By Plane -- The only direct flights to Dalat are from Ho Chi Minh City (flight time: 50 min.). In Dalat, call Vietnam Airlines (tel. 063/383-3499 or 382-2898) to confirm your ticket or with any flight inquiries. Dalat's Lien Khuong Airport is 30km (19 miles) south of town. A taxi from the airport to the city is $3 and takes 30 minutes.
By Bus -- Dalat is the first stop on the "Open Tour" tickets from Ho Chi Minh City's budget traveler cafes. Buses from both north and south first stop at Phan Rang, an old Cham temple site, where the road turns inland for the hills of Dalat. The ride to Dalat from the coast is winding and spectacular, at one point following hairpin turns underneath a large hydroelectric project. From Nha Trang (to the east) or Ho Chi Minh City (to the south), it's a 7-hour trip and costs $5 at any tourist cafe. Hire a private car for the trip and save about an hour. You can make arrangements at your hotel or with one of the tour providers listed below in the "Visitor Information & Tours" section.
Local buses connect Dalat with Nha Trang and Ho Chi Minh City, as well as Buon Ma Thuot, the next town north of Dalat along the highlands ridge -- a grueling all-day ride. Buses leave from the Express Bus Station southwest of the city center (get there by motorbike taxi for about 16,000 VND); be prepared to haggle for your ticket.
By Car/Motorbike -- Take the new highway through the mountains via hired transport in a minivan or car. The trip is just 3 1/2 hours. Also popular are the unique motorbike trips with Dalat's "Easy Riders". Check the listings below or in Saigon and Nha Trang (a few agents from Nha Trang specialize in tours of the highlands) for more options.
There are no cyclos in Dalat, but walking is very pleasant in the cool air. You can catch most of the city sights, like the market and the lake, on foot. For sights outside of town, it's best to rent a motorbike or join a tour. On weekends, the busy streets of the central city are closed to motorbike and auto traffic.
By Taxi -- For taxis in town, try Dalat Taxi, at tel. 063/383-0830, or Mai Linh Taxi, at tel. 063/351-1511.
By Bus -- Because most sights are outside city limits, one good option is to take a half- or full-day tour through your hotel or a tourist cafe, which hits many of the main sights. Some spots, like homes in the weaving villages or at the "Crazy Monk," require some kind of introduction, so going with a guide or following a tour is smart.
By Car -- You can rent a car with a driver for about $35 per day for a four-seater, or $40 for a seven-seater, with most tour companies. Contact any hotel front desk or the folks at Dalattourist (01 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai St.; tel. 063/351-0104), just south of the market area in the very center of town.
By Motorcycle -- Dalat is a good place to rent your own motorbike. The cheapest options are with the streetside places on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai St. (btw. the market and the lake), for about $5 per day ($6 from hotels and cafes). Be sure to check the brakes, and be sure the horn is working, because you should beep-beep all the way, especially when passing or on curves. The hillside, windy roads will have you feeling like a Hell's Angel if you can forget that you're riding the motorcycle equivalent of a hair dryer. This is a good, adventurous way to get to all the funky sights outside the city, but you may find it hard to get "into" places such as the Chicken Village or to the closed door of the "Crazy Monk" -- some attractions are best visited on tours.
Another option is to get a motorbike with a driver for the day (about $1-$2 per hour, or fix a rate for the day and the destinations) or hook up with Dalat's famous Easy Riders, a group of motorbike taxi drivers that are more than your average motorbike taxi. Meet up with them at the Peace Cafe in the backpacker district at 64 Truong Cong Dinh St. (tel. 063/382-2787). These guys speak English well, and a day spent with an Easy Rider is fun and educational. You'll hear of their experiences in the war years and benefit from their knowledge of the country, not to mention their driving skills. They ride sturdy bikes, the real deal from Japan, and charge $12 to $20 for a 1-day tour of the sights around Dalat. For about $50 per day, including gas, guiding, and budget accommodations, saddle up with an Easy Rider for trips far afield -- up to Buon Me Thuot, farther north to Pleiku, and even along the Ho Chi Minh Trail as far as Hoi An. These guys are real adventurers. "The world is round," my driver said when I parted. "I know I'll see you again."
Visitor Information & Tours
The Dalat Traveler, a bimonthly English- and Vietnamese-language publication, has local happenings, festivals, and new developments in hotels and restaurants, as well as some basic maps and information about the city and surrounding sights.
- Dalattourist, 01 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai St. (tel. 063/351-0104; fax 063/383-4144; www.dalattourist.com.vn), is located right in the center of Dalat with a small kiosk south of the main market. They book classic tours to anywhere in the region and offer good day trips and affordable car rentals. Quite unique, they'll book you tours with other companies if they don't have the services or prices that fit your needs. In fact, they have a booklet filled with pamphlets and fliers from local budget operators, making this a reliable one-stop shop for a traveler on any budget.
- Phat Tire Ventures Vietnam, 109 Nguyen Van Troi, P2, Dalat (tel. 063/382-9422; fax 063/382-0331; www.ptv-vietnam.com), offers a unique eco-tourist option in Dalat. They specialize in cycling, mountain biking, white water rafting, trekking, camping, kayaking, rock climbing and canyoning. Contact Brian and Kim (young U.S. expats), who can arrange anything from day treks to jungle expeditions, mountain biking (they have a stable of top-quality bikes and hold daily clinics), rock climbing, repelling, or canyoning. Daily rates for activities are priced between $20 and $70 and include lunch, transport, and a knowledgeable guide. Safety and environmental stewardship are their trademarks. They also book classic tours through their affiliate, Dalat Tours, which shares space with Phat Tire Ventures Vietnam and has the same contact information. Offices are in Hoi An and Dalat.
- An Phu Tourist Co., 07 Hai Thuong St. (tel. 063/382-3631), provides the same budget buses and tour services here as in its Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City offices.
- Groovy Gecko Tours, 65 Truong Cong Dinh (tel. 063/383-6521), is a groovy, albeit unoriginal, outfitter providing basic eco-tours in the area.
- Sinh Café, 4A Bui Thi Xuan St. (tel. 063/383-6702), has an information and tour office adjacent to Trung Cang, its budget hotel. The standard services include arrangements for the open tour and some budget countryside and city tours.
- TM Brothers, 58 Truong Cong Dinh St. (tel. 063/382-8383), books standard budget tours from its office on "cafe street" (overlooking the market). They'll pick you up at your hotel and are very professional, especially for their prices.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.