Travelling from Saigon to Dalat

Travelling from Saigon to Dalat

Roughly 300 kilometres from Saigon, Da Lat is the most popular destination of Vietnam’s Central Highlands. The city’s temperate climate and fresh air make it a haven to escape the traffic, pollution and oppressive heat of the big city. If you want to visit “the city of eternal spring”, here are the best ways to go.

More on Ho Chi Minh City

The quickest way to get to Da Lat is by plane. There are several flights a day from Saigon’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport to Lien Khuong Airport, 30 kilometres south of Da Lat. The route is serviced by Vietnam Airlines, VietJet Air and Jetstar, the flight a mere 50 minutes. Tickets can be quite inexpensive, with a promo fare from Vietnam Airlines as little as 500,000 dong total one way.

Spend the entire bus trip thinking about what you will eat. : Cindy Fan.
Spend the entire bus trip thinking about what you will eat. Photo: Cindy Fan

Going from the airport to Da Lat is easy. An airport shuttle bus to the town centre costs 40,000 dong and it should include an additional transfer from the drop off to your hotel—though sometimes this transfer doesn’t materialise. Alternatively, a private taxi is a flat rate fare of 180,000 dong. Purchase tickets for either at the desk in the baggage hall.

The cheapest way to Da Lat is by bus. The route by road from HCMC to Da Lat has improved in recent years, though it is still a lengthy eight hours, including a couple of meal stops.

Before you rush off to one of Ho Chi Minh City’s bus stations, chances are that using one of the bus companies departing from backpacker hub Pham Ngu Lao will be far more convenient. Buses like the “open tour” company The Sinh Tourist save you time, money and stress fighting traffic to get to the bus stations, which are located in the outskirts of the city.

The Sinh Tourist has one bus daily to Da Lat. It departs from their depot in Pham Ngu Lao, and does not go through any HCMC bus station. The sleeping bus departs at 22:00, takes seven hours and costs 199,000 dong.

None of these in Saigon. : Cindy Fan.
None of these in Saigon. Photo: Cindy Fan

Another company servicing Da Lat with an office in Pham Ngu Lao is Phuong Trang. They are one of the major national bus lines in Vietnam and unavoidably there’s chatter of bad service and bad drivers. However, we’ve always found Phuong Trang bus rides to be relatively straightforward and more reliable than smaller companies. Their sleeping bus from Saigon to Da Lat departs frequently throughout the day from 05:00-02:00, costs 210,000 dong and takes eight hours.

Alternatively, Phuong Trang and other companies service Da Lat from Ho Chi Minh City’s Mien Dong bus station (Ben Xe Mien Dong or also known as the East bus station). Another reputable bus company to Da Lat is Thanh Buoi. Bus departs at 08:00 and 11:00, costs 230,000 dong and takes eight hours.

Finally, it’s become impossible to mention the Central Highlands without also bringing up the motorbike tours that have flourished as wildly as Da Lat’s flowers. Multi-day tours beginning or ending in Da Lat are popular with travellers. A Da Lat—Saigon tour usually takes four days.

A highlight for many travellers. : Cindy Fan.
A highlight for many travellers. Photo: Cindy Fan

A motorbike tour can be a terrific way to get from Point A to Point B, though choosing a company can be tricky as there are dozens of companies and hundreds of drivers, some running their own company (no doubt with “easy rider” in the name), some are freelancers. Even careful research isn’t a guarantee as there’s a few variables. To list a few: glowing reviews are fake, there’s a minefield of copycat companies, a company could be drawing from a freelance guide pool and then it’s the luck of the draw. Just be aware.

The Sinh Tourist: 246-248 De Tham St, District 1; T: (028) 3838 9597;
Phuong Trang: 272 De Tham St, District 1;

Reviewed by

Cindy Fan is a Canadian writer/photographer and author of So Many Miles, a website that chronicles the love of adventure, food and culture. After falling in love with sticky rice and Mekong sunsets, in 2011 she uprooted her life in Toronto to live la vida Laos. She’s travelled to over 40 countries and harbours a deep affection for Africa and Southeast Asia. In between jaunts around the world, she calls Laos and Vietnam home where you’ll find her traipsing through rice paddies, standing beside broken-down buses and in villages laughing with the locals.