Updated February 2018
The Cu Chi tunnels are a must if you are travelling to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Whilst the amount of time spent on site isn’t excessively lengthy, the time taken to get here can vary greatly. Here’s all the information you’ll need for catching the bus to the Cu Chi tunnels.
If you don’t have much time, I’d recommend getting a private car (readily available in Vietnam) or at least jump on a half day tour. The downside to this is that the time is not your own so everything can feel more rushed. Most Vietnamese tours also like to have mandatory rest stops at a strategic location that encourages you to spend money. I don’t have an issue with this, but just understand that it happens.
Alternatively, you can take a walk on the wild side and set off on an adventure that will take you all day, by riding on the local buses. The downside of this, of course, is time, but I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.
It’s an adventure
As the #13 bus rattled over every bump in the road, weaving in and out of the thousands of motorbikes, and as the women’s voices competed with each other at some ungodly decibel, I wondered for a moment whether we had done the right thing.
By “right thing”, I mean catching the local bus. As is always the case in Vietnam, there is someone willing to drive you somewhere, anywhere, in an air-conditioned car, or put you on the back of their motorbike.
But, in the interests of getting to spend some time in a locals shoes, we chose the bus.
It was all easy enough to do and of course, like so many things in Vietnam, inexpensive.
We start our adventure off early, knowing that it will be a long day, and wanting to ensure we had plenty of time at our destination.
We’re lucky that our hotel is quite close to the main bus station, so a quick walk finds us on the bus and ready to go. The 15 minutes or so that we sat on the bus prior to it leaving provided plenty of entertainment.
I’d read so much about scams in Vietnam that I was sensitive at this early stage in our trip. When three over exuberant women hustled us on to the bus yelling “Cu Chi, Cu Chi”, I was ready for them.
As it turned out, it was a wonderful example of why we shouldn’t judge so quickly, and it settled any feelings I had of scams almost immediately. This was after all a locals bus, and these ladies were simply women who wanted to help. Besides, they spent the entire 1.5 hours of the first part of this trip talking over the top of one another and sharing mobile phones that they wouldn’t have had a chance to scam anyone :).
When the bus finally creaked into action (they’ve seen better times), we had barely gone a block when it stopped and the ticket lady ran off the back of the bus. Shortly thereafter, she returned with a bowl of steaming beef pho purchased off a street vendor, along with something wrapped in a banana leaf. The pho got handed off to the bus driver, who took advantage at every traffic light stop to sit cross-legged (and shoeless) and slurp on his pho.
The ticket lady, deciding that the banana leaf was surplus to her needs, promptly reached across another passenger to throw the banana leaf out the window of the moving bus. I’m quite certain an unsuspecting motorbike rider found something extra on their helmet that morning!
This kind of activity continued until the Cu Chi bus station.
Cu Chi bus station
We are immediately accosted by half a dozen gentlemen in blue shirts as we got off the #13 bus. They were trying their best to get us to go with them on their motorbikes at heavily inflated prices. Note – when I say inflated, I mean more than what it would cost on the bus. In relative terms, the cost really isn’t that high.
The second bus trip takes another 1.5 hours to get to our destination. I’m thankful that we took plenty of water, as even though the buses are air-conditioned, it’s still quite warm.
It’s about a 5-7 minute walk from the main road to the ticket hut inside the grounds of the Ben Duoc tunnels.
- The #13 bus goes from the main bus station, Công viên 23/9, in Ho Chi Minh City. Takes approximately 1.5 hours to reach Cu Chi bus station. Cost 7,000 VND (about AUD $0.45)
Note: There is other published information which is inaccurate or out of date. Note the name of the bus station is 23/9, not 24/9. It is located in the backpacker area of Ho Chi Minh City. The #13 bus also commences and terminates here, not at the Ben Thanh bus stop.
- The #13 will terminate at the Cu Chi bus station so you won’t get lost. Take the #79 bus to the tunnels. It will take another 1.5 hours on average to get here. Cost 6,000 (AUD $0.40)
- Tickets can only be bought on the buses with cash. They seemed to always have a wad of money with them, so getting change wasn’t a problem.
- You can take food and drink on board. Water is recommended as they don’t stop anywhere along the way.
Tip: We sat at the front of the bus so that we could keep an eye out for where we needed to get off. There is a T intersection with blue signs to Ben Duoc or Ben Dinh. If you are wanting to get off at Ben Duoc (as we did), then you get off just around the corner, in front of a small store. If you have any concerns, be sure to ask the bus driver, but remember they won’t usually speak English. Ben Duoc is pronounced Ben Zhu.
- To return back to the city, this process is simply repeated in reverse.
Tip – We caught the bus out to the tunnels at around 8am and left on the #79 bus on the return journey around 3pm. Doing so allowed us to avoid all the crowds. There are stories of standing room only during peak hour. I can believe this as toward the end of our return trip the bus started to get quite busy. Standing up and being cheek-to-cheek with other passengers might be rather testing, so get out there early.
Download an app for buses in Ho Chi Minh City.
We know this is a great ride, and we know the directions and details work. Why? Because we’ve been there, done that, and done it exactly this way. But, if you’re still not sure, here’s what Carole, a recent traveller had to say to us.
“Hi Kerri, I’m in Ho Chi Minh City and used your very helpful guide of how to get to the Cu Chi Tunnels by public transport yesterday. It worked a treat, thank you! I’m really glad we did the public transport option. Aside from being so cheap, it was a great way to go to the non-touristy section and I’m sure what a whole different experience. There were only a few other people around.”
I know, you thought no-one used guidebooks anymore, right! But I saw so many people walking around Vietnam with them. If you are looking for a guide, why not pick one up here.