Geographically, the Central Highlands of Vietnam is an area of stunning natural beauty which extends from the Cat Tien National Park in the south as far as Quang Nam in the north. For practical purposes most visitors to the region will travel between Dalat in the south and Kon Tum in the north.
This region is not visited by many tourists so the transport options of the coastal route are not available. We hired a vehicle with driver to travel from Dalat to Hoi An over five days and these days were without doubt the highlight of our time in Vietnam.
Travelling through Vietnam via the magnificent Central Highlands is a fabulous alternative to the much trodden coastal route. To do so by public transport can prove quite challenging as local bus services are the only option. Also it is necessary for foreigners to carry permits in order to be allowed into parts of the Central Highlands.
We took this route as a 5 day private tour beginning in Dalat and ending in Hoi An. We travelled in a 9 seater Mercedes accompanied by a guide and driver. Each evening our guide, Phu, and driver, Tam, stayed at the same place as us and took us out to local restaurants that they knew and which would be impossible to go to without a local connection. This was a tremendous and most unexpected addition to what was the highlight of our time in Vietnam. If you’re travelling from the north you head inland from Hoi An and follow the route described in this section in reverse.
Below is a photo of Tam (in white) who was our driver and Phu, our guide. The other photo is of a couple of travellers using the services of the Dalat Easy Riders motorbike tours.
Easy Riders of Dalat
Another option from Dalat (for the more adventurous) is to team up with one of the Easy Riders who will carry you and your rucksack on the back of his motorbike. This will be the same tour as the one described below but in far less comfort. We met people travelling with Easy Riders most nights, it seems they were paying around $55US for two people, ie. two motorbikes with riders and a passenger on each. They all recommended this way of getting around.
Prices are rising in Vietnam but as an indication of the cost of such a trip we paid $45US per person per day to do this trip. There were just the two of us so the total for the 5 days/4 nights was $450US which was worth every cent. Accommodation cost about $10US per room per night and was extra as was food which was ridiculously cheap, examples with prices appear below.
The trip is cheaper with Easy Riders but we were happier with the comfort and safety of our vehicle.
We had arrived in Vietnam via Ho Chi Minh City and Dalat was our next stop before embarking on the Central Highlands adventure. If you arrive in Hanoi then just plan your journey through the centre in the opposite way to what follows.