There are two Cu Chi Tunnels. There is the one that most of the tourists go to, known as the Ben Dinh Cu Chi Tunnels. By everything I can tell, these were created for tourists and are not the real deal. Of course, these are super easy to get to and every tour will be in your face telling you to go to these.
The other set is the Ben Duoc Cu Chi Tunnels. These are the real deal and are mostly visited by Vietnamese visitors. While some sources tell you to rent cars and drivers to get here, you can do it for around $1 per person.
Note that the Ben Duoc Cu Chi tunnels are a workout on the legs and require a lot of crouching, especially if you are tall. There are bats in the tunnels, but they don’t kill people or anything.
You will want to make sure you are done with the tunnels no later than 430PM to ensure Bus 79 is still running back to the station where you get Bus 13 to Saigon.
To get to the Ben Duoc tunnels, do the following:
First, you need to pick up the #13 Bus in Saigon. This bus runs every 10-20 minutes and runs from 430AM to 730PM or thereabouts.
To get Bus #13, head to the north side of the park to Le Lai. You will get the bus on the south side of the street. It will then head up Nguyễn Thị Nghĩa. If you haven’t boarded a bus in Saigon before, just jump on and take a seat. Someone will come by to collect your money. As of Spring 2015, it was 5,000VND (~$0.25USD). It should take about 1:20 (one hour and twenty minutes) on this bus (traffic dependent of course).
Coordinates to pick up the bus in Saigon are 10.769898, 106.693349. See Google Maps here.
The bus will pull into a bus station and this is where you get off to hop on Bus 79. Bus 79 runs every 20-25 minutes from 530AM to 530PM.
Coordinates to change buses are 10.970837 106.482427 and can be found on Google Maps here.
Bus 79 should run you about 4,000VND and a little less than an hour.
The coordinates where you get off the bus are 11.149601 106.460078 and can be found on Google Maps here
Just before those coordinates is a road that runs into the Cu Chi tunnel area. I tried getting off here and the driver got all wound up and told me to get back on. In retrospect, getting off there probably would’ve saved me some time because its more direct for getting to the tunnels themselves. But I guess its somewhat like going in the back exit…
There is a shooting range located within walking distance of the Ben Duoc Cu Chi tunnel area. The bullets are quite expensive (relative to Vietnam pricing) and they have some offer about buying a certain amount of bullets gets you a free ride to the range. However, it is a walkable distance (maybe a 20 minute straight-forward walk once you find the walk) despite what lies some of them may tell you. Further, note that all the guns are tethered/attached to the concrete. ASK for headphones before shooting. They won’t necessarily offer them on their own. But after you discharge a round and get the ringing, you will be.
Also, realize that the guns and all are not in great condition. As such, some guns are not available even if they are on the signboard. Others have minimum ammunition purchase limits.
And to get from the Ben Duoc Cu Chi tunnels back to Saigon, just flag down a bus on the same road you got off on and repeat the process in reverse.
Are the Cu Chi tunnels worth the trip? If you are into the war or history or that kind of thing, it is definitely a decent day trip. It is also great if you have read a book beforehand (or after) to have gone. The Vietnam War book I have read about Cu Chi and highly recommend is The Tunnels of Cu Chi: A Harrowing Account of America’s Tunnel Rats in the Underground Battlefields of Vietnam
If you are just in Vietnam to have fun and don’t care about history, then I truthfully don’t think you are missing much if you don’t check out the tunnels while in town.
(Here are screenshots of the maps – first, where to pick up Bus 13. Second, where to pick up Bus 79. Last, where to get off.)
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