Besides being the hustle and bustle of an economic hub, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) embraces historical vestiges appealing to both domestic and international tourists. Cu Chi Tunnels are one of the most significant relics of the city, offering first-hand experiences inside the massive underground cave and interesting insights into the lives of Vietnamese soldiers during the war.
1. About Cu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam
1.1. Location of Cu Chi Tunnels
- Address: TL15, Phu Hiep, Cu Chi District, Ho Chi Minh City
- Opening hours: 8 AM - 5 PM (7 days a week)
- Entrance fees (updated in 2022):
- Ben Duoc: 110.000 VND/ person
- Ben Dinh: 90.000 VND/ person
Cu Chi Tunnels (Địa đạo Củ Chi in Vietnamese) are situated in Cu Chi district - the outskirts northwest of Ho Chi Minh city, 70 kilometers away from the city center. The underground networks are well-retained in two spots: Ben Dinh Tunnels (Ben Dinh Hamlet, Nhuan Duc Commune) and Ben Duoc Tunnels (Phu Hiep Hamlet, Phu My Hung Commune).
Despite the far distance from the vibrant center, this suburban district is worth visiting for its several tourist destinations along with the tunnel networks, such as fresh fruit gardens, Cu Chi Water Park, and Fosaco eco-village.
Cu Chi weather is another factor to consider before your trip. Owing to the tropical climate, Cu Chi has two distinct seasons: the rainy season (May to October) and the dry season (November to April) - the best time to visit Cu Chi Tunnels.
1.2. A brief history of Cu Chi Tunnels Saigon
The Tunnels of Cu Chi, a gigantic underground tunnel system, was originally constructed under the jungle terrain, connecting tunnels among the hamlets and communes during the Indochina war (1945-1954) against the French colonialists. It served as hiding spots for Vietnam revolutionary troops to discreetly commute between regions and evade French scouts.
During the Vietnam war, the network had been expanded into an assembly complex for Communist guerrilla soldiers to house troops, transport communications, and supplies, receive medical treatments, take shelters from aerial bombardment, and mount surprise attacks, after which they could disappear underneath the ground. As a military headquarters, Cu Chi Tunnels played a pivotal role in the Vietnamese forces' resistance to the American army in South Vietnam. It served as an isolated stronghold to plan strategies and launch successful military campaigns, notably the victorious Tết Offensive in 1968.
Throughout the country's turbulent history, these iconic Saigon tunnels witnessed the sufferings in the fierce wars and symbolized the tenacity and resourcefulness of the Vietnamese people. Cu Chi Tunnels are listed in the top 7 must-visit epic and adventurous places in Southeast Asia by The Travel and one of the world’s coolest places by The New York Times.
2. How to get to Cu Chi Tunnels, Ho Chi Minh City
- By taxi: A taxi is a convenient yet the most expensive option as you can reach the tunnels within 1.5 hours.
- By bus: A bus is the cheapest but most time-consuming option which takes you 2.5 hours and roughly 25.000 VND to get to Cu Chi Tunnels' area.
First, you catch bus No. 13 (from 23-9 Park / Ben Thanh Bus Station) or No. 94 (from Cho Lon / 12 Xuan Dieu) to Cu Chi Bus Station, then get on bus No. 79 to Ben Duoc Tunnel or bus No. 63 to Ben Dinh Tunnel.
- By private motorbike/car: You can rent a motorbike or car in Ho Chi Minh City at affordable prices and follow Northwest of National Road 15 to get to the site. Remember to turn on GPS and check the weather before your trip since the route to Cu Chi district can be difficult for first-time travelers.
- By boat/ canoe: A boat or canoe will provide a new experience for your Cu Chi Tunnels travel. You can take a speedboat (with the first boat leaving at 7:30 am every day) departing from Tan Cang pier along the Saigon River to Cu Chi in 75 minutes.
>>> Book a hotel room in Ho Chi Minh City before delving into the underground world of the astonishing Cu Chi tunnels
3. Inside the Tunnels of Cu Chi Saigon
Stretching to the Cambodian frontier, the system of Cu Chi tunnels used to reach a total length of nearly 250 kilometers, of which 120 kilometers have been well-preserved and available for public visit nowadays. The complex of Cu Chi Tunnels Saigon astounds visitors with its intricate architecture and resilience in the area of clay soil mixed with laterite.
On the ground level, there are hundreds of inventive booby traps and counterfeit bunkers set up to impale and deceive enemies. The entrances to these tunnels are so narrow that only Vietnamese could fit in, with wooden manhole covers camouflaged by leaves.
The underground part of the hidden system features three deep levels where numerous passages are connected through a central axis and extend to the Saigon River. The first level (3 meters underneath the ground) was capable of withstanding chemical warfare, bullets, tanks, and armored vehicles, whilst the second one (6 meters from the ground) could resist the destructive power of bombs. The third level is the deepest (more than 12 meters from the ground). Between the levels, escape hatches were made to counter toxic gas along with unrevealed vents leading to the ground. Communications passages were constructed 0.8~1.2 meters in size with a minimum 1.5 meter-thick roof.
A little-known fact about Cu Chi Tunnels is that Vietnamese soldiers excavated this immense underground network with hundreds of kilometer-long tunnels just by hands and primitive tools. The tunnels' inner structure is likened to a man-made underground city since it accommodated necessary facilities for a thousand of soldiers and dwellers, such as kitchens, hospitals, schools, theaters, armories, chambers, and command centers.
4. Things to do in Cu Chi Tunnels, Ho Chi Minh city
4.1. Experience the Cu Chi Tunnel complex
Cu Chi Tunnels now function as an outdoor war memorial accessible to tourists of all nationalities. The 120-meter-long tunnel system is retained and operated in two spots with various fascinating activities.
- Ben Dinh Tunnels
Ben Dinh was reconstructed and enlarged to attract visitors; thus, it is a crowded section of Cu Chi Tunnels’ network. Situated next to the Saigon River, Ben Dinh Tunnels have a convenient location where Cu Chi Commissioners led the troops and escaped to the river if any emergency arose. It was used for a long time, from 1968 to 1975.
After entering the site, you would start from a thatched hut that exhibits a map of the region, layouts of the tunnels, and black and white documentaries to fill you in on the background. When you head into the jungle, local guides will show you how dangerous booby-traps and concealed pits were. Then, after 45 minutes to an hour in the underground tour, you will see old amenities in the tunnels, impressive demonstrations, and listen to intriguing stories about people who used to live here.
- Ben Duoc Tunnels
Cu Chi Ben Duoc Tunnels (100 hectares) are five times bigger than Ben Dinh Tunnels (17 hectares) but less touristy. Ben Duoc is a favorable site for adventurous individuals hankering to gain hands-on experience inside the underground city of Saigon. It enables visitors to challenge themselves to crawl through cramped and rough tunnels on a deeper level. The original tunnels have been extended and restored by cementation and installation of lights to make the journey safer and less harrowing than in the past. There are also emergency exits every 10 meters.
*Please note that this activity is not recommended for those who have breathing problems, high blood pressure, or claustrophobia.
These practical experiences will give you a clear picture of the Vietnamese soldiers' harsh living conditions during the war. Ben Duoc also houses worth-visiting historical landmarks such as Hoang Cam kitchen and Ben Duoc Memorial Temple.
4.2. Sightsee the Military liberation zone’s reenactment areas
These areas reenact the fiercest period of war from 1961 to 1972 in South Vietnam, offering visitors vivid experiences as if they are traveling back in time. There are three sections in the site that reflect the enduring life of Vietnamese guerrilla soldiers and Cu Chi locals during wartime and the desolate village scenes ruined by toxic chemicals, artillery, and bombing raids.
4.3. Play Shooting Guns and Paintball Guns
Besides the underground experiences, the Tunnels of Cu Chi afford exciting military sports that fascinate many foreign tourists. Both Ben Dinh and Ben Duoc have shooting ranges, allowing participants to handle weapons used during the war, such as AK-47s and M16s, under the staff’s instructions.
In paintball shooting, players will be equipped with masks, uniforms, armor, and guns for their combat in the natural forest. These war simulator games will help you experience the shooting, team collaboration, and fighting spirit as soldiers of the past.
- Tickets for shooting range: 50.000 VND/ person/ 60 minutes.
*Participants are required to have good health conditions and a minimum age of 16 to join shooting activities with real guns.
4.4. Try the swimming pool in Cu Chi Ben Duoc Tunnels
After the tunnel tours and military activities, visitors can immerse themselves in the clear cool water and play water sports at the Cu Chi swimming pool which simulates the East Sea.
- Tickets for Cu Chi swimming pool: 20.000 VND/ person
4.5. Visit Cu Chi Wildlife Rescue Station
The Wildlife Rescue Station of Cu Chi (Animal rescue station Cu Chi) is located between Ben Dinh and Ben Duoc, about 8 kilometers away from the center of the tourist area. The Cu Chi station of 4,000 square meters is considered the largest rescue center in southern Vietnam.
Established in 2006, Cu Chi Wildlife Rescue Station is the result of a heroic effort to protect 5500 rare animal species on the edge of extinction from an alarming decrease in Vietnam. This is also home to vulnerable creatures often harmed by relentless trapping, long-time abuse, and extreme confinement. Your visit to the Cu Chi rescue center would be a support to these endangered animals and the dedicated staff and a chance to broaden your knowledge about nature conservancy's significance.
- Address: No. 50, Road No. 15, Cho Cu Ha Hamlet, Cu Chi District, Ho Chi Minh City
4.6. Visit Cu Chi fruits garden
South Vietnam, including Cu Chi, is blessed with a vast variety of exotic and lip-smackingly delicious tropical fruits, such as durian, rambutan, jackfruit, mangosteen, and plum.
Near the Tunnels of Cu Chi, Trung An fruit gardens or Bay Trieu orchard are famous spacious orchards where tourists can have an enjoyable garden experience and pick their own fruits to bring home.
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5. What to eat: Cu Chi Tunnels’ food
Along with incredible historic destinations, the suburb district has emerged as a favorite spot for rustic but mouth-watering dishes. Cu Chi specialties have pleasant favors made from local organic sources, which will satisfy your taste buds during your trip to Cu Chi Tunnels.
- Fresh tapioca - Cu Chi Tunnels’ signature
After a long journey to Cu Chi Tunnels, visitors will be treated to jasmine tea and boiled tapioca root with a mix of salted peanuts and sugar at the Hoang Cam kitchen. This simple dish was the staple food in Vietnamese fighters' diet that kept them surviving throughout the war.
- Minh Quy pork noodles - A 62-year-old noodle brand in Cu Chi
Address: Minh Quy Bun Bo Gio Heo, 295/1A TL15, Phu Hoa Dong, Cu Chi, Ho Chi Minh City
Price: 55.000 VND
- Cu Chi beef wrapped in rice papers
Address: Bo To Xuan Dao, Quarter 2, National Route 22, Cu Chi, Ho Chi Minh City
Price: 80.000 VND ~ 250.000 VND
- Durian sugarcane juice in Cu Chi
Address: Vuon Cau fruit shop, 259A National Route 22, Tan Thong Hoi, Cu Chi, Ho Chi Minh City
Price: 15.000 VND
6. Where to stay when visiting Cu Chi Tunnels Saigon
Cu Chi district offers many accommodation options with a wide range of price and quality levels. However, to make your visit to Cu Chi Tunnels the most comfortable, it is recommended to choose fine hotels around the city center to easily access adequate facilities, transportation systems, and other tourist attractions in Saigon.
Nestled along the scenic Saigon riverbank, Vinpearl Landmark 81, Autograph Collection is an ideal choice to fulfill all your needs, featuring its prime location in the tallest skyscraper in Vietnam - the newest icon of wealth in Sai Gon.
Standing out from the green garden of Vinhomes Central Park, Vinpearl Landmark 81, Autograph Collection is honored as the highest hotel in Southeast Asia. The hotel has set a new standard for the “Luxury defined by Viet Nam” experience with exquisite interiors, 223 deluxe rooms, a 120-square-meter infinity swimming pool, a five-star Akoya Spa, and top-notch restaurants & sky bars, affording stunning panoramic views of the city.
From here, it is convenient for travelers to reach numerous sought-after destinations in Ho Chi Minh City, such as Ben Thanh Market, Independence Palace, War Remnants Museum, Bui Vien Walking Street, and Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral.
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Cu Chi Tunnels are not only a famous tourist attraction in Ho Chi Minh City but also a lasting national monument. The spider-web-like tunnels are a solemn reminder of the infamous war events in Vietnam, offering a unique experience that you cannot find anywhere else in the world. Book rooms at Vinpearl Landmark 81, Autograph Collection today for your unforgettable travel to the epic land of Saigon!