Dalat is a small and very beautiful town in the south of Vietnam. Surrounded by scenic mountains, huge coffee fields and impressive waterfalls, this little place is probably one of the best spots to visit in the whole country. I really loved Dalat and the whole area around it and I would go back there any time without hesitation.
Dalat was one of the first spots I visited on my journey through all of Vietnam with my motorcycle. On this tour I saw many rememberable destinations and Dalat as well as its surroundings easily made it under the top 5 places to see in this country.
It was the first spot after Vung Tau and Mui Ne where I had to drive inland and not along the coastline, which was a new experience for me. It’s quite hard to find the right way in a completely foreign country, if noone speaks English, if you can’t read the signs (in Vietnamese) and, if you don’t have the coastline next to you to orientate. But that’s a completely different story.
Before I start to tell you about Dalat, I want to tell you upfront, that I just absolutely love this place. It’s one of my favourites in Vietnam. That’s for sure. Maybe even in whole Southeast Asia to be honest. So, don’t be surprised, if some parts of this post might sound like a little romantic letter to you 😉
Dalat – General information
Just like always I want to give you some general information about Dalat itself and everything you need to know.
Dalat is a town of small size and it only has about 190.000 inhabitants. It’s not a touristic city just yet, unlike many other places in the south of this country. This makes it a very nice spot to visit and to meet the locals (read below).
The city itself is very colourful and it’s a very good example for smaller Vietnamese cities – Busy, but still slow somehow, quiet in a way and very, very charming. I don’t know exactly what it is, but Vietnam is still just different to the rest of Southeast Asia. It gives you a really relaxed feeling. And Dalat is one of the best places to experience that.
Additonally you should know, that Dalat is the capital of the province called Lam Dong and it’s transregionally known as the “Alps of Vietnam”
Dalat has been built a long time ago, but the first French explorers have not discovered it until the 1890s. The French built the city in a very pretty way: Boulevards, villas, parks, and much more, which still remains until today. During the Vietnam war in the 1970s Dalat has been majorly involved in the actions, but not for a long time. This is why Dalat has been spared from the damage.
Today Dalat slowely gets more and more popular. It’s a very attractive spot for tourists, because of its Swiss like style.
How to get there
To get to Dalat is possible in a couple ways. These are the options you have:
- Motorbike/ Scooter
Most people use a tour bus. The transportation companies bring you anywhere you want to go. They operate in the whole country and they are pretty cheap. To get from Ho Chi Minh City to Dalat only costs 220.000 VND (11$), which is definitely a fair price. Some people also use the train. I only recommend that, if you have the time and you would like to enjoy a exceedingly scenic ride.
I would not take a car and I haven’t seen any traveller doing that, because driving in Southeast Asia is a different story compared to western countries and the streets are very busy, depending on which way you take.
My recommendation is to get a motorcycle/ scooter, because you are free in your decision and it’s just the most convenient way to get to Dalat. If you don’t feel save, because your driving skills are not that good, then maybe book a guide.
How to get around
Once you have arrived in Dalat, it’s easy to get around, because the city is quite small. You can take a Tuk Tuk or and taxi. I recommend you to take a Tuk Tuk. They are cheap and it’s definitely an adventure to use one 🙂
Besides that you can obviously take the motorcycle, if you bought one before your tour through Vietnam.
The weather conditions in Dalat depend on in which season you come and visit. There is a wet season from April to October. The good thing about that time is, that all the beautiful waterfalls and rivers around the city are more impressive to look at. But generally sunny days are more inviting.
The dry season is from November to March. I went to Dalat in dry season and I can honestly tell you that it’s really beautiful during that time. The city just seems even friendlier and more colourful when it’s sunny. Furthermore the surrounding landscape is prettier when the sun is shining.
The temperature sets between 20°C and 34°C all year long, because Dalat lies in the subtropical area just like most of Southeast Asia.
Food in Dalat is absolutely great, just like anywhere else in Vietnam. It’s also very cheap, which doesn’t mean that the quality might be low. In fact, it’s not. Most of the Vietnamese food is free of any chemicals and comes fresh from the organic farms.
Especially the coffee is absolutely delicious in the area of Dalat. I actually took some coffee back home after my 1 year trip through Australia, Southeast Asia and New Zealand. I carried it with me all the time, because it’s so good.
Short tip: Try as many local street food vendors as you can. Especially the noodle soups and sandwich shops
Accommodation in Dalat is pretty good and cheap. You can find:
- Homestays/ Guest houses
If you have the chance, try to stay at a guesthouse to meet the locals, just like I did in Mui Ne. The guest houses are very comfortable and you get to know the local lifestyle, which is an awesome experience.
Hotels are quite affordable too. Most of them have a good standard. You’ll find everything from low budget to higher budget.
Hostels are very nice to get in contact with other travellers. Especially in Dalat it good, because you can check out the whole are together.
Usually I recommend something, but this time I think that any choice is a good one.
The prices in Dalat slowly start to rise a little, because Vietnam gets more and more popular for tourists and backpackers every year. Obviously Dalat gets more popular as well, which makes it more expensive, even though Dalat is still really cheap.
Accommodation starts from 6$ per night. I stayed at a small hotel and payed 9$ per night for my own room + bathroom and TV (ridiculous right? 🙂 ). For food you can live with 3$ – 10$ day. If you spend more than 10$ you already live on a higher budget.
Transportation is also really cheap and you have the option to negotiate, which I always recommend anyway. It’s good fun and the Vietnamese actually like to do it too 😉
Dalat – Highlights & What to do
Dalat is full of cool highlights. Everything that I mention, is something I have done myself. Just like always, I only want to give you my authentic opinion.
Explore the area
Use a motorbike or a scooter for this! Dalat is an absolute dream when it comes to “beautiful landscapes”. It lies in between the mountains and you’ll find all kind of farms, strong rivers, clear lakes and big waterfalls around it. The whole scenery itself is just something you probably not forget that fast.
Especially exploring the area with a motorbike is so nice. Road conditions are quite good most of the time, so it’s pretty is to drive. Furthermore you won’t find that much traffic around Dalat. So, it’s actually not only beautiful, but also very peaceful to go on a motorcycle tour, because you won’t get disturbed. The streets go up and down, left and right, all the time. What a fun drive!
In between you can stop and chat to some locals. They rarely see tourists, so they are very friendly, polite and welcome you with open arms.
Just make sure to explore on a sunny day. Otherwise you won’t have a lot of fun. Other than that, definitely make this activity a priority when you visit Dalat.
Meet the locals
The 2nd thing you need to do is to get in contact with the locals. Everyone is very friendly. That’s just how less touristic spots are. The locals are as charming as the city itself. If you can, try to get a Vietnamese to show you around or at least the district you are in. They know way more than you’ll ever do and they are very proud to show you their home.
For example, I really wanted to bring back home some original Vietnamese coffee, because I heard it’s suppose to be the best one on earth (with South American). So, I got taken to a local cafè by a Vietnamese, who worked at the hotel I stayed at. Very kind, right? 🙂
We also talked a lot about all kind of things and I more and more got into the Vietnamese culture and fell in love with this folk. They are just very, very genuine people!
Try out as much coffee as you can in Dalat. The local coffee shop I went to, had all sorts of different coffee to sell. They scale the coffee and put it into a zip plastic bag for easier transportation.
I don’t know how much coffee I tried, but they have all been delicious. The whole country has amazing coffee, but Dalat’s coffee is one of a kind.
And they celebrate their coffee in a way I have not seen it before. These cafès are like a local meet up. People sit down, drink their coffee, have a cigarette and just talk, talk, talk.
Short tip: Use the thick condensed milk instead of normal one. It’s way sweater and makes the coffee enjoyment even better in this case 🙂
City central park/ Botanic garden
Also check out the park near the city centre while you are in Dalat. It’s very pretty and completely for free. They have built everything with a lot of love and you can definitely see that. You actually have the opportunity to explore it with a romantic carriage, which adds to the charming vibe of the city. You’ll feel like you are in a love movie 😉
The park also has a small lake next to it, which a good spot for a relaxing walk or to chill out.
Dalat – What I have learned
Dalat was a great teacher for me. Even though I only spent two days there while I was on my trip through Vietnam, I have learned something valuable again. Actually I have learned two things. They are not those big impactfull ones, but they are definitely good/ practical ones.
Dalat was the place where I realized:
you don’t really know a place, before you haven’t been there yourself for a longer time
information is key
We all have certain pictures in our heads when we think about a country or people we have never heard of/ met. For example: Germans “drink beer all the time” and they are “reliable, punctual, etc.” Right?
The same way of thinking occurs when we think about other countries. But to be honest, we all don’t really have a clue about other countries unless we lived there for a longer time. It’s just not possible to know a country, if you have never been or only been for a short time.
What to rather do
And judging or making an opinion on other countries or people without really knowing them is definitely not a good thing/ bad.
This is why and where the second point I have realized comes into play. Before you go somewhere, make sure to get as much knowledge about that place and the people as you possibly can, unless you just want that to be a surprise.
The more you know the better, because it will help you eventually. You will more know places you can go to, what to watch out for, what to eat, what attractions you can find and much, much more.
It just has many advantages, so we all should not be ignorant and start to inform ourselfs more. This will actually also be helpful in every area of life. Trust me! 😉
Want to know more about Mui Ne? Read here
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