Dalat: "Le Petit Paris"

Dalat, also Da Lat (Đà Lạt), in the South Central Highlands of Vietnam, was originally the playground of the French who built villas in the clear mountain air to escape the heat and humidity of the coast and of Saigon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City.


Dalat looks somewhat like a cross between Vietnam and rural France. Many of its hotels and houses are built in a European/ French style. The city spreads across a series of pine-covered hills, with a small lake in the centre and surrounded by a man-made lake and higher peaks, making for some lovely scenery quite different from the rest of Vietnam. Temperatures are pleasantly warm by day, and cool at night, down to perhaps 10 degrees Celsius.

Dalat is surrounded by some of the best mountain biking, hiking and canyoning opportunities in Vietnam, with hills of coffee and tea plantations, which evoke images of the colonial hill stations of the north of India.

Dalat's high altitude (1,500–2,000 m) and fertile landscape make it one of Vietnam's premier agricultural areas, producing varieties of fruits, vegetables, tea, coffee, and flowers that don't grow in the lowlands. In markets as far north as Hanoi and Haiphong, vegetable and flower vendors will tout their "grown in Dalat" produce.

Dalat is a favorite destination for company-sponsored weekend outings, family getaways, and honeymooners.

Get in

Flower Eiffel Tower

By plane

There are daily flights from HCMC, Da Nang, Hanoi, Vinh and Hue. Which are served by Vietnam Airlines, VietJet Air, VASCO and Jetstar Pacific.

  Lien Khuong Airport (IATA: DLI). The airport is a 30 km south of the city linked by a modern, yet scenic, two lane highway.

Some hotels offer special arrangements with taxi companies to ferry hotel guests to and from the airport for around 200,000 dong. Hotels can try to rip you off by asking for anything between 300,000 to 400,000 dong for an airport transfer. Be adamant on 200,000 dong. Taxi service with tel. +84 6 3383 5583 have a fixed price of 250,000 dong. Malinh taxi charges 300,000 dong to the airport. If going by meter, it comes to around 577,000 dong (distance around 35 km).

Or catch the airport shuttle for 40,000 dong per person.

By bus

Most local and foreign travellers arrive in Dalat by bus, including those travelling on the famous Sinh Cafe Hanoi-HCMC open-tour buses.

Mai Linh Express and Phuong Trang run several daily services to Dalat from Nha Trang and Ho Chi Minh City. From Nha Trang the bus ride is about 5 hours, with the obligatory stop at a dilapidated Cham temple/tourist site. Within the last year or so, a new road from Nha Trang has cut the travel time to 3–4 hours, including a 30-minute breakfast/WC stop about one hour out of Nha Trang. From Ho Chi Minh City the bus ride is about 7 hours (9 hours if there is bad traffic leaving Saigon). If coming from Mui Ne, be careful as the road is rough most of the way, so try to book a large bus or at least a seat towards the front.

For Western visitors it may be best to book a ticket on a bus without a television. The entertainment offered could be loud and unappealing if you prefer sleeping before arriving at their next destination.

Alternatively, catch a local bus at HCMC, Bien Hoa, Phan Rang, Nha Trang or Buon Ma Thuot.

Get around

Depending on where you stay, you can walk to most parts around town. You can catch a xe om (motorbike taxi) from most corners, so if you're going somewhere farther out of town, you have a fast way to get there. Taxis are also abundant and reasonable in price, yet watch the meter, as meter fixing is a common practice from north to south.

There is a local bus which passes near most of the main tourist sites. Heading south you can catch it at the bus shelter by the lake. Otherwise, the bus hub can be found on Hoa Binh Square (Khu Hoa Binh - behind Hoa Binh theater), just up from the market. The last bus each day is at 17:30.

There are many places around town to rent a bicycle, tandem, or motorbike. Please consider carefully before you rent a motorbike, as according to the Vietnamese law you must be in the possession of a valid Vietnamese driver's licence to be able to drive a motor vehicle in the country. Failure to have one cancels any insurance that the bike might come with and makes you liable for any damages. In Southeast Asia, you are always liable, as you are always guilty, as you are presumed to have more money than the other party. Hence you will have to pay for damages to the bike and its full value, damages to other people and their property, as well as ruining your holiday.


Cable ride to Thien Vien Truc Lam Monastery
Crazy House
Xuan Huong Lake
The Valley of Love




Most visitors to Dalat are Vietnamese, and most of them leave loaded with stuff. What they like to take home is dried and candied fruits, strawberry preserves, coffee, green and artichoke tea, local wine, dried venison, orchids, strawberries, avocados, and other fresh produce. If you take any sort of organized tour, chances are you will be off-loaded for a half hour at a shop selling these items. Local treats are also for sale in abundance in the large central market located in the area around Nguyen Thi Minh Khai and Le Dai Hanh. Partly covered and partly outdoors, the market has dozens of small stalls selling fruits and vegetables, clothing, and a variety of other goods. There is a supermarket on the top floor selling necessities for travellers. Strolling around the market is a favourite evening activity, and every night it buzzes with thousands of visitors.

Dalat does not offer lot of high-end handicrafts of the sort favoured by overseas tourists. Dalat is famous, however, for its beautifully crafted silk embroidered pictures, which can be purchased at a massive mark up from the many galleries around Dalat or at a fraction of the price from the central Dalat market.

Dalat also has an abundance of fruit, vegetables, and flowers available for purchase if you plan to stay for a few days and want to liven up your hotel room or cook your own meals.


Cafe de la Poste





Go next

Buses leave regularly from the Phurong Trang (FuTa) Bus Terminal in the south of the city.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Friday, March 18, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.