Last Christmas I spent in Da Lat, Vietnam.
And even though it wasn’t all exactly up to my expectations, I compiled a thorough list of my best tips and recommendation for anyone planning a trip down there to save some time and headache.
Before You Travel To Vietnam
- Check your visas requirements here (opens new tab) or in the widget below
- You will very likely need to apply for a so-called invitation letter prior to your travel to Vietnam (without the document an airline won’t let you board the plane).
- There are many agents online charging between 6-30USD for such an invitation letter that they will process in up to 2 days and send to your email.
- I personally used this service and to basic 6USD fee added an additional 6USD (so total 12USD) for Privacy Protection. That way my personal details are not sent out to multiple strangers over the email and had my letter done in about 20 mins from the moment of payment.
- Have 2x passport photos of you before the flight.
- Upon arrival to Vietnam find and show printed invitation letter to the immigration officer handling visas-on-arrival – he will have a separate booth (meaning, don’t follow automatically lining up crowd, otherwise you will waste time in a queue only to be sent to the VOA officer when it’s your turn.)
- You will be asked for 2x passport photos. If you don’t have them with you, the immigration officer will snap a picture of you on the spot for 10USD fee.
- With invitation letter + 2x photos, you will be asked for 25USD stamp fee and get a full-page visa sticker into your passport (valid for 30 days).
You can check your visa requirements in the widget below:
How To Get To Da Lat, Vietnam?
The most affordable way of getting to Da Lat is taking a bus from Ho Chi Minh City, which is about 300km away. The journey takes about 8 hours and should cost 20USD at most.
You can book your bus tickets from Ho Chi Minh City to Da Lat online with 12go (as well as to other destinations).
Tip: Get a night bus and have a nap instead of killing the whole day by travelling.
Da Lat also has a small airport. Flights are not as frequent, which is also why they are in general more pricey, even if they are domestic.
But since AirAsia newly opened a route to Da Lat in September 2019, the flights will not only get more affordable but the influx of tourism will get even stronger in coming months (not it wasn’t pretty busy in December already).
This was also the option I chose. Cost of return flight ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Da Lat without check-in luggage was about 290USD (1100MYR). But the price will definitely dwindle depending on when you make your trip to Da Lat. December is considered to be a high season and so prices were at its peak.
How To Get From Da Lat Airport To City Center
Dalat city centre is about 30km north from the airport and there are practically two options on how to get there:
- Taxi | The cost will be around between 350-400k VND (17USD). More convenient but obviously more expensive. If you opt-in for using a taxi, insist on using a meter.
- Alternatively, download Grab app (South East Asian alternative to Uber) and using the airport WiFi book your ride first.
- There’s a 99% chance that Grab driver that will show up will be one of the nearby taxis. But by using the app you have at least a guarantee of knowing the cost upfront. And that way you are without risk of getting into the hassle for the price with the driver. Needed to say, you will have to pay cash upon drop off. It seems like the Vietnamese Grab doesn’t accept payment cards.
- Airport Shuttle Bus | The cost is 40k VND (2USD). The trip is around 50 mins. The bus will drop you off in front of Ngoc Phat Hotel. Not far from the south bank of the Da Lat’s lake Hồ Xuân Hương. The only catch is that there’s no fixed timetable of shuttle bus departure. And so you might need to wait for other passengers to fill up the capacity of the minibus.
- TIP: I highly recommend buying a SIM card right away at the airport. You can get one from the Song Viet Corp money exchange booth located next to the exit from Arrival hall. Having access to the internet you don’t have to be worried about getting stranded anywhere.
- COST: 150k VND for 7days/15GB or 220k VND for 30 days/55GB
Where To Stay In Da Lat?
For a quiet getaway
If you are looking for quieter and somewhat closer to nature romantic getaway, you want to look for accommodation around Tuyền Lâm Lake, which is about 15mins south from town.
If you don’t drive a scooter, Grab will be your best friend. Cost to get to Tuyền Lâm Lake from Da Lat or the other way should be around 120k VND.
Needed to say, the majority of accommodations around the Tuyền Lâm Lake are huge resort complexes hogging the most accessible parts of the lake banks. Prices of these are, naturally, slightly higher.
I personally found most of the resorts in the area quite sterile, boring and without much character.
But to save you hours of browsing, I made a list of those few that are actually worthy of your consideration (coming soon)