If you want to get out of town and do a day trip, Saigon Tourist Information Center is really helpful.
We asked the concierge at both our hotels and were told that private hire drivers were not available that morning and received a steep quote for Sunday morning. The information center, though, was able to provide us with a private van that morning. It cost us $18 each (for 5 people) to have the van from 11-5.
We left the city around 11:15 and arrived at the Cu Chi tunnel shortly before 1 pm. Entrance tickets cost 110,000 VND or $5. We were hungry so we stopped at the on site restaurant before touring the tunnels.
The food was actually pretty good and inexpensive considering it was the only option at a touristic site. The dining room is a covered dock floating out in the Saigon River.
Inside the site we were assigned a tour guide. We were seated in a thatched hut for a short video, then he took our group around to see the real tunnels and some replica booby traps.
Generally it’s nice to have an onsite guide to explain everything but this was a problem for us since the guided tour took an hour and a half. We had already promised our driver we would return to him by 3. The guide told us we could go back out towards the entrance but instead we snuck ahead and tried to blend in with other tour groups as we did our own expedited version of the tour.
One of the groups we hid within actually turned out to be a University of Maryland study abroad group. Talk about a small world.
We bypassed the shooting range and eventually found the tunnels that you can crawl through. They are not for anyone with claustrophobia. I took one look at the small, dark crawl space (which are actually a section of the original tunnels that has been widened for visitors) and turned around. I can’t imagine what crawling through the real thing would have been like.
Putting it Together
- This site has plenty of water and bathrooms with toilet paper (but bring hand sanitizer).
- Snacks are limited but there is one restaurant on site – prices are a little higher than we were used to but it translated to $4 USD.
- There is an entrance fee of 110,000 VND or $5 USD.
- You don’t have to go with a tour bus, guides are provided on site at no additional cost (tipping optional).
- The shooting range is the only portion of the site that requires an additional fee if you wish to participate.
Later that evening we returned to Le Meridian to relax, visit the gym and toss the frisbee before dinner. Selecting a restaurant is always a puzzle – finding a place that makes everyone happy before someone is overcome with hanger. Going out with a few options is always the best bet but on this night we begrudgingly settled on a little Indian place. In the end no one was particularly happy but no one was too upset either.
Do you like to visit historical sites when you travel? How do you decide whether or not a site is going to be too touristy?