There are a million exciting things to do in Vietnam, especially when we’re in Ho Chi Minh City. One of the most memorable and one of my favorite destinations is the Cu Chi tunnels. It’s a renowned historical destination related to the Vietnam war. It’s a must-see if you’re ever in Ho Chi Minh and if you want to learn more about Vietnam’s history and people. I’ve been to the Cu Chi tunnels twice and the journey to the site as well as the tunnels themselves never cease to amaze me.
- 1 The Cu Chi Tunnels: Some Facts and History
- 2 The Two Tunnel Areas: Ben Dinh and Ben Duoc
- 3 How to get to the Cu Chi Tunnels:
- 4 Cu Chi Tunnels Entrance Fee
- 5 Cu Chi Tunnels Video
- 6 Cu Chi Tunnels Half Day Tour
- 7 Cu Chi Tunnels Shooting Range.
- 8 War Food: Boiled Cassava
- 9 Extra Tips:
- 10 Lunch at Cu Chi Tunnels
The Cu Chi Tunnels: Some Facts and History
The Cu Chi Tunnels are a massive network of underground tunnels and chambers located in the Cu Chi District of Ho Chi Minh City. It’s part of a march larger labyrinthine network of underground tunnels that stretches over 250 km starting from the outskirts of the city all the way to the Cambodian border.
The tunnels were said to have been built with simple tools and bare hands by the Viet Minh and took over 25 years to build. Initial construction started in 1948 during Vietnam’s war against the French. The tunnels were used as a means of communication between villages as well as to evade French soldiers scouting the area.
The tunnels were further expanded to an area of over 250 km during the American war in the 1960s. The network of tunnels gave the Viet Cong a strategic advantage against the American Insurgence. It served as a defensive base to the Viet Cong guerilla fighters and the complicated structure of the tunnels contains booby traps, trenches, bunkers, bomb shelters, and even an effective ventilation system. The Vietnamese troops used the tunnel systems and their smaller stature to their advantage in fighting against the American soldiers.
Vietnamese civilians also use the tunnels to continue their daily lives despite the bombing of their towns. Soldiers and civilians alike ate, slept, worked, heal the sick and injured, and even went to school underground in the many chambers of the extensive tunnel network.
The Two Tunnel Areas: Ben Dinh and Ben Duoc
Currently, there are only two sections of the Cu Chi Tunnels open to the public. The two tunnel sections have some similarities but they also provide different experiences to visitors.
Ben Dinh is the closest of the two tunnel sections to the city (around 50 km away) and is the more visited of the two tunnels. At the peak season around thousands of tourists visit Ben Dinh per day and about 99% of the advertised tours go to Ben Dinh. Because of the number of tourists visiting Ben Ding, the tunnels have been reconstructed and expanded to provide more comfort to visitors exploring the tunnels.
Ben Duoc, on the other hand, is farther away from the city (around 70 km away) and could add an hour of travel time to the way there. However, the tunnels at Ben Duoc provide a much more authentic representation of the original Cu Chi tunnels as only the entrance is expanded and the rest of the tunnels are preserved to their original form. It’s also significantly less crowded. So if you have more time to spare in your dare, definitely check out Ben Duoc.
How to get to the Cu Chi Tunnels:
There are multiple options to travel to the Cu Chi Tunnels. The most popular ones are signing up for a tour to the tunnels by companies that provide the transportation for the way there and back. Or you can go solo and do it yourself. There are pros and cons to both though so read on further so read further to see which you prefer.
If you don’t want to go to the Cu Chi Tunnels by your lonesome, I recommend to sign up for a half-day tour. It takes around 1.5 hours to reach the Cu Chi Tunnels from Ho Chi Minh city. There is a range of options for the tours you can take of the Cu Chi Tunnels. But definitely pick the ones that provide a knowledgable guide as there are tours that only offer transportation. You can also choose tours that include meals or none.
I personally traveled to the Cu Chi Tunnels via a bus tour the first time and by speedboat the second.
I would say that bus tours are one of the more comfortable modes of transportation for traveling to the Cu Chi Tunnels in terms of space. The bus will pick you up in Ho Chi Minh City in the morning, take you to the Cu Chi Tunnels, and drop you off back at the city by mid-mid afternoon. I definitely recommend joining a bus tour that includes a guide. Be aware though that you’ll probably be part of a group of around 50 people with a set schedule so freedom to explore is limited and you have to abide by the tour’s schedule.
Joining a car or minivan tour to the Cu Chi Tunnels is much more preferable to the bus tours, in my opinion. You’ll get a comfortable ride fro and back and it’s much less crowded. You’ll also get to make more stops on the way to experience the local life and local dishes. Without a large group of people, it’s far easier for cafes and roadside attractions to accommodate your tour group. It’s also easier to process the information from your tour guide and ask questions.
Motor Bike Tour
Motor Bike Tours are surprisingly highly recommended by travelers visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels. With this mode of transportation, it’s probably for the more adventurous travelers who are seeking that extra bit of excitement and fun to the trip. Riding on the motorbike on dirt roads on the way to the tunnels makes for a great adventure. That’s not all, motorbike tours also make several stops on the way with your guide to get a taste of local life, witness the countryside scenery, taste delectable dishes and more.
Some tours offer to take you via the river route to the Cu Chi Tunnels. Not only is traveling by speedboat exciting but it’s also a great way to see the local life surrounding the river. This is probably the fastest route of travel on the way to the tunnels, the only obstacles you’ll encounter are the water hyacinths on the river that could jam into the propeller.
If you want to go without a group of strangers and would prefer to explore the Cu Chi Tunnels on your own or with a friend, you can opt to ride the local buses on the way there. It costs 26,000 VND (around 1-2 USD) for a round trip via bus to the Cu Chi Bus Station. First, take the #13 bus on the 23/9 Park heading to Cu Chi Bus Station.
If you want to go to Ben Dinh, watch out for a T-interaction with large bright blue signs pointing right to Ben Dinh and left to Ben Duoc. Get off at this T-intersection and you’ll have to walk the rest of the way to the Ben Dinh entrance. If you’re heading to Ben Duoc, stay on the bus until it arrives at the Cu Chi Bus Station. Transfer to Bus #79 to head to the Ben Duoc. Make sure to tell both the bus driver and conductor to drop you off at Ben Duoc and they’ll do just that.
Make sure no to stay too long at the Cu Chi Tunnels if you’ve taken the local bus though. The buses don’t run for 24 hours. Bus #79 stops running at 5:30 pm and bus #13 stops running at 9 pm.
You can also travel to the Cu Chi Tunnels via taxi however this is the most expensive way to travel. Expect to pay 60 USD both ways, so I don’t recommend it. It’s probably a good option only if you don’t mind paying the large amount in exchange for the comfort of the taxi and if you’re in a particular hurry.
Cu Chi Tunnels Entrance Fee
Both Ben Dinh and Ben Duoc tunnel sections have the same operating hours but have different entrance fees. Both are open every day (yes, even Sundays) starting from 8 am to 5 pm.
Entrance ticket cost per person:
- Ben Dinh – 110,000 VND
- Ben Duoc – 90,000 VND
Cu Chi Tunnels Video
Both tunnel systems will have a video for you to watch as you enter the area showing the lives of the Viet Cong during the war as well as the local Vietnamese civilians in their villages nearby. It’s a very old, 15-minute propaganda video how the Vietnamese bravely fought off the evil Americans.
After this interesting bit of visual aid, it was time to explore the tunnels and check out its exhibits.
Cu Chi Tunnels Half Day Tour
There’re a lot of things to do in the Cu Chi Tunnels. A tour guide is always included in the entrance fee but from experience, they always seem to be in a rush and they’ll most likely than not, rush you through the tunnels and the exhibits. That’s why I recommend joining a private tour with your own knowledgable guide. Several of the local guides are quite knowledgable with a good sense of humor and good English skills, so if you don’t mind being a little rushed through a tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels, you can opt not to hire your own guide. The good thing is that you can roam freely after the guide is done with their tour.
From my experience, after the video, we checked out a lot of artillery weapons, bombs, and bullets on display leftover from the war. It was like an open-air museum. The guide led on the trail in the forest and at the entrance of the small tunnel opening. He alerted us that if we were claustrophobic, have any health issues, or feel uncomfortable going in, we are encouraged to wait at the tunnel entrance until the rest of the group comes back.
It was such an amazing and educational experience walking through the tunnels. I learned that the Vietnamese were truly innovative people when they used their smaller frames to their advantage. Some people had to crawl on all fours to get through the tunnels.
The ventilation system was great, there was plenty of oxygen inside the tunnels and we passed several chambers used by the Vietnamese for different purposes like a surgery chamber, meeting and strategy chamber, and a kitchen with bamboo networks to redirect the smoke from the fire used for cooking. It also served as a way to confuse enemy soldiers of the tunnel’s location. It was truly fascinating.
We were also shown several traps the Vietnamese used against American troops and a lot of them were really deceptive. Many of them were fenced off so that no wandering tourist can get caught on it. There were also a lot of bomb craters left over from the American war.
One of the favorite things that I learned is that the Vietnamese wore these really thick slippers similar to tire materials. They wore not only to protect their feet but to also trick the enemy when they wear their slippers backward.
Cu Chi Tunnels Shooting Range.
We also have the option to shoot a range of artillery weapons at their firing range. Both Ben Dinh and Ben Duoc have a shooting range where you can pay to use a gun. They did require us to be at least 16 years old and in good physical condition to partake in the activity. I’m not really keen on this so I skipped out.
War Food: Boiled Cassava
We got to try many of the foods the Vietnamese have during wartime like cassava with ground peanuts, sugar, and coconut. We took this with tea. They said that this is what the Vietnam soldiers eat when food was scarce. It was quite delicious actually.
- Take bottled water with you. The Cu Chi Tunnels is surrounded by jungles and it can be quite humid.
- Take insect repellent. Again, the tunnels are surrounded by jungles so it’s important to protect yourself against mosquitoes.
- Go early in the morning to avoid large crowds and the hot midday weather.
- Wear sensible shoes, not sandals.
Lunch at Cu Chi Tunnels
This isn’t always an option but then there is a restaurant there that serves good food so if you’re tour includes lunch, check out our dishes.
That wraps up our full day in Cu Chi Tunnels. Going to Ho Chi Minh soon? Try this for a day trip, it’s quite educational.