- 1 Cu Chi Tunnels: The Viet Cong Base
- 2 Mekong Delta: The Floating Lifestyle
- 3 Vung Tau: The Local’s Choice For A Beach Getaway
- 4 Can Gio: Mangroves, Seafood & Monkey Island
- 5 Ba Den Mountain
Cu Chi Tunnels: The Viet Cong Base
Known as one of the top tourist attractions in southern Vietnam, a Cu Chi Tunnels tour is always a highly recommended option for tourists especially for those who are particularly interested in history and adventure. The roughly 250-kilometer underground tunnel network will undoubtedly inspire awe as you, the guest, are allowed to wander the actual tunnels used by the Viet Cong.
This day trip will give you better insight into the Vietnam War, as well as life in the countryside. When it comes to the Cu Chi Tunnels, there are basically two entrance sites to visit. You can either travel to Ben Dinh or Ben Duoc depending on how much time you want to spend.
You are allowed to wander the actual tunnels used by the Viet Cong.
Ben Dinh and Ben Duoc are the names of the only two tunnel sections open for tourists nowadays. Ben Dinh was the base of Cu Chi District Party Committee, while Ben Duoc (the bigger scale network) was the base of Party Committee and Headquarter of Saigon – Cho Lon – Gia Dinh zone and military zone.
Today these two sites provide very different experiences. The Ben Dinh entrance is closer (around 50 kilometers from the city) and can be more convenient but does not provide the same quality of experience. If you only have a half day, this is likely your only option; however, due to the closer proximity to Saigon, it is quickly becoming far more of a tourist trap and really takes away from your ability to see countryside Vietnamese life.
In contrast, Ben Duoc (around 70 kilometers from the city) is our recommendation if you have time, the farther location is best for full day trips where you can experience the countryside in full, and allow for a far more authentic exploration of the tunnels without the noise of other tourists.
How to Get There?
You can reach the Cu Chi tunnels by car, motorbike, or by boat.
By car or motorbike: It takes around one and a half hours to reach the tunnels (Ben Dinh). Most tours sold by travel agents in town are mainly half-day tours (approximately five hours) and they take you to Ben Dinh. However, if you want to make a full day out of it and have some awesome experiences not pertaining to just the tunnels, Ben Duoc is highly recommended.
As said above, the Cu Chi Tunnels are hands down one of the most amazing historical sites that provide more than just a sightseeing trip. Its undying story and unique structure is just a perfect combination for history and adventure lovers. But what most people don’t know is that there’s still a lot more to discover on the way to Cu Chi. Exploring these secret stops before officially crawling down the tunnel will make your trip even more memorable.
By boat: If you are interested in the waterway route, there are a couple of boat tour services offering service to the Cu Chi Tunnels such as the Saigon River Express or Saigon River Tour.
By bus: You only need to catch two buses in order to get to Ben Duoc. First, take the bus #13 from 23-9 park (nearby Pham Ngu Lao – the backpacker street) to Cu Chi bus station. Then transfer to Bus #79 from the station to Ben Duoc. The total traveling time is roughly two and a half hours.
- Ben Dinh: 110,000 VND/person
- Ben Duoc: 90,000 VND/person
Mekong Delta: The Floating Lifestyle
The Mekong Delta should be a top day trip priority!
In Vietnamese, the Mekong Delta is called Dong bang song Cuu Long, meaning the “Nine Dragon River Delta.” The Mekong River runs through seven countries/territories including Tibet, China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. This fertile region has been dubbed “the rice bowl” of the country. Here, you will learn more about the culture and people of the southern countryside. Say goodbye to the noise of Saigon traffic and go enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of the Mekong while on a sampan ride through immense jungles of waterborne coconut trees.
You can easily observe authentic local life as you float along the river on your boat. In addition, coconut candy, rice paper, and elephant ear fish are among the top local specialties worth a try when you are in the region. For the more adventurous eater, don’t miss out on entrees of rat meat, snake, cricket, and scorpion. Wondering where you should go to experience the best of the Mekong Delta? For a day trip, Ben Tre and Cai Be are our recommendations.
For the more adventurous eater, don’t miss out on entrees of rat meat, snake, cricket, and scorpion.
Famous for its coconuts, locals refer to Ben Tre as the coconut capital of Vietnam. Most local people in Ben Tre earn their living mainly from this product. Doing a day trip to the province, you will be amazed by all the varieties of coconuts and how they are turned into different products from candy to oil, baskets to doormats, and even to sophisticated handicraft souvenirs like handbags, fashion accessories, etc. Moreover, the trip also gives you a quick glimpse into local life in a very lively way. En route, fascinating stops will satisfy your curiosity.
Want to see the floating markets while in southern Vietnam? Cai Rang in Can Tho is the most popular floating market in the Mekong Delta. However, to catch the market, you probably have to do a two-day trip. If time doesn’t allow, the other option is the Cai Be floating market in Tien Giang province.
Although Cai Be is not as big and crowded as Cai Rang, the market has its own beauty and is worth a visit. Take a boat through the waterways and witness the fascinating life of river people living and running their business on their boats. Apart from the markets, you can also take part in several activities such as cycling around a village, taking sampan rides through shady canals, or enjoying your time in a fruit garden while dining on some Mekong specialties, to name a few.
How to Get There?
For both Ben Tre and Cai Be, here are some options:
Group tour: For budget tourists, joining a group tour is the soundest choice. There are many Mekong tours to either Ben Tre or Cai Be available at travel agents in Saigon’s backpacker area (Pham Ngu Lao, Bui Vien street, District 1). Yet, make sure you ask their travel consultant beforehand for detailed information on the tour itineraries.
TNK Travel, The Sinh Tourist, and Asia Link Travel are amongst the best group tours in town.
Private tour by car and motorbike: In case you want to enjoy the peace of this land in the most comprehensive way, then find other alternatives for group tours. In fact, a private tour seems to be a better option. For those who value comfort above all things, a roundtrip by car in eight hours will best suit you. Motorbike lovers, on the other hand, would be advised to do a bike tour to the Mekong.
Vung Tau: The Local’s Choice For A Beach Getaway
Love beaches but don’t have much time left? Vung Tau is our solution to this dilemma. Located southeast of Saigon, only 100 kilometers away from the city, Vung Tau is the most popular weekend retreat for both domestic and international tourists. Compared to other coastal towns in Vietnam, Vung Tau may not have the best beachfront but its close proximity to Saigon makes it the number one day trip for beach bums. Its ideally short distance, smooth highways, and beautiful sightseeing spots are the prime factors that make Vung Tau a common choice for many tourists.
Not only does the town have nice beaches, but Vung Tau also offers visitors a chance to see many interesting landmarks and historic sites such as the Jesus Christ Statue, the White Palace, the Whale Temple, and several well-known Buddhist pagodas. The price of services in Vung Tau has supposedly become fixed this past year. However, still try to bargain down the price before buying anything. If the price does not seem right, don’t be afraid to negotiate.
How to Get There?
To reach Vung Tau, there are a number of transportation options, as following:
Motorbike: If you are interested in biking, going to Vung Tau by scooter or motorbike is highly recommended. There are two bike routes for your consideration.
- Route 1: Follow Highway 1 then cross the Dong Nai bridge. Keep driving until you reach the Vung Tau roundabout (Nga Ba Vung Tau) then turn right, follow National Way 51 to reach Vung Tau. (three hours and 30 minutes)
- Route 2: Take a shortcut by riding first to Cat Lai ferry station (District 2, Ho Chi Minh City). After taking the ferry, you will reach the Nhon Trach District of the Dong Nai Province. This route goes through Nhon Trach Industrial Park to also get you back to Highway 51 to continue driving to Vung Tau. (three hours)
Bus: This is the most convenient way to get to Vung Tau. There are several bus lines from Ho Chi Minh City to Vung Tau and vice versa such as Phuong Trang, Kumho, etc. If you prefer a small bus or van, Hoa Mai or Thien Phu are your surest bets.
Bus fare: 60,000– 80,000 VND/ticket
Hoa Mai Bus Location:
- Ho Chi Minh City: 50 Nguyen Thai Binh, District 1
- Vung Tau: 2A Trung Trac, Vung Tau city
Car: You can also rent a private car for a roundtrip journey. The car will cost you around 1,500,000 to 2,000,000 VND (65 – 87 USD).
Can Gio: Mangroves, Seafood & Monkey Island
For a day trip option, we can’t recommend Can Gio Mangrove Forest enough. The area is located some 50 kilometers away from downtown Ho Chi Minh City. The mangrove forest is officially known as Can Gio Mangrove Biosphere Reserve, a name given by UNESCO. The forest is a large ecological conservation of mangroves with diverse varieties of mangrove plants and animals species.
On your way to Can Gio, you can visit many places such as Vam Sat eco-site where you can climb up the 25-meter high Tang Bong Tower to enjoy an amazing panoramic view of the immense forest. You can also take a boat ride to a crocodile site to try baiting this giant reptile.
Monkey Island is another highlight of the trip. You can have fun with monkeys or take a walk around the island to see the saltwater crocodile reserve. It is a good idea to bring along some fruits to feed these hungry monkeys. You should also keep an eye on your belongings so the local inhabitants don’t snatch them. In addition to the itinerary, Rung Sac Guerrilla Base is also a bonus attraction where you can learn more about the Vietnam War and how Vietnamese guerrillas executed their clever war strategies. Can Gio is also the home of excellent seafood with a booming fish farming industry.
How to Get There?
Can Gio trip is great for a DIY trip. If you don’t mind public transportation, then this is the best way to conduct your trip. Take the #20 bus from Ben Thanh bus station to Binh Khanh ferry station (around 45 minutes). The ferry ride will take you across the Nha Be River to Can Gio District. To continue your journey to the mangrove forest and Monkey Island, you need to take another bus, the #90 to Can Thanh. Ask the driver to drop you off at Lam Vien Can Gio. This is the entrance for main tourist attractions.
- Rung Sac Guerrilla Base: 35,000 VND/person (To visit this site, however, you have to take a canoe ride which costs around 400,000 – 500,000 VND/group of 5-6 people)
- Monkey Island: 40,000 VND/person
Ba Den Mountain
As an off-the-beaten-track destination, Ba Den mountain in Tay Ninh province is another good option for a day trip especially for those who have a passion for trekking.
Located northwest of Ho Chi Minh City, some 100 kilometers away from the city, Ba Den is the highest mountain in the southeast of Vietnam (986 meters) and is popular among the locals for its sacred Buddhist temples and beautiful scenery. However, it is also a good spot for trekking activities. Over the years many local tourists come here to trek and conquer the summit but so far not many foreigners have visited – probably because it is not well known among them. So why don’t you give it a try? It is really worth a day trip!
Over the years many local tourists come here to trek and conquer the summit but so far not many foreigners have visited – probably because it is not well known among them.
How to Get There?
Bus option: It is easy to make your way to the mountain by bus. First, take the bus #4 from Ben Thanh to An Suong bus station. From here buy a ticket to Tay Ninh province (Dong Phuoc bus line is best). Upon arrival, you can get a “xe om” (motorbike taxi) or a taxi cab to Ba Den mountain.
- Bus #4: 5,000 VND/ticket
- Dong Phuoc Bus: 50,000 VND/ticket
- Xe om (motorbike taxi): around 50,000 – 70,000 VND
- Taxi cab: 150,000 – 180,000 VND
Motorbike option: Follow the national highway #22 to Go Dau District of Tay Ninh Province. Then, when you reach Go Dau intersection, turn right and continue your ride to Thanh Pho Tay Ninh (Tay Ninh city). Follow the national highway 22B. Upon your arrival in the city, head up for another eight kilometers and you will reach Ba Den mountain.
So, there you have it! These are what we recommend and we do so because we’ve tried these ourselves and loved our adventures. Why don’t you go ahead and try one or two as well and let us know the fun you had in the comments below!
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