Ho Chi Minh

Cu Chi Tunnels: End of the Ho Chi Minh Trail

The Cu Chi Tunnels (Vietnamese spelling: Địa đạo Củ Chi), also referred to as the Vietcong Tunnels or North Vietnamese Tunnels by foreigners, are truly one of the most remarkable underground constructions in the world. Even though it’s almost 50 years since the Vietnamese American War ended in 1975, they continue to tell their fascinating story. 

Cu Chi Tunnel Entrance Fee

The Cu Chi Tunnels are one of the best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City. Regardless of which tunnel system you visit— either Ben Duoc or Ben Dinh— the price is exactly the same and includes a local guide for each group:

Entrance Fee: 90 000 VND (2021)

Cu Chi Tunnel Full or Half Day Tour 

Cu Chi Tunnel tour prices vary depending on whether you take a private tour, open group tour, luxury tour, boat tour, or motorbike. Entrance fees should be included in the tour prices. 

A half day Cu Chi Tunnel tour usually just goes to either one of the tunnel locations. Prices don’t vary that much according to location. You may want to check which tunnel system you are going to, because tours often don’t state this clearly. 

A full day Cu Chi Tunnel tour often includes some part of the Mekong Delta or the Tay Ninh Cao Dai Holy See. Boat tours may explore other river locations.

You can find various tours with prices on Viator and Klook. Ben Duoc is the only site easily accessed on cheap public transport if you don’t want to go on tour or by motorbike.

Two Locations for the Cu Chi Tunnels 

The Cu Chi Tunnels at Ben Dinh
[ by dronepicr from Flickr ]

There are approximately 121 kilometers of preserved Cu Chi tunnels open to tourists. You can choose from two tunnel systems and they are about 12 km or 15 min apart. Both are located towards the north west of Saigon. 

The closer tunnels in Ben Dinh (Bến Đình) district can be reached by speed boat in about 1 hr 15 min or by road which takes 1 hr 30 min or more. The way to the other tunnels at Ben Duoc (Bến Dược) is only by road.

Ben Duoc or Ben Dinh – Which to Choose

Ben Duoc or Ben Dinh - Which to Choose
[ by Dennis Jarvis from Flickr ]

Which Cu Chi tunnels to go to really depends on what you want to do with your day. The nice thing about Ben Dinh is that you can take a river speed boat and get to explore a bit of the mighty Saigon River. 

Both tunnel systems have sections that have been enlarged to fit bigger people. There are also, safety exit points for visitors paced 10 m apart or sometimes more. Most of the tunnels at Ben Dinh are actually reconstructions. Ben Duoc, however, is more authentic and there are more tunnels to explore.

Ben Dinh can get rather crowded (pre pandemic) as many foreigner tourists are funneled to this slightly closer to Saigon area. Both locations have shooting ranges, which some find perturbing but others quite enjoyable. Paintballing, however, is only at Ben Duoc

At Ben Duoc you can get a little more into the solemnity of this historic war. There you can visit the War Memorial Hall and Temple (Đền Tưởng niệm Bến Dược) to those who sacrificed their lives. It covers a large area so you can walk through quieter jungles areas or buzz around on an electric car.

Ben Duoc caters more to families and Vietnamese tourists. There’s a swimming pool, an artificial lake with swan boats and kayaks, an entertainment center with a 4D cinema, and even a camping ground.

Neither of these tunnel systems are considered appropriate for people who have heart or lung disease. 

More About the Cu Chi Tunnels at Ben Dinh 

Things To See and Do at Ben Dinh Tunnels
[ by Dennis Jarvis from Flickr ] [ by Anthony Tong Lee from Flickr ]

Things to See and Do at Ben Dinh Tunnels 

  • Tunnel tours
  • Short documentaries
  • Outdoor displays
  • Rifle shooting 

Once you get there, you pay a 90 000 VND entrance fee which includes a free guided tour in English. It will take approximately one hour to go around. There are four tunnels you can explore and see things like underground sleeping quarters, medical facilities, and command posts. 

Other things to see are displays of all sorts of traps, historical or traditional artefacts, and outdoor dioramas. There’s a tank you can clamber onto which is an original American M41 taken out by a land mine in 1970. When you need a break from the hot sun, you can watch short documentaries and propaganda features. 

If you’re into it, there’s a rifle range where you can shoot original M16 or Ak47 rifles used by the Viet Cong. Nowadays, all you can shoot are moving toy animal targets. It costs around 600 000 VND for 10 rounds— which is a little pricey. 

How to Get to Ben Dinh Tunnels 

The earliest morning speed boat is at 7:30 am from Tan Cang Pier ( Bến tàu Tân Cảng). It’s just across the Saigon River Bridge on the opposite side of the river from the Landmark 81, or just across the highway from Thao Dien Ward.

Other travel options include half or full day tours, a Grab car, or private car hire.  Motorbike rentals are another choice for younger people or the more adventurous traveler. 

More About the Cu Chi Tunnels at Ben Duoc  

Ben Duoc Memorial Temple
Ben Duoc Memorial Hall and Temple
[ by dronepicr from Flickr ]

Things to See and Do at Ben Duoc Tunnels 

  • Memorial hall and temple 
  • Guided tunnel tours 
  • Smokeless kitchen 
  • Rifle shooting 
  • Paintballing
  • Swimming pool
  • East Sea Lake 
  • Entertainment center 
  • Canoe and kayaking

The Ben Duoc Cu Chi Tunnels cover almost 100 hectares or five times the area of Ben Dinh. There’s a lot to see, and if you want to cover long distances, there are electric cars. The entrance fee including the guided tour is 90 000 VND.

Most activities are located in the southern part of the area. If you’d like, you can start your trip with a visit to the Ben Duoc Memorial Hall and Temple which honors the dead from the war and the sacrifices they made.    

Like at Ben Dinh, there are also demonstration models of traps used in the area or in the tunnels. Many of the rooms in the tunnels have diorama depictions of what they looked like at the time. 

Outside, you can wander through reconstructions of war time villages with some structures built partly underground, also with diorama models. There are some interesting everyday items, contraptions, and displays of how people lived not so long ago. 

Villagers and Dioramas
Villages and Dioramas
[ by Roger Shitaki from Tripadago ]

Like Ben Dinh Cu Chi Tunnels, there’s a shooting range, but here you can enjoy a bit of simulated action at the paintballing range

The other kind of attractions are the lake replica of Vietnam’s eastern seaboard with replicas here and there of historic monuments like the Hue Purple Palace or One Pillar Pagoda in Hanoi. You pedal a swan boat or take a kayak out on the waters. There’s also a swimming pool, but it’s kind of small. 

Disguised Kitchen Ventilation
Disguised Kitchen Ventilation
[ by Jorge Lascar from Flickr ]

How to Get to Ben Duoc Tunnels

The most popular way there is with a tour company. Prices vary according to the type of tour, length, and season. You can pay anything from 350 000 VND to over 1 million VND.

A taxi is impractical and expensive, but you can get there by private car hire. This way you can make up your own itinerary for other places you want to visit at your own pace.

Cu Chi Tunnels on the Cheap

If you’re traveling on a shoestring, you can get to Ben Duoc by public bus for as little as 34 000 VND return. 

Go to the 23/9 Park bus stop (September 23rd Park) at 275 Phạm Ngũ Lão Str. and hop on the No.13 bus.

Pham Ngu Lao Str. runs along the bottom of the park with Lê Lai Str. at the top. You walk in the direction of the city or the tall Takashimaya building and half way along you’ll find the bus stop kind of opposite a Burger King and some coach stations.

The ticket is 10 000 VND and it takes around 1 hr 40 min to the Cu Chi bus station. Once there, you have to switch to the No.79 bus for Ben Duoc for 7 000 VND and it takes 40 min. Don’t worry if taxi drivers say there are no more buses, just look for the bus. The last No.79 bus departing from the tunnels is around 17:30. 

Interesting Facts About the Viet Cong Tunnels

Interesting Facts About the Viet Cong Tunnels

If you go to the Cu Chi Tunnels, you will hear many anecdotes and fascinating, if not legendary, things about them. But, here are a few interesting facts: 

  • The tunnels exploited old alluvium terraces with high clay and iron content. When this type of soil dries, it quickly takes on properties similar to concrete. 
  • Tunnels also tapped into underground water tables generally 10 to 20 meters below the surface, and this also determined their limited depth.
  • Tunnels extended beneath US military bases, and others even had submerged entrances from the Saigon river. 
  • Snakes, scorpions, and other nasty critters found in the tunnels were popped into booby traps that emptied onto the heads of American, Australian, and New Zealand tunnel rats
  • Bicycles were used to drive power generators and bicycle pumps were even adapted for doing blood transfusions. 

History of the Cu Chi Tunnels

Cu Chi - The Tunnels That Won The War
Tunnel Rat during Operation Crimp
[ by manhai from Flickr ]

Historians have remarked that without the Viet Cong Tunnels, the war wouldn’t have been such a decisive victory for the north. The war would’ve taken a different course, or at least lasted much longer than it did. 

Although mostly associated with the American War, tunnel construction started in the late 1940s in the struggle against French colonialism. They were used for communication between villages and to evade French army sweeps. 

Their expansion continued from that time until reunification and grew into an elaborate network of at least 250 km of tunneling. Chu Chi was used as a base for infiltrating intelligence agents and sabotage teams into Saigon. The stunning attacks in the South Vietnamese capital during the 1968 Tet Offensive were planned and launched from here.

Cu Chi, as the end of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, also provided manpower and material to the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (called the Viet Cong or “VC”) and the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN), or North Vietnamese Army.

Attempts to destroy or neutralize the tunnels never truly succeeded. The two biggest operations against the Cu Chi Tunnels were Operation Crimp and Operation Cedar Falls.  

The truly astounding thing about the Cu Chi Tunnels is how they were dug by hand, and incorporated underground kitchens, medical units, weapon production, large theaters, and command centers all supported by ingenious ventilation systems.

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