Are you planning to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels on your stay in Ho Chi Minh City?
You can pay for a group tour or do it independently and spend a fraction of the money. We can show you how.
Ben Duoc tunnels vs Ben Dinh tunnels
The majority of group tours you’ll find around HCMC drive tourist to the Ben Dinh tunnels. These were reconstructed and widened by the government so western tourists could fit. The price of the group tours doesn’t include entrance fees, just transportation.
In opposition, the ones in Ben Duoc are a part of the authentic Cu Chi network of tunnels used during the war—the real deal—and you can get there by bus. Now you choose.
The Cu Chi Tunnels
As proper tourists, our second day in HCMC was reserved for visiting the famed Cu Chi tunnels. They’re an underground tunnel system dug by the Vietnamese during the fight for independence against French colonists, then used and developed to fight Americans during the Vietnam War (or American War as the Vietnamese call it). At its pinnacle, the tunnels became a complex anthill with several storeys deep, hospitals, living quarters and communication routes that stretched for more than 250 kilometers long.
Nowadays they’re a reminder of Vietnam’s underground warfare, the determination of its people and a famous tourist attraction.
Public Bus to Ben Duoc
Go to the Bus Station at the western end of Backpacker Street (Pham Ngu Lao) in District 1.
Hop on the Bus Nº13 to Cu Chi Station. The tickets are purchased inside the bus from a ticket agent and they’ll cost €0.28 per person. This trip is around 1h40.
As you reach the Cu Chi Station and get out of the bus, you’ll have to swerve around the horde of taxi drivers offering their services to arriving tourists. They’ll say there are no more buses onwards and taking a taxi is the only alternative. Yeah right!
Smile, just let them talk while you look around for the Bus Nº79.
Get in the Bus Nº79 and buy the ticket to Ben Duoc from the ticket agent. This final trip will be around 40 minutes. We asked the ticket agent to let us know where we needed to get off and he did.
Nonetheless, after 40 minutes you’ll reach an intersection with two blue traffic signs pointing to Ben Duoc (left) and Ben Dinh (right). The bus turns left by default and two minutes later you’ll have to hop off. This is the spot:
Locals will help you too. They’re super friendly and know that if you’re on that bus, you plan to visit the Ben Duoc tunnels. Like we mentioned before, only group tours go to Ben Dinh.
Benefits of DIYing it
At the reception of our hotel we saw a bunch of flyers for organized group tours to the Cu Chi Tunnels starting at 6,50€ for half a day—entrance fees not included.
If that was the “tourist price” we knew we could do it for at least a third of the money. And we did!
The advantage of avoiding group tours are not only monetary. We value freedom and time more than anything and by not depending on a third-party, we can do what we want, when we want to, for as long as we want.
Visiting the site
The tunnels entrance fee in 2016 was €3.57 each.
We were directed to a gazebo to watch a short video on the Vietnam War and the key role the tunnels had during war operations.
Our guide for the day introduced himself and explained how the tunnels were dug and the living conditions the Viet Cong troops had to endure for months down there. It was rough…
More aware of what we were about to see, the guide took us on a little journey through the forest, showing us:
Bomb craters and booby traps,
Missiles and the tunnels ventilation systems scattered in between trees.
We were invited to crawl inside sections of the tunnels and it was nerve-racking especially for two tall guys like me and Nuno. The air was thin and hot, the lights were dim and fruit bats flew through people’s hair.
If you’re claustrophobic or anxiety prone, don’t even.
Afterward, we were called to taste what soldiers had to eat back then: boiled manioc dipped in salt, sugar and crushed peanuts.
If you’re willing to pay some extra you can fire an AK-47 rifle on a shooting range. In our case, we decided to visit the buildings and gardens around the memorial park. It was nice to see that a battlefield where so many people were killed, now grows beautiful orchids as a form of tribute.
Just remember that the last Nº79 bus of the day is around 17h30. After that, you’re on your own! To head back to HCMC catch the Nº79 in the same road you hopped off, then the Nº13 to District 1.
Check all we did around Ho Chi Minh City.
The bus rides were really enjoyable
Experiencing public transports is something you shouldn’t miss, it’ll always make you feel like one of the gang. It’s a great way to chat with locals and meet travelers alike.
On the way to the Cu Chi Tunnels, we met an Israeli family of 5: mom, dad and 3 kids with 13, 8 and 4 years old. It was their first time in Vietnam.
They’d been traveling for 3 months straight and were super stoked to be sharing this experience with their kids.
They’re a great example to parents believing they can’t travel anymore because they have a child. Obviously, the travel logistics will be different and WAY more demanding, but it goes to show that it’s possible! ?
Cu Chu Tunnels expenses for 1 person
Cu Chi Tunnels entrance fee (2016): 3.54€
Bus HCMC to Cu Chi: 0.28€
Bus Cu Chi Station to Ben Duoc: 0.24€
If you have any questions or some extra info to share that everybody can benefit from, leave it down in the comments!