day isn’t particularly hard or expensive. Vietnam Airlines offers as many as 10 flights a day and a ticket can be had for as little as 1,000,000 VND each way with a little pre-planning.
Once you get to the airport you will be faced with a 30-kilometre trip from the airport to the city centre. Either catching the 40,000 VND airport shuttle, which fills up quickly, or taking a 250,000 VND taxi ride can accomplish this. Both rides take about 30 minutes.
The cheaper way to visit Dalat is by bus. Dalat is a hub of sorts to bus travel in the area — the bus ride from HCMC to Nha Trang runs through Dalat for example, and there is likely a bus leaving the city every 15 minutes headed toward Dalat. If you pick the bus be prepared for a gruelling ride. Many companies will list the travel time at five hours but in all likelihood you can expect the ride to be more like seven hours including a meal stop or two; if traffic is bad leaving HCMC it can be as long as nine.
Even though the trip is long it is very affordable, with one-way tickets starting at 80,000 VND. Many bus companies can take you to Dalat so you may be overwhelmed with options; I’d recommend taking Phuong Trang buses as they’re clean, comfortable and only slightly more expensive at around 100,000 VND for a regular bus and 190,000 VND for a sleeper. Sleeper buses with seats that force you to lie down are surprisingly comfortable although a taller traveller may find the bed a bit short. The great thing about Phuong Trang is that not only are you able to purchase tickets directly from their office on De Tham, but their buses pick you up in front of the office as well. If you can’t find a Phuong Trang bus, Mai Linh buses offer a good alternative. You’ll be dropped off at the bus station just outside of town where you’re just a short ride into the heart of Dalat.
Once you make it to the city there is plenty to do besides just enjoying the mountain air. Try out Dalat’s adventure sports bookers where you can ride mountain bikes, go river rafting or try your hand at canyoning.
274-6 De Tham, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
T: (08) 38 309 309
By Angela Schonberg
Last updated on 11th June, 2012.