Cu Chi Tunnels, What to expect on your half day tour from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
If you’re travelling to Vietnam there is a pretty good chance you will stop in at Ho Chi Minh City for at least a night or two – with a number of good options to fill your time from meandering through the bustling markets, a trip to the Mekong Delta or a section of the 121km of the Cu Chi tunnels.
You may or may not be aware of the Cu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam, to be honest, before a bit of research ourselves, we didn’t know anything about the tunnels, let alone why they were built back in the 1940’s. To learn more about this fascinating part of history, we decided to jump on a half day tour from Ho Chi Minh City to see what it was all about.
We chose to tour with Innoviet Travel which they advertise to avoid the major tourist areas and this is exactly what we found, we were a couple of only few other tourists!
The Ben Duoc site we visited is also part of the original tunnel system, while the Ben Dinh site (closer to Saigon) has tunnel reconstructions and some of the tunnels have also been made bigger to allow tourists to fit.
A bit of history behind the Cu Chi Tunnels.. in a nutshell
Cu Chi (pronounced Ku Chi) is a district northwest of Saigon (Saigon was the original name before they re-named it Ho Chi Minh). The tunnels played a big part to the Việt Cộng in their resistance to America and had a lot to do with North Vietnam winning the war. The war was between north Vietnamese and their allies, the communists and the south Vietnamese and their allies which were against communism.
The tunnels stretched 121km and took around 25 years to build, predominantly using scrap metals collected from weaponry and bombs left by the Americans- absolutely fascinating.
Our highlights from the half day tour
Our highlights of the tour include visiting the Ben Duoc tunnels, a private history tour, trying to fit into the tiny entrance points to the tunnels (will I fit, won’t I fit??) and firing a rifle!
Cu Chu Tunnels tour itinerary
8am: The tour starts with a hotel pick up (confirm availability with Innoviet directly). From here, it is a leisurely 1.5 hour drive out of the busy capital of Vietnam, formally known as Saigon to the peaceful area of Cu Chi. The driver and guide were on time and we jumped into a comfortable sedan for the drive. We stopped shortly after and the guide purchased us some water.
9.30am: We arrived at the Cu Chi Tunnels, which I might add is about a 20 minute drive further along to the main touristy section. This meant that it was only us and one other small group in the area, and given we started the tour at different times meant we had the place to ourselves.
It was fantastic not to have to share the spot with 100 (or more!) other people.
Before the tour starts, you get to watch a documentary and get to learn the facts behind the tunnels which you need to have an understanding of prior to the start of the tour. There are detailed maps so you can gauge where you are and what the area is like.
After the documentary, the guide took us on a tour through the tunnels. It is at this point that we started to understand more about what the Vietnamese had to endure, the typical living conditions and of course detailed information on the weapon workshops.
During our tour, we were able to navigate ourselves through an authentic tunnel and get a feel of what it would have been like all those years ago. Just imagining having to live this way, using bunkers designed into kitchens. To think about what it must have been like?
The tunnels were small, you can’t walk through standing, you do have to crouch and it is stinking hot!!!
I actually got into one of the hidden tunnel entrances which as you can see from the picture is tiny.
When I got in, I closed the lid and you couldn’t even see it – this meant the Americans were walking directly over where the Vietnamese were hiding out. Jenna didn’t want to get into this tunnel, she didn’t wan the embarrassment if she didn’t fit (she would have fit!).
Have you heard of Cassava? We hadn’t either! It is in fact the local speciality of Cu Chi. It was cassava that fed the Viet Cong fighters for many years. It is a starchy root vegetable which makes sense given the cost of root vegetable is significantly cheaper than other veggies and lasted longer as well. We were given a plate of Cassava after our tour to snack on, I doubt this was available in the war, but it was tasty after being dipped in a bit of salt and chilli.
On our way out, we walked past where they made rubber shoes. It is quite incredible what they can make with rubber cut from tyres – the shoes certainly are durable!
Jenna has always wanted to go to a firing range, but hasn’t had the chance. We purchased 10 bullets for an AK47 at the souvenir shop at the exit of the Cu Chi Tunnels tour. The bullets, were not cheap compared to those available in America! Feel free to have a look at the price list not the below picture.
Our guide and driver then took us to the firing range. It was such a good experience, Jenna had an absolute ball and really enjoyed the experience.
It was time to make our way back to the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City. On our way back, we stopped in at a workshop where they make these incredible pieces of art or decorative pieces/vases out of egg shells! Yep, egg shells, it was pretty amazing to see how they do this.
We had learnt a lot in the morning and the drive back to the hotel was a great time to reflect on the morning. We arrived back at our hotel at around 2pm.
Enjoy our short video!
What to bring on the tour
- You’re in SE Asia – remember to wear sunscreen and a hat!
- Mozzies can be a problem so it might be best to pack mozzie spray
- Comfortable shoes
What’s included in the tour
- We stayed at the Sofitel Saigon Plaza which was in District 1 so hotel pick up and drop off was included
- Air conditioned mini van (we were in a comfortable and new sedan)
- 2 bottles of water per passenger
- English speaking guide
- Entrance fee
What is NOT included in the tour
- The firing range fee as this is an optional extra
- Additional food/drinks
- Personal expenses
- Travel insurance
- Tips for your guide and drive (for tip information, keep reading!)
What to wear on the tour
Innoviet does not have a specific dress code for their tours. However, please be respectful when travelling to another country. Outside of the major cities, it is important to try and dress a little more conservative. If you’re not sure what this means, for girls in particular, clothing that covers your shoulders and knees would be ideal. You could consider a maxi dress with a lightweight scarf, or a t-shirt with some nice cotton or linen pants. Remember, it does get hot so dress for the climate as well.
It might seem obvious, but you’re visiting tunnels.. you might get dirty (duh!) so maybe avoid wearing white and wear decent shoes.
How much to tip your guide/driver
This is such a common question to ask when travelling to different countries. How much do I tip? What’s acceptable? What is considered an insult?
Firstly, always carry extra local currency on you for personal emergencies like additional food or water.
Drivers: The standard acceptable tip for drivers are US$1 – US$2 per day (per person). If you have had a standout driver though, always feel free to tip a little bit more.
Your Guide: Your guide is who makes or breaks your tour. Are they knowledgable, were they attentive, did they answer your questions? If you’ve had a guide that has been fantastic, an acceptable amount is US$3 – US$5 per day (per person).
It is important to note that tipping is not compulsory in Vietnam. If you have received poor service, you do not need to tip. But, if you have received good or excellent service then a tip is welcome.
Note: It is considered an insult if you tip with coins, very small denomination notes and/or ripped or dirty notes.
“Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone.” – Wendell Berry