Built by the Viet Cong in the 1940s as protection from French air raids during the Indochina conflict, the Cu Chi Tunnels extend underground for more than 155 miles (250 km) in the vicinity of Ho Chi Minh City alone. This network of subterranean passageways later provided vital access to and strategic control over the rural areas surrounding the city during the Vietnam War (also known as the Second Indochina War or the American War), when the tunnels housed living quarters, hospitals, booby traps, and storage facilities for the Viet Cong.
A visit to what remains of the Cu Chi Tunnels offers a poignant reminder of the hardships of war. Today, two areas are open to visitors, both with tunnels that have been expanded in size. They’re still a tight fit, but that adds to the experience of discovering what it must have been like for the soldiers living and operating here. Many visitors come to the tunnels on a half- or full-day trip from Ho Chi Minh City, sometimes combined with a cruise along the Mekong Delta or Saigon River.
Things to Know Before You Go
- This site is a must for history buffs.
- Touring the tunnels involves hunching over to walk underground. If you’re prone to claustrophobia, consider giving this one a pass.
- Wear comfortable walking shoes and be prepared for uneven surfaces.
- Don’t forget to bring insect repellent to fend off mosquitoes.
How to Get to the Cu Chi Tunnels
A guided private or small-group tour is the most hassle-free way to visit the tunnels, given the entrance’s distance from Ho Chi Minh City (about 30 miles, or 50 km). It’s possible to visit independently (though you’ll still need a tour guide to enter the tunnels) by taking bus 13 from BEN CV 23/9 bus station.
When to Get There
The main factor in determining when to visit the underground tunnels is the weather. The dry season (December to April) is the hottest time of year, with an average temperature of 82° F (28° C). With higher temperatures comes lower humidity and an escape from the usual stickiness of this tropical climate (and fewer bugs). Monsoon season (May to November) brings higher humidity and daily rains, but it’s also slightly cooler.
A Tale of Two Tunnels
There are two areas of the Cu Chi Tunnels available for tours. Most visit Ben Dinh, the more popular section. It’s often crowded, and the nearby shooting range is close, so it can be loud. The second site, Ben Duoc, is about 30 minutes further away from Ho Chi Minh City, but it also has the Ben Duoc Martyr’s Memorial Temple on its grounds, which is surrounded by quiet gardens.