I’ll be completely honest: it was only on my FOURTH visit to Vietnam that I finally got to check out the Cu Chi Tunnels. Long overdue it has to be said – and yes, now I can finally say it, highly recommended!
The Cu Chi Tunnels are definitely one of Vietnam’s must-sees, and definitely worth viewing as part of Vietnam’s war-torn history. Perhaps coupled with a visit to the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, you could turn this into a day exploring Vietnam’s troubled past. It would make a pretty intense day, but one likely to stick in the memory banks for quite a while…
So if you’re looking for some insights into how to visit this famous site, here’s my guide to visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels. Excuse the humor here and there, but it’s really not a humorous, side-splitting place…
How do I get to the Cu Chi Tunnels?
The easiest way to see the tunnels is through any of the numerous ticket offices that you can find throughout tourist-friendly areas like Pham Ngu Lao in Saigon (I’m presuming you’re going to book this tour when you get to HCMC and not when you’re cruising Halong Bay or riding the Ha Giang Loop). Using these ticket agencies, you’re likely to end up on one of the many bus tours that head out to Cu Chi daily (starting from just $14, many agencies also offer morning or afternoon tours, just take your pick).
However, if you’re looking to avoid the hordes and escape the traffic chaos that you’ve probably already grown to love/hate, try a speedboat tour to Cu Chi Tunnels.
A speedboat tour??!
Yep, a speedboat tour! Definitely worth considering if you don’t fancy getting stuck in the snarly Vietnam traffic but do want to feel the wind in your face as you cruise the backwaters of Saigon.
I decided on a speedboat tour because I’d had enough of trying to squeeze my almost two-meter frame into another Vietnamese bus seat (they ain’t built for us Westerners!). The boat ride itself starts at around 8 am (you’ll get picked up outside your hotel/accommodation before that) and takes around an hour to get to the Cu Chi Tunnels site. The tour includes a decent lunch. You can also choose to take the bus back if you don’t fancy the return leg on the Saigon River (that’s what I did). For more details, read this.
What to see and do at the Cu Chi Tunnels
Well, the obvious thing you’ve come to see is the tunnels, and to try and crawl your way through them. Right?
Of course it is.
But the way this site is setup, almost all the tours to Cu Chi will lead you through a series of pitstops before you can actually get hot and sweaty and start crawling…
First up, you’re led to a tent where you get to watch a film about how the tunnels work. There is some 120km of underground tunnels, with trapdoors, and various communal areas, including an impressive air filter system that enabled the Vietnamese soldiers to stay underground for long periods.
After the movie, you’re shown various secret tunnel entrances (as in the pic above, you can also slide into one of the entrances and have that wish you were here shot that everybody wants, as you lift the tunnel door above your head) and nasty looking traps that were used against the enemy.
After you reach the shooting range – which sounds alarmingly close at times – you can grab a bite to eat, grab a souvenir, and yes, even shoot an M16. Bullets will set you back 35,000 VND each, and apparently you have to purchase a minimum of 10 bullets.
Then cometh the tunnels.
Your guide will warn you that it’s really not easy, especially if you have breathing problems, a dodgy heart, etc. So please do bear that in mind.
Because it is actually not very easy.
Maybe because of my height, maybe because I just followed the sexy Vietnamese girl in front of me, but I wanted out after the first few meters. It’s dark (there is some light down there, but not the whole way), it’s cramped, it’s airless…so if confined spaces give you the willies, maybe skip it.
Luckily, there are emergency exit points every 10 meters. So if you’re feeling the pace after 10, 20, 30+ meters, just head out (to your left) at the nearest exit.
Depending on the tour you take, you may be led to the site’s restaurant (the cheaper tours don’t include a lunch, but the speedboat tour definitely does!). The food is decent, though beers will cost extra (not exorbitantly priced, I’m glad to say). After that, you’re on your way back home with your tour bus/boat.
All in all, I’d highly recommend the Cu Chi Tunnels. They might seem a little too touristy for some, but if you’re serious about discovering what makes the Vietnamese tick, this is a must-do!
Cu Chi Tunnels FAQ
Some frequently asked questions (FAQs) about this must-see site (just click on a question to see the answer):
Cu Chi Tunnels Tours
I can’t rate the tour by speedboat highly enough (click HERE for details); it’s a bit pricier than the standard bus tour, but it’s a great way to see the backwaters of Saigon’s districts, and you get to avoid all the traffic chaos that we all love to hate in HCMC…below are some additional options that might tickle your fancy.