Besides exploring the local attractions and enjoying the hustle and bustle of the urban area in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), it is highly recommended to take a short trip to the suburbs or the neighboring provinces. You can get to know life in Southern Vietnam’s rural areas and visit many historical sites from the Vietnam War era.
One of the most popular tours for large groups and backpackers is the trip to the Mekong Delta in several provinces, such as My Tho, Ben Tre, Can Tho, Soc Trang, Ca Mau, Tay Ninh, etc. Based on your plans and preferences, you can book a tour through a travel agency, or explore Vietnam on your own. Each province has its own cultural charm and unique attractions that will give you a memorable experience.
For day trips, the Cu Chi tunnel complex is a must-visit place for anyone who is going to stay in HCMC just for a few days or several weeks. 60 kilometers, or about 45 miles, to the north of central HCMC, the Cu Chi tunnel complex is an immense, hidden underground network for Viet Cong soldiers who worked and lived during the Vietnam War.
Unlike common historical museums and relics, there are a lot of interactive and interesting activities for visitors to do here, in order to learn more about modern Vietnamese history and explore the lives of the locals with their cuisines, tropical weather, and culture. In this post, we will introduce you to the top 6 engaging things to do in Cu Chi tunnels that you should consider for your trip.
What are Cu Chi tunnels?
The Cu Chi tunnel complex is an extensive underground network. They had been built for over 25 years, since 1948, during the war against the French. At first. they are a group of separate underground networks, built as a way to keep villages in touch and help the locals evade scouting French soldiers.
During the Vietnam War, these separate networks unified and extended over an area of 250 kilometers. These tunnels served as a strategic base for the Viet Cong soldiers, offering shelter, supply routes, and communication channels, as well as the location of many important military campaigns during the Vietnam War, including the Spring Mau Than in 1968.
Today, these tunnels stand as a living testament to Vietnam’s rich history and are a popular destination for tourists seeking to delve into the country’s past. There are two main areas that are open for tourists, namely Ben Duoc Tunnel (Headquarters of the Party Committee, Saigon – Cholon – Gia Dinh Military Region) and Ben Dinh Tunnel (The base of the Cu Chi District Commissioner).
Some basic information about the Cu Chi tunnel complex that you can save to your notes:
- Ben Duoc Tunnel: Phu Hiep Village, Phu My Hung, Cu Chi District, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- Ben Dinh Tunnel: TL15, Phu Hiep, Cu Chi District, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- Website: http://diadaocuchi.com.vn/
- Entry ticket to the Cu Chi tunnel complex: around 90-110.000 VND for foreigners. If you think of other things to do in Cu Chi tunnels, some places will require an extra fee, such as the shooting range. However, the price will not be too expensive.
How to get to Cu Chi Tunnels from central Ho Chi Minh City?
If you’re planning to make the trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels with a large group or on a guided tour, it is best to take private transportation, like a limousine, which is frequently provided by a travel agency. Other popular options are going by bus, taxi, motorcycle, or private car.
This is the most popular way to reach the Cu Chi Tunnels. As mentioned above, there are two entries for tourists:
- Bus to Ben Duoc Tunnel: Take bus number 13 (Ben Thanh – Cu Chi) or bus number 94 (Cho Lon – Cu Chi), then get off at the Cu Chi bus stop. Get on bus number 79 (Cu Chi – Dau Tieng) to reach Ben Duoc Tunnel.
- Bus to Ben Dinh Tunnel: Take bus number 13 (Ben Thanh – Cu Chi) or bus number 94 (Cho Lon – Cu Chi), and get off at An Suong Bus Station. Then, transfer to bus number 122 to reach the Tan Quy bus stop. From Tan Quy, take bus number 70 to get to Ben Dinh Tunnel.
Both ways will take about 2 hours. You will pay about 7-15.000 VND for a bus ticket.
By motorcycles or cars
You can use your own motorbike or car, or rent one in HCMC. The traveling distance is 140 km, so it is possible to go by personal motorcycle or car. It will take about one and a half hours to reach the Ben Dinh Tunnel from central HCMC.
Taxis are the most expensive option, but many tourists prefer them for privacy and convenience. Most rides charge about 1 million VND for about 150 km. You can compare the prices among taxi apps such as Grab, Be, etc.
By canoe, boats
This is the unique way to reach the Cu Chi Tunnels through the Sai Gon River. It takes about 1 and a half hours to go by canoe or boat. To choose this means of transportation, you can choose a tour offered by a local travel agency that includes traveling by canoe/boat.
Top 6 exciting things to do in Cu Chi tunnels for tourists
Below are the top activities for all tourists visiting the Cu Chi tunnel complex. For a whole day trip, you can explore all the places listed here.
Get to know how Cu Chi tunnels work
The Cu Chi Tunnels are a collective term for various tunnel systems that were formed in the late 1940s, in the era of the Indochina War. The locals dug individual tunnels to avoid the sweeping raids of the French army and to provide shelter for the Viet Cong forces. Each village built its own tunnel, and later, due to the need for communication and movement among different villages, the tunnel systems were connected, forming a complex and interlinked network that later expanded.
By 1965, during the Vietnam War, approximately 250 kilometers of tunnels had been dug. In terms of scale, the tunnel system had a total length of over 200 kilometers and three different depth levels: the top layer was about 3 meters below the ground, the middle layer was about 5-8 meters deep, and the bottom layer was over 12 meters deep. At this stage, the tunnels not only served as hiding places but also became places for multiple functions, such as battle trenches, bunkers, fighting positions, dining areas, sleeping areas, meeting rooms, living areas, medical stops, hidden supplies, water wells, and the Hoang Cam kitchen.
When visiting Cu Chi tunnels, visitors can explore the first two levels of the system, which have a length of 120 meters and contain many wartime artifacts like door traps, first aid tunnels, models simulating soldiers in combat positions, etc.
Sightsee the military liberation zone’s re-enactment areas
In the military liberation zone’s re-enactment areas, tourists can watch documentaries about the Vietnam War, along with some remarkable battle scenes from the war, such as Cedar Falls. Many models simulating the daily lives of Viet Cong soldiers, representing their lives in Cu Chi during different periods, include:
- 1961 – 1964, introducing the lives of people in the newly liberated areas;
- 1965 – 1968, witness the painful life of the people during the war, with damages from bombs and bullets, collapsed/burnt houses and pagodas;
- 1969 – 1972, Cu Chi became the “white zone,” with tons of chemical defoliants and bombs dropped on this area. This is the time when the daily lives and activities of the Cu Chi guerrillas and military units were moved underground.
These areas also present some models of famous historical relics around Vietnam, representing the main areas in Vietnam like the Mot Cot Pagoda (Northern), Ngo Mon (Central), and Dragon Wharf (Southern).
Experience historic weapons at the shooting range
When you visit the shooting range, you can have the opportunity to fire a real gun like the Viet Cong soldiers in the past, like an AK, M16, M60, Garand, Carbin, or handgun. This is considered one of the most interesting things to do in Cu Chi tunnels. Only tourists over 16 years old can join. The entry fee is 50.000 VND for 60 minutes, with an additional fee for bullets (minimum quantity: 5, 50.000 VND/each). You can also try paintball at the shooting range for much cheaper prices. There are English-speaking instructors who help tourists dismantle and fire guns properly.
Explore Trung An fruit garden
Over 50,000 tourists visit Trung An fruit garden each year. This is a hotspot for dining for both locals and international tourists. When visiting Trung An fruit garden, you can explore the tropical haven with plenty of delicious fruits like durian, jackfruit, mangosteen, plum, rambutan, jackfruit, longan, etc. Depending on the season, tourists can have the chance to harvest the fruit themselves and try the taste of fresh fruit right at the moment. Tourists can also try local cuisine at the restaurant located inside the garden. The entry fee to the garden ranges from 30-50.000 VND/person.
Visit Cu Chi Wildlife Rescue Station
The Cu Chi Wildlife Rescue Station is a place that cares for and rehabilitates wildlife individuals taken from illegal trading and captivity activities. This is the first rescue station in Southern Vietnam capable of taking care of over 5,500 endangered wildlife species. After recovering their health, these rare wildlife species are released back into their natural habitat.
When visiting the Cu Chi Wildlife Rescue Station, you not only get to witness the rescued endangered wildlife species up close but also receive thoughtful and informative guidance. You will hear touching stories and fascinating information about each rescued wildlife individual.
Learn about the Vietnam War through Ben Duoc Memorial Temple
The Ben Duoc Memorial Temple was built to memorialize the significant contributions of the soldiers and people who were killed in the Saigon – Gia Dinh region during the war. The memorial temple includes the Tam Quan triple gate, a stele house (nha van bia), and the main shrine (Den chinh). Located at the end of the Ben Duoc Tunnels, tourists can visit here right after a round trip to the tunnel complex.
Enjoy local delicacies at Cu Chi tunnels
When thinking of the top things to do in Cu Chi tunnels, trying the local cuisine is a must. Some recommended dishes are listed below, with some options being vegan-friendly:
- Beef: Explore the savory qualities of the selected beef made from heifers, with local recipes like grilling, frying, or serving in rolls.
- Tapioca: This was a popular source of food for Vietnamese people during wartime. You can try to eat it the traditional way, eating tapioca with sesame salt, or mixing it with sticky rice.
- Durian sugarcane juice: The unique combination of the favorite street beverage of the locals and the taste of tropical fruit has made this a must-try drink when visiting Cu Chi tunnels.
Preparations for the Cu Chi tunnel complex tour
There are some tips for tourists before heading to the Cu Chi tunnel complex:
- Bring insect repellent, as there will be many mosquitoes and insects there
- Dress properly for outdoor activities, as the tunnels are quite narrow
- Bring some cash to pay for extra activities in the Cu Chi tunnel complex, as well as buy drinks, snacks, or souvenirs
- If you are on a special diet and not sure about the ingredients in most local cuisine, prepare some food or drink
- Buy a handheld fan and hats, as the atmosphere might be extremely hot due to the weather and the crowds
There are a lot of things to do in Cu Chi tunnels that will make your journey in Vietnam unforgettable. On this trip, you will learn more about the history and culture of Vietnam through historical relics and local delicacies. Each part of your adventure, like seeing how the underground network works, visiting re-enactment areas, firing real weapons, and sightseeing, adds to the richness of the whole. This is a place where the past and the present mix, giving you moments that will stay with you for the rest of your life.