Famous around the world for intricate network of tunnels in the ground, Cu Chi Tunnels has long been one of the most popular sights in almost Ho Chi Minh tours. Not only attracting domestic tourists, the tunnels also received huge interest from foreign friends. During the Vietnam War, the tunnels, built on an area of the so-called “Iron Land” in Southern Vietnam, were used as hospitals, communication and supply routes, and living quarters for Vietnamese soldiers.
Coming to Cu Chi Tunnels, visitors will understand the reason why the tiny Vietnam country gained its independence and victory.
History of Cu Chi tunnel
The earliest tunnel appeared in 1948 in two communes of Tan Phu Trung and Phuoc Vinh An. It was built by the Viet Minh during the war against the French. They dug short and simple structured sections to conceal documents, weapons, hiding soldier’s operating in enemy territory. Each village built its own tunnels. As the result, tunnels was connected to become a complex system, due to transportation demand.
Later, it spread to the communes. Around 1961 – 1965, Cu Chi Tunnels system was improve with total lengths over 200 km. Not only to lurk, it was an accommodation, combat, medic, meetings of guerrillas. Southern communes of Cu Chi completed the axis tunnel route called the “backbone”. Then, the agencies and units developed branch tunnels connecting with the “backbone to establish continuous tunnels among the communes and the regions.
Structure of Cu Chi tunnels
Cu chi tunnel has with 3 separate levels, namely the first floor of about 3m underneath the ground, the next one of about 5m, and the bottom one deeper more than 8-10m. The tunnels are between 0.4 to 1m wide, just enough for a Vietnamese person to walk along by bending or dragging. It is said that even if an American soldier succeeded in getting into a tunnel, he wouldn’t have come out alive. However, parts of the tunnels have been modified to accommodate visitors.
The tunnel system runs squirming in the ground, from the “backbone” (Main Street) spreading numerous branches. There are many branches to Saigon River, so in emergency case, they could cross the river to the base of Ben Cat (Binh Duong).
The upper soil layer is between 3 m thick and can support the weight of a 60-ton tank and the damage of light cannons and bombs. It was home to the firing post, ventilation shaft and plenty of traps. At the second level was the kitchen and dormitory, which is able to resist small bombs. The underground network provided meeting rooms, sleeping quarters, commanding rooms, hospitals, and other social rooms.
Along the tunnel, there are vents, which are disguised and carved up the ground with many secret doors. Initially, there were a number of inlets and ventes that were found by dogs as dogs sniffed. However, afterwards, people in the tunnels used US soap in the basement and ventilation doors, so the dogs could not detect them.
Countless doors are structured as combat, sniper gun placements very flexibly. Around Cu Chi Tunnel was covered by the bunkers, many nail holes and mine left (called dead area). Anti-tank land mines and cluster bombs were used against wheels helicopter shooting down, to destroy and prevent military enemy approaching.
Life in Cu Chi Tunnels
Even as the area above ground was razed by American cluster bombs, the locals lived a normal life inside. The tunnels were home to schools, hospitals and even the birthplace of many kids. People spent days in the tunnels and came out only at night to scavenge for supplies or take care of their crops.
Sometimes, during heavy bombings, they had to stay underground for days on end and lived on only boiled taro and tea. They were suffering from sickness, infection and the scarcity of water, food and proper medical treatment. Malaria was the second biggest cause of death after the casualties of battles. However, their life was romantic with songs, dance and theatrical performances.
Visiting Cu Chi tunnels
Today two sections of the tunnels are open to the public. The Ben Dinh tunnels remain unlit and unreconstructed, making it difficult for larger westerners to negotiate. However, The Ben Duoc tunnels are renovated. You can see bunkers, hospitals, kitchens, and trap doors plus the actual command room where the Tet Offensive was planned.
How to get to the Cu Chi Tunnels from Ho Chi Minh City
Cu Chi tunnels is 40 km from Saigon center to the North-West, you can reach the place by car, motorbike, bus or speed boat.
By car or motobike
To Ben Duoc Tunnel
From the Post Office of Ho Chi Minh City, you drive along Le Duan. Turn right along Pasteur street to meet Tran Quoc Toan, turn left toNam Ky Khoi Nghia street, turn right and go straight on Nguyen Van Troi Street and continue to Hoang Van Thu – Republican – Truong Chinh – An Suong crossroad. From An Suong crossroad, long 22 County Highway through 12 District, Hoc Mon, Cu Chi overpass to about 2 km, turn right along Nguyen Thi Ranh street, to Nhuan Duc intersection, to turn left and go through Nguyen Thi Ranh street to Highway 15, turn left about 4 km to Ben Duoc Tunnel.
To Ben Dinh Tunnel
From Ben Thanh Market, you drive along the August Revolution street to Bay Hien intersection; through Truong Chinh to mist An overpass intersection. From An Suong Crossroad, along 22 County Highwaythrough District 12, Hoc Mon, Cu Chi overpass to about 2 km turn right along the street Nguyen Thi Ranh, through Nhuan Duc intersection, along Ba Thien Street to 15 provincial road, turn right around 2km, you will get to Ben Dinh Tunnel.
At this time, we can take the bus to Cu Chi tunnel by the lines as below:
To Ben Duoc Tunnel
Take the bus number 13 in Ben Thanh market to Cu Chi bus station. And then, take bus No. 79 Cu Chi (Cu Chi – Dau Tieng) to Ben Duoc Tunnel.
Take bus Cho Lon 94 in Cho Lon market to Cu Chi bus station. And then, take bus No. 79 to Ben Duoc Tunnel.
To Ben Dinh Tunnel
Take the bus number 13 in Ben Thanh market (Ben Thanh – Cu Chi) to An Suong bus station. And then take bus No. 122 (An Suong – Crossroads Tan Quy) to Tan Quy bus station. From Tan Quy bus station, take the bus number 70 to Ben Dinh tunnel.
Take the bus number 94 in Cho Lon market (Cho Lon – Cu Chi) to An Suong bus station. And then, take Bus No. 122 (An Suong – Crossroads Tan Quy) to Tan Quy bus station. From Tan Quy bus station, take the bus number 70 to Ben Dinh tunnel.
Finally, make sure you go early in the morning so you have enough time to explore before the buses stop running for the day.
By waterway (boat):
Currently, there are travel companies which open Saigon river travel tour by boat from Bach Dang Wharf to Cu Chi tunnel, such as:
*TRAVEL SERVICE SAIGONTOURIST CO., LTD
Address: 45 Le Thanh Ton, District 1 Ho Chi Minh City.
Phone: (028) 38279279
Departure time: At 07h20 AM
* LESRIVERS CO., LTD
Address: 02 Ngo Duc Ke Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.
Phone: (028) 38275000
Departure time: at 07h00 AM and 1h00 AM
*TOURISM GREEN RIVER CO., LTD
Address: No. 5/1 Au Co, Ward 9. Tan Binh District. Ho Chi Minh City.
Phone: (028) 39393920
Departure time: At 08:00 AM.
* SAIGON RIVER TOUR
Address: 10B Ton Duc Thang Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.
Phone: (028) 62909410
Departure time: At 08:00 AM
Opening time and entrance ticket prices:
Both Ben Dinh and Ben Duoc entrances have the same operating hours, however, have different entrance fees.
Opening hours: 8 AM to 5 PM everyday
Ben Dinh: VND 110,000/ person
Ben Duoc: VND 90,000/ person
Services in Cu Chi Tunnel
- Sport Defense Shooting
- Paint shooting
- Swimming Pool
- Swan Pedal, kayaking
- Single, double Bicycles
- Camping Picnic
- Ben Duoc Restaurant & Ben Dinh Restaurant
- 4D cinema
- Souvenir shopping