As one of the most popular daytrips from HCMC, finding a way to get to the Cu Chi Tunnels is as easy as a walking through the Pham Ngu Lao backpacker district. Almost every travel agent in Saigon offers a one-day tour of the tunnels but some are light on the details. If you’re considering a Cu Chi Tunnels tour, here’s what you can expect.
Being roughly 35 kilometres outside of Saigon, the bus ride to the tunnels will take you approximately two hours. As with most tours in Vietnam, a Cu Chi Tunnel day tour wouldn’t be complete without a pit stop along the way. The stop of choice for most bus tours to Cu Chi is a lacquer factory; you aren’t obligated to buy but they will give you plenty of time to think it over.
After the pit stop, and another 45 minutes on the bus, you will reach your destination. You’ll first watch a short documentary about the area then head to see the tunnels firsthand. Unlike when you do the Cu Chi Tunnels in a half-day on your own, when you’re with a large group your experience in the tunnels will be slightly shorter. Once you go underground, you’ll be given a choice depending on your level of claustrophobia: you can take the plunge and crawl the entire 100-metre length of the widened-for-tourists section or you can escape at any of the 20-metre intervals and return topside.
Outside the tunnels, your guide will lead you through a wooded area where you can see how difficult it would be to discover where tunnels were located. You’ll also see displays of war-time uniforms and examples of tunnel booby traps. You may have the chance to hop into a tunnel that has not been resized for larger travellers for a quick photo op. A quick lunch is included, during which you will be offered a chance to live-fire various weapons used during the conflict, for about 40,000 VND a bullet, at a nearby gun range.
Finally, after a day of crawling and bus riding, you will be returned to HCMC. Once you get back into the city, you may either be returned to your pick-up point or dropped off at the War Remnants Museum, an excellent complement to a trip to the tunnels. One thing to remember: hundreds of people have also been given the same choice and this means that the museum will be packed. If you’ve got extra time, coming back in the morning will help you beat the crowds but, if time isn’t on your side, I’d still recommend checking it out.
Although tour prices vary from shop to shop, you should expect to pay about 120,000 VND a person for your trip. However, be aware that this fee only covers the bus ride and when you arrive at the gate you will need to fork over another 90,000 VND for entry into the tunnel complex. While the tour is generally billed as a half-day affair, it really takes a bit longer — an 08:00 pick up time will usually result in a 15:00 drop-off, which doesn’t include the possible extra stop at the War Remnants Museum.
By Max Murta.