Taking A $6.00 Tour Of Cu Chi Tunnels – Do I Regret It?
I am not usually one to go into a travel agency to book a tour, though when it came to visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels in Hoi Chi Minh City I had no idea where to start. I knew I could not do it myself. There was no way I would survive being on a motorbike in that traffic and I was no confident taking public transport. Booking a tour would be the only way to go.
If you have visited a Vietnamese City you will agree with me on one thing, travel agencies are everywhere and it can be difficult to tell which are legitimate or not. Vietnam is a country not just known for its counterfeit goods, but also counterfeit companies.
We kind of winged it and decided to book with the ‘most’ legitimate looking company. Basically this just meant shiny floors, a professional setup and nice staff members. It is located along Bùi Viện, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, just down from Gotcha! fast food restaurant on the opposite side of the road.
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Choosing A Tour Of Cu Chi Tunnels
Booking With A Travel Agency
If you are like me and would prefer to book with a travel agency make sure to walk around the tourist area in District 1 to get a good idea of prices. There are plenty of travel agencies so pop in have a chat and find out which one you are most comfortable with.
Chatting with the agency staff we booked the tour through there are three different prices based on different stops each tour made. From memory the price range was approximately $6.00 (the tour we took), $12.00 and $20.00.
The $6.00 tour included a stop off at a lacquer company which employees disabled Vietnamese people. This stop is included in all the tours. Secondly there is of course the tour of Cu Chi Tunnels itself with a guide. We were told there would be 30+ people on this tour (this turned out to be untrue in my case, i’ll explain more about my experience further down).
The slightly more pricey, but still affordable tour of $12.00 included the same as above. Though, in addition you will be provided with a buffet lunch and tour numbers would be slightly smaller of around 15-20 people. They really pushed for us to book this tour saying it would be worth the extra price for lunch and less people.
The more expensive $20.00 again includes all the above, though from my understand just involve much smaller group of around 10 or less people. It may also involve a tour of a temple, though if you have been backpacking Asia for quite a while you are probably templed out.
The tour prices will almost always exclude the entrance fee to Cu Chi Tunnels of $4.90 / 110000 VND. This is payable direct to the staff once you arrive at Cu Chi Tunnels.
How To Do A Self Tour Of Cu Chi Tunnels
Obviously, I am not the best person to give advice on how to do a self tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels. I recommend checking out this article by Travel Fish to learn how to get to Cu Chi Tunnels on public bus.
Where To Stay In Ho Chi Minh City
In Ho Chi Minh City I recommend booking your accommodation in District One. This will keep you in close distance to the main tourist are where you can find many excellent attractions and delicious restaurants. Here are my top picks for accommodation in Ho Chi Minh City:
Clean and modern designed dorm rooms starting at $6.00 per night including breakfast.
Dorm rooms designed with privacy in mind. Prices from $7.00 per night including breakfast.
Well designed private rooms starting at $50.00 per night including breakfast.
Simple and affordable rooms starting at $20.00 per night.
The History of The Cu Chi Tunnels
No visit to Ho Chi Minh City would be complete without a visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels. The series of underground tunnels played an important part within the War and was an impressive feat of both architecture and engineering. At its peak there was over 250km worth of tunnels stretching along the countryside, some even leading from Saigon right to the Cambodian border. Each tunnel was no more than 70cm wide and 90cm high, some even ran 30 feet deep underground.
The construction of the tunnels first began in the late 1940s when the Indochina war with France was going on. Though, when the US militarily came along this forced them to immensely expand the tunnel network. It quickly became a maze to the unfamiliar, though for those who knew the ins and outs of the labyrinth, it was a vital part of their lives. It served as shelters, kitchens and supply lines. With special ventilation and drainage it made the conditions semi livable, but there was always the risk of snakes, flooding, disease and limited oxygen levels.
There are actually two sites consisting of the series of tunnels open for tourists to visit. These are Ben Dinh and Ben Duoc and they about 13 km apart. The more popular of sites and what most tours visit are the Ben Duoc tunnels.
My Experience At The Cu Chi Tunnels
Taking A $6.00 Tour- Is It Worth It?
We waited at the travel agency and were soon met by a happy gentleman from the company we would be visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels with. Walking around to the different agencies we collected more and more people. He rounded us up like sheep and we followed through the busy streets and across a park where a bus was parked.
Soon enough we were split into groups, the majority pilled on to a large comfortable bus, leaving ten of us standing around not sure what to do. After everyone is settled on the bus we are put into a van which was parked in front. We thought we were put in the van because there was not enough room for us on the bus. Turns out we were wrong. There was actually only ten of us going to the tour with this super awesome guide! Our luck surely paid off.
The drive out of Central Ho Chi Minh City the journey was filled of stories by our guide. We learned a lot about the Vietnamese War, the history of Ho Chi Minh City and some personal stories as well since our guides farther fought in the war.
At the lacquer factory we are given a quick briefing by a well spoken and beautifully presented Vietnamese lady about the purpose of the factory. I have read that visiting the lacquer factory cannot be avoided when booking a tour to Cu Chi Tunnels. In all honesty there is some lovely artwork, but I am on a budget and it is not my cup of tea.
Exploring The Cu Chi Tunnels
Past endless rubber plantations and flat landscapes we are soon greeted by hoards of tour buses signalling we have arrived. Following our tour guide to the front desk he collects our money, cuts the lines and gives it to one of the staff members. We each receive our tickets and head into our first tunnel, which isn’t your typical tunnel. It is a large underground structure where they punch our tickets and we are let into the facility.
At this stage it is obvious our tour guide does this extremely often. He seems to know every staff member as he high fives and jokes with each one that we pass. Though, we find out that this is a good thing as when there are traps and weapons he will jump behind the cautionary line and demonstrate the uses for us. All the other tour groups were needing to be shown by one of the staff members. This made our time of the tour that much more personal and enjoyable.
I will admit some of the rooms displayed such as the kitchen were quite corny. Though, luckily our guide seemed to be able to make a good joke out of every situation, something which is not easy when English isn’t your first language. It was extremely interesting to learn the different ‘layers’ of the tunnels and I will say I learned a lot. It is an extremely educational experience so get ready to learn!
Getting Inside The Tunnels
Getting into the tunnels themselves was absolutely crazy. They are so small and somehow the Vietnamese managed to walk crouched down, whereas I could only crawl. If you are the slightest bit claustrophobic I would not recommend participating in this part. It is crazy hot and oftentimes crowded within the tunnels. There are exits every 20 meters in case you are panicking.
Shooting A Gun
If you have every wanted to shoot a gun this is no doubt the place to do it. It is extremely cheap and being in a supervised environment makes it slightly safer. If you are interested in the cost to shoot a gun at Cu Chi Tunnels you can check out the photo below for the price list (taken March 2017).
For example it costs $2.20 / 50000 VND to shoot a AK47 (I think this is per bullet price).
Opening Hours & Location Of Cu Chi Tunnels
Opening Hours: 7am until 5pm everyday. The ticket counter closes at 4pm.
Location: Đường tỉnh lộ 15, Phú Hiệp, Phú Mỹ Hưng, Củ Chi, Hồ Chí Minh 733814, Vietnam
How I Book Cheap Transport In Vietnam: 12.Go Asia
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