Cu Chi Tunnels: A Travel Guide

tunnel ben duoc cu chi tunnels vietnam

              If you are in Ho Chi Minh City and looking for a day trip, then look no further than the Cu Chi Tunnels.  They are one of Ho Chi Minh City’s most iconic attractions and well worth the visit.  Coupled with a visit to the War Remnant Museum and you’ll be well on your way to a memorable history lesson about the Vietnam War.  

kitchen ben duoc cu chi tunnels vietnam
Kitchen in the Cu Chi Tunnels.

The Cu Chi Tunnels consist of a vast and ingenious network of underground tunnels, wells, and disguised air vents and doorways.  Connecting living and cooking areas, storage facilities, hospitals, command centers and riddled with hundreds of trap doors, they played a strategic role in the resistance of the Viet Cong soldiers during the Vietnam War and helped them to control a large rural area around Ho Chi Minh City.

cu chi tunnel diagram vietnam
Diagram of the Cu Chi Tunnel system.

Located just northwest of Ho Chi Minh City, this extensive labyrinth of underground tunnels covers 75 miles of under underground area and stretches all the way to the Cambodian border.  Built over a period of 25 years, the initial construction began in 1948 during the war against the French.  Originally only a small network of tunnels connecting villages, the system was expanded massively during the Vietnam War and helped the Viet Cong covertly move supplies and troops around the area. 

Visiting the Tunnels

pillbox ben duoc cu chi tunnels vietnam
One of the many pillboxes in the Cu Chi Tunnels.

              Although the Cu Chi Tunnel Complex covers 75 miles of underground area, you can only tour two sections; the Ben Dinh and Ben Duoc.  These two sections are similar, but provide different experiences to visitors.  Where Ben Dinh is aimed at tourist, Ben Douc is more of an authentic experience.  In both places you will have the opportunity to watch a video on the lives of the Viet Cong and locals during the war (this is actually not optional), explore the tunnels on a guided tour, explore the grounds (exhibits, displays of traps, bomb craters, etc.), eat, drink sugarcane juice, and shoot guns (yea you read that right; see below for more details).  

rotating trap cu chi tunnels vietnam
Replica of a rotating trap door and spikes.

Ben Dinh is the closest (50km from Ho Chi Minh City) and is where most of the tours from Ho Chi Minh City go, but you will not find the same quality experience as you will in Ben Douc.  Due to the fact that most of the tour buses go there it has made this location a bit more a tourist trap, with higher prices, more hawkers, and of course more tourists.  Some of the tunnels at this location have also been enlarged to ‘foreigner sized’ to accommodate tourists.  

disguised tunnel entrance ben duoc cu chi tunnels vietnam
The tunnel entrance is disguised when closed.  Can you see it?

jade tunnel entrance ben duoc cu chi tunnels vietnam
Jade entering one of the tunnel entrances.

Ben Duoc, on the other hand, is slightly further (70km from Ho Chi Minh City), but is a better experience in my opinion.  Because it is further away it is not as touristy as Ben Dinh.  When we went, it was only four of us total during the tour.  You will also get a more authentic experience and gain a great admiration for the Vietnamese who lived here, while you crawl on all fours through these tiny underground tunnels.  You do not spend your whole time in the tunnels and each exhibit can be accessed through a staircase, so if you are uncomfortable or feel that you are to big for the tunnels you can still see everything.  

ben duoc temple cu chi tunnels vietnam
Ben Duoc Temple.

There is also a temple at Ben Duoc, built in 1993, in memory of the Vietnamese killed at Cu Chi.  On the grounds is also a nine-storey tower with a flower garden at the front. Because it is a temple you should only enter if you’re dressed appropriately.  

Travel Tips

jade inside tunnel ben duoc cu chi tunnels vietnam
You can see how short the tunnels are with Jade sitting in them.

stair entrance ben duoc cu chi tunnels vietnam
Staircase leading into the tunnels for easier access.

·       There is no dress code for the Cu Chi Tunnels (unless you visit the temple), but wearing clothes that you do not mind getting dirty is a good idea, as you will be crawling underground.
·       Tourists with claustrophobia and high-blood pressure are not advised to make an attempt to go in the tunnels. You can still enter the larger dug out exhibits by stairs and see the tunnels from there.
·       There are also bats inside the tunnels.  Seriously! It hit me on my head! 

Entrance Fee/Times

Opening hours: Daily, 8 am to 5 pm
Entrance ticket: Ben Dinh: 110,000 VND/5 USD per person
                        Ben Duoc: 90,000/4.09 USD per person

Shooting Range

The bullets for each gun are sold in sets, and each set has 10 bullets of the same type. The price list for the different types of bullets (not sets) are:

M16: 35,000 VND/1.59 USD per 1 bullet
AK 47: 40,000 VND/1.81 USD per 1 bullet
M60: 40,000 VND/1.81 USD per 1 bullet
M30: 30,000 VND/1.36 USD per 1 bullet
M1 Garand: 30,000 VND/1.36 USD per 1 bullet
M1 Carbine: 25,000 VND/1.13 USD per 1 bullet

How to Get There

river walk ben duoc cu chi tunnels vietnam
Riverwalk at the Be Duoc Cu Chi Tunnels.

              There are many ways of getting to Cu Chi Tunnels depending on the experience you are wanting.  As mentioned above you can catch one of the many tours that will take you by bus or motorcycle (depending on your choice of tour) to Ben Dinh.  These tours can be found at any of the tour agencies in the backpacker’s district.  There is also the option of taking a boat tour if you would like, but it is fairly expensive.  If you have your own wheels you can also drive yourself and see a little countryside along the way.  Google maps is accurate to the location of the tunnels and can give you good directions to the one you want to visit and will take 1.5 – 2 hours.  

By Bus

public bus cu chi tunnels vietnam
Public bus to Cu Chi Tunnels.

              The cheapest of all the options is of course taking the public bus.  This is a bit longer, at about 3 hours (one way), but only costs 27,000 VND/1.22 USD round trip.  To do this you will want to catch bus #13 from the Công viên 23/9 bus station located near the backpacker’s district.  This bus should cost 7,000 VND/0.32 USD and will take you to the Chu Chi bus terminal.  From here you will take bus #79 to the tunnels for 6,000 VND/0.27 USD.  To return you will just repeat this process in reverse.  Keep in mind that on the return, bus #79 stops running at 5:30pm and #13 at 9:00pm.  If you miss the #79 bus, like we did, there are other buses that you can take to get back to Ho Chi Minh City, but you will have to piece it together yourself depending on the time of evening.  

pinpoint location cu chi tunnels vietnam

How was your experience in the Cu Chi Tunnels?

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