On our north to south traverse of Vietnam we managed to visit both of these sites independently. To visit Củ Chi we utilised public transport from Hồ Chí Minh and to visit Vịnh Mốc we visited on our hired scooter. Our experience at both were quite different – the Củ Chi tunnels having a very structured visit while we were forced to explore Vịnh Mốc independently (unable to find any sort of guide). Here is a side by side comparison.
Note: We visited the Ben Douc tunnels at Củ Chi – these are the tunnels actually created during the war rather than those at Ben Dinh which were purely created for tourists (and which the organised tours tend to go to making them very crowded)
|Củ Chi||Vịnh Mốc|
|Via public transport||Step 1: Bus #13 from BẾN CV 23/9 fare is 7 000 VND this bus terminates at Củ Chi ~1.5 hours
Step 2: Bus #79 (from same terminal as #13 dropped you at) from here we tracked our progress using Maps.ME however we were also told when to get off by the driver. Fare is 6 000 VND ~50 mins.
From here you will be pointed in the right direction (small shop/cafe next to bus stop), essentially go up the road perpendicular to the bus route
|From all reports this is quite difficult to do and as we had our scooter we opted not to use public transport. Getting a train to Dong Ha station then negotiating a taxi/motorbike to take you to the tunnels would probably be the way to go.|
|Ease of access by own wheels||The route seems pretty straight forward, I imagine it would be around 1.5-2 hours from HCMC||As we were coming from the north, we left the 1A just after Ho Xa onto 573, then the first major left to stay on 573 then followed that to the tunnels. We paid a nominal amount for supervised parking|
|Cost of Entry||90 000 VND||20 000 VND|
|Tour included?||Yes, good english, good stories. A snack of sugarcane and a sugary/nutty dip with tea was provided||Not that we could find although there was a bus tour happening when we were there which we eavesdropped in on a little|
|Ease of access to information||Sufficient – (propaganda) video, signs and displays||Basic – we essentially stumbled across everything as nothing was clearly marked, there was also a video with English subtitles and a room that acted as a museum|
|Authenticity||The tunnels did feel a little more polished and as it was all on a tour it felt a little too controlled. Was very cool seeing the different entrances and how different things were disguised, there was one section of smaller tunnel to scramble through.||About half the tunnel network was lit and half wasn’t, it seemed largely in original state otherwise however they may have been enlarged as we were able to walk quite comfortably. There were a few sculptures of people enacting life in the tunnels.|
|Ability to explore independently||Unable||Able – although I recommend going into the museum room to plot a course if you want to explore the pitch black tunnels! (And probably take a head torch)|
|Overall||We particularly enjoyed going through the hole in the ground/trapdoor and the guide was a good way to learn more about life in the tunnels. It did feel very structured and I’m not sure there was any way to explore the tunnels yourself.||We struggled initially due to lack of information however exploring the unlit (and somewhat unmaintained) tunnels gave us a very real feeling of what conditions would be like. Plus it is located on a beach which is a beautiful thing to walk out of the tunnels onto.|
Both tunnels were worth visiting in my opinion and if I could do it again I would probably visit the Củ Chi tunnels first, just to have a bit more background knowledge before exploring Vịnh Mốc. If you’re die-hard independent, off the beaten track travellers you would probably appreciate Vịnh Mốc more, and Củ Chi is much more accessible without your own wheels, however I believe they are different enough experiences that both warrant an explore.